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Thread: Two Toboggans (illustrating steam bending techniques)

  1. #1
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    Two Toboggans (illustrating steam bending techniques)

    (post 1 of 2)

    Early in 2005 I created a thread on Saw Mill Creek about building a toboggan for my granddaughter Jamie. At the time I made that toboggan, I bent sufficient slats for a second toboggan and this year I built that toboggan for my grandson Ethan.

    Here a thread that contains much of the stuff from the original thread augmented by material about the new toboggan.

    In early 2005, I attended a toboggan making course at my local Lee Valley store. It was a two part course. During the first part, we steamed and bent the wood then, a week later; we took the wood off the forms, and assembled the toboggans. Everyone attending the course exited with a toboggan and, for a small additional charge to cover material, I exited with the bent wood that will allow me to build a second toboggan in the future.

    The main purpose of the course was to learn to steam and bend wood, producing a toboggan was just a bonus. The course was taught by John Robinson who is a well known Windsor Chair craftsman. John teaches chair making classes in both Canada and the USA and some of his chairs have been featured in Fine Woodworking.

    We made the toboggans with relatively green ash that John cut on his bandsaw shortly before the course. The boards were about 3/8 inch thick and about 2.6 inches wide. According to our coarse notes, kiln dried wood should not be used. Here is a quote from the notes:

    Kiln-dried wood must not be used; the lignin in the wood has been permanently set during the hot dry kilning process. No amount of steaming or soaking will weaken the lignum bond sufficiently for successful bending. The same applies for air dried wood that has been allowed to dry and stabilize below 10% moisture content.

    The toboggan making process is best illustrated with pictures.

    1) We first marked the ash to show best orientation and position of cross pieces. Then we planed the edges and scraped the sides a bit. Next, the boards were placed into the (home made) steam box.

    Attachment 3072

    2) The boards were steamed for about an hour. Here is another view of the box.

    Attachment 3073

    3) The boards were (very carefully) bent over a circular form. The form is made of PVC pipe about 8 inches in diameter.

    Attachment 3074

    4) Then, they were tied down. That's John Robinson in the background.

    Attachment 3075


    (5) Finally, the boards were clamped in a couple of places. This assembly was allowed to dry for a week.

    Attachment 3076

    The second part of the course was straightforward scrapping, sanding, and assembly. Then finishing was completed at home.

    6) This is a photo of the toboggan as it was when I brought it home.

    Attachment 3077

    7) In this photo, I am burning Jamie's name into the toboggan.

    Attachment 3078

    8) The next step was to finish the toboggan with 3 coats of clear Varathane and with two coats of wax on the bottom. This is a photo of taken after that stage (along with the second toboggan still in the form).

    Attachment 3079
    Cheers, Frank

  2. #2
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    (post 2 of 2)

    9) And, here is Jamie’s toboggan decked out with ropes and a pad and all ready to go.

    Attachment 3081


    10) Now turning to 2006. In December, I finished the other toboggan for my grandson Ethan (4.5 years old). First, I needed to sand the slats.

    Attachment 3084

    11) Next, I needed to make the cross pieces (out of scrap maple). Here the slats are being fitted into the top cross piece:

    Attachment 3085

    12) Now the toboggan has been assembled and Ethan’s name is being burned into it.

    Attachment 3086


    I did split one of the slats a bit when bending it two years ago, and that is a Bondo patch at the curve of the send slat to the right.

    13) And here is the finished toboggan, along with other gifts, outside Ethan’s house on Christmas day.

    Attachment 3089

    Unfortunately , we are not getting a decent winter in Toronto this year, so Ethan has not had the opportunity to use the toboggan.
    Last edited by Frank Pellow; 12-22-2008 at 12:24 AM.
    Cheers, Frank

  3. #3
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    Thanks for sharing Frank. Next time it snows here in the Phoenix area I might need to make one of them..
    "There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." - Sam Maloof
    The Pessimist complains about the wind; The Optimist expects it to change;The Realist adjusts the sails.~ William Arthur Ward

  4. #4
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    Just in case anyone complains that this is not flatwork, I figure that it is more flat than curved, so this is the best place to describe the project.
    Cheers, Frank

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Pellow View Post
    Just in case anyone complains that this is not flatwork, I figure that it is more flat than curved, so this is the best place to describe the project.

    Well it sure ain't spinney work.
    "There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." - Sam Maloof
    The Pessimist complains about the wind; The Optimist expects it to change;The Realist adjusts the sails.~ William Arthur Ward

  6. #6
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    Cool projects, Frank. It looks like Jamie is quite happy with her new toboggan (pic #10). That picture is worth way more than a thousand words.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  7. #7
    Steve Clardy Guest
    Looks great Frank.

  8. #8
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    Frank ... Wow !! They are fabulous. Your description of the process was very enlightening and is something I'd like to try someday. Your grandkids will have something to remember you by forever.

    Thank you for posting this!

    cheers

  9. #9
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    Great post Frank, and that little guy sure is one lucky kid!

    I sent a link to my brother, he is an industrial arts teacher, and they are making toboggans at school this year!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  10. #10
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    Dec 2006
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    Thats neat Frank, That will have to go on a to list. You may have jinx the snow gods. We got the grandkids snow boards last year and sleds this year and haven't had enough snow to use them yet. At least they won't get worned out.

    Bill

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