I first learned to make a toboggan from my friend Francis Audet, a Quebecois trapper and craftsman who has traveled all over the north by canoe and snowshoe.  He seeks out native people and elders who still carry traditional woods knowledge and wisdom. He is probably the most knowledgeable woodsman I know.  His toboggan is 12′ long and 14″ wide.  A man once asked him why his toboggan is so big.  “Because my toboggan is not a toy,” he said.

After making one from milled planks, I decided the next one would be from scratch, by hand, cutting the tree, wedging it apart, hewing the quarters into boards, bending the tip while the wood is green, and lashing it all together with homemade deer rawhide.  It is 10 feet long.  I pulled it 120 miles this winter on a trip to our sugarbush, and it is showing virtually no signs of wear – the rawhide is incredibly tough, and wood that is riven – split with the grain – is orders of magnitude stronger than sawn wood, which violates the grain and produces a weaker board.

These are photos from that process.


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Finished toboggan.
Black ash quartered in the woods and rough hewed. Hauled out on old toboggan.
Bark peeled.
Rough hewed with axe.
Worked down with drawknife. Chalk lines to get straight edge.
The boards need to be just over 1/4" thick. Getting close.
Boards are bent over a form while the wood is still green. I ladle boiling water over the area to be bent for about 3-5 mins before going for it.
Deer rawhide lashing.