Another day, another sleigh

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Project by bugradx2 posted 12-13-2019 04:13 PM 1477 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Well, the set committee (membership of 1) was called upon again. This time I was asked to create a sleigh that could be wheeled around the stage during a performance of the Nutcracker. I owe a very hearty thank you to our fellow LJ’s johnzo and Brit for their inspiration and some advice in the comments of their sleigh projects. Go check their projects out and take a look at what they did. I uploaded scans of the rough set of plans I made for this thing. (each box on the paper planned to be a 2×2 square for the scale) I wound up deviating from them a little bit in the finished product because the ballet director had some changes when I showed her my original MDF template. More on that in a bit…

When I build a project for the stage it has to come apart to store reasonably flat because the storage room at the dance studio is tiny. The base stays together as one rolling piece and the rest of the sleigh is held together with machine bolts and wood inserts. The wood inserts continue to be a lifesaver because this thing can be taken apart and put together many, many times without using screws that will wear out the wood. I buy the type that take a ¼ threaded machine bolt. I would recommend getting them online because it’s like half the cost of a big box store for the same number of inserts. The sides of the sleigh are made from 3/8 baltic birch plywood. The seat and seat back are made of ½ inch Baltic birch. I realize it’s a more expensive plywood for a stage project but the costumes they use for ballet are crazy expensive. Baltic birch let’s me use my router to smooth the sides with a pattern bit and then a roundover bit ease the edges so nothing snags.

I used some ½ MDF to make a template for the sides so the director could get an idea of the scale we were headed towards. It turned out to be a great idea because she had me increase the overall dimensions of the back of the sleigh by 3 or 4 inches. I made a larger template and then used that to trace out the pattern on to the plywood. I used my jig saw to cut close to the line and then clamped the MDF on to the plywood so I could use a flush trim/pattern bit to get it exact. I ran a 1/8 roundover bit along top and bottom edges also. Actually, on the 2nd side I just went ahead and used the flush trim bit to cut the whole thing out. It worked pretty well and was certainly a time savings. My bit was starting to show some age and I definitely accelerated that wear by doing it. The 3/8 plywood was thin enough I got away with it, ½ plywood seems to be too thick for that approach.

The base is built on a furniture dolly I bought a big box store. Normally I build the base for these projects with casters and framed construction but this was a pretty quick alternative. The cost for a dolly rated at 800 pounds was about the same as 4 casters and I didn’t have to purchase the wood or take the time to build it. I did take the carpet off the dolly before using it though. I put a plywood top and a 1×4 skirt around the bottom of the dolly. My kreg jig came in handy to frame the 1×4’s up and attach them to the plywood. I set a couple spare 2×4’s on the dolly to get the final height I needed and then attached them together.

I made a quick 2×2 frame to provide some structure for the sides and to give me a frame to attach everything together above the base. I used my Kreg jig to put the 2×2’s together too, probably the most I’ve used it on a single project up to this point. At this point, I was ready to mount up the sides of the sleigh base. I used some scrap plywood to set the sides on so I would have ground clearance and then wound up eyeballing where the 2×2 frame should sit instead of the plans because the sides were larger than the original idea. Once I had it located I put a screw from the frame into the base and attached the sides. (Large clamps help immensely to hold the sides on while you’re doing this) Once I had the 2×2 frame tacked on I drilled holes for the bolts and wood inserts (inserts went into the base, holes through the frame). I attached sides, and then attached the seat with the inserts and bolts. The seat back mounts to a 2×2 attached to the sides using inserts and bolts again and I wound up eyeballing the exact position of it. It reclines at a 12 or so degree angle.

The kick plate attaches in a similar fashion to the seat back, I kind of eyeballed it to get the angle right and then attached the 2×2 to the side and bolted the kick plate on each side.

Since the whole thing was getting painted, I just used wood putty to cover up the screw holes holding the 2×2 onto the sides and away I went. I did get some consulting from my bride on stencil painting that turned into her very graciously (?) doing it for me.

-- The only thing not measured in my shop is time

6 comments so far

View ralbuck's profile


6808 posts in 3766 days

#1 posted 12-13-2019 07:13 PM


-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View Brit's profile


8520 posts in 4342 days

#2 posted 12-14-2019 03:54 PM

Well done sir. Looks good to me and I’m sure it will be appreciated.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Ivan's profile


17331 posts in 4367 days

#3 posted 12-15-2019 05:07 AM

Beautiful sleds….so cool coloration!

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View bugradx2's profile


435 posts in 1519 days

#4 posted 12-17-2019 04:35 PM

The do appreciate it, the kids thought it was awesome too


- ralbuck

-- The only thing not measured in my shop is time

View bugradx2's profile


435 posts in 1519 days

#5 posted 12-17-2019 04:36 PM

Thanks so much!

Well done sir. Looks good to me and I m sure it will be appreciated.

- Brit

-- The only thing not measured in my shop is time

View bugradx2's profile


435 posts in 1519 days

#6 posted 12-17-2019 04:36 PM

Thank you!

Beautiful sleds….so cool coloration!

- Ivan

-- The only thing not measured in my shop is time

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