The menace sledge

A few points of order before we start. The sledge in question is not finished, so descriptive language and a few choice lies shall paint the pictures that this post is so sorely lacking. And before you ask, with understandable incredulation, why I am sweating over a hot powertool on a beautiful, warm blue sky day entirely lacking in snow, let me shunt your line of questioning onto the branch marked “Children”.

I’m not sure I’ve ever owned a proper sledge. Even back in the middle ages when I was a lad and six foot snowdrifts mocked global warming for at least three months a year, winter sliding was done on old tyres, black bags and other random stuff nailed together*

Although my dad made us a sledge once. Being both a proper Yorkshireman and half decent engineer, he acquired a pair of two inch thick metal runners and grafted on top a downhill tank with no time for that sissy-Santa look of graceful arcs and elegant lines. No, this long slung snow shark combined ship thick steel with no nonsense 4×4 hardwood, topped off with Boadicea tribute outrunners that’d reduce a shop sled to splinters without any discernible loss of velocity.

It was properly mental. Obviously we called it “Killer” and it became the terror of the local slopes, with at least five confirmed kills and a number of additional blood injuries to be taken into consideration. In our defence, even with three kids on board, steering was all but impossible, and once it had ruddered onto the hill’s fall line nothing could stop it. We should have renamed it “The Lumberjack“.

I know it outlasted our childhood, and can only assume it was finally destroyed in a controlled explosion after it ate through a log cabin or something. Anyway these are the kind of design cues that stay with a boy, so when Verbal announced she’d like a “Menace Sledge“, I was soon on the hunt for a couple of bridge supports to get us started.

Two things went wrong immediately. Firstly I left Verbal responsible for the design process which eventually spat out two paint cans, a not very scale drawing on the back of an envelope and a hopeful smile**. Secondly I’m not half the engineer my old man was, and the only thing I’ve built of note in the last twenty years is a wobbly workshop table. And I’d not be keen to race that downhill.

Did this deter us? It did not. We did, however, lose the envelope so dropped back to the standard “rapid prototyping” model which sees me manically powersaw random lengths of wood, which Verbal attempts to create something sledge like with the offcuts. It’ll not be a surprise to you, that this has led to some compromises.

Firstly the track is too narrow, the ski(wheel?)base too short and the seat too high. It’s built from project off cuts which are neither square nor light. It’s also been hand finished by a girl who’s never had a spray can in her hand before. Being a “Dennis The Menace” tribute, the colours are red and black, and the best I can say of the brooding carcus before me is it resembles the cleaning up operation after a pretty heavy crucifixion.

Assuming it ever hits the slopes, I’m fairly sure things shall not improve. Although I’ll chamfer*** the skis so it doesn’t pitch our first born head first into a nearby snowbank, I’m don’t feel this is necessarily a good thing. Because if it ever does reach a fast slither, there will be no way to steer it, or – and some would say this is even more important – to stop it. I expect it to be both insanely fast and desperately twitchy based on the weight/materials/geometry.

In fact, it may well be the first equipment in the entire history of winter sports to be fitted with an airbag. Still three months to refine the design before the ignominy of the inevitable rubbishness of its’ first run.

Tell you one thing though, I’ll not be testing it.

* for about as long as it took to say “no, you have the first go, I know exactly how it was built”. Generally five seconds was reckoned to be the median time for such creations to return to their component parts. Funny for us builders, relatively terrifying and occasionally limb breaking for the maiden pilots.

** In our family, this passes as a pretty qualified design brief.

*** A fine woodworking term, someone demeaned when it is being performed with a jigsaw.

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