Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rest for Dogs, Not for Their Musher

I spent most of today over at Lynn O's place, working on sleds. Her Tim White toboggan was the first, and the most difficult. It didn't track properly, always gliding off to the right. Seriously HARD to the right. I put it on a table, grabbed a tape measure, and found the right runner was out of true by a full 1/4# at the nose. The only possible solution was to remove the hardware, shift the nose of the runner over, redrill all the holes and put it back together.

So, we removed the runner plastic, and it was badly, badly worn. I gave Lynn a new set of plastics that I had purchased when one of our local mushing supply stores went out of business. Then we removed the QCR rail (quick change runner system, some day I'll write about it, but I'm too tired tonight). We removed nuts and bolts, some so badly rusted they should have been replaced, but on Sunday that would have required a long drive to town.

I shifted the runner over, clamped it into place, measured twice and then started drilling. We couldn't find a ratchet, so had to use a box end wrench on each and every one of the suckers. It was tedious. Then we couldn't find the nut to one of the bolts. We searched all over the place and couldn't find a nut that would fit. It took another very tedious search to finally find a replacement bolt that would work.

With the runner in place, we reassembled the QCR rail, slipped new plastic over the rails on both runners, and I shoved the (bad, bad expletives) thing out the door and grabbed my own toboggan sled.

My old beater toboggan sled has also been pulling to the right. Not as badly as Lynn's, but badly enough to be cumbersome to drive. Toboggan sleds are about as responsive as a brick on a good day, so one that tracks poorly will work a musher into the ground. I measured the runners, and found they were precisely parallel. Though a lot of sled builders add a bit of toe-out at the rear tips, this one wasn't designed that way, so the measurement was reassuring. The problem had to be either one plastic worn worse than the other (they weren't), or the bridle was off center. The bridle is the line to which the "gang line" (also called a mainline) is attached.

I measured across the nose of the sled, made an index mark at dead center, and raised the bridle up where I could see it in relation to the mark. Sure enough, it was off by a good inch or so. Apparently the original builder was never in the Navy. Neither was I, but I was once a boy-scout and I'm not a half bad recreational sailor.

This sled is rigged in a traditional manner, with the bridle wrapped around the bottom of each stanchion, and tied at the bottom of the rearmost stanchion. In this case the knot was poorly formed, so it had slipped a bit when the sled was stressed (the sled was crashed during our White Mountain camping trip last winter).

I centered the bridle, rewrapped and retied it, and when we tried it out behind a friend's four-wheeler it tracked perfectly. YAY - I was two for two.

Some time back my traditional wooden basket sled suffered the ill effects of drying. This caused the wooden runners to shrink, and split right at the mortise where the thickest stanchion is attached. I repaired it with marine epoxy, and reinforced each side of the break with a strip of oak, but didn't get a chance to run the sled before break up. Today I took advantage of the opportunity to have Lynn tow me on the sled behind a four-wheeler. The repair held well, and it's a fun sled to drive. I'm looking forward to running some dogs on it.

This summer I changed the bridle set up on my traditional, historically authentic wooden toboggan. Because it's now a two-piece set up I didn't know if it would be properly centered or not, so I asked Lynn to tow me on that sled as well. I was delighted that it worked exactly as I had envisioned when I modified the sled.

So, today the dogs got the rest they needed and I got a lot of sled repair and maintenance done. I still have a couple of projects to do on my sleds, but I was too tired to even contemplate starting them this evening. They need to be done within the next couple of days, though. I'm not sure how I'll make the time, but make it I will.


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