Give new life to an old toboggan with this shelf project

toboggan shelf Photography by Liam Mogan

This article was originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

It might be a rule that every Canadian has a wooden toboggan relegated to the back of the garage or attic. Rescue that dusty winter slider (or scoop one up from Kijiji), and give it a second life by converting it into this handsome shelf. The new shelves and brackets blend seamlessly with the iconic toboggan design—and it’s an easy build using standard lumber and simple tools.

What you’ll need

  • 1  toboggan (approx. 5′ long and 16″ wide)
  • 5′  1×8 knotty-grade pine
  • 20′  ¼” x 1½ ” spruce lath
  • 12  1¼” #8 wood screws
  • 60  1¼” finishing nails
  • ¼” x 9″ x 9″ hardboard
  • Spray adhesive
  • Wood stain
  • Wood glue

Step 1

When I make repeated parts like shelf brackets, I use a simple template: print the bracket file (you can find it here) and adhere it to ¼”-thick hardboard using spray adhesive. Cut the template out using a jig saw fitted with a fine-cutting blade. Drill a couple of #/8″ holes in the interior triangle shape of the bracket. Insert the jig saw blade through the hole and carefully cut out the interior shape. Fine-tune the template by sanding all the curves smooth.

Step 2

The shelf brackets are cut from the length of pine. Brackets are strongest when the wood grain runs at 45°. Accomplish this by cutting short triangular sections (one piece per bracket) using a mitre saw with the blade set at 45° from square. Avoid large knots to prevent weak spots in the brackets.

Step 3

Position the template on each of the triangular sections, and trace the outline with a pencil. Cut out the shelf brackets with your jig saw, and cut the interior shapes as you did with the template, drilling a hole to insert the blade. Sand the brackets smooth, and knock off any sharp edges.

Step 4

Cut all the shelf slats from standard lengths of spruce lath. I made my three shelves the same width as the toboggan (16″). Cut the lath to length using a mitre saw.

Step 5

Finishing the slats and brackets is easier before assembly. My toboggan had a wonderful old patina, and I wanted the new wood to match. Two Minwax stains gave me the right look. First, I applied a coat of Puritan Pine stain and let dry. Then, I followed with a coat of Classic Grey stain and wiped it off before it penetrated the wood too deeply. The result for me was a close match to the original aged finish of my toboggan, but you may have to fiddle to get a match for yours.

Step 6

Attach the brackets to the toboggan from the back. Clamp the first bracket in place, and use a #8 countersinking bit to bore two pilot holes. Secure the bracket with two #8 1¼” screws. Repeat this process for each of the shelf brackets.

Step 7

Attach the finished shelf slats with a daub of glue and a couple of 1¼” finishing nails at each joint. Use a couple of scraps of slat material to space the slats evenly as you go.

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