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Here's a cheap way to make a sleigh that comes apart for easy storage!
- 6 - 10' sections of 1/2" schedule 40 PVC. (about 8' leftover)
- 10 - PVC T-couplings, 1/2"
- 6 - screws/washers/lockwashers/nuts, 8-32 thread (to bolt the tops to the bottom runners)
- 20 - 5/8" self-tapping machine screws. (These reinforce the glued couplings so the PVC can't pull out.)
- 4 - Zip ties
- PVC glue
- 2 cans - DupliColor Gold spray paint
- The basic design idea was pirated from a sleigh kit at a local home improvement center. It just looked simple and compact, and a side looked like it could be made with just a couple sections of PVC pipe.
- To shape the curved bottom section/runner, I used a section of stiff wire and just shaped it to the size I thought would work. This section would be made of a single piece of 1/2" x 10' PVC and since the bottom would be straight, all I needed was enough wire to shape the curves. The sample would be used to make a bending jig for the PVC pipe.
- Because I needed two identical sides, I needed a jig to help bend the PVC pipe. I had an old mattress frame in the garage and I mounted a couple additional boards onto it to fashion a large bending jig for the PVC pipe. I laid the wire sample onto the frame and traced it out. Then I screwed 3" deck screws (sheetrock screws would work too) about 1/2" from the trace line and spaced them evenly around the curves to support the pipe during bending and to help make the bends consistent.
- The bending process requires patience, a heat gun (or hair dryer) and plenty of space because the pipe starts out 10' long. I put a stop screw in the jig to butt the pvc against, and heated a 2' section until it was soft and wobbly. This allowed fitting it into the curve quite easily. I soon found I needed a few screws on the outer part of the curve to hold it from bowing out too much, and after adding them, I reheated the PVC and reformed the curve a little better. I wasn't too concerned about making a perfect curve or pipe creasing since this will have rope light attached to it and the bends needed to be "smooth enough" and not necessarily perfect... The process was heat - bend - more heat - more bend... and lots of patience.
- After bending, I let the pipe cool in the jig for about 15 minutes to set the shape. I was pleased with the result.
- I repeated the process with a second pipe. With some very simple tools you can bend PVC into some fairly complex shapes and do it consistently, too!
- I used the stiff wire again to make another jig, this time for the top part of the sleigh. I reused the deck screws, this time in a different curve layout, and repeated the heating/bending procedure with another 10' pipe. I let this cool on the jig for about 15 minutes before removing it, too. When placed next to the runner section, it became evident that I needed to flatten both ends of the top section so I could bolt it to the runner. Using the heat gun to heat an end, I simply pinched it with a pliers until it cooled enough so I could do the other end. While I was at it, I bent the flattened ends a bit so they lined up properly for bolting together.
- With the two sections bolted together, I determined where the cross pieces would be, cut the PVC and inserted T-couplings. I could have added more, but I thought five cross pieces would suffice and I did a press-fit inside before gluing anything. As expected it was quite rickety but it pointed out the need for an additional vertical support in the middle. But it was good enough to glue. I laid the parts out on the garage floor and used PVC cement to assemble it. I let the glued sides set overnight.
- The next day, I added a 12" vertical section to help support the top/bottom sections on each side. This really tightened-up the frame. Not shown: I screwed two 5/8" self-tapping machine screws through each T-coupler on either side into the PVC pipe for additional strength. I press-fit the cross pieces into the sleigh and painted it with a couple cans of DupliColor Gold Lacquer purchased from a local auto parts store.
- The plan is to outline both sides with rope light and to attach the cross pieces to the sides with zip ties instead of PVC glue. I'll drill a hole through each cross piece at each side and run a zip tie through the hole and around the outside of the T-coupler. This will allow easy dis-assembly of the sleigh and minimize storage space.