Toboggan Maintenance - Fastening your toboggan rope

The toboggan is an ingenious snow sled. Flat boards held together with crosspieces and on one end, the boards are curled over 180 degrees so it can climb on top of snow and over obstacles. It performs excellent in a couple inches of snow or in deep powder.

They are quite durable and there’s not much of anything to go wrong out on the trail. They are simple, trouble free, and capable of handling tremendous loads.

There is one component of the traditional toboggan that is perhaps less glamorous but without it the toboggan would be almost useless. How would you ever keep anything on the long, narrow, and flexible sleigh without a tie-around rope? It would be about as effective as a car without tires.

Coasting down a hill you need something to hang on to and for freighting or hand hauling the load must be secured to the sleigh.

On all of our toboggans the tie-around rope has a half hitch knot tied above each crosspiece. Knotting prevents the rope from “bunching” on one end or on one side of one of the sections between the crosspieces. Knotting the tie-around rope keeps everything in place on the long haul. After some use it may loosen or stretch. Here’s how to re-tighten the tie-around rope.

We always start tying the rope on the left side of the first crosspiece behind the curl. One end of the rope is threaded from the front through the first crosspiece and knotted on the backside of the crosspiece. The other end and the rest of the rope is taken over the top and back over the top of the second crosspiece. Then it’s threaded back through the second crosspiece (right to left) and all of the rope is pulled through and coiled. Next the coiled rope goes over the top of itself between the crosspieces, and back out underneath making a loop around the rope between the crosspieces, and then taken back over the top of the crosspiece and back over the top of the third crosspiece and then threaded back towards the front, coiled and over the top and back out underneath…and on to the next…like that around the toboggan.

In the workshop: Length of rope lying curled on the toboggan deck

When you get around to the right side of the first crosspiece behind the curl the rope goes over the top and back through the crosspiece and is left there until the rope is tightened.

When tightening the tie-around rope a larger and wider pliers is better than a smaller and narrower pliers, because you are prying against the wooden crosspieces. Starting at the front side of the second crosspiece from the curl on the left side of the toboggan, grab the rope where it comes out of the crosspiece. With a good grip on the rope work it slightly to get it moving and then tighten it up by prying against the crosspiece.

While the pliers is holding the rope tight use the index finger on your left hand to pinch it against the crosspiece so when you release the piers grip it will stay tight. While holding the rope pinched against the crosspiece, grab the rope on the other side of the crosspiece and pry the knot tight on top. Before releasing the pliers grip pinch the rope between the pliers and the knot to hold it tight with the left hand. Move the pliers to the next crosspiece and repeat the process. The right hand controls the pliers and the left hand pinches the rope to hold the tension in the rope.

Two fingers and pliers gripping the rope, stringing it along the toboggan's edge

When you get around to the right side of the first crosspiece grab the rope with the pliers where it exits the crosspiece and pry it tight, pinch it with left hand, and loop the loose end over and underneath the rope and grab it with the pliers again and pull it tight. Again pinch it with your left hand before releasing the pliers and finish tying the multiple half hitches by hand. After the knot is tied the loose end of the rope can be held out of the way by fastening it to the tie-around rope with a plastic cable tie or tape.

Once a new rope has been re-tightened a time or two and is fully stretched it should pretty much stay taught.

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