It has been a number of years now since I first had a conversation with one of our dealers in the Northwest Territories (NWT). He was telling me how the elders would find and make handles for their toboggan backboards, or what they sometimes call “carryalls”.
There is a tree or shrub that grows on the muskeg that often has a twisted or curled trunk. I think we have something similar, if not the same here in MN. I’ve heard it referred to as “curly birch”. It looks like a small birch tree with a curled stem or trunk and it grows on muskeg flats.
What they will do up north is look for one of these the right size with the right bend in the trunk. Once in hand and cut for length the bark is peeled away and it is split in half; thus, producing two identical handles for the toboggan backboard. They prefer the backboard handles to bend towards the back of the sleigh and to be horizontal rather than upright. Similar to the bent handles on an old horse drawn plow.
I’ve fooled around with ideas to make something similar. The trick is to come up with a design that would not be so labor intensive that it would be cost prohibitive.?.? Finally this past summer I got serious with the idea and decided that the best way would be laminating red oak veneers like we do the oak driving bows for the freight sled cargo box. These laminated oak bows have proven to be quite durable and enjoy a long life expectancy.
After studying a number of photos from the Dene living up North with there toboggan backboards I designed a bow jig similar to the one for the driving bows with some variations. I used nine strips of red oak and waterproof wood glue to bend these strips around the jig and clamp them in place. The finish dimension is 1 ½” x 1 5/8”.
Once the glue is dried the bow is cut in half at top dead center and I have two identical handles to round over, sand, and finish.
I expect new product photo’s to land at the website sometime early October. This is a sneak peek of our new “Dene Style” toboggan backboard.