View topic - Resurfacing an HDPE Toboggan

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PostPosted: October 23rd, 2011, 6:51 am 
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Just getting my winter gear in order, and noticed that the bottom of my HDPE toboggan has seen better days... One of my trips last year had us hauling sled along a section of gravel road that we didn't expect to have been cleared...

Anyway, my question is two-fold:

First, is it possible to resurface an HDPE sled? The material is about 1/2" thick, and I was thinking of using a block plane to shave off the thin outer layer that has been roughed up.

Second, is it even worth doing this?
How much do surface imperfections really affect the sled's ability to glide over the snow?

Any thoughts are appreciated.

Thanks


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PostPosted: October 23rd, 2011, 10:18 am 
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Just flip it over and use the other side.

Alternatively, using a belt sander with progressively finer grit paper could possibly work. Although hot/melted plastic may clog up the paper quite quickly.

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PostPosted: October 23rd, 2011, 4:02 pm 
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Location: mainly in Maine, my o my, moved to Maryland.
I would try gently flameing the bottom with a propane torch to soften the edges of the scratches, and then cleaning up with a cabinet scraper or a properly sharpened paint scraper


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PostPosted: November 1st, 2011, 6:45 pm 
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I resurface the same material when used for commercial cutting tables. The hand held block plane will be best for this. Sandpaper does not tend to give you the smooth, slick surface that you want, and going through the grit process to get there will be costly and time consuming. A block plane with a recently sharpened iron inside set on a very shallow cut will peel layers off until you reach the desired feel.


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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2011, 2:03 pm 
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Sounds like a lot of work. Is it worth the effort? Not likely to see any "speed records" set but who knows, your next trip may be back down a gravel covered road?

good luck


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PostPosted: November 5th, 2011, 10:24 am 
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Joined: August 19th, 2001, 7:00 pm
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Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada
Last winter I hauled a buddy's HDPE toboggan that was really cut up on the bottom. It was quite a noticable drag and caused some major grief. I flipped the toboggan over and could see the cuts holding packed snow. When the cuts start holding snow, you get snow crystals scraping on snow crystals, which is like sandpaper on sandpaper. It totally matters!

If you cross country ski, you know what happens when snow sticks to the base and does not release on the glide. Skiers (and I am one) do everything to make sure the snow slides off. Rills are an appropriate pattern for some snow conditions, but not optimum for others. Wax is also used for the hydrophobic properties to repel snow from sticking, and will smooth out the rills.

A mirror polished toboggan will suck and drag in wet snow, but be the fastest and easiest to haul in hard dry snow. Some smooth rilling might be an OK compromise for a variety of conditions, but I would stress "smooth". Sharp cuts hold snow, and you cannot easily get the snow out of sharp cuts either. So I would recommend that yes, it is definitely worth it to smooth out those cuts. How? I don't know. Planing sounds good, especially with 1/2" thickness to work with. I have never taken a belt sander to HDPE. For SURE you do NOT want fuzz, because that will cause enormous drag. But you might be able to first sand, and then get rid of the fuzz by finer sanding or planing? IMO you can't lose by attempting to get a super smooth surface for most conditions. If you do encounter wet snow one day, you can easily rill the base in the field with a piece of metal or stone.

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PostPosted: November 28th, 2011, 10:56 pm 
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My sleds are just mini ice fishing sleds made of HDPE, but I've had good luck with both universal glider wax and the fluoro wipe-on products like Zardoz Not Wax. The bottoms are moderately badly scraped up, but a little texture helps most of the time, just like skis.

As far as planing HDPE goes, I have no experience with this, but I did resurface several LDPE cutting boards with my 250mm-wide Ryobi bench planer a few years ago. It worked surprisingly well. I don't think I'd want to run a sled through a big planer, that would be a bit over the top, but I could definitely see using either a hand-held power plane or a hand plane on the runners. As long as the blade is good and sharp, it ought to work. Set it for a really thin cut. The main problem you might encounter is sand or grit embedded in the plastic, which would dull the blade pretty quickly. If your flat cut suddenly gets some odd ridges in it, your blade probably hit some hard stuff.


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PostPosted: November 29th, 2011, 11:45 am 
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I actually got around to giving this a try this past weekend:

I hauled the toboggan out of storage, and set it up in my shop, for a "chassis-up overhaul".
I tried a couple different tools, but the hand block plane seemed to work the best.
I set the plane to a very fine cut to start, slowly working the length of the toboggan from tip to tail to remove the "fuzzzy" burs.
After all the high spots were knocked down, I set the plane to cut slightly deeper, taking shavings of approximately the thickness of a piece of paper.

As I was using a hand tool for this job, the base is not uniformly perfect, but it is certainly in MUCH better condition than when I started. It is not quite a "mirror finish" but it is pretty damn close...

I would definately recommend this procedure for anyone with an older HDPE sled. Thinking back last year to my last trip of the season (immediately after the gravel road dragging trip) this sled was very difficult to haul. At first I attributed this difficulty with the mild March temperatures, and the heavy load - a week's worth of food and gear - but now looking back, I think the roughed up surface of the toboggan made it more difficult to slide than it should have.

Now it's resurface, and ready for a test run.
...just waiting for snow...


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