A sleigh is born!
Unusually for this website, this project has absolutely nothing to do with software services. But it was something I did for the local community and many people have asked me about it, so I have added a blog page.
The back story is that I have been a member of Maidenhead Round Table for many years (last year I was the chairman), and one of the things MRT do during the year is run a Santa sleigh around town each December to raise money for charity. The problem was, that the old sleigh was getting a bit long in the tooth and needed to be replaced after 13 years. It had water damage, many repairs had been bodged and it was looking less and less like a sleigh and more and more like a huge red pile of wood.
I wanted to build a sleigh that would look like a child might imagine one. Shiny, red and gold, and on runners like a real sleigh. Mindful of budget, I had to use our existing trailer to mount it on, 8x4 feet. I also wanted to get the weight down and so decided on a two seater. Big enough for Santa and two small kids that would provide good pictures for parents.
Because of the issues with the last sleigh, waterproofing was also a consideration, and so I would seal the entire sleigh using fibreglass. I don’t want to be building another one in a couple of years. This one needs to last at least 10 years; 15 would be better.
It is tempting to make this a group project and share the workload. Having been part of a Round Table for many years, I’d recommend against this. Make it one man’s vision. Building a sleigh by committee means no one knows how it will turn out, makes it harder to plan and you are going to miss your deadline as people don’t achieve their bit on time. By all means, get other people in to help, but have a chief elf to dictate proceedings.
Use your local community. Businesses especially. We managed to get all our wood for free (£220), all our paint for free (£1,000) and we had an automotive shop fill and paint the sleigh for us to a standard that would have been very hard in my garage.
Don’t be frightened of this. It is a big project, it does take time, but it isn’t impossible. I am not a carpenter. I’m an IT guy who was so bad at woodwork at school, I dropped it aged 13. I’ve never done anything since. I’ve never used fibreglass before, I’m not an electrician and I’m not an artist. YouTube has tons of videos showing you everything you could possibly need to know. I’d go so far as to say this was a YouTube built sleigh. This build is a combination of research, determination and sheer bloody-mindedness to get it right.
Are there any templates? No. I looked. In the end, I found a cartoon of a sleigh and decided I’d just try to make it a bit like that as I liked the shape. Just draw it out onto your wood, and if it looks wrong, draw it again. It took me about 10 goes before I finally took a jigsaw to it.
The feedback we have had has been great. We can take it off the trailer (unbolt it) and it is welcomed into pubs and shopping malls so we can do more than just tow it. Lots of people shared pictures of their kids on Facebook and Twitter and we got some fantastic exposure. Even the build progress shots in the run up to xmas really turbocharged our Facebook page. We could expect 1500 impressions per photo. It was like a slow build marketing campaign.
We ended up raising more than £5000 using the sleigh this year, and expect to continue this for at least 10 years, maybe even 20. Not a bad return for a £700 investment. I'm almost aged out now, but I know I've left a great assest that the guys can use for many years after I've gone.