As we progress in park skiing and riding people often want to build boxes or rails so that they can practice at home. Many people on this message board have asked the question “How do I build a box?” So here is an introduction to box building compiled from posts made on PASR over the past few years.
This guide is intended to help give you enough information on the topic of box building so you can design and construct a box to your specific needs and desires, as well as learn what types of materials to use for different aspects of the box. It is not intended to be a step-by-step how to, but rather an informative reference. If you are just looking for plans there are [or rather will be soon] links at the bottom of the guide.
Also note that this guide is written assuming you have some experience in handiwork. If you do not have this kind of background then this is a great project to get started, but you will need to gain some background knowledge before beginning.
A box generally consists of a frame, top sheet, and copping. These will be discussed in detail later. For your first box you will probably start out with a flat box. Once you have some experience with a flat box, building any other type of box is just a matter of being creative in the construction.
Although it is possible to build a box using just hand tools, having power tools available will make the process much easier. Although specific tools will vary based on your choice of materials and construction methods you will probably need at least a saw, drill/driver, and measurement tools.
There are many design considerations to take into account when building a box. Specific recommendations will not be discussed as the final design is largely a matter of preference; however we will go over the things you want to take into account when designing your box. If you want to visualize you box Google has a easy to use CAD program called SketchUp available for free at http://sketchup.google.com/
. This program could be used to mock up your design before construction begins. Note: the following is written assuming you are building a flat box, but most of the advice applies to other types of boxes as well.
The dimensions for your box are determined by many factors. Most important is personal preference and the intended use, available space, and your budget. Some things to consider when choosing the length, width, and height are listed below.
- Length: Most people recommend making the box longer than 10’. You can make it shorter if you need or want it that way.
- Width: Most boxes are around a foot wide but do vary greatly. Some range from only a few inches wide to 4’ or more (i.e. butter boxes). When deciding on the width think about what you will be using it for and your preference for width. A wider box will be easer to balance on while a narrower one will be more of a challenge.
- Height: Do you want a low box to practice on or something high to challenge yourself. You should also take in to account that a box that is short relative to its width will be easier to stabilize that a taller box. The exception to this would be if you are burying the box in snow.
There are many materials that can be used to make a box. In general the box is made from wood or metal, and the top sheet and coping are some type of plastic or metal. Specific materials and their uses as well as pros and cons for each component of the box are discussed below.
Most home built boxes will are built form wood. 2x4 studs are the most common material use with ply-wood sheeting. This does not mean that you can not build a box out of what ever you have available (or free). You could also build the box out of metal if you have the necessary skills and equipment. Basically you want to build a box out of your material, use diagonals to sturdy it up and add strong legs or supports so it will not tip. Sheeting can then be added to protect the frame. Any wood that is exposed to the elements should be either painted with outdoor paint or pressure treated lumber*. You should follow general construction methods, but exactly how you should go about framing it out is beyond the scope of this guide.
Pressure treated lumber may contain chemicals that pose health risks. If you intend to use it please go to this Consumer Safety Information Sheet
for information on the risks and safety precautions that should be taken.
The top sheet is usually some type of plastic that makes the box more slippery and protects the box and your skis/board from damage. What type of material to use is the most commonly asked question so there is a table below that lists most materials that are used with there pros and cons. The top sheet should be secured to the box in between the coping (or on top if the box will not have coping). It should be secured in to the frame with countersunk screws so they do not damage equipment.
Coping is a rail around the box that is raised slightly above the top sheet. It can be metal or plastic (e.g. PVC) tube. Care should be taken when using PVC or aluminum because the softness of the material has been reported to catch edges; however, this should not be a problem if you are careful to not dig your edge in. Aluminum has also been reported to be sticky and PVC is slick. Angle Iron can also be used as coping. Steel tube is a good choice for the coping but is more expensive. Steel tube, with the exception of galvanized steel, or angle iron will rust, but it is easy to file off.
In order to attach pipe to the box you can screw up through the pipe if it is soft plastic. Alternatively you can drill a hole big enough to let the head of the nail through the top of the pipe. Then drill a hole just big enough to accommodate the threads on the opposite side of the pipe. You can then fasten the pipe with the screw through the smaller hole using the larger one to access it.
Top sheet material table
UHMW (Ultra High Molecular Weight polyethylene)
UHMW is a high very density polyethylene plastic used by ski resorts for top sheet.
Pros: Very high abrasion and impact resistance as well as a low coefficient of friction which make it very well suited for top sheet. Will out last all other listed materials.
HDPE (High Density PolyEthylene)
High density plastic similar to UHMW. Also know as puck board.
Pros: Very durable, easy to work with, and slides well.
ABS plastic is rigid and impact resistant.
Note: Pros v. Cons are currently unavailable because there is not enough experience with using this material. If you have used it let us know about it works.
Formica is commonly used as counter top material and is available at most home improvement stores.
Pros: It slides well, and is readily available.
Cons: Chips easily in the absence of coping.
Acrylic (e.g. Plexiglas)
Acrylic is a clear used to replace glass in applications where it could be easily broken.
Pros: Readily available at home improvement stores.
Cons: Prone to cracking and should not be fastened with countersunk screws. It is also relatively soft and should be used only with coping.
LEXAN® is a trademark for a plastic developed by GE.
Pros: Much stronger than acrylic and resists cracking.
Hopefully using this guide you have enough information to get started in box building. If you still need help or have any other questions please ask. There are many knowledgeable people here that will be more than willing to help.
Most of the information here is from threads on www.paskiandride.com
surface material for box
Bulid a Box
Home made jibs, advice needed
Backyard Rail Help, Need help designing backyard rail
I would like to give credit and thanks the members of PA Ski and Ride, who’s knowledge base provided the information necessary to compile this guide.
Although every effort was made to provide accurate information no claims are made as to the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of the information provided. By using any information presented you do so at your own risk. Skiing and Snowboarding are inherently dangerous sports, especially when obstacles are introduced. Paskiandride.com and its members accept no responsibility for your actions.