Henry's Spark, a Kick-scooter for Snow
February 05, 2004
So I made time the other day to whip together a Xmas present for the kiddies. A Norwegian "spark" or kickscooter for use on snow and ice. I've seen quite a few drawings of them in things like the "Boy's Handy Book." And thanks to Dave Dermott on the XC ski Usenet newsgroup, I've discovered that there's a whole world of sparks out there, including modern hightech wheeled varieties that are even used in racing. Sparking is done quite a bit over in Scandiland, even for things like grocery-shopping. It's easy to build a chair or basket arrangement into a spark. They are perhaps most commonly used with long metal runners on ice. There's even quite a bit of racing done along these lines, with world records and such---I think they go about 20mph with them. They wear lycra suits, use sport shoes with ice cleats, the works.
Well, I didn't have much time and less money, so I thought I'd just build my own simple starter spark for the kids.
I thought it would be particularly appropriate because our kids are age 6 and 3 and neither are bigtime sports and agility buffs. They are energetic and persistent, however. They like XC skiing OK, and sledding better. I figured a spark was like XC skis except the skis can't go astray. And you don't need poles. The main thing is to help the kids get GLIDE, was what I figured. We don't have hills around here really. One sled hill down the road. But glide is really the goal. So if you can get nice glide even on the flats, I think a kid is happy. Especially a mild child like ours. I have a hunch that sparking around the yard might go over well. So I built a spark.
We tested the final version this morning: total success. I waxed the skis and Henry gave it a whirl on our flat driveway: and he got GREAT long glide with every kick. Which put a big smile on his face. We tried it yesterday with the no-wax steps still in the base and without wax. It went a lot slower. They still loved it but I knew things would get better. I sanded off the no-wax portion of the base and waxed up: the spark flew!
Anyway, back to the start: to make our spark, I just found an unused pair of touring junior skis and got a nice long seasoned sapling I had laying around and cut it up into appropriate lengths and angles with my Japanese pull saw (which didn't really like cutting this wood for some reason). Then I screwed it all together with drywall screws. Did it by eye and T&E. Took a few hours, mostly in the guessing of the various angles. Wasn't too hard, though. It seems robust, yet not overbuilt. We gooped strips of coarse sandpaper down for boot traction, who knows if it'll work, so far so good. The skis are set apart about 11"--they still fit into normal XC tracks. I think that adult sparks are 14" wide and, gosh, might require different tracksetting for snow-use. (Bummer.) I think it's still a little tall for Henry. In the pics of the modern sparks, people rather lean over the handles to get a good kick. I guess I'm thinking he can use it next year this way, but, sheesh, they're so easy to build why not just make more. So far it seems like a straight-going rig, but so simple that you just scootch it a bit to handle any turns. I suppose ideally there'd be a way to have the handlebars torque the ski-tips. ?? I searched online for how-to info: and found none! (One dead link. So here's a new live link!)
I'd like to make another with a chair/basket arrangement up front. I have an unused pair of old 215s around here that could support me kicking and a kid sitting up front. Could be fun!
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