Build a Komatik3 Session Course

Instructor: John Manthei

Dates of the class: Wednesday, May 17, & Saturday & Sunday, June 3 & 4, 2023

Time of the class: May 17th: 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm; June 3 & 4: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Location: Pioneer Park - Workshop (Click link for accessibility information.)

Wooden komatiks, or sledges, have been around for well over a thousand years and are still quite common today. The basic design has changed little over the years and their capacity and utility is remarkable. As they are most commonly found in the open country of the arctic, they were usually quite wide and up to 18 feet long. Here in the forested interior we make them narrower (20” to 24”) and shorter (12’ or less). They are still used for Build a Komatikhauling boats, firewood, ice for water, fuel barrels, harvested game, mobile camps, entire families, and even scientific equipment. Now most are hauled behind snow machines, but not long ago it was dogs doing the hauling and in rare cases reindeer and even people.

The komatiks we build in this class will be constructed with “knees”. A “knee” is a naturally occurring or propagated bend in a tree. Knees are most commonly harvested from the part of the tree that transitions from vertical trunk to horizontal root, but the transition from trunk to branch can be used as well. From the standpoint of wood structure, knees can be stronger than bent wood. In bending wood the cells on the outside of the bend are stretched and torn while those on the inside are compressed and even crushed. In a naturally occurring bent form the cells have grown into that shape and are not compromised by bending. The challenge in using knees to their best advantage is to match the shape of the knee as closely as possible to that of the object being made, thus maximizing continuous grain.

Build a KomatikEven in our time of heavy equipment, chain saws, and saw mills, natural knees are hard won. This has always been the biggest challenge in the process of making such a sled. With the help of Sam Duchevski, Pete Holmgren, some really big equipment, and some particularly good fortune, we were able to harvest and mill enough knees to make 5 sleds up to 12’ long.

Komatiks can and should be made to best suit one’s needs. In our first meeting, which will be a couple of weeks before we start construction, we will discuss some of the more common komatik designs, each decide on one, and then select the knees that best serve our purposes. From each persons’ concept we will make a materials list and then each person will need to round up those materials before we begin construction.

Build a KomatikSchedule:

Wednesday, May 17th:

  • Discuss komatiks in general and the use of natural knees.
  • Each participant will flesh out their design and pick out the knees best suited to their needs.
  • We will discuss options for how one could construct the deck of the sled and possible side rails (basket) and handlebar.
  • Based on the design, each participant will make a materials list which they will need to round up before our second meeting.

Saturday and Sunday, June 3 & 4:
Most of Saturday will be spent cutting out and shaping the runners. The task will be to end up with two nice runners (mirror image to one another) and canted in at about 10 degrees. For the rest of that day, and Sunday, we will add on bits and pieces to construct the sled of your dreams.

Build a KomatikAge of students: 18 and up

Prerequisites: Some woodworking experience (familiarity with hand tools and comfort using portable power tools. We will be using circular, jig, and chop saws, cordless drills and drivers, and possibly a belt sander and

Maximum number of students: 5

Minimum number of students: 3

Cost of the course: $250

Materials fee: $200

Contact: John Manthei:

Pre-registration: This class is pre-registration only. Please register by 2 days before the class begins. Registration will be closed after this time.



Build a Komatik


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