Travois Plans

The following plans were published to the Carting-L mailing list by Chip Burnette of Belton, TX on March 11, 1999. They are reformatted and displayed here with permission. Any subsequent publication of the plans should have Chip's express permission.

The Newfoundland Club of America publishes a pamphlet called "Draft Equipment Guide" which includes basic plans for a travois. I have made several, for myself and others, and have adapted their design a bit. If you want to construct one, the following basics should get you started:

Modern travios are constructed of 1/2 and 3/4 inch metal electrical conduit, available in 10 foot lengths from any hardware or home improvement type store. You can also get a pipe bender for the 3/4 inch conduit from the same source. The only other things you need are

To begin, you need some measurements of your dog in harness:

Measurements for proper travois fit
Length of the dog from chest to butt: inches
Height of the dog at the withers (shoulders): inches
Width of the dog at the girth strap: inches
Height of the shaft loops on the girth strap: inches

Then you need to consider what you will be doing with the travois.

This will affect the design of if, how & where you carry a load.

The following will produce a basic travois, capable of carrying up to 15-20 pounds easily on any terrain. On firm fairly flat surface (grass, dirt, etc.) with a dog used to pulling and in condition you can carry up to 100 pounds if you balance the load over the skid properly. If you intend to carry large or heavy weights, or if you work in loose soil, sand, mud, or lots of time on pavement, you should consider a cart or wagon, not a travois.

  1. To make each of your shafts, begin with a separate piece (10 foot length) of 3/4 inch conduit, and start making bends from the rear of the travois. (See digram below). Make a mark 4 - 6 inches from the end of the piece, and a second mark 10 inches from the first. Using the directions which come with the bender, make 2 bends, both in the same direction, and both 45 degrees. This will form the flat spot or skid which slides on the ground when you use the travois.

  2. Get a new piece of 3/4 inch conduit, and begin making a second shaft, just like the first. Once you have made these two bends on both pieces, hold the two conduits (shafts) so the short flat spot is on the ground, and the back tip and the long (unbent) part are bent up from the ground. Make sure they match each other - bend or unbend the curves until they do.

  3. Measure from the ground straight up to the conduits to find a point on the shafts which is 1 inch lower than the height of the shaft loops on the dog's harness. (This should be 3-4 inches lower than the dog at the withers) Make a mark on the conduits at that point.

  4. Now make a 45 degree bend in each conduit which is in the same plane as the other 2 bends (aligned) but in the reverse direction. Make sure these two bends match, and adjust the curves until they do.

  5. To make the cross bars, begin with the width of the dog at the girth strap, add 3 or 4 inches. this will give you the side to side distance of the shafts. Add two times the width of your conduit to get the length of your cross pieces. Cut 4 cross pieces from the 1/2 inch conduit at this length.

  6. Using a saw horse or similar support, prop up the shafts so the skid is an the ground, and the shafts at approximately the height of the dog. Align the shafts so they are parallel, and 3 - 4 inches wider than your dog at the girth strap. Clamp, tie or hold one crossbar above the shafts and 2 inches up from the rearmost bend.

  7. Using the drill, drill straight through the crossbar and shaft on both sides. Bolt the crossbar on, using a 1/8 inch, 1 1/2 or 2 inch long machine bolt and a locking nut on each side, align the bolt to come up through the shaft, through the crossbar to put the nut above the crossbar, not below the shaft. Recheck to make sure the shafts are still aligned, parallel and at the correct width.

  8. Clamp, tie or hold a second crossbar above the shafts, and just forward of the bend closest to where the dog will be (front). Drill through crossbar and shaft on both sides, and bolt with a 1/8 inch machine bolt as above (nut up). Recheck to make sure the shafts are still aligned, parallel and at the correct width.

  9. Clamp, tie or hold a third crossbar two inches forwa rd of the other (forward) bend on the skid, drill and bolt as before.

  10. Measure six inches forward from the second crossbar you installed, and install the fourth crossbar there. In this last crossbar, use 1/8 inch eye bolts instead of machine bolts.

  11. If you want removable shafts, measure six inches forward of the most forward crossbar, and cut both shafts at that point. Insert a piece of 1/2 inch conduit inside of the 3/4 inch conduit you just cut as far as it will go (6 inches) Make marks on the 3/4 inch conduit 2 inches and 4 inches forward of the last crossbar. Drill through both the 3/4 and 1/2 inch conduit while they are inside each other from top to bottom at both the 2 inch and 4 inch marks. Install an eye bolt through each hole, with the eye down, but use wing nuts rather than lock nuts for these. Repeat for the othe side.

  12. Measure from the last crosspiece forward the length of the dog from butt to shoulder plus 6 to 8 inches to determine the length of the shafts. Make sure the shafts extend past the point of the shoulder an inch or two so the dog does not get poked on a tight turn. Cap with a rubber bumper like what goes on the end of a cane or a chair leg.

  13. If you do not want removable shafts, skip the paragraph above and just measure from the formost crosspiece the length of the dog plus 6 to 8 inches to determine the length of the shafts. Again make sure the shafts extend past the point of the dog's shoulder an inch or two so the dog does not get poked. Cap with a bumper as above.

  14. An alternative method to establish shaft length is to put the dog into the travois, mark a point just forward (an inch or two) of the front point of the shoulder. Cut the shafts at that point, cap with a bumper as above.

  15. Now you need to make a brake for your travois, and the location depends on your harness type. Siwash style harnesses need an extra eyebolt or clamp just behind the girth strap to act as a brake. Parade or Adler type have an attachment at the shaft tips for a brake. If you are not sure, ask someone what you need.

  16. If you want to carry a load, build and fasten on a wood, cloth or metal platform (to put your load) on above the skid. Fasten to the two rear crosspieces, above the skid.


 Side view of shafts:
       o = crossbar
		  o  o___________________________
	\o 	o/
 Top view of shafts:
 		 |  build      |   |      |
 		 |  platform  |     |      |        DOG
 		 |  here       |   |      |

Drop me a note if you have trouble - if you let me know your dogs size and if you want removable shafts or not I'll give you a materials list. Overall cost of materials for a travois is about $35 -$40 in most areas, and should take 1/2 day to construct.

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