Making scoter sleds - a rough tutorial...

Nate Grace

Well-known member
Someone on another site had asked about making sleds. I have been meaning to make a set of scoter sleds for the better part of the summer and finally got around to it this past weekend. I took some pics to chronicle the process that hopefully will be helpful to others who may be interested in building sleds for their own rigs. Now, there are many ways, methods, and materials one can use to make sleds. I know a few guys who make them out of pine with solid cedar silos and the heads are doweled or screwed on. A friend of mine made some using luan and ripped 2x4s and he used those for about 10 years. I guess it depends on what you have and are comfortable using. I used rough pine boards 3/4" thick ripped to 3.75" wide for the crossboards, and 1/2" AC exterior plywood for the silos. Everything was glued and screwed together as you'll see from the photos. I hope you find these photos useful.


The first step was to rip the sheet of plywood in half length wise, and then start to layout my pattern for the silos. You want to try and maximize the number of silos you can fit on the sheet. I was able to get 8 silos on one half sheet of plywood.


Here's another shot of laying out the pattern. A straight edge, tape measure, and good sharpie marker are key.


Once I get the patterns laid out on the plywood I will then rip the board further, cutting the sections down to 2 foot by 2 foot sheets. This is key for cutting the patterns out on the bandsaw as you want the sheets to be managable.


I thought I had taken some photos of the bandsaw-cutting process, but can't seem to find them. I cut the 2x2 sheets down on the bandsaw so they were 1x2 sheets and then nailed 4 of those together/sandwiched with a finish nail in each corner. I then cut those out on the saw. It will take you a while so do take your time, don't rush, and follow the patterns you've laid out. You should end up with 32 somewhat identical scoter silos.

The next step is determining the angle that the silos will be attached to the crossboard. These sleds will be going into my dory so I wanted to get the angle of the spot in the boat where the sleds will be stored. I took the angle with a bevel gauge and it turned out to be 15 degrees. I then adjusted my chop saw to 15 degrees.


Here's a shot of the width of the crossboard. I ripped these to 3.75". I made some eider sleds a couple years ago and those crossboards were about 4.5" I believe. I like to make the boards wide enough so that I can grab them easily when setting out or picking up the rig, but not too wide as to add unneccessary weight or make them difficult to pick up with one hand.


OK, once you get the right angle for your sleds you can go ahead and cut out all of the crossboards at once. For this rig, I wanted 7 sleds per string. The eider set I made had 9 sleds per string and they are wicked heavy to pick up. So, 7 seemed about right. The measurements I used are as follows - this is from the rear/longest to front/shortest board and measured from the longest edge of the board. Hope it makes sense! See pic below for an example.

Sled 1: rear - 36" front - 29"
Sled 2: rear - 34.5" front - 27.5"
Sled 3: rear - 33" front - 26"
Sled 4: rear - 31.5" front - 24.5"
Sled 5: rear - 30" front - 23"
Sled 6: rear - 28.5" front - 21.5"
Sled 7: rear - 27" front - 20"


Once you get your crossboards cut you are ready to assemble. I glued and screwed this set but you could probably nail and glue too. I used heavy duty Liquid Nails for the glue as it seems to be the toughest and cheapest adhesive out here. You could use epoxy I guess but that would take forever to dry and is a little overkill in my opinion. These will not be in the water full-time and will be used maybe 10 times in a season and so I don't think you need to go crazy with an expensive glue. I used 2 inch primeguard screws to attach the silos to the crossboards.

You want to get a good bead of glue on the board and make sure you get good squeeze out when you attach it.




Once you get done with the assembly part you should end up with a stack of sleds like the one below. If you follow the measurements/plan from above, Sled 1 will be on the bottom with Sled 2 nested on top and so on. The angling of the silos is key as it provides a better image or profile on the water. These sleds can be seen from a good distance. The eider sleds that I made could be seen easily from a mile away, while the full bodied decoys just disappeared. Sleds are great for pulling in birds from long distances and they look realistic on the water - like a raft of birds.


You want the space in between each sled/silo to be about .5" to .75". Any tighter than that and it will be hard to unnest the sleds and get them into the water or pick them up and renest them.


I'll post some more photos and text when I paint the sleds and also will post some information about rigging.

Paint the entire sheet of plywood, both side, before you make the first cut.....takes about two minutes a side per coat if you use a'll have to paint the edges and touch up later but the painting goes alot quicker if you paint before the cutting....

I'll never do it any other way when the finished product is a single color.....except for highlites....

Last edited:
Thanks for posting that tutorial. I am in the process of making some scoter sleds as well. Your info will help me out for sure. Thanks again, Eric.
Great tutorial Nate.Now I'm interested on how they are rigged,deployed,and /or weighted if necessary.
Reading this now in the morning, I have to apologize for my poor writing. It was late and I was having PC problems. Oh well.

For the painting part, you can paint the sheet of plywood before cutting out if you like. That would save you some time. Because these silos are made from plywood you will need to take a little more care in the way you paint/finish them. They need to be sealed well in order to prevent moisture from getting in between the layers of ply. I will be rolling on a coat of Cabot Problem Solver primer. It is a penetrating primer and it will get down into the layers. I may roll two coats on the edges to be safe. After that, I'll roll a coat of tinted grey primer on. I like Fresh Start from Ben Moore. I used Fresh Start on the crossboards once they were ripped down to the size I wanted. After the primer, I will roll on a coat of either black FME or flat black rustoluem, whichever I have on hand. The white highlights on the scoter can be sprayed on using a stencil.

I'll put some pics up of this process in the next week or so.

Do any of you have photos of these in a spread? Are these similar to V-boards? How are they anchored for use?

Is there a specific type for plywood used or would CDX be fine? Has anyone ever made/used these for Non-seaducks? Divers of geese?

How have the sleds been working for you? We gave up using them about 10 years ago in favor of individual dekes for sea ducks. We could get the scoters to commit, but the eider and Old Squaw didn't want to come in to visit as close as we'd like in the TDB 17 (they commit suicide when we're using a layout). We're using Quack eiders and squaws on longlines. I think I've still got three sets of sleds, and the only difference is the flare you have on yours, which looks like a good addition.

Thanks Mike. Looking forward to seeing them. Let me know when the checks get there.

Matt - let me see if I have any pictures of sleds in the water. I made these last summer and actually did not have a chance to use them. I used the cheap $15 a sheet plywood and would not do that again. I had to seal the edges with glue and then seal them with Spar Varnish and then paint them. They will still delam in a few years. I'd use the higher grade 1/2" plywood - AC I think? Or, use 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch pine boards. You can make these for geese and brant or other species. They work great. I would not sea duck hunt without sleds. The birds really key on them from a distance and help pull birds in from far off. You can see sleds up to a mile away on the water while the full bodies tend to disappear - from my experience.

I'll see if I can find some photos.

Here are a couple photos I found from years past - not great but you can at least get a sense of what they look like on the water.

On the right, just over the gun barrel.


Harder to see these as the sun is coming up. The second string further out are scoter sleds. They work awesome.


Nate, I think AC is an interior grade A on one face C on the other. A grade faces would be pretty overdone for sleds, I'd thin (pricey too). Would CDX be a better choice? I think the X is for exterior (one side C grade, one side D grade, exterior grade glue)?

VERY INFORMATIVE POST!!!! Thanks for the info, I enjoyed it very much!

Threads like this one is what makes this Site Stand alone!
I believe I used exterior CDX or whatever for this batch, but I cut another set out of AC plywood. Those will be eider. You can use the cheaper stuff but you will need to glue, fill, and/or seal the edges and faces of each silo. Kind of a pain and a lot of work. I've made some out of pine but had the damndest time gluing/joining the heads to the bodies. Nearly threw them into the bushes more than once!

For rigging, I have attached them back to front, front to back like a daisy chain. That works OK if you are not hunting with a dog. A dog cannot swim between the sleds if you rig them this way. We've had to untangle a dog more than once that decided to swim between the sleds to get a bird. I will rig these with single droppers and long line clip each one to a motherline. A dog or boat can easily get through the sleds when they are rigged this way. They also will not flip over when you are in the process of putting them out.

Charlie, AC comes in a exterior glue.. Exact same stuff in marine ply just not as high quality vaneers. I am sure the ducks will not know the diff. Also unless you plan on leaving them out they will last a long time even if you use luan.
Nate, I am wanting to build some Eider and Oldsquaw Y- boards. I was wondering what the approximate dimensions on your silhouettes are. The patterns I drew up are approximately 11"x 24". Does that sound about right? Thanks Warren
Sounds perfect. My scoters are 23 x 10. The eiders I make are a bit longer and higher.

Good luck with them.


Some of my eider sleds. I sold these and I'm making a slightly modified and much lighter set.


Last edited: