A piece of history

Jim Staley stands in front of a wooden bobsled from the turn of the century that he’s restored while keeping it as true to the original as possible.  Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Jim Staley stands in front of a wooden bobsled from the turn of the century that he’s restored while keeping it as true to the original as possible. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

It may look like Jim Staley is in the Christmas spirit after he restored a roughly 115-year-old bobsled; however, he’s more interested in history than he is in giving Santa a new ride this holiday season.

Staley recently finished restoring a bobsled built by Joel Turney and Co. in Fairfield, Iowa, around 1900.

An early 1900s bobsled looks dated in Jim Staley’s shop, but it’s one of his favorites.  Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

An early 1900s bobsled looks dated in Jim Staley’s shop, but it’s one of his favorites. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“It is a form of history,” Staley said. “I love history.”

Staley, 59, who farms east of Austin, bought the bobsled recently and was fortunate to find a bobsled in good condition.

“It was so complete, and it was made right down here in Iowa,” Staley said.

Pinstriping compliments the refurbish of an early 1900s bobsled. The art was applied by local artist Jeremy Pedersen. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Pinstriping compliments the refurbish of an early 1900s bobsled. The art was applied by local artist Jeremy Pedersen. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Several sleds from that era either have rotted wood or were taken apart and reassembled with mixed parts from different sleds. After finding an intact sled, Staley cleaned the wood and stained it. He’s not a fan of paint, as it hid the grains of the wood.

“I like to keep things original, but I don’t like paint,” Staley said.

People often use paint when restoring sleds and wagons, because paint will cover rot and imperfections.

The biggest challenge, to Staley, was getting the stain just right so the bobsled didn’t look brand new. Staley used a red-tinted deck stain that he mixed to his preferred consistency and shade. He then contacted Jeremy Pederson, of Relic Kustoms, who helped Staley finish in pinstriping and helped put the Joel Turney and Co. label back on the bobsled.

It took him about a month and a half to restore the sled. Staley, who resorted a wheel wagon last year, plans to work on another wagon next.

While sleighs are used more for transporting people, a bobsled would have been used for work.

Jim Staley describes the detail of the bobsled he has restored as well as the pinstriping done by local artist Jeremy Pedersen. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Jim Staley describes the detail of the bobsled he has restored as well as the pinstriping done by local artist Jeremy Pedersen. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Staley compared the bobsled to a wood wagon, as it’s about 3 feet wide and about 10 feet long. The bobsled would have been used for winter work or hauling on a farm. In the summer, the main compartment of the sled could be placed onto the wheels if a wagon.

However, Staley doesn’t plan to use his bobsled or wagon for field work. Instead, he’s collecting and displaying them in his shop a few miles east of Highway 56.

Staley said he loves the history of the horse and buggy era, and said the work restoring the bobsled was easy.

“If you like something it’s easy,” he said.

For others looking to restore similar sleds, Staley recommended they take the time to find an intact, well kept sled.

“Just look and find a good one,” Staley said. “Get something decent to start with.”

That’s easier said than done, though, as Staley said several of the sleds have been kept in barns and sheds, which are often damp. Others were modified as technology like tractors came along.

Joel Turney and Co. moved to Farfield, Iowa, in 1887, according to Staley, and made wagons and bobsleds until about 1932. He found this bobsled in western Minnesota.

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