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Reader DIY: A wooden, rack mounted child seat

Posted by on October 20th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Reader Reuben Deumling made
this wooden beauty for his little beauty.
(Photos: R. Deumling)

Reader and Portland resident Reuben Deumling recently shared a project with me that I wanted to pass along.

For the growing number of you who find yourselves needing/wanting to carry a little passenger along, he’s come up with a very nice wooden child seat. I asked him to share a bit more about how and why he made it.

Reuben was frustrated at how quickly kids tend to outgrow the plastic, commercially available seats. His daughter is five, and rides her own bike, but Reuben says sometimes it’s just easier to load her onto the seat and get rolling. The result looks great and from his daughter’s smiles, it’s darn comfortable too.

Here are some more photos…

Want some tips on building one yourself?

  • Reuben used Oregon White Oak, Douglas Fir and caning which he bought from

  • As for tools, he used primarily a table saw and a bandsaw. Glue and a couple of brass screws completed the materials list.
  • Reuben is a veteran wood worker, so he used the seat to learn how to make box joints (“a simple alternative to dovetails”).

  • As for the caning material, he said he used that, “Because I wanted something more comfortable than wood, but knew any kind of foam would quickly soak up the rain and become less than satisfactory.”

Reuben says he’s had several offers to sell the seats, but for now he’s too busy to produce a batch. Of course, to make them affordable, he’d have to simplify the design, build some jigs, etc…

I’ve noticed that biking with kids leads to a lot of DIY mods and creative innovations. Reuben’s seat isn’t the first wooden child seat I’ve seen, but it’s definitely one of the nicest.

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  • Adam October 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Nice. One little tid-bit – Seems like it would be nice (safer) to add a skirt-guard or other covering over the upper part of the rear wheel. The little one getting fidgety and moving their feet around could be cause for concern.

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  • Spiffy October 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    looks pretty nice…

    wonder how much it weighs…

    looks like seat + child exceeds the weight limit of the rack (usually 50 lbs)… hope they don’t get a ticket…

    and I’ll take this time to convey my dislike of the rear-mounted whiplash style child seats… I’ve seen too many small kids getting whipped around on those things… throws off the whole balance of things… especially with a weak rack like the one in the pictures…

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  • Kate October 20, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Good point, Spiffy. It’d be smart to use a heavier-duty rack that can hold 80 or more pounds. This rack looks like it could be rated for more than 50#.

    The rack, seat stays, and wooden vertical pieces look like they’ll keep her feet out of the spokes unless she really works at it.

    What a beautiful seat! Give her some bar tape and it’ll be perfect.

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  • esther c October 21, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I am horrified at the site of children hanging on for dear life on the back of extracycles and would like to see a commercial seat available for them for older kids.

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  • 9watts October 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    The seat weighs 5-1/2 lbs. The rack is rated for 80 lbs, and the number of struts on each side of the rear wheel make it such that no child’s foot can reasonably be expected to stray into the spokes. Or at least that is my reading of the situation. Our daughter’s been using this daily for eight months, now.

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  • Tonya October 21, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Esther: nothing to be horrified over – unless superman is at the helm, most Xtras aren’t moving faster than 10 – 15 mph and kids who are too big for seats are perfectly capable of holding themselves upright at that speed. Many kids spend most of their days in a chair or on the couch. Having to hold themselves up on the bike for half an hour stengthens their core and develops good posture.

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  • esther c October 23, 2010 at 2:04 am

    I see children hopping off of xtracycles that have to be instructed to stay close in the store, no stop, don’t run off, come back, no you can’t have that candy, don’t hit your brother, etc. Typical 4 and 5 year old behavior. I shudder to think that their parents are relying on the child’s judgment to keep them safe in traffic.

    But I guess mommy and daddy look cool with the kids on the xtracycle and that’s what’s important. I get the feeling there’s a nice subaru at home that they could transport the kids in safely. Because the whole family is usually dressed in REI’s finest.

    Would you ride around on the back of a bike rack? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

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  • 9watts October 23, 2010 at 8:29 am

    esther c,
    your fears are, I think, misplaced. Children the world over get around on bike racks, on handle bars, on the top tube. An xtracycle’s a pretty cushy variant. So are the boxes in the cargo bikes increasingly common.

    What exactly are you worried about happening? That they will fall off? Why is that in your mind any less likely with a ‘commercially available seat’? Do you worry about children on tag-along bikes too? What about children at 4 and 5 riding on their own bikes? It seems to me that the speeds, kinetics, dangers of all of these modes are about the same.

    I think your snarky comment about the Subaru and how much safer it would be reveals your bias: the proper way to transport children is in a car.

    Some of us are having fun exploring life beyond cars, inventing solutions that, though certainly not perfect, nevertheless facilitate the kinds of everyday tasks families everywhere encounter. Constructive criticism is always appreciated, but your shrill indictments of the xtracycle ring hollow.

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  • Machu Picchu October 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Tonya and 9watts: Thanks for expressing your views so well. I agree. I wanted to add that when I was a new parent, I was quickly sold on the idea that children need to learn to manage risk to learn self-confidence. “Hanging on for dear life” is a great way to do this, plus most kids enjoy it. The traffic part is for the adults to worry about.

    Which leads me to the part about children being injured or worse in automobiles. Would motorists behave differently in traffic if all their “valuables” were so vulnerable as they are on a bike? I think so.

    For the record, my family owns bikes and Subarus, and I think we all look way cooler on the bikes than sitting idle and insulated in the car.

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  • esther c October 24, 2010 at 2:25 am

    A picture speaks a thousand words.

    And if I’m not mistaken that’s Jonathan Maus’ wife and kids.

    But really, one kid wiggles wrong and knocks the other off. A car comes along at the wrong time. This just isn’t safe.

    I’ve seen people seat kids of five or so behind kids of 3 and tell the five year old to make sure the 3 year old doesn’t fall off.

    I heard a mother arguing with a kid the other day because she wanted the kid to hold onto some groceries she couldn’t fit in the bag and the kid said no. Finally the mom listened to the kid and managed to shove the grocery bag into the pannier.

    Why is it less likely that a kid will fall off of a commercially available seat? Well, foot rests, side supports, back supports, all that sort of stuff that holds the kid onto the bike.

    I can see transporting an older kid, a responsible 6 or 7 year old if you have a stoker bar and foot rests but I see very few of those around town.

    Teaching children to manage risk sounds like such a good idea. Why not save the learning experiences for somewhere other than city traffic. City traffic is for the experienced. Let the kids be kids. Let the parents be the responsible ones.

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  • 9watts October 24, 2010 at 9:30 am

    I know what you mean, esther.
    Just last week the Oregonian ran *another* story about a bunch of kids horsing around on the back of an xtracycle. The bike became unstable. The mom couldn’t brake in time and ran into the curb. And the next thing you know, two of the kids were run over by an 18-wheeler. Limbs strewn everywhere. It happens all the time. How thoughtless!

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  • esther c October 24, 2010 at 10:43 am

    No it hasn’t happened yet. But why wait til it does?

    Take the kids out on the Springwater, not down Interstate Ave.

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  • aaronf October 25, 2010 at 1:14 am

    I want to say nice box joints!

    No wonder that wouldn’t be a production model, looks like a bit of work went into it!

    Also, I called O.S.H.A. and am sorry to report that they are shutting down this website for posting a non-approved child restraint device. Sorry Jonathan, but think of the children!

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