Contemporary Railings Using Skateboard Wheels





Introduction: Contemporary Railings Using Skateboard Wheels

About: Graphic designer for almost 20 years. dirty hands = happy hands

My first instructable!!!

After getting really expensive quotes for my railings, i decided to make my own. i got inspired by my skateboard wheels, i liked how the light shined through. i purchased some stock steel channels to use as posts, machined the wheels to hold the glass panes and then took measurements about 17 different times and ordered the glass. everything fit perfectly and i saved 6000$.

You might not need railings, but maybe this will give you other ideas!

Step 1: Posts

i used 3 inch channels to make the posts. check with your local building codes, but here railings have to be 42 inch high. i made the posts 40 inch as the glass pane goes 2 inches higher than the posts. make sure you're installing them in something solid!

Step 2: Tests, Plans and Machining.

i decided to do a little test as i wasnt sure how urethane wheels would react on the lathe. turned out its like butter, you just need to crank up the speed as fast as possible otherwise the cut isnt clean. once i knew it would work, i ordered 10 sets of wheels from a wholesale place.

i decided to use 6mm thick tempered glass. call the glass shop and ask what size holes they can make before you start... i got lucky... i machined the wheels at 38mm, and they could do 40mm holes in the glass. the 2 mm difference made everything fit much better!

i made a tool to hold the wheel in the lathe from its center, then the first step was to make one side flat. that side will be the back. i did all 38 wheels, then moved on to the next step. i grooved the front part of the wheel where the washer will sit. i then cut the wheel removing the entire front part, and then machined it so that the center diameter is 38mm and 6mm wide.
it took me about 8 hours to make all 38 wheels, and at least 1 to clean the entire shop... urethane dust is sorta sticky... oh yeah, wear a mask when you machine it!

Step 3: Hardware and Math

i decided to use industrial hardware mostly because of looks, i like the big hex bolts. here's the assembly line. the washer is actually smaller than the hole in the glass, meaning even if you overtighten the bolt it wont put more pressure on the glass. the bolt i use is just the size of the inner part of the wheel so there's no play.

i didnt actually take the hardness of the wheel into account, i just know they can take a beating. rule of thumb is that the thickness of the glass in mm divided by 2 equals the weight of the glass in lbs per square foot. so, 6mm means 3lbs per square foot. lets say the pane measure 4ft by 6ft, that means 24 sq/ft, times 3 = 72lbs. then divide that by 4 (since there's 4 wheels per pane) that means 18lbs per wheel... i know for a fact they could handle a lot more. the widest piece of glass i'm using is about 7ft wide, so instead of adding a post in the middle to prevent the glass from flexing too much, i just put the 2 posts farther from the edges than the other. another thing worth noting is that holes in the glass panes need to be at least 4 inches from the edges.

Step 4: Post Holes

i didnt take pictures of this but using a magnetic laser level i made marks on every post to know exactly where to make the holes for the bolts. then uninstalled the post, labeled them and went in the garage to make the holes using the press drill.

in a stroke of genius i decided to make little holes each sides of the big bolt hole, so that sunlight would shine through to the wheel (it works - looks like if there's 2 little LED in the wheel...). once the holes are done, i re-installed the posts, put the wheels on and took measurements for the glass. take extra time doing this because it needs to be perfect.

Step 5: All Done!

when i received the glass, it actually took me more time to open the crates than to install the glass. it fitted perfectly the first time.

here's pics of the end results!

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    26 Discussions

    For $1000's worth of materials, that's a pretty fancy schmancy railing you ended up with. You can't put a price on uniqueness and creativity. Well done.

    My son would love something like this in his room. Instead of railings, I could do some sort of hook system with the wheels. But I like this concept, something he could do when he moves out.

    Very creative use of common metal channel. You mentioned you saved $6k, but can you share the total cost of materials?

    2 replies

    thanks - i havent kept the receipts but the wheels where about 100$, hardware about 100$, 60ft of channel - i *think* that was about 70$ per 20ft but not 100% sure. the glass panes cost me somewhere between 450 and 600$, i had a good deal on that since i went trough a friend's company who buys a lot of glass so they get a special discount.
    the rest was just labor time. took one day to do the wheels, and about 2 or 3 days of measuring everything 17 times. once everything was in place, the glass took longer to uncrate than to install.

    You need to order the parts from a 3d printer place next time,

    Or a wheel mfg.

    But I know making it yourself felt good. Very awesome engineering.

    1 reply

    no, i wanted to learn something new - first time on the lathe :)
    you dont learn much by paying someone else to do something for you. if everybody did that, we wouldnt have this website!!!

    that said, the 40 wheels cost me a tad under 100$ shipped to my door. i tried contacting a wheel co. but they never replied, i doubt they would have given me a better price, a set of 4 from a known brand is usually about 38$. And i'm pretty sure 3d printing would have cost a lot more...

    i wanted skateboard wheels because they actually mean something to me, more than any other generic manufactured part...

    curious about the bolts, did you tap the holes in the steel channel, it looks like a hex bolt on a flat washer then the wheel, is the wheel actually cut right in half?

    1 reply

    Using steel channels weren't you concerned with oxidation? Wouldn't aluminum extrusions been a better choice? Aluminum, however, would give a different appearance than the darker steel.

    I think that the lock washers may be unnecessary. Are they actually being compressed? there shouldn't be any tendency for the nuts to loosen, no building vibrations, i.e. heavy nearby traffic ; ). "Locktite" on the threads?

    But three cheers to a nicely thought out and artistic design!!! ; )

    2 replies

    i wiped everything with rust inhibitor. its pretty much like oiling wood instead of varnishing it, you keep the original material's feel to the touch. i did the same for my fireplace mantel and i just have to give it a wipe every year to keep it looking nice. maybe i can make an instructable for that...

    they're not lock washers, just regular washers used to spread the weight wider on the wheel face. any vibrations are suppressed by the urethane wheel.

    the house is very minimalistic, very precise and almost chirurgical. i used wood, iron and concrete to counterbalance it all. the goal was to use these materials in the most original form possible, including their flaws; some iron posts have yellow pen markings on them, some are slightly stained or rusted. i used cedar to cover a wall in the kitchen, its full of knots and imperfections, its not coated with anything so it will change color with time. the concrete floors have marks, cracks and stains that change with time... its not some kind of ideology or dogma, its just some design guidelines i set myself when i started to design the house. just a path layed out so that it doesnt end up looking all over the place!

    AND, it also kept costs down a lot!

    I think a quick coat of rustoleum would have taken care of that.. pretty sure they make it in clear now.

    The whole purpose of Instructables is so that you don't have to "steal" the is freely given :o)

    Wow, absolutely amazing results! would love to see the rest of your house's design!

    It looks SO good! That is really clever engineering!

    Very clean looking results; with led lights at night this is awesome!

    whoa - thanks for all the nice comments, they help to motivate me to finish this d*** house!! :D