Introduction: How to Build Long Boards From a Maple Tree
Here's a fun project I took on. I'm not a skateboarder, more often than not I'm an advertisement for safety gear when I do try. My brothers on the other hand are really into it, so I took on this project to give them. There is a lot of opportunity to customize or change your design as you work through the project.
- Maple Tree: preferably cut (cabinet grade, straight grain or minimal flaws)
- Glue: Lots of laminate glue out there, however Tite-bond has worked good for years
- Wood Screws 3"
- Paint: As desired
- Exterior Shellac
- Grip Tape
- Band Saw
- Vacuum Pump: (Stay tuned, I'll create an instructable on how to do one for less than $30)
- Vinyl vacuum bag
- Hand Planes
- Jig Saw
Step 1: Sketch It Out
There are many possibilities in the design.
If you're looking for a soft cruising board keep the board flatter. Sportier boards will have an arch or camber towards the front for quicker springy action. Also plan on cupping the sides up to help with steering.
You only need an inch to inch and a half rise or fall in the board. The board can be any length (typically 28-32 inches) shorter lengths for tighter turns and long lengths for smoother rides.
Step 2: Making the Mould
What makes skate boards springy and strong are the many plys or layers. Using thin plys allows fore more dynamic designs. To hold the shape we will press the boards into the mould. The Mould will be top of the board (kind of seems backwards at first).
Using your design sketch from the first step translate this to 4 2x4s 3-4 inches longer than your plans. Cut your first two 2x4s along your line square. The second two cut at a slight angle to help with the cupping (about 15 degrees). Finally translate the shallower line from your last two 2x4s to two more 2x4s and cut once more at an even steeper angle (about 20-25 degrees). You should end up with six boards, starting from the middle first two cupping out.
Screw all of these boards together with the tallest in the middle.
Last, using a hand plane, or grinder or sander (or really anything else) smooth these out to your final desired board shape.
Step 3: Cut Your Plys: Make Big Boards Skinny
Some of the best wood you can select is Maple. Select cabinet grade or boards with little to no knots.
You can skip this step and find places that all ready manufacture long board plys. However, if you choose to cut your own its simply re-sawing boards. Start with 10" wide and 40" long boards. The extra length will help mitigate chipping. Run your boards through the bandsaw and smooth them out. At the end of this steip you should have 6-8 plys are about 3/16" - 1/8" thick.
Step 4: Press and Glue
You will now press your plys over your completed mould.
I used a vacuum press in this step (homemade using some PVC pipe, valves and AC venturi pump). The advantages to this vacuum (not the electrolux vacuum (not enough suction) but the no air what so ever vacuum) is it removes virtually all air and helps the glue penetrate into the wood cells.
Place your mould into the vacuum bag. I trimmed the corners of my plys to help prevent warping or creasing.
All of the plys can be glued at once. I unfortunately am not that optimistic and prefer to add one ply at a time, this also allows for stronger and more uniform clamping. Liberally apply your glue to the first ply and place the next on top (I use tite-bond with no issues, of course more expensive laminate glues can be used). Lining these plys up on the mould, seal the bag and begin sucking the air out. Ensure the plys do not slip and the bad does note suck under the plys.
Repeat adding a ply at a time over your mould. It is important to stagger grain and any other imperfections to ensure uniform strength.
*Using vacuum pressure alone you can apply, depending on altitude, 14.69 psi or nearly 2 tons (3966 pounds) of pressure across the entire board.
Step 5: Behold a Board
Take your board out of your press after the final ply has been glued down and behold your work.
Step 6: Trim and Fit the Trucks
There are several options in fitting your trucks to your board.
Begin by trimming your blank down to the shape you like using a band saw or jig saw. Again there are endless possibilities.
Traditionally you can fit your board on top of the trucks. Another option is to use drop through trucks. This lowers the overall board and makes it easier to push off and balance and provide a little stability. This isn't as strong and you have to ensure you trim the edge of the board so it doesn't grind on the wheels.
Always follow your manufacturers instructions, but disassemble the trucks and template your mounting plate over your board. Mark where you are going to drill (from traditional mounts) or cutout (for drop through trucks).
Normally the trucks are very stiff. Check your instructions but it is easiest but mount your plates and reassemble your trucks. Before tightening them down flex the wheels to ensure the wheels do not grind. Bad things happen if the wheels stop spinning before the rider is ready for them to.
Step 7: Pimp Your Board
By all definitions once the wheels and trucks are mounted you have a long board.
If you want to, there are countless ways to finish it. Since my brothers are both artists I found a sketch they had each done and burned it to the bottom. I converted their picture to black and white using Power Point and fiddled with the contrast until I was happy. I taped the sketch to the bottom of the board over carbon paper and traced their picture. Once I pulled the carbon paper away I used a wood burner and filled in the design.
I added some spray paint color using masking tape to block in the colors then finished the board with several layers of shellac (around 6).
Finally I added the grip tape (found on Amazon or any where that carries skate board supplies). I cut some designs out and placed them. Cutting the grip tape helps keeping it from creasing or bubbling over the contoured surface.
You're done, enjoy the ride and don't forget the first aide kit.
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