Introduction: Popsicle Stick Longboard Deck

I have wanted to make a longboard deck for some time, however I was having trouble finding cheap veneers. I started thinking about using popsicle sticks to construct my own veneers instead. Popsicle sticks are made from baltic birch, which is used to make wooden aircraft so I thought It might work for a longboard as well. Here's what I did.

Step 1: Shaping the Template

I figured out the shape I wanted and scaled it so i could use 5 sheets of 8 1/2 x 11" paper as a template. I just taped the sheets together cut it out and stood beside it to make sure it felt right.

Step 2: Building the Mold

I built a mold out of foam core or "Ready Board" which I bought at the dollar store. I cut out multiples with the curve I wanted with a scroll saw, these became the ribs of my mold. I scored the foam core with a razor blade so that the sheet could curve with the ribs. I marked out rib points with pencil and then I hot glued the ribs to the scored sheet.

To keep the popsicle sticks from sticking to the mold I covered the gluing surface with some glossy "marbled" vinyl I got at the dollar store.
I traced the template shape onto the vinyl and added a center line.

The curved tail section of the mold was built up of more pieces of foam core.

The illustraion shows a "cutaway" look of the mold. (Not the steps of construction.)

Step 3: Gluing the First Layer

I purchased my glue and popsicle sticks. I used 2 bottles of Titebond III glue which I found at Lee Valley Tools. The popsicle sticks I purchased at the dollar store, they came in packages of 150 and were conveniently paper taped in stacks of 50. I figured I needed about 1500 sticks for the board but I had a lot of rejects.  I would say about a third of a package was unusable, either the sticks were warped or cracked.

I cut the round ends of the sticks off with a band saw.

I worked outward from the center of the mold gluing a row at a time. It was slow going, I figure I spent about 6-8 hours per layer.

Step 4: Steam Bending for the Tail 1

For the popsicle sticks to have a smooth curve into the tail of the longboard I needed to steam bend them.

For the first layer I left the tail until last. I dry fitted pieces and numbered them. I boiled water in a sauce pan and put a colander between the pan and it's lid, this would allow the steam to fill a chamber and transfer heat to the popsicle sticks so they could be bent.
They didn't need much time about 45 seconds to a minute in the steam was long enough to bend them. I had a few sticks break and had to replace them. After gluing the bent sticks in place I used a bag of sand on top of an extra piece of vinyl to help keep them in place while they dried.

For subsequent layers I would bend the tail pieces as I glued each individual line which worked much better.

Step 5: Steam Bending for the Second Layer

For the second layer the popsicle sticks would be glued perpendicular to the first layer to add strength like plywood. This is called cross grain. Since the mold bends in that direction I needed to give the popsicle sticks for this layer a bend.

I built a jig that I could put a bunch of sticks into and steam at the same time. I placed the jig upside down above a large saucepan and covered some of the gaps with a rag. When steaming wood you want the steam to move around the wood. A steam chamber with a few holes in it is a good thing. The sticks only needed to be exposed to the steam for 45 seconds to a minute. Once they had cooled I popped them out and added another bunch.

I covered the first layer with wax paper so that the next layer wouldn't stick to it. I marked the center line with a push pin and started gluing my second layer.

Step 6: Steam Bending for the Tail 2

For the next layer I glued as before except I did the tail pieces row by row. This worked much better, allowing me to work diagonally out from the tail pieces. I used a rasp to even out the ends of the popsicle sticks and some sand paper glued to a board to straighten the edges and to thin thicker sticks.

After each layer I sanded the high spots down and sawed of the excess at the tail.

Step 7: Gluing the Layers and Vacuum Pressing

I made five layer total. Three lengthwise layers and two cross grain layers. I stacked them in an alternating pattern so that the bottom, middle, and top layers went lengthwise.

I used a palm sander to even out each layer. I peeled off the wax paper and sanded the undersides of each layer.

I reinforced the mold with some side pieces. Next was a dry fit, using a push pin as my center line I marked each layer with pencil so I knew where to place them when gluing and to see if they would fit in my vacuum bag.

I bought some vacuum bags meant for shrinking clothing for storage. Each package has small bags for shirts and large bags for dresses. The large bag was just too small for my mold so I had to cut off a 2 inch piece before I did the final glue up.

I applied a liberal amount of glue and used a brush to evenly smear the glue across the top of each layer top and also to the bottom of the next layer and stacked them in place on the mold.

I sealed the bag and vacuumed out the air you can see some extra glue seeping up through a crack in the top layer near the valve. Once again I used my trusty sand bag to apply extra pressure to the tail.

Step 8: Cutting Out the Shape

I left the mold in the the vacuum over night. After removing it from the vacuum I notice a couple of raised places which I would have to inject with glue after cutting the board out and sanding.

I used a jig saw to cut out the shape and used a belt sander to smooth the edges. Next was the palm sander to smooth and remove extra glue from the top and bottom. I used a damp cloth to clean off any fine saw dust that was left on the board.

Step 9: Preparing for Hardware

I added holes for the skateboard trucks with a drill press.

I bought trucks, wheels, bearings, grip tape, nuts, and bolts at a local skate shop. I decided a cool blue which reminded me of popsicles was a good colour choice for the wheels.

Step 10: Finishing

There was some more sanding needed on some spots on the top which were raised and needed to be injected with extra glue.  After that I sealed the board with a few coats of shellac and applied some surf inspired grip tape lines.  The grip tape is self adhesive and can be purchased at almost any skateboarding shop. 

Overall there are much easier and faster ways to build a longboard deck, but I wanted to try using popsicle sticks just to see if it was possible.

Comments

author
Carpenter Guy (author)2016-06-28

That must have taken a lot of glue and time!

author
flemwriter (author)2016-01-26

Do you sell these?

author
nsnip (author)flemwriter2016-01-27

No, I have had a few inquiries about selling them but since they take so long to make, I'd have to ask for more money than I think people are willing to spend.

author
paul the maker (author)2015-10-27

wow that must be so strong even though thay are lolly pop sticks

author
MackeFeet (author)2012-06-03

Okay.. So I know alot of people just use regular sheets of Baltic both and the bend the wood I a pres and glue em together.. Well would it work to make say 2-3 sheets of these flat veneers and then glue em together normally ? Like due 2layers for each"veneer". One with the grain and one against? If that would work it would be easier to sculpt out then boiling the sticks.. But would it break easier? Idk.. Please get back to me!!!

author
iamfexd (author)MackeFeet2015-04-07

did you ever end up doing this? how well did it work? i was thinking the same thing.. thanks in advance for any input

author
nsnip (author)MackeFeet2012-06-03

Sorry, I don't understand what you are asking.

author
MackeFeet (author)nsnip2012-06-07

Sorry I'm on iPad and autocorrect gets me sometimes.. I mean could you make flat sheets of Popsicle stick "veneers" and the glue those together in a mold? And for the veneers do one layer horizontal and one layer vertical... If that's more clear please respond.. I want to make flat to skip the whole bending the Popsicle step.. Thanks in advanced..

author
nsnip (author)MackeFeet2012-06-09

You could try it, make a few small veneers and test it.

author
MackeFeet (author)nsnip2012-06-10

Okay thanks sounds good.. I might just try it!

author
darrenhall (author)2015-01-07

Love this build - YOU ARE THE MAN!! - so many great aspects too this.

I'm quite heavy so could add layers to allow for this.

Extra materials could be added between layers for say more or less rigidity.

The turning should be great due to the natural flexibility ( in the vid ) and it looks like pumping is nice too.

Damage to the top or bottom could be easily fixed, plus any breaks should not spread like grain might.

Really liked the vacuum idea too.

Really great job.

author
Flash67 (author)2014-09-08

Where did you get the thin air press?

author
Flash67 (author)2014-08-31

Cool.

author
StasinG (author)2014-08-29

cool stuff!

author
jay z (author)2014-08-26

Sorry this is late, but wouldn't it have been faster to make plies out of the Popsicle sticks, and then to press the design?

author
Eldalote (author)2014-05-19

Well, now I just have to wait till summer comes so I could collect all the popsicle sticks! :D Great job and briliant idea! :)

author
dschiley (author)2014-03-18

Start a company.

author
Benjaay999 (author)2014-02-02

looks... good

author
otmpp (author)2013-09-08

i would do that but I already made my board just need to put every thing to it

author
yoyomasterjr (author)2013-07-03

Do you have to use a vacuum bag? or can you use just pressure?

author
nsnip (author)yoyomasterjr2013-07-06

You need a 2 part mold if you don't want to use the vacuum bag. The bags are available at most dollar stores.

author
teach me cool stuff (author)2012-11-27

could it be possible to make a regular plywood core and then simply put a layer of popsicle sticks on the bottom? i like the look of the popsicle sticks, i just dont have that kind of patience :P

author
predatory meatball (author)2012-10-23

hey just wonderin how do you like the sabre trucks btw?

author
nsnip (author)predatory meatball2012-11-01

I really like them. They are super stable and have a real feeling of control!

author
The Dragonborn (author)2012-06-07

Absoulutely fantastic!

author
cryophile (author)2012-02-28

Would it be possible to do this in a herringbone pattern?

author
nsnip (author)cryophile2012-03-30

A herringbone pattern would look great on the outside layers! It would be considerably more work, but most likely worth the effort.

author
jcrameri (author)2012-03-11

How many and what size were your foam core sheets

author
nsnip (author)jcrameri2012-03-30

I bought 3 sheets 24" x 36" 1/4" sheets, however I only used 2 of them.

author
LadyKatianaTheBrave (author)2011-11-26

About how much did it cost you to make this? I have a friend who would probably try to make one but is alas a poor college student.

author

The cost to make the board was around $40 not including skateboard trucks, wheels, bearings, and hardware.

author
dcarter-davies (author)2011-11-19

you could put a layer of fibre glass on to add a bit more strength and stiffness but also give a bit more spring.

author
larslovespeace (author)2011-11-04

I make custom longboards, and this project seams very out of the box. For at least I wouldve just gone and bought some sheets of BB ply but the bottom design was tight with the popsicles. it was almost like hard wood floor. Ill be making an instructable on how to press with sheets of baltic birch. Very nice. Itll be interesting to see how your board does over time.

author
happyhour8891 (author)2011-11-01

So after the first layer was done did you peel it off the vinyl or did you leave the vinyl on the finished product?

author
nsnip (author)happyhour88912011-11-02

The vinyl was only adhered to the foam core mold. The vinyl is glossy and keeps the glue from sticking to the mold so that the first layer (bottom) can be easily removed from the mold.

author
happyhour8891 (author)nsnip2011-11-02

So later you replaced that with the wax paper, which then brings to question...how weel did the wax paper work?

author
nsnip (author)happyhour88912011-11-02

The wax paper was only used to separate the layers from one another during the glueing of the layers, it was later peeled of and sanded away before the final glue up.

author
zomfibame (author)2011-10-31

cool!

author
thestyrofoampeanut (author)2011-10-30

you rock! thisdeck is absolutely incredible. when i saw the title that it was made form popsicle sticks i thought it was either a joke or it sucked. boy was i wrong! i may try it if i come across a lot of time but you have pure talent man. it looks great.

author
mrsalty129 (author)2011-10-25

That thing has a gnarly big tail. Was it worth all the work? How durable is it?

author
nsnip (author)mrsalty1292011-10-25

Totally worth the work! It seems to be holding together quite well!

author
AwesomeRhino (author)2011-10-24

Looks awesome!

Could you please provide more info on the flex of the board? Could you also state the thickness of the board after completion?

author
nsnip (author)AwesomeRhino2011-10-24

The board is 1cm thick. I weigh 190lbs and it supports me with some flex. If you want a stiffer popsicle stick longboard do seven layers instead of five. A seven layer board would be around 1.4 cm thick.

author
crazy4u200 (author)2011-10-23

i really am looking forward to doing this project! however i don't know skate stuff very well, can you tell me exactly what hardware you got for this?

author
nsnip (author)crazy4u2002011-10-23

190 mm Sabre trucks and OJ 60 mm "Hot Juice" wheels. Minilogo bearings and Shorty's 1" bolts.

author
crazy4u200 (author)nsnip2011-10-23

thanks, I'm really excited to try this, I've wanted a longboard for a while now!

author
Mike Whipple (author)2011-10-22

WOW great job!

author
ldukehart (author)2011-10-20

Do you get wheel bite at all?

author
nsnip (author)ldukehart2011-10-22

Nope, no wheel bite.

author
Kinnishian (author)2011-10-20

I'm a little confused- it seems you didn't use a core. In the first post I heard you call the popsicle sticks a veneer, but overall I never saw any talk about what sort of core material you had in the board. Since you also mention "make it 7 layers not 5 for a trick board," I'm thinking that you made the *whole thing* out of popsicle sticks. That's tremendous. But...Why? I feel like there has to be some cheap strong material you could throw in the middle to give it a little more strength.

Sweet instructable, though

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Bio: I'm a video editor by trade but enjoy making all kinds of things to entertain myself and others.
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