Row homes built in Baltimore City in the early 1900's utilized lath (thin, narrow strips of straight-grained wood) and plaster to cover the walls and ceilings inside the homes.
Most new row home owners choose to pull down the plaster and lath in order to expose the beautiful brick that lay behind it. Generally, the lath isn't saved or sold as reclaimed wood. It is extremely dirty, covered with plaster and filled with little nails. That being said, it is the perfect material for a creative woodworker looking for free materials.
I wanted to find a way to use this discarded lath material in a way that was outside the realm of furniture. I wanted the piece to be 100% function but elegant enough so that it could stand alone as a piece of art. I have always been infatuated with skateboarding because the sport encompasses shear determination in the most physical way. Never being a skateboarder myself, I thought building one would be a great way to appreciate what goes into making the sport possible while at the same time creating a cool piece.
Step 1: Tools & Materials
- Table Saw
- Band Saw
- Miter Saw
- Router Table
- Thickness planer
- Roarockit Thin Air Press
- Utility Knife
- Laminate Trim Bit
- Drill Press
- TiteBond 3
- Blue Tape
- Paint Stirrers
- Foam Brushes
- Trucks/Wheels/Bearings/Riser Blocks/Hardware (if you choose)
Step 2: 1. Gathering, Cleaning and Milling Lath
We would keep an eye out for home owners and contractors doing renovations in homes around Baltimore and stop and talk with them. Most people were happy to let us gather the material and save room in their dumpsters.
With a bucket full of lath we started cleaning and prepping the material for use. Please ensure you have and use the proper safety equipment before starting: Dust Mask, Eye Protection.
1.) First, we went through each piece pulling out any and all nails, knocking off any large chucks of plaster that may still be attached. Once all the nails were removed we went over each piece with a stiff bristled brush removing as much dirt as possible. The excess dirt, dust and plaster will dull the blades of the power tools we will use in upcoming steps
2.) With the lath as clean as possible we ran each piece through our thickness planner to remove the kerf marks left from the original milling. Keep the lath as thick as possible for glue up in future steps. Larger surface area will result in a stronger joint. This step could be done with hand planes if you do not have access to a thickness planner. Safety Equipment: Dusk Mask, Eye Protection and Hearing Protection.
3.) With each wide side of the lath planned smooth, we jointed one edge using a table saw and a jointing jig. An actual jointer would be ideal for this step but we did not have access to one at the time. If you do not have access to power tools, a hand plane coupled with a shooting board could also be used to clean up the edge.
4.) To clean up the last edge (fourth side) of the lath and to bring each piece to consistent width we set the fence on our table saw to the width of the smallest piece of lath we had. After running the each piece through the table we were left with a pile of lath that was S4S (Surfaced 4 Sides).
Step 3: Herringbone Pattern
To ensure the board was 100% function we decided to build the core of the board using the same materials and processes found in production boards. After doing a fair bit of research on skateboard production we eventually ended up back at Instructables, here Roarockit
The core of the board is made up of 7 layers of Canadian maple and assembled using Roarockit's Thin Air press. The top layer of the board would be a 1/8th thick veneer of lath laid out in a herringbone pattern.
To create the Herringbone pattern we took the freshly milled lath to the Miter Saw.
5.) The lath, when fully intact, is roughly 48.0" long. In order to get the most out of the material cut the longer pieces down to 8-12.0" inches in length. The length of each piece will vary depending on the design you choose.
6.) Once you have cut the pieces to length, set the miter saw to 45 degrees and cut the end of each piece of lath.
7.) To create the individual right angles use blue tap and Titebond3. Take two pieces of lath and tightly tape the two ends that were just cut to 45 degrees together to form a right angle. It is important to make this joint as tight as possible. The tape will act as a small hinge, allowing you to open the joint and apply glue. Once all of the pieces are taped together, apply glue and place the pieces down on a flat surface with the taped side down. Use weights to apply downward pressure on the pieces to ensure proper contact. I used spare fire extinguishers that were laying around the shop as weights.
8.) Once the glue is dried, remove the tape and clean up the inside of the right angle using a sharp chisel or utility knife.
Step 4: Clamping Jig
Now it is time to take the individual right angle lath pieces and assemble them into the top veneer. This process took multiple days as I could only glue up so many pieces at a time.
9.) To build the clamping jig you will need; two pieces of scrap wood, two clamps, a smooth flat piece of plywood and a carpenters square. It is important to use a smooth flat piece of plywood here so that one side of the final assembly will have all the piece in the same plane. Take the two pieces of scrap wood and place them on the plywood 90 degrees to each other and clamp them down tightly to the plywood. Ensure the scrap wood is at 90 degrees with your square. The right angle lath pieces will be pushed into the stop block in order to apply pressure to the glue joint.
10.) Take 3-4 right angle lath pieces and nest them inside of each other, without glue. Do this to ensure the joint between each piece is tight. You may need to shuffle the pieces around to find the best fit possible. Once you have found the best fit apply glue. Place the first piece of lath into the stop block and nest the remaining 3-4 pieces. You will need to apply forward pressure to the lath pieces in the direction of the stop block. I recommend using Quick Grip clamps here if you are working by yourself. Once you have applied the forward clamping pressure apply downward pressure so that all the pieces mate evenly. Repeat this process as many times as needed to complete the top veneer.
I did this glue up in multiple steps in order to prevent the overall pattern from drifting. I found that I had more control over short distances when gluing up. The last picture is the end result.
Step 5: Lath + 7th Veneer
Once the pieces of lath are assembled in to a single sheet, it will need to be attached to the 7th and final piece of maple veneer. The 7th sheet of veneer was excluded from the body assembly so that it could be used as an exact template for the lath sheet.
11.) With a ruler and a pencil mark the center of the maple veneer at the top and bottom. Take a straight edge, connect the two marks and draw the center line of the veneer. The center line of the lath assembly will be centered on this line.
12.) Flip the sheet of lath over so that the smooth side is facing up. Apply liberal amounts of glue to the side of the maple veneer that does not have the center line on it and spread evenly. Place the maple veneer onto the sheet of lath using the center lines on each piece of material to line everything up. Using all the clamps you have available, clamp the sheet of lath to the maple veneer using scrap wood or whatever is available to help apply even pressure across the sheet.
A larger vacuum bag would make this glue up easier. The method pictured above worked well for me.
Step 6: Shaping
Once the glue has dried it is now time to shape the sheet of lath using the maple veneer as a template.
13.) Remove the excess lath that protrudes past the shape of the veneer. I did this on the band saw cutting as close to the veneer as possible. This step could be done with a coping saw if you do not have access to a band saw.
14.) With the bulk of the excess lath removed I took the sheet to the router table and made the layer of lath flush with the maple veneer using a laminate trim bit. This bit was selected because of how thin the maple veneer is. This step could be done with rasps, block planes or sand paper.
15.) In order to do the final pressing I need to reduce the final thickness of the lath sheet. This was done using our table top thickness planer. We ran the sheet through until the lath was just under 1/8th in. thickness. This step could be done with a sharp hand plane, handheld planer or belt sander.
Step 7: Final Glue Up
With the top layer of the board fully shaped it was time for the final glue up.
16.) The final glue up involved the vacuum press I purchased from Roarockit as well as a sheet of plywood, paint stirrers and clamps. With the glue applied to the top layer and body of the board I put them together and held them in place with rubber bands. Once the assembly was sealed in the vacuum bag I removed as much air as possible per the instructions. Because the lath layer was not as flexible as the veneer I used the combination of plywood, stirrers and clamps to provide a tight bond where the vacuum press could not. After allowing the glue to cure for 2 days I removed it from the press.
The glue up work perfectly, no visible voids.
Step 8: Drilling Holes and Trucks
The deck turned out great! It has opposing arches as a proper long board should.
17.) In order to drill the holes to mount the truck I used the trucks themselves as a template. I lined them up on the board and marked the location with a pencil. I took the deck to the drill press and drilled the holes. I went back with a countersink bit to allow the screws to sit flush with the top of the deck.
Step 9: Lasers & Finishing
I was extremely proud of how this project turned out and wanted to take it the next level. I found a local company that specialized in laser cutting and engraving. I took the deck to them and had them put my family's "R" logo on it. Funny enough they used an Epilog Laser to do this. If you do some Googling you can find a local laser guy near you. The machines are really neat and open up a large variety of ideas.
18.) I finished the deck using Waterlox. It's a waterproof finish that expands and contracts without cracking. I painted it on using foam brushes, following the instructions on the can. It was an extremely easy product to use and yielded a great finish.
Step 10: Finished Decks
The first deck turned out so well I decided to make three more with parquet patterns. I plan on giving the other three out as Christmas presents to friends and family. Since building the first skate board, I have taken it out a few times and have had no issues.
Hope this was helpful!
It was fun to do my first Instructable!
Keep making everyone!