I bought a really ugly skateboard a few months ago and asked my friend Chris Vogel to help me fix it up. In the end the board turned out too nice to ride and we put it up in his gallery instead. I am still skateboardless...
This instructable will show how to do laser cut veneer inlay and also how to use a vacuum bag for veneer application.
For the project, you will need:
A Skatboard Deck
2 Pieces of Paper-Backed Veneer About 36 by 10 Inches Long (depending on the size of your board)
3 or 4 Smaller Pieces of Veneer of a Variety of Species.
Blue Masking Tape
Lots of Wood Glue
A Laser Cutter
An Sharp Knife
A Vacuum Bag and Pump
Step 1: Prepare Board
The board I bought on Craigslist was really crappy looking. I inspected the board before I bought it to make sure there was no structural damage, but I was very aware when I bought it that it would need some serious work before it would look even halfway decent.
The preparation of the board started with removing the trucks and wheels. Next, I stripped off all the grip tape and sanded both sides.
There were also a few dents in the board that I filled with wood filler as well.
Step 2: Design
Chris's art is very geometric and precise. He uses wood veneer and wood grain contact paper to create intricate and dynamic geometric designs. He sent me an Adobe Illustrator file of one of his pieces that I prepared for the laser cutter by separating colors and eliminating duplicate lines.
Step 3: Cut
At first, we decided to use to use a Metabeam laser cutter to cut the large shapes out of the veneer, but this machine was far too strong. It ended up cutting all the way though the veneer and though the backing board we had taped behind it. In the end, we scaled back and used an Epilog laser cutter instead.
All of the line work for the design was etched into the board by doing a vector cut at a power setting lower than the setting for cutting veneer.
Next, we cut all of the smaller pieces out of veneer from different species. As a result, we had a collection of tiny veneer triangles that needed to be assembled.
Step 4: Putting the Puzzle Together
I'm really glad that Chris likes assembling all these little pieces, because I am not a fan. As I was running the laser cutter, Chris was cutting along the lines where a new piece of veneer would be inlayed, finding the piece, and taping it in with blue tape. The whole process took about 45 minutes per side with both of us working.
Once the whole design was assembled, I used veneer tape on the back to tape the whole mosaic together before removing the blue tape from the front. Veneer tape needs to be dampened with a sponge before applying it to the veneer. One great thing about veneer tape is that you can glue the veneer, with tape on the back, directly to a backing board (skate board in this case), and the glue permeates through the tape and adheres to the veneer it's self. Also, the veneer tape contracts slightly, pulling all the pieces together and eliminating gaps.
Step 5: Laminate
Once the mosaics are complete it is time to glue them onto the board. Cover the board completely with glue, and don't be afraid of over gluing. It is better to have too much glue than too little.
The best method for getting uniform pressure on a surface as large as a skateboard is to use a vacuum bag. Once the board and the veneer are lined up how you want them slide the whole thing into the vacuum bag, close up the bag and turn on the air pump.
I suggest doing this one side at a time rather than trying to make a skateboard sandwich between two veneer mosaics.
Step 6: Trim
Once the glue is completely dry, I cut off the excess veneer with an razor blade and sanded down the edges with a palm sander. If any glue leaks through the inlay design I suggest sanding it off with high grit sand paper rather than with an electric sander, so you don't sand all the way through your design.
Step 7: Drilling
As I said in an earlier step, it is important to use lots of glue when laminating the board. One of the downsides of this is that the holes for attaching the trucks get filled with glue. I used a drill press to re-drill these holes between each lamination step.
Step 8: Finish
After applying an inlay design on both sides and doing a significant amount of sanding I applied three layers of Danish oil to the board to make it really shine.
Step 9: Re-Assemble and Appreciate
I polished the trucks with a polishing wheel on a die grinder and gave the board some nice new clear wheels for good measure.
After all the work Chris and I put into this board, neither of us could bring ourselves to ride it, so it has (at least for now), been placed in a gallery to be appreciated as a piece of functional art.