Introduction: Use a Vacuum Cleaner to Build Your Own Skateboard

Picture of Use a Vacuum Cleaner to Build Your Own Skateboard

This Instructable is a step by step description of the process of building a skateboard deck, which includes: making a bending mold, building a bag press, and squishing /cutting plywood into the shape of a skateboard. These instructions are for a specific board but are intended to be easily modified to make any type of skate board, long board, or bent plywood project for that matter.

Being a skateboarder and a constructive individual I always fantasized about making my own custom designed and constructed skateboard, made to fit me and if I wanted to I could easily make multiples. Now I can, and you can too, just follow these steps:

I suggest reading all of the instructions before starting the project!

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Scrap cardboard
1 4x8 foot sheet 3 /4inch Spruce plywood
2 5x5 foot sheets of maple veneer
Hand-held Jig saw
1 liter of wood glue
8 12inch wood clamps
Wood rasp
Sand paper
Masking tape
20 gauge thick vinyl sheet (or water bed bladder)
Contact cement
Duct tape
2 part 5 minute epoxy
Vacuum cleaner with hose attachment
3 / 4inch plastic conduit pipe
Dowel that fits in conduit pipe
Plastic Mesh from dishwashing scrubber (the one that looks like a mesh donut)
Rubber mallet
Skateboard trucks, wheels, and nuts and bolts
Grip tape

Optional (but helpful)
Hand-held belt sander

Step 2: Building the Mold

Picture of Building the Mold

The mold is what the plywood is squashed against forcing it to take the curvy shape of the skateboard. It will be made from stacked cross sections of spruce plywood. First create a cardboard template of the mold cross sections(fig.2a) and use it to trace out 15 versions on to the spruce plywood sheets.(fig.2b) Cut out the cross-section layers then glue the layers together and squeeze with clamps,(fig.2c) wipe off the excess glue that squeezes out.

Once dry, remove clamps and use rasp or belt sander to remove any differences in the cross sections so the surface of the mold is smooth.

Mark off area for inner concave where material needs to be removed.(fig.2d)Make a template of the desired inner curve(fig.2e) so you know exactly what material needs to be removed with the rasp or belt sander.(fig.2f) Refine surface of the mold first with the coarse and then with the smooth sandpaper.

Step 3: Making a Bag Press.

Picture of Making a Bag Press.

A bag press is basically a giant ziploc bag with a connector where you can attach a vacuum. A bag press works on the principle that nature resists a vacuum therefore if you suck all the air of a container it will squeeze in on itself therefore creating a press that is excellent for bending things onto a mold.

Take two 3 foot x 4 1/2 foot sheets of vinyl plastic (fig.3a)and apply a liberal coat of contact cement glue on both sheets along the two long edges and one of the short ends.(fig.3b) Allow the glue to dry for 45 minutes. Carefully, start with the back edge and press glued edges together being careful not to create ripples. Once the back edge is pressed, work up the sides to the open end of the bag. Once all surfaces are contacted apply force to tops of glued areas by rubbing with a spoon or a rolling pin. You can then add extra reinforcement by folding strips of duct tape over the edges to strengthen the seal and plug any leaks.(fig.3c)

Now, you need something that will suck the air out of the bag. I used a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment which worked fairly well. You also need to figure out some way of attaching the vacuum to the bag. I used a plastic tube that hooked up with the hose attachment.
Create a hole smaller than your connector pipe (but large enough that it can be forced through) in the middle of the top layer of the vinyl sheet.(fig.3d) Then force the pipe through from the inside of the bag out so that it is almost all the way though.(fig.3e) Mix up half a table spoon of 5-minute epoxy and place liberal amounts of the glue in the trench between the plastic pipe and the vinyl from inside the bag.(fig.3f)

Now you need to create a giant zipper to seal the bag. To do this take a plastic 3/4 inch conduit pipe(fig.3g) and a dowel that fits not quite snuggly inside it. Cut the pipe and dowel so they are a little longer than the opening of the bag. Then cut a strip out of the conduit length wise(fig.3h) so the cross section of the pipe is a "C" shape.(fig.3i) The cut can be made with a sharp exacto knife or I used a mini circular blade in my Foredom. To make sure the cuts are straight it helps to first use a marker to draw guide lines of where you want to cut. How the seal (zipper) works is that the "C" shaped tube goes on one side of the opening of the bag and the dowel goes on the other side. Then the sandwich is squeezed together by hitting the dowel with the rubber mallet, forcing the dowel and vinyl inside the c-tube creating an air tight seal.(fig.3j) More or less material may need to be removed from the "C" cross section if the dowel will not snap into place. I suggest making a small test zipper with extra dowel and conduit pipe to determine the exact shape needed before making the real one.

Step 4: Make a Skateboard

Picture of Make a Skateboard

Now you are ready to make the skateboard.

Cut seven 34inch x 11inch sheets of the maple veneer (the sheets need to be larger than the final board because there will be waste wood formed on the edges from the bending process). Three should have the grain going lengthwise (easier to bend the short way) and four should have the grain going widthwise (easier to bend the long way).(fig.4a) Be sure to sand off any chipping on the edges so that the wood is smooth.(fig.4b)

Take layer one (grain going widthwise) and apply a coat of wood glue over the surface all the way to the edges,(fig.4c) place layer 2 (grain going lengthwise) on top and apply glue over the surface all the way to the edges then place layer 3 (grain going widthwise) on top. Now stack the 3 glued layers centered on top of the mold.(fig.4d) You can put four tabs of masking tape on the edges of the wood to make sure it does not slide around when you put it into the bag.

Take a large, mesh dishwashing scrubby, unroll it(fig.4e)and cover the mold and wood veneers with the mesh.(fig.4f)This will allow air to flow around the mold and be sucked into the vacuum easily. You do not want to have any trapped air pockets. Slide the finished compilation of the mold, the glued veneers and mesh into the center of the bag-press and close the seal.(fig.4g) Hook up the vacuum and turn it on.(fig.4h) Keep the bag from sucking itself under the maple veneers by pushing the tips of the veneers down when you turn on the vacuum.(fig.4i) As the air is removed the bag will force the wood to conform to the mold. Once all the air is out gently hit the inner concave with the rubber mallet to help bring in the curve.(fig.4j)
Let the wood press for at least 4 hours before opening the bag and removing the bent board. Remove the mesh and masking tape. Now repeat the last steps to apply the final 4 veneers on top of the 3 first ones.

Once the curved board is dry, make a paper template of the shape you want the board to be(fig.4l) and trace it onto the curved wood.(fig.4m) Carefully cut out the shape with a scroll saw.(fig.4n) Refine the shape with files and sand paper and round all the edges.

Locate where you want your wheels attached and mark the location for the holes with a pencil on the bottom of the deck.(fig.4o)Drill the first hole then screw the truck in place. You can then use the holes in the truck as a guide to drill the next holes, guaranteeing they will line up properly. Once the holes are all drilled remove the screws and use a counter sink on the tops of the holes so that the screw will lie flush with the board.(fig.4p)

At this point you can paint and seal the board to help protect the wood and make it the colour you want.

The board itself is complete,(fig.4q) now you just need to apply the grip tape.(fig.4r) Don't peel all the backing off the roll and just stick it on because this will create bubbles. Instead, start at one end and peel off only a little backing at a time, working it down as you go.(fig.4s)

Once the grip tape is on,(fig.4t) you need to trim it to match the edges. Take an old piece of sand paper and rub the excess grip tape on the edges, this will soften it and leave a mark were you need to cut.(fig.4u) Take an exacto knife and run it around the edges.(fig.4v) If there is any little pieces remaining you can use the sand paper and sand them off. Next, feel out where the truck holes are on the top and stab/trim them out with the knife.(fig.4w)

Now attach your trucks and wheels... and you are ready to go.(fig.4z)


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3105412 (author)2016-12-15

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bassplayer27 (author)2007-10-30

How do you apply a graphic to your board once you are finished?

Dunkthepunk (author)bassplayer272015-09-22

Put your graphics on rice paper and laminate it onto the deck when you vaccuum bag it .for dyed veneers use food dye

Guguthix3 (author)bassplayer272012-08-24

What I would do, personally, is design something on the computer and take it to a local screen printer. It would last a lot longer, and that's how professional boards are designed. It would probably cost around $30-50.

astral_mage (author)Guguthix32014-03-12

depending on the number of colors u go with.

spray paint and clear coats

seal the board, then apply graphic, then seal again

What do you mean exactly? Do what in said in the instructable, put the graphic on and then what? Could you exlpain in simple terms please ;]

It's easy. Put a coat of varnish on it. Then write on it, paint it, screen it or whatever you feel like doing. then varnish it again. If you need more info I suggest this site:

Ah, I see! Thanks for that, I'll keep it in mind and look at the site. Thanks once again.

ElRogueChemist (author)2014-07-09

Where did you get the vinyl sheets for the bag?

astral_mage (author)2014-03-12

have u thought abut using the sweater bags at all. might they be usefull after all thier designed to be vacuumed out of air.

iTinkers (author)2010-04-18

This kind of mould can be made from foam as well. The process is much simpler and the mould much lighter.
You just use the pink insulation foam and a hot wire cutter.  If you don't have a hot wire cutter knives, and saws, will do.  The foam is strong enough to resist compression once in the bag

oakspoor (author)iTinkers2010-04-18

construction foam would collapse against the wood as the vacuum pulled out the foam's gas

iTinkers (author)oakspoor2010-04-18

Pics for proof :)
I can't find the pics of it in the vacuum bag, but I found the compression ones.  It's the same kind of mould but you only need one half for the bag.

not all these pics are from the same deck press. I just picked ones that showed it best :)

The pic of the mould is after it was used.  As you can see it shows some signs of pressure but it maintained its shape. It was used again a number of times.

The second pic is the wood in the press.  This shows you another way to press a deck using threaded rod as a pressure source.  It's a little more cumbersome and more work than a bag.

The last pic is the board that was pressed from that mould.

rondacosta (author)iTinkers2013-01-15

Hi iTinkers,
Finally your pics downloaded,,,, question if you have some time:
I want to bend some ¼” thick piece of plywood about 36”long x4”wide.
The bend is just like the front tip of a ski, raising about 2 to 3 inches from horizontal.
Any suggestions? Do I need to do it with veneers instead due to thickness?
Could it be done using a press instead of vacuum since the bent tip is the only work required?.
Thanks a lot, ron.dacosta@

astral_mage (author)rondacosta2014-03-12

look into steam molding or using hot water, hottest u can get from yr tap, should work.

GroundUp (author)iTinkers2012-11-23

Hey, i know it's been 2 years but do you think i can get any info on that construction method?

oakspoor (author)GroundUp2012-11-23

Check this page out;

GroundUp (author)oakspoor2012-11-26

Thanks for that.

gruffy (author)iTinkers2011-04-06

Hey iTinkers, sorry to revive this year-old thread, but you seem like you have some experience in this field. I'm curious about the permanency of the foam you used in your mold, because if I wind up making a mold that I like I'll want it to be able to produce many a deck. How long did your foam mold last?

I'm also curious about the differences between vacuum bagging and bolt pressing. Does one have an advantage over the other when using foam? (foam fatigue due to vacuuming is my concern)

Finally, is it a good idea to use the foam in the same way that gregy (the author of the instructable) used plywood? I want to create a decent looking concave and it seems like the method used in this instructable might be better than the method you used in that respect.

iTinkers (author)gruffy2011-04-07

The mold in the pic was used to press a couple of decks before being discarded. There was no real wear on the foam it was just a switch to the vacuum bag to make life easier.

The vacum bag is a much better system than the threaded rod. It cuts your time down considerably, is easier for one man to use alone, you only need half the mold, and you get more even pressure. The foam is dense enough that it resists compression quite well. You do see some wear, and it gets worse with time, but it work very well.

As to the durability of the depends. It depends on the type of deck you wanna build. Most of the boards my buddy makes are drop down decks, like the one in the pic. The drop down creates a bit of a weak spot in the mold. Mainly because you need to use some clamps around that area even when u are using the bag. It just helps you get cleaner, sharper bends. Unfortunately it causes some extra stress and compression on the foam.

I'd say you can average about 3-5 decks per mold before it deforms too much.
Now if you were building flat decks with just some could probably get a few more presses. It all depends on what you want out of the deck.
The beauty of it is that the foam is pretty cheap so it's not a huge burden to remake a mold after a few presses. It doesn't take long to do so either.

You could use foam in the same way as he used the plywood but you wouldn't gain much for the amount of extra effort. The only reason I would think you'd wanna do that is if you had some thin, but real dense, foam and wanted to use it. Otherwise it is simpler to just lay the foam flat and cut the contour out of one piece. If you need more height glue two together. I doubt you'll put more that 2-4 inches of curve in it. If you put too much concave in the board it becomes a big trough and a little uncomfortable to stand on. If you put too much arch in it then you'll mess up your wheel base.

The plywood method makes a more durable mold but it is more labor intensive and not very adjustable. The foam is cheap, easy to work with, and you can make adjustments and corrections on it (sometimes).

gruffy (author)iTinkers2011-04-18

You may be thinking that your in-depth response was a waste by now. This is not the case: I just popped my board out of my FOAM press and cut it out. I'm going to stain it and post pictures.

For now though, I just want to thank you for helping me out.

iTinkers (author)gruffy2011-04-24

Awesome! Can't wait to see what you made.

gruffy (author)iTinkers2011-04-26

ahh it's not letting me post the images for some reason!

Mindmapper1 (author)oakspoor2013-04-04

Oh no it doesnt! This would be the standard way of doing this for small scale production.

iTinkers (author)oakspoor2010-04-18

A good friend of mine has been pressing long boards using this method for a while now.  All the moulds he ever used were made of insulation foam.

The stuff you need for it is the rigid panel insulation.  it's about 2 inches thick and comes in various sizes. It works beautifully.

Also used it to make a positive and negative for a mould that used threaded rod to provide compression.  Worked beautifully like that too.

The good thing is that its 2 inches thick so it works for mostly any curve you'd want on a board.  It works for a nice 2 inch drop in long boards as well.  And if you need more height you just glue 2 panels together to boost you up to 4 inches.

It is a much faster and easier method than cutting this many layers of wood and sanding them to the shape.

Walter79 (author)2013-06-14

good work job trabajo lavoro i dont speeak so verywell eng my italian is best and espanish
nice Glue in Europe Pva-B3 the wood is no canadian is betulla aviatik froom finland 155x155 cm inch i do no !!! 1 cm=2,54 inch i try my first i try try try thanks grazie gracias danke merci nice idea to much for search material but no problem in the house. Ghghghghhghg.Ciao

garethfarfan (author)2009-01-04

I don't get it. Is there not some type of valve that maintains the vacuum?

tdayt (author)garethfarfan2009-07-15

I have the same question. I don't know if he leaves the vacuum on for the whole time or if he has some type of seal for the valve. I wonder if you could just turn off the vacuum and quickly cover the valve with duct tape before it refills with air. Hmmmm.

rf (author)tdayt2013-05-12

A check valve would be better.

Even if you had slow leaks you'd only have to turn the vacuum on again every once in a while.

larslovespeace (author)tdayt2010-07-03

I was wondering the same thing how did your guys turn out?

___ (author)larslovespeace2012-04-11

He prob just leaves the vacuum on the entire time

IkilledEMOcity (author)2008-10-16

would it be possible to use an old board as a mold? I have an almost board that I don't use so would i just but the veiner on top of that?? Please get back to me!!

rf (author)IkilledEMOcity2013-05-12

You could use the old board as the top of the mold -- with foam underneath.

You can pour your own foam.

power (author)IkilledEMOcity2008-11-20

board too weak. requires a mold

tieguy (author)power2009-01-03

professionals use foam, which is considerably weaker than plywood.

bigjeff5 (author)tieguy2010-12-04

High density foam resists compression very well, but does not resist cutting well, which is why they use it.  Being a dense foam, the air cannot be sucked out with pressures even remotely close to that of a household vacuum cleaner.

Using a skateboard as the mold is a bad idea because it will flex when compressed, especially under the heavy compression of the vacuum, so any board you make using a skateboard as the mold is going to be warped.

To see what I mean about flimsy substances that can resist compression, find some packing cardboard used in shipping large objects - it has a honeycomb structure that resists compression extremely well.  You can walk on it without damaging it, yet it is light and flimsy enough to be torn in half by hand.  That stuff is made of paper, and not very much of it.

rf (author)2013-05-12

Great instructable. Definitely thinking about using your ideas.

The mold could be made from half the material or less. Solid wood is overkill.

Thank you!

Mindmapper1 (author)2013-04-03

OK I have been using this type of system for years. Although what is shown here is going to work up to a point it could break the vacuum cleaner and wont really effectively hold the vacuum anyway. Yes there needs to be some type of valve to seal the extraction point once the air is removed. Personally I use a compressor and a venturi generator to usch the air out and then seal the outlet with a tap/valve. This is the standard way in which these systems are used commercially. I hope that helps.

bryceronie (author)2007-06-29

This is absolutely amazing! I love your work and how you put this together!! It would have felt awesome to ride it after, I usually go through 2 boards a month so I would be a little mad to break it , but it would be cheaper !

philreeper13 (author)bryceronie2007-12-09

how do you go through two board a month. r u stupid or just dont know how to skate.

LOL, seriously kid, the better you get the more you thrash your boards. A board a week is pretty average- thats a good week mind you, back weeks and big tricks kill boards. Maybe you should push yourself a bit more if you skate.

Spencerr (author)philreeper132008-10-18

Pro skaters go through boards in just a week. You probably didnt know this, but Unfortunately when a Skateboard gets used alot, it becomes weaker, and gets scratched up too the point where its not safe. Boards crack man, your just not skating hard enough

articice (author)Spencerr2010-04-18

Actually, it depends much on how dry the board is. Dry boards crack immediately; new and "wet" boards live longer (until they get dry or you smack them real hard).
When buying a board turn it upside down, take by the tail(nose) and hit against the ground; if you feel it's vibration - then it's "wet". If it just flaps - it's dry and will break fast. In theory, this ability to vibrate saves the board when it hits the ground (ask your physics teacher why ;) ).
I bet the skate shop dudes push boards that have been lying around for some time (and got dry) to n00bz (because they don't skate hard enough anyway) or to just random unlucky or dumb-looking ppl.

StarshipMcGee (author)Spencerr2009-08-13

Pro skaters also don't have to buy there own decks..... Man, use the deck until it cracks then buy a new one, a little bit of scratches wont hurt.. dont wast your money. Great instructable buy the way. I didnt think that a household vacuum could bend 7 layers of veneer.

bryceronie (author)philreeper132007-12-09

lol skating sets, handrails, trust me they do break , not often but pro decks break and if I made them and took the time, I try to keep the pop

pdub77 (author)bryceronie2008-11-11

my buddy weighed about 170 pounds when we skated back in the day. landing slightly off your trucks down a staircase can snap a board like it's nothing. i've seen him snap more than one board in a week.

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