Introduction: Contemporary Railings Using Skateboard Wheels

About: Graphic designer for almost 20 years. dirty hands = happy hands

My first instructable!!!

After getting really expensive quotes for my railings, i decided to make my own. i got inspired by my skateboard wheels, i liked how the light shined through. i purchased some stock steel channels to use as posts, machined the wheels to hold the glass panes and then took measurements about 17 different times and ordered the glass. everything fit perfectly and i saved 6000$.

You might not need railings, but maybe this will give you other ideas!

Step 1: Posts

i used 3 inch channels to make the posts. check with your local building codes, but here railings have to be 42 inch high. i made the posts 40 inch as the glass pane goes 2 inches higher than the posts. make sure you're installing them in something solid!

Step 2: Tests, Plans and Machining.

i decided to do a little test as i wasnt sure how urethane wheels would react on the lathe. turned out its like butter, you just need to crank up the speed as fast as possible otherwise the cut isnt clean. once i knew it would work, i ordered 10 sets of wheels from a wholesale place.

i decided to use 6mm thick tempered glass. call the glass shop and ask what size holes they can make before you start... i got lucky... i machined the wheels at 38mm, and they could do 40mm holes in the glass. the 2 mm difference made everything fit much better!

i made a tool to hold the wheel in the lathe from its center, then the first step was to make one side flat. that side will be the back. i did all 38 wheels, then moved on to the next step. i grooved the front part of the wheel where the washer will sit. i then cut the wheel removing the entire front part, and then machined it so that the center diameter is 38mm and 6mm wide.
it took me about 8 hours to make all 38 wheels, and at least 1 to clean the entire shop... urethane dust is sorta sticky... oh yeah, wear a mask when you machine it!

Step 3: Hardware and Math

i decided to use industrial hardware mostly because of looks, i like the big hex bolts. here's the assembly line. the washer is actually smaller than the hole in the glass, meaning even if you overtighten the bolt it wont put more pressure on the glass. the bolt i use is just the size of the inner part of the wheel so there's no play.

i didnt actually take the hardness of the wheel into account, i just know they can take a beating. rule of thumb is that the thickness of the glass in mm divided by 2 equals the weight of the glass in lbs per square foot. so, 6mm means 3lbs per square foot. lets say the pane measure 4ft by 6ft, that means 24 sq/ft, times 3 = 72lbs. then divide that by 4 (since there's 4 wheels per pane) that means 18lbs per wheel... i know for a fact they could handle a lot more. the widest piece of glass i'm using is about 7ft wide, so instead of adding a post in the middle to prevent the glass from flexing too much, i just put the 2 posts farther from the edges than the other. another thing worth noting is that holes in the glass panes need to be at least 4 inches from the edges.

Step 4: Post Holes

i didnt take pictures of this but using a magnetic laser level i made marks on every post to know exactly where to make the holes for the bolts. then uninstalled the post, labeled them and went in the garage to make the holes using the press drill.

in a stroke of genius i decided to make little holes each sides of the big bolt hole, so that sunlight would shine through to the wheel (it works - looks like if there's 2 little LED in the wheel...). once the holes are done, i re-installed the posts, put the wheels on and took measurements for the glass. take extra time doing this because it needs to be perfect.

Step 5: All Done!

when i received the glass, it actually took me more time to open the crates than to install the glass. it fitted perfectly the first time.

here's pics of the end results!

Wheels Challenge

Runner Up in the
Wheels Challenge