Make Your Own.... {s}NO{w} BOARD




Introduction: Make Your Own.... {s}NO{w} BOARD

About: Things are not what they seem.. nor are they otherwise.

What's a NO-BOARD?
It's a snowboard with no bindings..
Why would someone do that?
Because feet love to be free!
Just ask any surfer, skateboarder, bare-footer, child, etc...
...Surfing has no bindings, skateboarding has none.. neither does skin diving or sky diving...
Why not a snowboard too?
Free the feet, and the mind will follow...
Or, if not just for the fun of it!

Long story short (actual procedure begins with step 1) ~
It started with the idea to make my own powder-shape snowboard, specifically, a swallowtail or fishtail board.
So I modified a couple of boards to try it out.
Here's a link to the Instructable I made on one of those projects:

The results were favorable, but it only increased my appetite to know what it feels like to ride a real powder snowboard.
I had mentioned in that Instructable 'why spend $1200 for a powder board when you can make your own'.
Then one day I rode a true powder board made by a small local Japanese company called Gentemstick.
Boy, was I wrong.
The ride is indescribable.
Actually, - it's not really a snowboard in the conventional sense of the word— It's a snow surfer.
This isn't an exaggeration or merely a pretentious play on words. It really is surfing on the snow.
If you haven't tried it before, don't do it! — It will ruin your life. Just ask my wife.

Anyway, I had already thought it would be fun to make my own snowboard out of inexpensive plywood just for the fun of it,
And after riding the Gentem boards, it gave me the inspiration for the shape and to put the idea into motion..
I knew I wanted to make a huge- no, gigantic -- no, gargantuan bindingless powder snowboard— a no board— in a simple way (no presses, no lamination, no p-tex or metal edges, etc.) to have some fun with the 15 or so meters of annual powder snowfall that happens in this winter wonderland.

...And one day, suddenly, there I was, in the free customer workshop at the home center with a few minutes in my all too busy ski lodge management schedule to put my perhaps somewhat wacky idea into a tangible form...
But I had no idea how to go about it, really .. So I got started.

At the time of writing this I am still putting the finishing touches on the board, and have yet to test it in conditions suitable for it to really be in its element (deep powder snow.. which dumps here continually; However, at the moment it's windy and icy, so windy even the ski lifts are closed.. Not the best of conditions ..but things change fast here on this intrepid island just off the coast of Siberia.. and a big dump is on the way..
Question is, will I be able to test it before the contest submission deadline? I had seen Instructables was having a contest for 'plywood' and so I thought it would be fun to enter this project in that contest. (The clock goes tick tick tick as I type this...)
Not sure if it will get tested before the deadline, but I will try to update after its published, if possible.

So, here's the process that unfolded, and is still unfolding, in the enchanted snow mountains on the magical island of Hokkaido, Japan.

And by the way, here's what a real no-board looks like in action, just in case you thought it was a joke..

Hope you enjoy this in{de}structable, and please feel free to comment/ question if you feel inspired..

Step 1: First Step Was the Hardest: Getting Started.


#1) Safety gear: eye & breathing protection, ear protection if needed.

A piece of plywood (in Japan there's inexpensive construction grade plywood that has a durable enamel finish on one side for about $15US)
The piece I used measures 182 x 91cm

Clamps, squares, measuring tape, etc.
Plates, bowls, cups, etc. in round and oval, various shapes and sizes to use as templates for lines and curves.
A jigsaw with blades for wood (rough cut is fine since the edges get refined, and the blades stay sharp longer)
Files, or other wood shaping tools to smooth the edges

A power planer/ sander for quicker results
Sanding cards or sand paper, I found 80, 120, 2hundred-something, 320, 600 grit progression make for smooth results.
Boat-deck style tie-down bracket and t-nuts to mount it
Forschner / paddle bit to drill t-nut holes.
Don't forget to put on some good music.
Some spar urethane or other all-weather sealant if desired
Snowboard wax? Not sure yet..
A bathtub full of water
One empty pizza box
And place to let your creativity flow.......

Step 2: Sketch the Outline

Deciding on a shape wasn't difficult, but getting the pencil marks down in an accurate way was a little challenging.
All of that now useless information I had learned once upon a time in calculus classes might have come in handy for measuring exact dimensions, area, volume, etc. but then there's something to be said for the creative + artistic approach and free hand.
A scientific calculator may go to 10.. but 'ours goes to eleven'..

I found free-handing easier to put down the initial shape, then measuring to replicate a mirror image for symmetry.
However, all the measuring turned out to just be a waste of time—
In the end, I found the easiest way to get perfect symmetry was to cut one side first, and then use the shape of the piece that was cut as a template to trace a line for the other side.

I tried to select the area that had the nicest wood grain to it, and it happen to match where the plywood had been stamped by the manufacturer, so easy choice.
Tracing the outline was actually fairly time consuming and tiring to my disproportionately small brain.
So a short break to refuel- karagé (Japanese fried chicken) and green tea and I was ready to press on... And then suddenly I realized--
I almost cut the board without checking how it felt underfoot when I was standing on it! How could I possibly do such a thing?!
Standing on the board completely changed the design dimensions & proportions!
So simple, yet it hadn't occurred to me- why not make it any size and shape you like to match your height, weight, stance, and other riding characteristics?
Thus, a couple of oval pencil marks to denote the location and angles of my preferred stance...

Now, all the lines clean and clear, it was time to cut the board out of the board...

Step 3: Cut It Out

This was a relatively simple process;

Clamped the board down good and sturdy,
Made some test cuts on scrap wood of the same type to get a feel for the saw and character of the blade,
And.. Cut away.
Nice and steady, allowing the jigsaw to do most of the work, just giving it enough pressure to slowly glide through the ply board, making sure the saw is sitting flat on the board.
Actually, the saw started to wander off the line, but rather than try to correct it, I just let it follow a new line parallel to the intended one, keeping the same general shape.
The line that was cut created a larger outline than I had planned, but this turned out to be a good thing when I went to plane the edges, as I later found out.

Now, one side having been removed from tip of the nose to the outside tip of the tail (the space between the two pin tails came last), it suddenly became apparent that the easiest way to get the nearest to perfect symmetry, was to use the piece I had just cut as a template to trace a new line to cut.
So much easier than trying to measure to get the two sides to match!

Another cut, and the board was starting to emerge.

Lastly, the cut to create the double pin tail (or swallowtail / fishtail)
Usually I would've drilled some pilot holes to help ease the saw blade along at the tightest part of the curve..
But this time I just went for it. The cut didn't come out perfect, but that was ok, because there was still shaping to do and it was easy to achieve a refined symmetry using the shaping tools.

And that was it.
The board in its basic form as now sitting before me, ready for the next step, which I had no idea what that might be...

Step 4: Put a Little Rocker in It

Initially, I thought I would make this board simply for the fun of it.. Just cut out a shape and see if it flies....
But as the board started to materialize into a reality I began to consider the potential of what it could be...

So the natural thing was to see if I could put some rocker in it.
Rocker is the convex bottom shape found on things such as surfboards, boats, and powder snowboards and skis.
(This, as opposed to 'camber' which is the concave shape that gives a ski/snowboard a flex pattern intended to engage the edges or change the contact area between the board and the snow)
Usually, a ski or snowboard's camber/ rocker shape is created using fairly sophisticated and usually very costly machine presses to instill a permanent flex pattern in the board.

I tested the strength of the board by setting it up like a ramp and standing on it. It showed good strength, and what seemed to be a potentially good rocker shape, if I could get it to stick...
So in this situation, I thought I would try it the old school way;
Soak 'em and bend 'em.

I filled up a bathtub with water and soaked the board overnight.
Then the next morning I needed a heavy object- ideally about as heavy as myself- to place on top of it.
I knew someday we would find a good use for that old washing machine that's been sitting around...

So I set it up and left it alone for 7 days to dry thoroughly (or maybe it was 5 days..) checking it occasionally to make sure it was well balanced and even, and sometimes flexing it under the force of the weight to try and really instill a permanent change in its structure.

When I finally removed the washer and other weights from it I was genuinely surprised by what I found.
It worked. The board now had what seemed could be a good rocker pattern:
Big rocker in the nose, flat underfoot, and even a bit of rocker in the tail.

Suddenly things just got real. I began to wonder if
this thing might really work...

Step 5: Shape It And..

Now it was time to take the next big step:
Shaping the edges.

I started with a rough hand file, similar to a sure-form, and started scratching away at the tail.
It took time, but it worked. Between the hand tool and some sanding cards of various grits, the tail started to take a promising shape.

But it was time consuming and labor intensive, and after all, I had a deadline to meet.
I don't usually work so well with deadlines- became even more difficult ever since I lost my motivational tapes..

It was time to get faster results..
If only I knew where that power planer was....
Ah, there it is!
Enter the power planer...

Step 6: Shape It and Then.. Shape It Samoa'

A power planer is a pretty intimidating tool for me:
It packs a lot of power and can remove a large amount of wood in just one motion.
I had planed flat surfaces before, but never attempted doing subtle curves like those found on a surfboard.
So I tested it out on a piece of scrap, took a deep breath, and got to it..

Amazing. Like shaping soft clay with a sharp tool in effortless strokes.
Little by little the desired shapes started to take.. shape.
I had never shaped a surfboard before, but thought it would be a cool thing to try.
Cool is an understatement. This was a subtle dance between material and space, meditative in nature, but grounded in a very tangible reality.

The process was most satisfying, somehow on a cellular level.
So I shaped and shaped some more- and on one occasion shaped a little too much. Oops! But it was only a bit of the enamel base coating, and didn't take away too much from the overall dimension of the board.
For the most part it went very well, and with the addition of sanding cards, lines and shapes of a subtle, flowing and beautiful nature started to emerge from this once rather ordinary piece of house-siding, surprising and amazing me that this was even possible.

So the basic final shape having been cut and shaved and planed into being, now time to dial in the final smooth finish with the sanding cards/ sand paper.

I used a progression something like this 80 or 120 grit to start, then 180, 320 then finish with 600.
The cards seem to work better than paper for this, because they are stiff enough to retain their shape to hold a particular desired angle or curve or sweep while using it.
There's something deeply satisfying about shaping something like this, watching the form change right before your eyes one particle at a time, until the final smooth sculpted shape appears and there's nothing more to remove..

Step 7: Get a Grip..

So now for some practical matters..

How in the world can I expect someone, including myself to stand a chance actually being able to stand, balance and ride a board like this, even in deep powder & ideal conditions?
Once again, back to the old school for the answer..

Just in the same way snowboards have made a progression from their original shapes (think Winterstick, early Sims & Burton) into the industry driven mass produced wholesale generic shape that the snowboard has become known for today, and on to the progressive, revolutionary, evolutionary shapes which are emerging today, which look suspiciously similar to the original shapes of the early snowboards, we need only look at where we came from to see where we are going.

Or, the short answer: put a handle on it.
Similar to the boards of the days of yore which had a line with a handle connecting the nose of board to the riders hand.
Somehow, this just seems to make sense to counterbalance the board, so .. Why not?

For this I got a stout mounting bracket with some t-nuts and bolts, a rope line (would like to use an old surfboard leash for this so the line can have dual purpose as a reliable, safe leash as well) and a comfortable handle to hold.

Ideally I would have a forschner or paddle bit to make a clean hole for the connection or the t-bolts, but the closest I had was a large bit with a pilot tip..
but I couldn't find this one either, so I needed to wing it and use some smaller drill bits and some wood carving tools, etc. (pictured) to make the recessed holes for the t-nut and bracket connection. The right bit woulda made it easy and clean, but this was good enough for government work...

Again, measuring it yielded to simply looking at it from an ergonomic point of view, and using line of sight to get things in the right place.
After drilling/ carving out the recessed holes for the t-bolts, I gave them a good coating of spar urethane - inside and out, bottom side and topside- to protect this vulnerable area from water damage.
Then it was just screw the hardware together, and attach the rope to the loop.

After the urethane dries, some drip p-tex candle into the exposed t-nut will give it a better seal and improved glide, if this part of the board actually makes contact with the snow.

Step 8: All Hands— Eh, Feet on Deck.. & Finishing Touches


It seems a deck pad would really determine how well the board could be ridden.
Just as a pair of bindings really determines how a snowboard feels and is able to flex as it was designed to do so.
The interface between board and rider— that is, the binding— is a huge factor in how the board feels, and one that is largely overlooked.
Since this one has no bindings, it's a matter of finding the right stance set up to get the most out of the board.

I like riding with my feet canted- that is, angled underfoot to bring the knees closer together, and a surfboard/ Stand-up paddle board deck pad would be ideal for this. Unfortunately there's no time right now to find one of those, so I may have to improvise one...
Or I may just have to go bare-back...

And at the last minute— oh yeah, there's those old stomp pads laying around somewhere.
Found em, stuck em on, board is ready to be test ridden....

And then... few considerations of things that have been done, or could be done to further enhance the functionality and design of the board.:

As soon as I have the time, I will give it a final sanding with the 600 grit around the entire board's perimeter, tip to tail, and update with photos when available.

I certainly want to clear coat it to protect the wood from the elements, not the least of which being: Water.
Quite amazing, really, that we can slide down a mountain that is covered in water in its more solid elemental form, assisted simply by gravity, which like sunlight, is free for all.
Not sure I will have time for a weather seal/ urethane coating before the submission deadline, but I will make updates as any further changes happen in this mad science project.

One place for sure that I will need to clear coat, is the section of wood where the planer got a little hungry and removed a little to much material, that being the enamel base coating on the edge of the edge of the nose. But good thing it happened on the nose- that's the part of the board least likely to be touching snow.
And it wasn't a huge amount, but enough that I want to ensure an even and balanced glide pattern.

Eventually, I would like to put some graphics on it, but that's for a later time...

Update: definitely will clear coat! My wife found a can of spray-on waterproofing for wood, so this is at the top of the to-do list to get the board more water resistant to give it a longer life out in the extreme Siberian elements.


That is the question.
The enamel coating is pretty slippery on the snow, as determined by some field testing.
However— would a coat of ski wax make it all the more slick and fast and ..scientifically speaking, more frictionless to assist in the gravity induced free-fall I have planned for it?

Also a note on metal edges, with snow this deep and a boat this big,
We don't need no stinking metal edges!...

Step 9: Time to Ride !

[10 pm, the night before the deadline:]
And this of course is the biggest part of all: riding it.
Hopefully, conditions will be right for a test ride prior to publishing this.
Heard there's another big storm system on the way, so...
Time will tell.
Typical powder dumps around here are 1/3 of a meter to well over a meter at upper elevations.
So, as soon as conditions present themselves, this board will be up, and hopefully down the mountain.

[9 am the next morning:]
Biggest dump of the year.
Theres a shite ton of snow out there!.. the lifts are closed, the roads are closed, everything's closed...
When I looked outside at the endless new snow, somehow, testing the board became the last thing on my mind— one of the lodge vans was stuck down the road (too much snow), The roads were completely impassable (too much snow), the ski lifts were closed and nobody was going anywhere (too much snow)..
Then my wife says, isn't this a perfect day to test ride the board?
Oh, wow. How did I not see that?
It was perfect. The perfect day to test a board for which there's no such thing as too much snow...

So with the help of a couple intrepid co-test-pilots, red plastic sleds in tow, we ventured out into the winter wonderland in search of suitable launch sites for our gravity and frictionlessness loving devices..

It was so much fun!
However, the sun having come out and warmed the snow up making it dense and heavy and slow, the board didn't really have conditions supportive to its intended design.
(Unlike yesterday when the snow was cold and fast, I tested the board by placing it on a hardpack slope and giving it a nudge; it took off like it was on rails.. It was so fast I had to run it down to stop it!)

On one test run I was able to get the board to make some turns (the picture of the board standing upright in the snow with the track to the left of it), but it lacked the speed and powder snow needed for it to really... Do its thing..
Im looking forward to taking it out some more, as are some other people too, when conditions are better to give it a chance for the design to be utilized more fully ..
Upon further testing, I will update with photos when available.

Step 10: In Conclusion..

The boards final dimensions turned out to be
180cm length
54.5cm width nose
35cm waist
39cm tail

And a whale of a good time,
Both in creating it and riding it.

In naming it, following the spirit of naming surfboards and snow surfers (with monikers such as 'Tiger Shark', 'Spinner Dolphin', 'Super Fish' and 'Giant Manta Ray'),
We went with the name 'Jugon' ジュゴン, which is Japanese for 'Manatee'; the massive, docile and playful marine mammals that are believed to be the basis for the legendary concept of the mermaid, who would likely implore us with their sweet songs to

Never stop exploring, creating, refining.. It lends so much richness to our lives.
And the lives of others too..

Thank you for taking the time to read this,
And thank you to Instructables for having such an excellent, fun and easy to use online community sharing site.

Let the pools, streams and rivers of your creativity lead you to mountains, meadows and oceans of wonder and enjoyment..
Be the change you want to see..
As Everything leads toward greater Freedom.

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    5 years ago

    where could I buy the bottom material that you used?


    5 years ago

    nice!! good article!

    Do you have any updates on how it works? how thick was the plywood you used?

    Did you enter the contest in time?


    7 years ago

    Unfortunately I'm reading your instructable from a hospital bed. Four days ago I was surfing down a mountain when suddenly the top of a burried fence pole appeard. I smashed right into it with the nose of my board and broke my leg. Your Instructable was fun to read and it inpires to get back up and into the workshop as well as getting back into the powder! I would love to try a board like this! Thank you!


    7 years ago

    Go for it - great first attempt - want to see those tweaks n mods and I am sure this build will give you pleasurable memories for years to come.
    There is a F/B group call PROTO - TYPE - CHAT, it would be great if you got the time to hear how this project and any others ya might be planning are going - the group was set up to find the story behind the build.
    Nice INST - all the best for the future.