Introduction: How to Make the Perfect Wooden Fingerboard

About: Working as a teacher and freelance webdesigner. Hope to mix up the spirit of Instructables with some of my projects..

Shaping wood under the influence of heat and pressure is a technology, that is often used for designing furniture and sports equipment. Famous fellows like 20th century designer Alvar Aalto have used this technique for the invention of some real design classics and other creative stuff. And of course, also real skateboards are made like this!

In this instructable you will learn:
- all the basics about gluing, sanding and painting wood
- using heat to bend and re-shape wooden forms
- training your cooperative skills by sharing tools and prepared workplaces with your classmates
- designing and perfectioning your very individual wooden fingerboard

* This Instructable is developed as a classroom project, but you can also do it with some friends or just for yourself. It's easy to start and you can learn a lot..

Step 1: Materials and Equipment Needed

What you need:
- pencil and scissors
- thin birch plywood (3 layers of veneer, total strength 0.4 inch (1mm))
- express wood glue (e.g. "Ponal Express", 5 minutes drying time)
- small flat iron
- sand papers in different grains
- power glue (e.g. "UHU Extra") and black sandpaper to add the grip

For each fingerboard you will need one piece of plywood, sized 8 x 1.6 inch (or about 20 x 4 cm). You can pre-slice the plywood by using a cutter and a ruler. Use the more flexible direction of the plywood for the long side of your slices, so that they can be bended easily.

(Additional information: Thin birch plywood (also known as 'aircraft plywood') is an extremely thin and flexible material. It consists of 3 layers of veneer and can be bought at your next hardware store. All other materials and equipment should be easily available in most classrooms or at home.)

Step 2: Cut the Forms

As your finished board will consist of six layers of veneer, you need to cut out two identical forms of plywood.

Best size is about 3.75 x 1.2 inch (or 9.5 x 3.0 cm). Just use your scissors for the cutting.

Step 3: Glue the Forms

Use the glue to fix the forms togehter. You can use some scraps of the plywood for constantly disposing of the glue. Be careful to keep clean the backsides of your forms (this will help you with your design later on)!

Step 4: Wait for It

Be sure that all dispensable glue is pressed out at the side. Now you have to wait for at least 5 minutes untill the glue has dried (be sure to use "Express"). The board is perfect, when it has lost all of its previous flexibility. After this, you can continue with step 5.

You can use the waiting time to start some design sketches or just look around.

(Teachers: If you run out of time, you can make a break and continue later. The glue is fine, as long as it has hardened for at least 5 minutes. But also two weeks in the box won't hurt.)

Step 5: Heat It Up

To prepare for forming the shape, you have to hold one end of your glued board under the flat iron for about 20 seconds (maybe this might be the moment for some security advice). The heat will re-soften the glue for some very short time. Hurry up and continue immediately with step 6.

Step 6: Make the Shape

As long as your board is hot, you can bend it into any shape by just using your hands (it is really hot, but you can protect your fingers or just wait some first seconds before you start).

After one or two minutes the heat is gone and the glue has hardened again. Your new shape will now rest forever. If you don't like your result you can repeat step 5 and 6 as often as you want to re-shape it.

After finishing the fist side of your board you can go back to step 5 to heat up the other side.

Step 7: Grind the Edges

Use some sandpaper of different grains to clean and soften the edges of your new shaped fingerboard.

If you do a good job, you will see all six layers of veneer at the side of your board. Make it really sleak!

Step 8: Make the Design

Now it's time to finish your desing sketches, collect new visual inspiration and start to get some colours on your board! Pencils or watercolour will both bring great results. Finally you can use some clear coat (spray) to make it really nice.

Step 9: Add It Up

Finish your board by taping some clean sandpaper on the top, add a keychain or just strap it to your pencil case. You can also add some trucks (for teachers: 100 pieces for about 30$ at ebay, or just exploit some old tech deck fingerboards) and start a career as a world class professional skateboarder.

Step 10: What's Next

After finishing your board: build your own skatepark, start a movie project or just ride the schoolyard. Whatever, be sure to post some instructables!

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