Introduction: Making a Sign With Old Broken Skateboards
Sometimes you can take leftover material and make something that looks great, is useful and is a perfect representation of where the material came from. This is one of those projects and it makes me feel great that the material did not end up in a landfill.
In this project I am going to show you how I used old, broken skateboards to make a sign for the skateboard shop where I got the broken skateboards from. If you haven't looked at the wood layers you find in a lot of skateboards then you are missing out on the amazing colors for potential wood projects. I think it would be a shame to just throw these broken boards in the landfill if there is a chance to make something out of them.
Subsect Skate Shop is the amazing skate shop in Des Moines, Iowa where I get my broken boards. If you are in the area then you should stop by and check out the shop. They have a great selection of gear and clothing.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Here are the materials and tools I used for this project. I may include some affiliate links for some of the items for your convenience.
The materials I used on this project were as follows:
- Recycled skateboards
- 3/4-inch plywood
- Miscellaneous pieces of wood
- Screws of various lengths and types
- Titebond Wood Glue
- Wood Finish - Minwax Wipe-on Polyurethane
The tools I used on the project were as follows:
- Table saw
- Band saw
- CNC - X-Carve Model 1000mm x 1000mm
- Random orbit sander
- Sand paper and sanding blocks
Not all of the tools in this list are required, but may make the construction much easier. Your build may need more or less than what I show.
NOTE: If you plan on using any tool for a project please make sure you are familiar with the tool and all of the dangers associated with it. If you are not familiar with a tool then you should ask someone who is to show you the proper way to use it. A lot of communities have classes at local colleges on the proper use of tools and machinery. There are also local woodworking clubs that offer classes at very reasonable rates for beginners. I highly recommend using these resources for your safety and for the most efficient use of the tool.
Always wear eye and hearing protection. Always work safe with the proper safety equipment and guards on your tools.
Step 2: Create Your Sign Design
If you don't have a logo or design for your sign then you can look for examples online or just start working on your own design. I was lucky enough to get the design for this sign from the owner of the skateboard shop.
You can draw inspiration from doing some internet searches. A great place to look for ideas is sign shop websites as a lot of those will show examples of what they have done with installation pictures. It's a great place to brainstorm.
I started with the logo supplied by the skateboard shop owner. I did have to import the logo into Inkscape and then export as an SVG file to be able to import it into the Inventables Easel software for the X-Carve CNC. The conversion went fairly smooth. I did have to convert the text items to curves in Inkscape so it could be imported properly.
Step 3: Prepare Your Skateboards
Skateboards can be time and labor intensive to take apart and prep for other projects. The first thing you need to do is remove all of the hardware like the trucks and wheels. Make sure if you are going to run the pieces through a saw that you have all of the metal pieces removed.
Next you need to remove the black abrasive grip material on the surface of the board. The best way I have found to remove this is to use a hair dryer or heat gun to heat up the surface. Then take a razor blade and slice between the black tape and the wooden skateboard deck to get the removal started. Then heat the surface along the edge of where you are removing the grip tape. Keep pulling on the tape and it should peel off the board. Sometimes it will peel off and no sticky residue will be left. Sometimes it will still be sticky. You may have to use sanding paper or a flap disc to remove that residue.
Next I sand the board clean on both sides to get rid of imperfections, sticker residue, logos, etc.
Now you need to decide the width of the pieces you want to cut. Most skateboards don't have a lot of flat area to them except in the middle of the board. That is the area where most of the wood strips I used for this project came from.
I cut my boards down the center on the band saw first. Then I took that half board and cut strips from the deck at 1" wide. You may still end up with the edges of the cut not being at 90 degrees.
Step 4: Glue Pieces Together
Now it is time to glue all of the strips of skateboard together. You will see in my pictures and video that after I glued my pieces together I still had a very rough surface. Don't worry about that as I clean that up later.
Make sure you use clamps with a lot of clamping pressure to hold things in place and help with the typically uneven surfaces of skateboards and potential bad glue joints.
I just used regular titebond wood glue on this project. Just make sure you get the glue spread and the pieces clamped fast as this glue tents to start setting up relatively fast.
Step 5: Flatten the Skateboard Wood
To get a nice flat surface on a glued up piece of wood you typically need to either run the piece through a drum sander or a planer or sand for a very long time. I don't think a planer is the way to go as you will be cutting across grain for some of the wood plys.
Since I have a small CNC machine available to use I clamped mine to the surface of the CNC and then used a flattening bit to take off small layers until all of the rough edged were gone. The surfacing bit I used is 1-inch in diameter. Each pass of the bit took off 0.01 inches. When I got to the point where the surface was smooth I stopped the CNC at the end of that pass.
Step 6: Add Some Surface Color for Contrast and a Protective Layer
I wanted there to be some contrast in the sign between the carved letters in the plywood and the surface, so I used a partial can of black spray paint to cover the sign with a black layer. I did a couple coats on the plywood for good coverage.
Once the second coat of paint dried, I realized the painted surface was very rough so I gave it a light sanding. This smoothed out the surface and gave it a little bit of a worn look. In hindsight, this ended up being a great look for the finished sign, but I stumbled into it by accident.
I added a layer of Oramask to the painted surface to help protect it from tear out from the router bit. This material is used for stenciling and masking materials. It is like a really wide roll of blue painters tape.The nice thing about it is that it is translucent so you can see the surface of the material you are working on through the material.
Step 7: Cut Out the Logo
Next I had to cut out the logo from the skateboard glue up. Since I cut a sample piece with the CNC before I cut up the skateboard wood I could use those sample pieces to make sure I had enough skateboard wood for the final version. I used the sample letters I cut out and placed them on the freshly flattened surface to get an idea what the final surface would look like.
I set up the CNC with a 1/8-inch diameter downcutting spiral bit to make sure surface edge has a nice clean cut.
The idea I used was to cut the letter outlines about 1/2" into the piece of laminated skateboard pieces. Then I would take this piece of skateboard wood and cut longitudinally down the piece to cut the outline of the letter from the piece of laminated skateboards. I used the flat face of the letters as the side to run against the bandsaw fence.
It worked great and the letters came out really clean. I did have to cut the letters apart to run them through the bandsaw since they were close to 6" wide and my bandsaw only has 6" capacity.
Step 8: Set Up the CNC and Easel Software
I used an X-Carve CNC to cut the sign pieces. You certainly don't need to have or use a CNC machine to create a great looking sign. There are lots of options for creating the same effects. I'll go through some of those options later in this write-up.
The X-Carve I have has a large bed of almost 30" by 30", but I had a scrap piece of plywood that was exactly 24" by 24" and 3/4" thick. I set up the Easel software for a piece of material at these dimensions.
Step 9: Split the Logos Into Different Cuts and Run the CNC
Since a lot of this sign was cut out using an X-Carve CNC machine, I started by importing the skateboard shop logo into the Easel software that is used to run the X-Carve.
When you import your graphic into the software you will typically end up with the design in the lower left corner of the work area. Since I had a 24" by 24" piece of wood I selected all, locked the aspect ratio, and then scaled the design up to 22" wide. I set the lower left corner of the design at 1" up and 1" right. This centered the design on the work piece.
On the bottom of the Easel design software screen you will see your design on what looks like a small overview of the piece. You can click on the little arrow on the upper right corner of this overview and select duplicate to copy the page to a new page. I always do this so I have the original copy of the design in case I mess something up or my computer crashes. I decided that some of the design would be carved with a straight bit and some with a V bit.
I duplicated this main design page into the pages you see in the pictures of this step. In each page you can change the bit that is being used to carve the elements on that page. So you basically decide what you want to carve with a bit and remove the other elements from that page.
The pages I have do the following:
Page 1 - Cutting the two circles in the face of the sign with a 1/8" diameter downcut bit.
Page 2 - Cutting the lettering in the sign with a 1/8" diameter downcut bit for a roughing pass and a 60 degree bit for the detail pass on the letters.
Page 3 - Cutting the recess for the letters in the center of the sign where the skateboard letters will be glued using a 1/8" diameter downcut bit.
Page 4 - Cutting out the perimeter of the sign circle using a 1/4" diameter downcut bit.
Page 5 - Cutting the outline of the skateboard wood letters using a 1/8" diameter downcut bit.
Step 10: Add a Hanger to the Back of the Sign
I wasn't quite sure how to make a hanger for the sign as it is relatively heavy to hang with a single screw since it is 3/4" plywood and 22" in diameter.
I found a piece of a metal bracket with a couple screw holes in it and decided to use it as a hanging bracket for the sign.
I cut a vertical slot in the back of the sign and then I screwed the metal plate across the slot. To hang the sign you just need to drive a screw with a head on it into the wall. The head of the screw slides into the slot and the metal bracket rests on the back edge of the screw head to hold it in place.
Step 11: Glue Logo Pieces in Place
Next I test fit the skateboard letters into the recessed letters I cut in the piece of plywood. They fit nice and tight with a near perfect fit. The Easel software for the X-Carve really did the job. That was such a relief to see them fit so well. I spread some Titebond wood glue into the recessed letters and then pressed the skateboard letters into the openings.
I did have a little glue squeeze up out of the edges of the letters. I wiped this up with a damp cloth before it set up as it would have been hard to take care of after it dried.
Titebond now has some wood glue that dries transparent. I wish I would have had that for this project just in case I didn't catch all of the glue squeeze out.
I really only carved the recessed letters to make the alignment of the skateboard wood letters easier. I could have also just glued them to the surface of the sign or used screws through the back of the sign into the letters.
Step 12: Add Finish to the Sign
I added about 4 coats of finish to the sign as wipe-on finish tends to go on very thin and I wanted to make sure the sign had several good layers to protect it.
In between coats of finish I used pieces of brown paper bag to rub down the surface. This takes off the little bumps, but doesn't cut through the finish like fine sandpaper would. It really helped make the surface of the plywood and the skateboard wood nice and smooth.
I did also put finish on the back of the sign to help protect it.
Step 13: Sit Back and Admire Your Work
There is nothing more satisfying than seeing something you make turn out better than expected and then give it to someone who will appreciate it more than you. The icing on the cake is when you can make it out of materials that would otherwise get taken to a landfill. This is one of those occasions.
The sign turned out great and the owner of the skateboard shop loved the sign! It is now hanging in a place of honor in his shop, which makes me feel great about making it for him.
You can get great results building a sign even if you don;t have all of the tools in this Instructable. I highly recommend giving it a shot if you want to make a sign for yourself or someone else. The important thing isn't to wait until you have specific tools or feel like you are able to make it perfectly, but is to just get started.
Let me know if you have any questions about this project or my others on Instructables.
Participated in the
Trash to Treasure Contest