Introduction: Skateboard Decks Made Out of Pallet Wood
Now this is a project I've been wanting to take on for a long time, bent laminated 100% pallet wood street style skateboard decks... quite the mouthful. I kind of needed to find an opportunity to set aside the time for this build since these 10 boards took me about a month total to complete (partially because the project was cursed, partially because I literally made plywood from pallets, I'll even admit that's not the most logical of ideas). The pallets were disassembled and the slats were turned into veneers. These veneers were made into sheets that I then laminated together in the shape of a skateboard using a vacuum bag. I then cut the skateboard down to size, shaped it, sanded it, and applied finish. I even got my buddy Jeff Greer (a local pro skater) to put one of these through the gauntlet and it passed with flying colors, lip slide and all.
Step 1: Materials & Tools
Notable Materials & Tools used on this build:
- Pallet wood
- Super glue https://amzn.to/2LK1i2D
- Epoxy resin http://bit.ly/30Y30Rm
- Wood glue https://amzn.to/2Yw9HMW
- Lust varnish http://bit.ly/2LKSoBO
- Bluetooth hearing protection - http://bit.ly/32VSADH
- Respirator (use code "Jackman" for 5% off!) - https://bit.ly/2zOvwwn
- Circular saw https://amzn.to/2ylFqln
- Metal detector https://amzn.to/30YNN2r
- Edge jointing sled https://amzn.to/2SIuW94
- CNC router https://tinyurl.com/5995919594
- Epoxy syringe http://bit.ly/2yh9ApX
- Glue roller bottle https://amzn.to/2SLEkZG
- Roarockit vacuum bag & foam form http://bit.ly/2yhwHR6
- Skateboard quarter round router bit http://bit.ly/2Ysbq1Q
- Router lift https://amzn.to/2LMODvy
- Skateboard edge scraper http://bit.ly/2YpQubJ
- Truck hole layout ruler http://bit.ly/2K6YTf3
- Sanding sponges https://amzn.to/2LLp5iK
Step 2: Disassemble the Pallets
Pallets, pallets, pallets, no matter what I do they just keep coming back like a curse. I try to kill them off but they keep coming back to me like they don't know what's coming... Anyway, useful info, disassembly process is pretty simple, I cut the runners off the sides with a circular saw but cutting right next to the nails.
This removes all of the structure from the pallet so I can basically manhandle the slats off the center runner or sometimes use a littler persuasion with a pry bar or my foot. Then it's just a matter of removing the nails and double checking for any metal that is left behind before sending them through any sharp blades that could potential be less sharp after sending something like that through.
Each slat gets run though the thickness planer to bring the faces down smooth. This revealed what is almost literally gold, a black walnut pallet slat. Somehow this is the first time I've gotten one of these so I'm not going to let it go to waste, it's perfect for this project! Drop the mic!
Step 3: Thicknessing
Because the skateboard decks are made up of veneers, I need really thin pieces to work from, so what I do is resaw each of the slats right down the middle to turn one board into 2. I start this on the table saw on both sides of the board to remove most of the material and then finish the cut on the bandsaw to split them all the way in half. You know what this means? One walnut pallet slat becomes 2 walnut pallet slats, that's all I really care about here.
Each of the boards is then sent through the drum sander to bring it down to .1" thick and also smooth out the saw cuts that are left behind from the previous step.
Step 4: Cutting to Width
All of the faces are nice and pretty now, so the edges are getting jealous, time to give them some attention! I start by cutting one edge straight with a jointing sled in my table saw. I cut about 10 of the pieces at the same time to speed up the process.
Then with one edge straight, I can cut the boards down to their final width by cutting off the rough edge and also any ugly bits that are left, which leaves behind nice clean pieces to work with.
Step 5: Making the Veneer Sheets
The rough size of the veneers is 35" long and 10" wide, so I mark that out on my working surface with blue tape. Then each of the pieces is arranged in this box until I have a full sized veneer. Most of the veneers are long grain but 2 in each board are short grain like shown here, so they are made up of more pieces. I use a few more pieces of blue tape to temporarily hold the pieces together making up each veneer sheet.
Since these are so thin, and because there are so many, it's hard to attach them together into sheets. The tape helps tremendously with that because it holds the pieces together while I fold them over the edge of the table to put super glue into the seam. Then when I put the sheet back flat on the workbench, the tape essentially clamps the 2 edges together and holds them there until the glue dries. Because super glue dries quickly, I can move through all of these sheet right after one another which is a big deal since there are about 50 of them made up of a minimum of 3 pieces.
Step 6: Cleaning Up the Veneers
Make it rain?
After miles of blue tape are removed from the veneers, they are cut down to final width on the table saw which also remove any inconsistencies from my glue-up which are few and far between because I'm perfect. Then last thing needed to finish the veneers is I cut them to length on the miter saw all at once mostly because it looks cool.
Step 7: Adding Carolina Logo
Now one last trick up my sleeve for the veneers! I made a couple of these for Carolina Shoe so I added their logo into the veneers in the most stylish way I could think possible... more pallet wood!! I take one of the left over pieces and cut out the Carolina with the CNC and then I take small cut offs of all unique species to make the mating letters.
These letters are also held in place with super glue and a little persuasion. It's like the most poisonous puzzle ever.
I save a couple of my favorite veneers are the feature face of these boards. Those 2 veneers get cut at about a 15 degree angle 1/3 of the way down the length of the board to insert the logo. This gets taped and glued into place just like before.
Step 8: Organizing the Veneers
Then last step to get the final veneers you see here is to send them through the drum sander again to bring them down to final thickness. The long grain veneers are 1/16" thick and the cross grain are a little thinner at 1/22" thick. I organize them in three stacks - show faces (which are the best looking veneers), cross grain, and then the rest of the long grain veneers. Each board is build up of a total of 7 veneers with the Long and Cross grain veneers arranged LLCLCLL to build up the final deck. From these stacks (plus a few special dyed veneers) I'm able to build up 10 skateboard decks.
Step 9: Filling Voids With Epoxy
From each of the decks I pull out the top and bottom veneers. Each of the veneers has nail holes and some have knots, so I need to fill those in so that the exterior surface of each deck is totally smooth. I apply blue tape to each of the holes to seal them up first.
Then I use some 2 part epoxy and mix that up to fill in the voids. A syringe works great for making sure that the epoxy actually fills in the voids and doesn't just trap an air bubble in there.
One last pass through the drum sander removes the excess epoxy after it cures. This leaves behind a smooth surface with no voids, so now we're ready to make some skateboards! Wait, you thought we were already making skateboards? Well that's your fault isn't it, don't assume.
Step 10: Gluing Up the Boards
I use my glue roller bottle to apply wood glue to both sides of each of the veneers. These are going to be put under a lot of stress, so perfect glue coverage is key. Whenever possible on projects I apply glue to both surfaces that I'm gluing together because the capillary attraction between them helps to hold them together even better. There's your science woodworking tip of the day, com back tomorrow for more.
A styrofoam form is used to achieve the shape of the skateboard deck. The foam came as a block with the vacuum bag kit I got from Roarockit and I shaped it down to size with a saw and rasp. I actually glued up 2 boards at a time, so I put this sandwich in the bag - 2 sets of veneers, the styrofoam form, and a 3/4" board underneath to ensure that everything stays flat when I put it under vacuum.
Step 11: Vacuum Bagging
The end of the bag gets sealed up with the flexible rubber membrane that comes on the bag and I remove the majority of the air with my shopvac. The black mesh piece in the back helps to remove the air from the ends of the bags once you start pulling more of a vacuum and the plastic seals too tightly on the surface of the boards.
I get most of the air out with the vacuum, but the hand pump removes the rest. It's a matter of pulling out some air and then pulling at the corners of the bag to ensure that it's not interfering with the shape of the board, then bag and forth until all the air is removed.
Step 12: Laying Out the Boards on the Blanks
After about 12 hours, I then remove the laminations from the vacuum bag. The glue is still a bit tacky at this point since it hasn't been exposed to the air, so I let it sit for another 12 hours to let it dry completely before I start working on it. At that point, I use another skateboard deck as a template and trace that onto my new board.
And finally now, I think we actually get to make them look like skateboard decks, IT'S TIME! (my little Asian buddy Woby Design also made a recycled skateboard, but his was made from recycled skateboards, he's a bit delusional and thinks he's better than me, we're thinking about seeing a marriage counselor...)
Step 13: Shaping the Decks
I use my bandsaw to cut the boards down to size. I leave about 1/16" outside of the line so I can further refine the shape of it later. This is a funky cut to make due to the contour of the decks and them not sitting flat on the table, so you need to take your time with these cuts.
My disk sander is then used to do the final shaping down to the line and also smooth out the edges of the board.
Step 14: Rounding and Cleaning Up the Edges
To round the corners of the board, I used this awesome ballsy drill bit that looks way more dangerous then it actually is. It's a quarter round bit, but it actually has 2 bearings on it, the regular top bearing, but also a big bottom bearing for the board to ride on. This, along with the long shaft, lets you raise the bit above the table and ride the board along the bearing instead of the table so you can cut the rounded corners without anything getting in the way.
A special card scraper with rounded profile is then used to clean up the corners and make them a little bit more uniform and also clean up any of the end grain that has frayed.
Step 15: Laying Out the Trucks
I lay out the trucks using a flexible metal ruler that conforms to the shape of the board so I can measure where I want the trucks to be. Then I just simply drill out the 8 holes to mount the set of trucks later.
Step 16: Finish Sanding
I give the boards a few days just to sit to see if they have any more movement or drying since the moisture content of the wood was raised significantly when gluing it up, then last step before finish is to do a final sanding of all of the surfaces up to 220 grit.
Step 17: Applying Finish
For finish, I brush on 5 coats of a high-gloss marine varnish. This stuff is super tough so I know it'll hold up even to some board slides. It also has a slight amber tint to it, so it does an amazing job of pulling out the color and grain that is always fun to look at in pallet wood.
The top of the boards and bottom of the boards get the same treatment even though the tops will be covered by grip tape. I use a couple of sticks on my bench (which are cut to a point) to support the boards during this process.
See what I'm talking about with pulling the color out of the pallet wood?! Especially that walnut pallet slat! Plus, the color in particular from the "CAROLINA" letter just looks so 90's to me, which makes me love it even more because that's what skateboarding reminds me of. After 4 coats, I sand before the final coat, and then once the finish is dry, these things are ready to skate!
Step 18: SKATING!
Then Jeff Greer totally crushed it in the park on one of these decks! Couldn't have asked for a better test than that.
Step 19: Glamour Shots
This is the condition of the board after about an hour skate session. Just some scratches, but it's still in one piece so I'll call that a win! I actually like the patina it added to the board, looks more legit now. In case you somehow missed it, check out the full build video on YouTube, that's where the full experience is.
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