Introduction: The Paper Skateboard

About: An Aussie guy with a passion for teaching STEM and tinkering with all things electrical, especially robotics.

This semester I am on exchange to Pitzer college in California, and the first thing that struck me about this place is how many people use skateboards (or something similar). I would say 1 in 3 people is rolling to class rather than walking.

Seeing so many people skating around inspired me to build my own board, but I had left all of my tools and equipment in Australia (damn bag weight limits). So I fell back on simple dorm room tools and decided (some would say stupidly) to challenge myself by using paper.

With Spring arriving and the weather getting warmer its the perfect time to build a board and get rolling.

Step 2 outlines a few of the different failed techniques I tried before drawing inspiration from paper logs:

With the idea in place it was time for a trip to the dollar store and Home Depot.

Step 1: Tools and Materials


- Lots of Paper (at least 40 sheets)

- Wood Glue

- 3L of Water

- Duct Tape

- Large Cardboard Box

-Plastic bag


- Drill (either hand drill or electric) (not shown)

- 2 plastic tubs or 2 plastic cups (depending on board size)

- Large container to hold water and paper

- Ruler

-Scissors or knife

- Blender or "stick" Blender

- drying/baking rack

*Note the blender is optional for this project but it does cut out a lot of time and effort. It also makes a pulp that will better affix together. I got my blender at a thrift shop for just a couple of dollars and it was worth the investment.

Step 2: The Experiments

All of these experiments were based on that old year 5 science experiment (as shown in the video) where you fold paper in corrugation to support more weight.

I assumed if you glued the paper together and folded it, it would be stronger. This idea does work but you need to be careful how you order the folding and gluing, the first image shows what happens when you fold first and the try to glue it all together. You get weird folds that have no real structure and hold less weight then the un-glued version.

Undeterred by this first set back I glued out a 10-14 thick sheet together and folded it while it was still wet, allowing it to dry in the folded shape. (I was using a 1/3 wood glue water mix in a spay bottle to glue sheets together)

While this makes a good bridge (it held me up between two chairs!) duct taping trucks to it showed the flaw. While the whole length is strong enough to hold my weight, when that weight is concentrated on a few folds they get crushed (image 2)

This was a huge problem but I was determined to make it work so I tried reinforcing a new board with expanding foam (called insulation foam here). With the voids full of foam the board was even stronger and this time adding the trucks did not buckle the internal structure. It however did show the ultimate flaw, paper in this structure will naturally bend if you apply force to the long edge (ie the edge parallel to the fold) hence it would be impossible to turn any board made in this was because it would just bend the board and the trucks would stay straight.

With this final nail in the coffin I changed tact completely, and came up with this...

Step 3: Get Moldy (Making the Mold)

Make sure the cardboard box you have is long enough and wide enough to make the board shape you want

My box is small because I am trying to make a "penny" board.

Tape the box shut and cut it in half (image 1)

Duct tape the bottom of the box evenly (this is just in case any water leeks we don't want it destroying the mold)

Use cut offs from your box to form the board shape (image 2) (this is entirely up to you be creative)

Once your shape is set you need to cut out the same shape in a new piece of cardboard (image 3). This is going to be used to press the shape flat

If you mess up the shape you can tape extra pieces of cardboard to the underside of it. (image 4)

If you are building a longer board than I am you might want to reinforce the shape with: more cardboard, rulers that you have lying around or anything strong and flat.

Once the shape is done (and reinforced) duct tape the underside so that it does not glue to the board you are about to create.

Your mold is now ready!

Step 4: Get Your Blend on (Preparing the Paper Step 1)

if you have a stick blender, first fill up your jug that will store your paper pulp otherwise get a big bottle and fill it with water.

Get comfortable (I was in front of the TV) with a pile of paper and your storage container

Rip the paper down into 1/4 or 1/8 the size of an a4 sheet (the smaller the better)

If you have a stick blender mix the paper shreds into the big tub of water to avoid the paper sticking together like in image 1

Once I filled up my tub I left it to soak overnight, this helps soften the paper but is not 100% necessary especially if you have a good blender.

With the tub full start blending the paper, making sure to ease up every now and again. Mix the contents intermittently to avoid clumps of un-blended paper from forming in the bottom.

If you have a "tub" blender fill up the tub with paper shreds and run the blender

Pour the pulp into your storage tub and repeat until you have enough pulp

Step 5: Goop Balls (Preparing the Paper Step 2)

Now that you have paper pulp suspended in water you need to extract it.

There are a few ways to do this

Using plastic cups:

Cut small holes in the bottom of one plastic cup and add 1/2 inch of paper pulp and water mix to the bottom

Jam a second cup down over the pulp mixture and twist back and forth to squeeze the water out

Using larger tubs:

Cut small holes in the bottom of one of the plastic tubs.

Apply a 1/2 inch layer of pulp water mix to one half of the tub.

Place the second tub down over top and squeeze, making sure the edges near the pulp are firmly together. This stops the pulp from sliding between them and overflowing

If you have applied the force right the water should have been squeezed both though the bottom holes and out into the second half of the tub where it drained.

This can be a little finicky but it will give the biggest yield

Using your hands:

This is necessary, both of the methods above leave a small amount of water in the pulp

After using one of the above grab a handful of the pulp and squeeze with both hands, make sure that the gaps between all of your fingers is as small as humanly possible. Squeeze out as much water as possible until the paper feels a little crumbly.

So how do you know if you have enough?

The best method is to bring your mold with you and dump any fully squeezed paper straight into it. Once you have a nice layer of paper at the bottom of the mold, you have enough.

If in doubt make a little bit more, when molding it is always better to have more then you need.

Step 6: Putting the Squeeze on (Molding the Shape)

Cut a sheet of plastic out of your plastic bag and press it into the mold (image 1) (if your mold is too big, use duct tape to tape 2 or more sheets of plastic together)

Press a piece of newspaper down over the plastic (image 2) (this is optional but helps soak up any water left in the pulp and gives the board an interesting finish)

Add small amounts of pulp to a cup (about 1/4-1/2 a cup). Squirt in a liberal amount of wood glue and stir well (image 3)

Take the mix out and add it to any already mixed material.

Repeat until all of the pulp is mixed with glue and is sitting in a ball on your work space

Knead the pulp/glue ball to ensure that the glue is well distributed (even if you where un-even with the smaller blobs) (image 4) (this kneading also prevents cracks from forming while the board dries)

Press the pulp/glue mix evenly down into the mold (image 5)

cut the overhanging newspaper and fold down over the pulp (images 6 and 7)

Add the top of the mold and stand on it, making sure to apply even pressure over the mold (images 8 and 9)

Finally add weights to the top (I simply used water in various containers) and leave for a day.

Step 7: High and Dry (Letting It Set)

Take the board out of the mold by removing the weights and carefully pulling it out using the plastic bag

Place the board on a drying/baking rack

The board now needs to dry for 3-5 days (depending on the thickness of your board)

Leave the board in a warm sunny place and try not to fiddle with it too much. Warping the board in any way during the drying processes will lead to dried-in cracks that render the board useless.

Having said that, it is a good idea to (gently) flip the board over each day to achieve an even dry.

The board is dry when it turns a light off-brown colour and you can squeeze it between thumb and forefinger without creating dents or feeling material compress. (Image 2)

For me this was the hardest part of the project, my first attempt using this technique was destroyed when I tried to reshape the board a day into drying. This reshape dried in a crack that split open when weight was applied and the board ended up like in image 3

Step 8: Get Rolling (Finishing Touches)

Once the board is dry it's time for the fun bit

Mark out where the trucks will go and drill the holes.

Due to my board's small size I am using an old roller skate cut in half for my trucks but on any larger board normal trucks will work fine.

You are now done!

Decorate your board anyway you see fit and ride in style!

Step 9: Where to From Here?

For me this was a proof of concept board, and while it is fun to ride I have a few more ideas for this technique.

From here I aim to:

- Build a full size board

- Look at using the board with 3d printed wheels:

I have attached a video of them in use above. these are not my designs nor is it my video

- Attempt to make paper wheels (with standard skateboard bearing)

But all of that is for another Instructable

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