Update: I made a matching helmet! You can read about it here!
Sloths are - hands down - my favorite animal. Ever. I love their slow, deliberate movements and their dopey smiles. Because of my status as a sleep-deprived graduate student and also as a person who has a sleep disorder, I identify very closely with the patron saint of the internet. As a result, I try to collect as many sloth-shaped and sloth-themed things I can find.
That's why, when I recently decided to start skateboarding, I knew that I should make my own sloth-themed skateboard deck! I chose to make a geometric design that took advantage of natural wood "white space" from the board. Galaxy Sloth is a fan favorite and has gotten a lot of compliments - despite being a few days old, so I figured that I should share my techniques (and files) with Instructables. Galaxy Sloth is designed to live on the bottom of an 8" skateboard deck.
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Step 1: Bill of Materials
- Blank skateboard deck
- Spray paints
- purple - Montana Gold, G4170 Blue Velvet
- blue - Montana Gold, G5060 Blue Magic
- pink - Montana Gold, G3130 Pink Pink
- Orbital Sander
- Skate tool - or a Philips head screwdriver and adjustable wrench
- Laser cutter (with a long focal length)
- X-Acto Knife
- Canned air, or air compressor
- Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape
- Helmet (for riding your finished skateboard later)
Step 2: Sand Off Bottom Finish, and Remove Dust.
Please wear your respirator while doing this step. Surface prep particulate is super unhealthy.
Place your board upside down on a sturdy work surface. Use your orbital sander to sand off all of the coating from the underside of the board. Sand until the board is no longer shiny. I used a 120 grit, and then a quick 400 grit blast.
Using your canned air, blow off what dust you can. Once you've cleared off as much dust as possible, wet a paper towel with rubbing alcohol, and run it over the board to get the remainder of the dust.
Step 3: Cover the Bottom of the Board in Masking Tape.
With all of the dust removed, cover the deck underside with wide masking tape. Place long strips of tape from tail to nose. Try not to overlap the pieces very much, and make sure that the application is smooth - with no bubbles.
If there are bubbles that you can't get rid of, you may have pull off the tape and start again!
Bubbles indicate that the tape isn't sticking properly, which could be an indication of lingering dust on the surface. Regardless of what is causing the bubbles, having them while and after you laser cut will cause you to not get a good seal, which causes you to risk muddy, blurry edges, or excess paint ruining the crisp look of the board.
Step 4: Prepare Your Design.
I made a lot of quick thumbnails to decide what type of sloth art that I should do.
Once I settled on a design, I took a picture of the drawing, and traced over it in Illustrator. I essentially put a 1/8" thick rectangle over each of the major lines on the tree and the sloth, and then I used shape maker to pull out individual pieces.
I also did a mockup to see how the design might look over wood, and then finally, I did a quick 1:1 mockup on my board.
Step 5: Laser Cut the Design on the Board.
In the Invention Studio, we have the option to choose which lens (and corresponding focal length) we should use for each job. Usually, I prefer to use the red or black lenses with our Trotec lasers, because they can perform much more precise cuts. For the board, I chose to use our blue lens, which has a ~4" focal length. I figured that the long focal length could account for the curvature in the board, and would result in the least deviation in curvature and depth of cut from my design.
Set your board top down on the platform in the laser cutter. Using the laser travel system, make sure that your board is properly aligned with the platform, so that the pattern runs cleanly along the board. I accomplished this by making sure that all 4 truck holes on a long side of the board could be crossed by a simple X axis movement.
Set the focal length of the board by using the absolute highest point of the board as your reference.
Use the attached file to cut out the pattern.
Step 6: Peel Off Mask Cutouts.
The tape should be cut all of the way through thanks to the laser, but you may find that the tape was only scored on the tail end of the board, thanks to the widening focal length. If the tape won't come free, use an X-Acto knife to score the tape.
Make sure all of the edges of the tape are pressed firmly to the board for the next step.
Step 7: Spray Base Color.
After you relocate to a well-ventilated area, take one of your main colors and dust several quick, light coats all over the board. I chose to use purple as my base coat.
Remember, the goal is to make super light layers of paint to avoid drips or sloppy paint edges. Keep the can the recommended distance away from the surface of the board.
Step 8: Randomly Spray With All 3 Colors.
Once you've got a solid base color (ie, no wood showing) you can really start going to town!
To get the galaxy effect, I started by taking the blue paint and sporadically painting lines or dots on the board. I also would vary the distance between the board and rattle can anywhere from 6" away to 16" away. This allowed for blasts of intense color and a light dusting of color.
I repeated this step with the pink paint.
If you find at the end of these passes that you can't see the purple base coat, go ahead and drop a few sprays of that over some of the pink or blue details.
I tried to get a nice vibrant mix of the colors.
Step 9: Add Stars.
Shake the white spray paint.
Hold the paint can on its' side with the nozzle facing up, and do a few quick spritzes of paint while it is over the top of your board.
Because you've got the nozzle facing up, I've found that the paint sort of clogs at the nozzle and sputters out. This allows you to get dots of varying sizes on your sloth board.
Step 10: Peel Off Mask.
After your paint dries, peel off all of the remaining tape and throw it away! Because you scored the board with the laser cutter, paint shouldn't stick to the tape, as it will have settled in the cut lines. If any of your paint sticks to the tape, use your X-Acto knife to sort it out.
I didn't have a picture of this from my board, instead it was from one of my test pieces. It looks super awesome when you do peel it.
Step 11: Clear Coat to Protect.
Now that you've got a super cool design, it's time to protect it - and the bare wood on the rest of the board.
In a well ventilated area, apply your clear coat over the whole underside of the board. I ended up making 3 coats of this high gloss clear coat, while waiting about 15 minutes between each coat.
Step 12: Assemble and Enjoy!
Now that your deck is done, slap some grip tape on the other side. Then, you can add your trucks, and you'll be ready to roll!
You can follow this Instructable if you need help!