How to customize skateboard grip tape (laser cutter)
Dude! Laser cutters rule. Just ask anyone that's ever been to a Tech Shop. You can easily etch and/or cut many materials with the laser cutter. I am only going to cut in a small area... etching wouldn't really be effective for several reasons on this project, especially since we are going to cut from the backside of the material. I made this at Tech Shop (Pittsburgh).
Laser cutter (or Tech Shop membership)
Stock sheets of skate board grip tape
Vector based graphics program (I prefer Adobe Illustrator, but I will use Corel Draw for this project)
Job Control software (or whatever software that is used by the laser cutter you have access to)
Manual laser focusing device
Step 1: How to Customize Skateboard Grip Tape (laser Cutter)
Create the art/design of your choice in the vector based graphic software. To cut using Corel Draw you want to convert your outlines to "hairline" thickness. Tech Shop’s trotec laser is set up to recognize the color red as a cut command, so we will also make sure to convert our outlines to red at this time. For the skateboard grip tape we will be cutting from behind, so you are going to want to reverse or put your design in “mirror” mode.
For this project I used a stencil style font and typed "Plankeye" since I was making these for my buddy's shop, Plankeye Board Shop. As a design tip, you want to make sure what your cutting is going to look right. Example: the inside section of an “O” is going to fall out if you don’t design it in a way that allow the inside section to connect to the remaining material.
Step 2: How to Customize Skateboard Grip Tape (laser Cutter)
Print your design (you want to select the laser cutter as the printer). This will output your design to the “Job Control” software. Once in the JC program look to the job list on the left of the screen, you will find your file and drag it onto the new “Plate”. Here you’re going to set the design where you’re going to be doing the cutting on the laser cutter table. Click the little eye icon (WYSIWYG button) to see your design. Once you are satisfied with the location of your art, move to step 3.
Step 3: How to Customize Skateboard Grip Tape (laser Cutter)
Having loaded the grip tape into the laser cutter (top side down) and placed into the machine, you need to make sure your material fits in the machine. The laser I was using had a 19 X 29 bed; skate board grip tape is generally 33”. I had to make sure to situate the tape so the edges went up the sides of the cutter but still stayed under the moving bar that positions the cutter head. Failure to do this may result in the tape being pushed around after cutting starts and mess up the tape.
Step 4: How to Customize Skateboard Grip Tape (laser Cutter)
Now that you have your substrate (skateboard grip tape) in position, you want to use the manual focused tool to adjust the distance of the cutter head so that you will get a good cut. You cannot rely on auto focus as the grip tape may be lower than the table your using in the laser cutter (honey combed table in my case).
Step 5: How to Customize Skateboard Grip Tape (laser Cutter)
I used a tape measure to make sure my design was going to be position about 1/3rd of the way down from the tape (in the future I will be placing it 1/3rd up from the bottom), and centered the design on the substrate. My design was about 6.5” wide and grip tape is around 9” wide leaving some trim room for when it’s applied to the deck. Most decks are around 7” wide.
Step 6: How to Customize Skateboard Grip Tape (laser Cutter)
You will want to check your settings to make sure you are going to get a good cut. You will probably want to experiment with the settings to find what works for your specific laser and substrate. I found to like 80 Power 2 Velocity 5000 Wave.
Step 7: How to Customize Skateboard Grip Tape (laser Cutter)
Cut! Watch! Apply to the skateboard!