During my professional woodworker education in Scotland, a friend asked me to build a skateboard for him. But not a standard skateboard; he wanted a dancing skateboard. And I'm not a skater..so follow along to see how I made it.
He had been asking me for a long time now, I had completed my first two main projects and I had to keep my last two weeks at school busy, somehow.
I wanted to do something new that I could also capitalize on later, I wanted to learn a new skill that I could bring with me as there is a vibrant skating community in Dubai.
It was a bit surprising for my friend but, as soon as I asked him - "what kind of skateboard would you like?" - the answer came immediately - "I want a dancing skateboard!".
What is a dancing board? That was the first question I needed to answer, and I went to my dear Google to get the information I was looking for and start educating myself on this new world.
As the name suggests, a dancing skateboard lets you do something more than simply skating. It lets you dance!
And to dance, you need space, no?
"a length of 106 to 122 cm"
This means that a dancing skateboard is long enough to let you make all the choreographic moves you like.
Here are some main features of a dancing skateboard:
length of 106 to 122cm
width up to 32cm
a deck that is relatively flat with a symmetrical cutaway shape
features a subtle rocker
So, it was time to find the correct way to build it. After some research, I found out that:
a typical skateboard is made of a core part with 7 layers
these layers have a specific orientation to give the skateboard strength and flexibility at the same time
The top and bottom faces of the skateboard are laminated with a veneer that gives an aesthetic look to the board.
Once I was happy with the shape of the skateboard I wanted to build, it was time to put it on paper at a 1:1 scale.
To do this, I grabbed some tracing paper, got a pencil and a compass, drew a grid with lines to ensure everything would be symmetrical, and started my drawing.
It didn't take long; I just had to make sure that all the curves were correct and looking good. At this point, I had a clear idea of how the skateboard would look like.
Tip: under the tracing paper, put a white paper sheet so you can clearly see your design.
"5 long veneers and 2 cross veneers"
This is a critical part of the construction because the veneers have a specific orientation that is:
so it is 5 veneers on the long grain and only 2 veneers on the cross grain.
The most popular material to build a skateboard's core is maple because it is robust, resilient and flexible at the same time, making it ideal for absorbing the shocks of heavy landings.
The veneers are 1.5 mm thick, cut from a plank on the bandsaw and then brought to the thicknesser to make them all at the same thickness.
Working in an organized manner, it didn't take me a long time to prepare the veneers.
"don't push too hard into the blade"
The only caution here is to be patient and not push too much into the blade, as the waste of material could be more than expected and require extra boards to cut to obtain the desired number of veneers to make the skateboard.
In fact, the blade of the bandsaw can only exhaust a certain amount of material, and if there is too much dust that is not properly evacuated, the blade will start wandering around and, instead of a straight parallel cut, there will be diverting line. You can only imagine the frustration...
Once the veneers were all cut - and I cut some extra - I started working on the form to give the shape to the veneers in the vacuum press.
The form is as important as the skateboard because it will determine its final shape!
I spent some time thinking about what would be the best option to have a good result and, at the same time, not waste too much time and material for a one-off project (at least for that time).
There are different ways to create a form for a skateboard;
One is to build it in plywood or MDF, stacking parts together, cutting and sanding to obtain the final shape. This form will have a negative and a positive, the veneers will be in the middle, and all will be put in a press until the glue dries.
Another one is to take a high-density foam and shape it, ideally with a CNC, and then use it in a vacuum bag to give the shape to the veneers.
I went for the second option, but not having a CNC available... I had to shape it by hand, with a rasp!
Initially, I thought it would be a hard task, but as I progressed, I realized it was much easier than expected. It just takes a few minutes, in the beginning, to get used to moving the rasp on the foam, and then the process becomes quite fast. I think in around 1 hour, I was done. And it doesn't need to be perfect!
As I mentioned above, I decided to use the vacuum press. For one reason...it was what I had available at school. Not that I was thinking of using something different, it was my first skateboard, and I had no experience with the press either!
Here below is a short video that shows you how the process went. It's not the best quality, but it gives you a good idea of how it worked.
What you can notice from the video is that, despite the strong pressure of the vacuum, the central part is not adhering to the form. I'm not sure if this is normal or not, but the final result was very satisfying.
"use a glue with enough open time"
Before I continue with the description of the construction process, there are two tips I would like to give you on the glue you want to use.
The first one is to use glue with enough open time to let you roll it on the veneers and properly stack them one on top of each other, respecting the sequence we discussed above.
The second tip is to use a glue that is water resistant; you will use the skateboard outdoors (I suppose!), and the last thing you want is to see it delaminating because of the water it absorbed during a humid day, maybe just because you enjoyed skating on water puddles!
I left the veneers in the press for 4 hours to make sure the glue was already settling well, and then I let it rest for 24 hours before I continued with the shaping.
This video shows how the skateboard looks after a first gross shaping at the bandsaw and some sanding. As you can see, it's already at a good stage, and all it misses is a decorative veneer.
For this, I chose teak and sycamore. I think they were well together for the contrast in colour. To make it look even better, I book-matched the veneers.
I used a guillotine to cut the veneers, but you can also use a cutter with a fresh blade. Make sure you make several light passes not to tear off the delicate fibres and show gaps when the veneers are matched.
Veneering, by the way, requires some precautions, and we will discuss about it in another post.
The final veneer was then finally applied one side at a time in the vacuum press, and the result was very much satisfying.
I applied two lacquer layers and sprayed them with the gun as a final protection. This guarantees more resistance to wear and tear.
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