Here’s a chance to try something a little different. No square stock, no crisply executed joinery and, although there is a lot of gluing up of material, you don’t need a rack of expensive clamps.
This is a great project to involve younger members of the family and share some quality time in the shop.
The skateboard deck featured here is built from a kit produced by Toronto based Roarockit Skateboard Company.
The kit comes with everything you need to build a deck: materials, supplies and tools. Even if you don’t have a workshop you can still build this on your kitchen table. The skateboard deck is made of seven layers of maple veneer that are glued up using a form in a vacuum veneering bag.
Shop vacuum removes air from veneer bag
The maple veneer is cut to shape and already punched with the holes for the fasteners that hold the wheel assembly in place. Begin by identifying the first three layers of veneer. They are all identified and stamped with a directional arrow. Use some painter’s tape to mask off the edges and the punched holes on the top surface of the top layer on the deck. Turn the slice over and trim the tape with a knife.
With the veneer ready, lay the bag on a clean flat work surface and have the breather, netting, and pump handy. The kit ships with its own glue, specifically formulated for skateboard manufacturing. One of its attributes is a long open time, which is required as regular carpenter’s glue would set before you would be able to get the assembly in the bag and establish a vacuum.
When everything is ready, apply the required amount of glue between each of the first three layers and stack them on the form. Use the alignment pins (roofing nails) to pin the layers to the form and then wrap everything with the elastic bands. This keeps everything aligned through the next stages. Slide the breather netting over the form and insert the whole assembly into the bag.
I use my Fein vacuum to remove most of the air – the nozzle just happens to be the same size as the manual pump. The Fein has a separate fan to supply ambient cooling air to the motor. If your vacuum does not, you could cause heat damage to your motor. The manual vacuum pump will evacuate any remaining air quickly. As the air is evacuated from the bag, atmospheric pressure forces the maple veneer to conform to the shape of the Styrofoam mould.
This lamination process is repeated three times until all seven layers have been built up. At this point the deck is ready for its final shaping and finishing. You can use the ‘4 in hand’ file included with the kit for this task, but if you have a power sander you’ll speed things up considerably. The edges of the laminations will be rough and covered in glue right out of the bag. The object is to use the sander to shape them into a smooth, symmetrical skateboard shape. When the edges are finished, sand the deck and apply a finish of your choice.
You can apply decals, paint or stain the board before applying your finish. As for the hardware that bolts to the underside, you’d best leave that choice to the final rider.
Skateboard kits: Roarockit.com
Thin air press vacuum bags: Leevalley.com