Making Longboards

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This project came to us by way of a student named David Branch, who graduated in 2015. After teaching himself how to build longboards, he applied to teach a mini-course on the subject. The administration accepted his proposal and I was appointed the faculty advisor. I mostly listened and watched.

To start, we needed some equipment and materials:

vacuum pump system and a 2×6′ vacuum bag from veneersupplies.com
Maple longboard veneer from roarockit.com
A roll of 6 oz. Fiberglass cloth and a WEST system epoxy kit from jamestowndistributors.com
Skateboard trucks, wheels, and bearings (lots of places to source these)
1-inch rigid pink foam from Home Depot or elsewhere
A big jug of wood glue. Titebond 3 is best.

The first step it to make a mold to shape your board to – longboards aren’t flat. Longboard shape and design is more involved than I expected – here’s a guide. Once you’ve worked that out, cut, sand, and shape the pink foam into the negative of your desired board shape. Use a respirator or at least a dust mask while sanding. Remember that the mold has to fit into your vacuum bag. Don’t make the angles too steep – your veneer has to wrap smoothly around the mold.

Once the mold is ready, it’s time to glue up the veneer. Using a small roller, generously coat one side of each sheet of veneer (most longboards use 7-9 sheets). Do this quickly, maybe with two people, because the glue needs to be wet when you proceed. Stack the glued up veneer one on top of the other, place it over the mold, and place the veneer and mold into the vacuum bag. Seal the bag and turn on the vacuum pump, which should already be connected to the bag. The veneer should conform nicely to the mold. Leave the pump on overnight.

By morning your veneer should be a solid shape on the mold. Remove the mold, draw the shape of your finished board on the veneer, and cut it out with a jigsaw or bandsaw. Sand to taste. Add graphics (lots of videos on how to do this) and glass the board with the fiberglass cloth and the epoxy. Epoxy instructions will vary, but the idea is to paint the cloth with epoxy, lay it on the bottom of the board, then trim the cloth once it’s dry. You can glue up the leftover fringes with a bit more epoxy at this point.

Add trucks, bearings and wheels, and off you go!

Learning goals: This multi-day project teaches patience above all, along with getting used to using tools and working in a shop. It’s extremely gratifying to ride and show off something you’ve made from scratch.

 

 

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