For my final project in my DIY skateboard construction I’m going to build and shape 3 street style skateboard decks. Since the purpose of my project for Art 221 is to use my skills to create a 3 dimensional artwork a hand shaped skateboard may have been enough. However as I started thinking of the project I started thinking about how I could represent the feeling of skateboarding in a sculptural form. After a few concepts and a little research I came up with a plan to build and shape the boards in a way that removed function and simply demonstrated form. How could I shape and twist a recognized form of a skateboard to create a form that was still “skateboard” but expressed the movement and feeling of the sport.
The first step was to find ways to build a custom formed skateboard deck. The hardwood cruiser is great for practicing concepts like design, cutting the shape from wood, and placing the trucks, hardware etc. The hardwood cruiser however does not lend itself well to manipulation. Bending hardwood is possible but fairly difficult. It requires steam bending. This is doable at home but fairly labour and time intensive. The next concept for skateboard building and shaping is laminating or pressing multiple thin veneers. Curving the layers of veneer is much easier and really just involves a couple steps including some pre-planning and some patience. The first technique I came across for pressing skateboards on your own is a hydraulic press. Also know as a “hillbilly press”. Is involves pouring concrete forms/carving wooden forms that you press the layers of veneer between. The weight of the concrete plus pressure from clamping/pressing the forms together shapes the veneer as the layers are glued together. This press is effective once built but takes some time to build and changing the shape of the board means you need to pour new concrete forms.
The next concept I came across was vacuum pressing. In an industrial setting vacuum pressing uses a large table covered by vinyl. The veneers are placed on top of a form with the glue between each layer. The whole thing is then placed on the table under the vinyl. The air is sucked out by a vacuum pump. The vacuum press puts a constant and equal pressure across the entire mold and veneers. Again this system requires a fair bit of prep work and forethought. On an industrial level a vacuum table is a bit of an investment. However this another win for the Internet. A company out of Toronto has pioneered a simple home solution: The Thin Air Press
Roarockit has manufactured a simple way to create DIY skateboards. Based on the concept of the vacuum press Ted Jackson created the Thin Air Press. It’s a a vinyl bag with a one way valve. The mold and veneers are placed in the bag and it’s sealed by a piece of tape and a simple hand pump sucks the air out of the bag- creating th vacuum and putting pressure equally on all parts of the veneer creating a smooth and strong laminate. This seems like the perfect product to create the bends and custom shapes I need for my final project. I have reached out to Roarockit and their customer service is awesome. I will definitely be contacting Ted for hints and tips as I start to make the bends and shape my boards for my final project. I ordered a kit today and will post a blog as soon as it arrives and I get a chance to do a little hands on with it.