One of the many benefits in up-cycling broken or discarded products is keeping items out of the landfill but to me its more than that. Each piece I create has its own unique story. The life these skateboards have gone through before they end up on my lathe is always interesting. You can tell each one was used, abused, loved and represented the individuality of its owner.
They come to me covered in stickers, dirt, doodles and sometimes spray paint. All are scratched, gouged, cracked and many are broken in half. It’s evident that each deck provided hours of enjoyment to their previous owners.
The following is a high level overview of the process they go through to become usable products and fulfill a new purpose:
Sourcing the broken boards- This is how I purchase them. Boards typically come from skate shops, connections at local skate parks or directly from the owners themselves. Sourcing them and paying a fair price for them is always a challenge.
The first step is to remove the grip tape. Using a heat gun softens the glue so it can be pried, pulled, peeled and scraped away. After a day of ‘ripping grip’, I typically have no fingerprints left, I've managed to burn myself with the heat gun and inevitably there's grip tape glue somewhere in my arm hair. The soft murmurings of my colorful words usually hang in the air for hours after the process is over.
Next I remove the glue with an organic glue remover and then sand, sand again, sand some more and then finally... I sand again. All of the glue, paint, graphics, stickers and varnish need to be removed to get a tight and solid glue joint between the layers of skateboards.
After sanding, each board is cut into a workable shape, glued (Titebond III wood glue- Waterproof and food safe) and clamped overnight.
This produces a workable 'blank' that is the foundation for the finished product.
Once the glue is dried and the 'blank' is stable, I can mount it to the lathe to begin the creative shaping process using a combination of different woodturning tools. Skateboards are made laminated maple ply and can be brutal on your tools so you have to keep them as sharp as possible.
Once I'm satisfied with the finished shape I sand with 180 grit sandpaper and the apply a coat of sanding sealer to raise and stiffen the grain. From there, I work through the different grits of sandpaper (180, 220, 320, 400, 600 and #0000 steel wool) to achieve the smoothest surface possible.
After sanding I apply the appropriate finish based on the item and then finally I buff the piece using a three stage buffing process to bring out the best possible shine.
I hope this overview conveys the dedication and passion that goes into taking skateboards from used and abused to giving them new purposed and keeping them out of our landfills.
Please feel free to comment or reach out to me if you have any questions, have an idea for a project I should make or would like further clarification. I've also created a downloadable variation of this overview for anyone that would like to print it off and include it with skateboard gifts they've purchased.
Thanks for the interest and support!
- Michael (AKA SoCo JoCo)