building my own longboard deck press: part 2

In part one of this now two-part series, I left you with a declaration of grandiose plans to design and construct a platform for the DIY electric skateboard community. That platform would be in the form of a longboard deck forged with the same DIY mettle that drives the makers of which this community is composed.

The time for beers is now. Since my last post, I have not only managed to bring the press mentioned in part 1 from Instagram doodle to reality, I have also completely redesigned the mold and have completed my mission of constructing the first prototype deck. So let me share that experience with you now with words and pictures to which you may point your face.

The Press

 
Monster Clamp, my new DIY deck press seen here with a brand new wooden mold sitting in her belly

This monstrosity of mine is affectionately known as Monster Clamp. Composed of three layers of 4″ by 4″ pressure treated dimensional timbers, Monster Clamp delivers about four tons of pressure to the mold via twin two ton hydraulic jacks. Eventually Monster Clamp will be upgraded (read: replaced with a larger more threatening version of higher capacity), but for now you can’t beat the Monster at price/performance. Building this press only set me back about $150 total and although she can only press one at a time and makes creaky noises that sometimes scare me, she presses decks with more than adequacy. But even Monster Clamp can’t press squat without a good mold.

The Mold

My original mold featured in part one was a only mostly a failure. While it never gave me a blank I could use with decent lamination, it taught me a lot about how veneer behaves. And hard rock maple veneer behaves exactly as you’d expect: like hard rock. It doesn’t want to bend around angles that are too hard. It wants curves. And when you’re doing something exotic like my design, the mold needs to be exact. My previous mold was hand constructed and hand sanded. My new one was made by a robot in Oregon.

 
wooden deck mold for pressing longboard decks, created by a robot in Oregon

What you see here is a proper deck mold cut by a CNC machine from blocks of laminated hardwood. The guy’s name is Vince and he does incredible work. He’s also very nice and willing to work with whatever ridiculous design you give him. He’ll even do the CAD work for you. I gave him my designs in Illustrator files because I don’t do CAD but love me some Illustrator.

This is what really made the magic happen. Finally having a really good, well designed mold to go with my DIY press made all the difference in the world. I was finally able to press a blank with decent lamination.

 
lamination looks good on the first attempt with the new mold

Once I did some test cuts near the line and saw that the lamination was good, i decided to go ahead and cut the whole thing out with a jigsaw and see how it turned out. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lamination was good all the way around. No bubbles, no bad edges.

 
rough cut of my first deck pressing

Obviously the next thing to do was bring it over to the bench and send the edges down to the shape line. After taking the points off and smoothing the edges, it was time to drill some holes for the truck bolts.

 
sanded down the rough cut and drilled some holes

At this point i took it inside onto the carpet and stood on it. I must have stood there for a while as my bare feet were oooing and ahhhing over the feel of that smooth dome w-concave. The hump is broad enough to not mess with your push stance too much, and is really pleasant on the bottom of your feet. It also provides an inverse curve down the middle of the bottom of the deck between two lines that provide a flat mounting surface for your electronics while allowing room for two way tape and velcro, as well as thin wires to go underneath the batteries. I’m also working on an ABS plastic enclosure that will cover and protect your batteries and electronics from damage. The plan is to use the deck as part of the vacuum forming mold so that the resulting box follows all the unique curves of this deck and seals properly when mounted.

But I couldn’t wait for all of that to get this sick red stain on that maple.

 
added some scarlet stain because red is proven to be 20% faster

Utterly gorgeous. Minwax has a color called Scarlet and this picture just doesn’t do it justice. Its bright red and just really makes that wood grain pop.

What’s next?

This pretty much concludes the process I went through to create the deck itself, but there is still lots to do. The final product will have options such as inlaid wiring and a matching ABS plastic box. I’m also planning to use it as an option for the completes that I’m selling in my shop. But interestingly enough, its also going to be a great push deck, so I will be selling it on its own as well.

For aesthetics, I’ve got some clear grip that will go over the top of the deck. Underneath the grip somewhere between your feet will be a die cut logo on a white background, and the whole board will of course be coated in spar urethane to protect the wood from the outdoors.