I’ve been making my decks by hand for a while, but recently I bought a CNC table-router and got to work on some robot-assisted projects. Mine has a 2’ x 4’ work area which is perfect for skateboard shaping as well as making many other esk8 parts.
This is my first complete build with it. I used it to make the foam form for pressing the veneer and then to cut out the fiberglass/bamboo-composite deck with really clean wheel-wells and a battery pocket. The battery pocket here is really shallow. It’s just enough to flatten an area for the electronics. After that I used it to make perfectly placed truck-mounting holes which is nearly impossible by hand. Additionally, the machine made the mold for the kevlar-reinforced, thermoformed ABS enclosure and was then used to cut the finished enclosure out and make a matching neoprene gasket. Lastly, the robo-router made a stellar enclosure for my remote. The machine got a good workout for its first build.
The deck was designed for big hub-motors. I wanted to make something with a classic, hot-rod aesthetic. I love the look of pintail boards and think that they have an accommodating shape for cumbersome hubs, so I went with a shape inspired by a classic pintail with a front-end modified for monster wheels. It also has a little concavity and about a 1/2 inch of camber.
I like bamboo decks and I have a pile of bamboo veneer in my shop, so I used it here. 5 long-grain plus 2 cross-cut were used for the body of the board. In the back I added 4 extra layers of bamboo. I did this for three reasons: to stiffen the tail, to make a foot-stop and to make room for deeper wheel-wells for the hubs. The racing stripes are hand-painted and the dragon is a rice-paper print. I found the image on the web and had it printed by boardlams.com. When the rice paper gets soaked with epoxy it becomes transparent while the graphic remains visible having an almost 3D effect.
I used 8oz fiberglass on the top and bottom of the deck. That’s a lot of fiber-glass… and a lot of epoxy. Epoxy is expensive. Adding it gives the board a lot of light-weight strength, but it also can double the cost of the build. Between the bamboo and the fiberglass, this is a very strong and expensive board. For the grip I purchased three different grits of recycled, pulverized glass from Lucid Grip and mixed them into a super-special, proprietary blend (1:1:1). I don’t like the adhesive that Lucid grip sells. It smells bad and doesn’t work very well. I find that it works better to just embed the grit into the epoxy top layer. It looks a lot better and lasts for forever. I just roll on some epoxy and sprinkle glass over the surface until it looks like a sugar cookie. I then wait for the epoxy to cure, shake off the excess and roll on another coat or two of epoxy.
To make the deck I first created a mold for it with Fusion 360 by Autodesk. From there I imported the .stl that I had created into my CAM software. I used the CAM software to create 3D toolpaths and then headed out to the shop to get the CNC fired up.
The mold is milled from foam with a 1/2" ball-nose bit. I use the same foam that is used as house sheathing. You can buy it in 4’ x 8’ sheets from big-box home-improvement stores. After the robot was done, I then wrapped the form in packaging tape to keep the wood glue from sticking to it. I also use painters tape to temporarily fasten it to a backboard to keep it from bending during pressing. I used the CNC to cut out that backboard, as well, so that it would fit the foam perfectly.
I then prepped the bamboo veneer, glued it together, taped it to the foam mold and sealed it in a big vacuum bag. It was pressed at 25 psi for 8 hours and then it was time for shaping. Shaping decks by hand is labor-intensive and no matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to get it perfectly symmetrical. With the CNC machine I can almost set it and forget it, and it turns out perfect. I just have to do some final sanding before I apply the graphics and epoxy/fiberglass.
Applying fiberglass and epoxy/resin, by the way, is an art. I’ve been working on my epoxy skills for a while, and I have a feeling that I’ll be working on them until for a while to come. The real fiberglass/epoxy “Yodas” of the world are old-school surfboard makers. You can get stoned, eat a whole sharing-size bag of Skittles and watch endless YouTube videos of these masters practicing their craft.
As a side note, if you are interested in learning more about making your own skateboards www.roarockit.com has everything that you need to get started. There is also a good book by Matt Berger, “The Handmade Skateboard”. It’s a good read. Basic decks are actually really easy to make. Easier than learning to make a GIF in my opinion (see below). Once you make one, you’ll probably never buy one from someone else again. It’s a lot of fun.
The deck was made to work with the enclosure. It’s a little too flexible without it. I made my enclosure by pressing 3/16 inch ABS over a plywood mold. I’ve seen projects that use vacuum forming for enclosures and they look nice, but vacuum forming is a bit of a hassle and it doesn’t work all that well with thicker materials. You can make a wooden mold like I did with a jig saw, some screws and sandpaper. I created tool paths for the one in this project with my CAM software and then had the machine cut it out in slices of plywood. I then stacked them up and screwed them together. A great perk to making forms like this is that you can unscrew it, take out a slice of plywood, screw it back together and have a form for an enclosure that is 3/4 inch more shallow for low-profile builds.
Once my form is ready, I heat up some ABS and press it. Here I used 3/16 inch ABS. 3/16 inch has nice flex to it and I like it for this build. 1/4 inch is very strong and fairly ridgid. It works nicely for stiff builds that you might smack on curbs and speed bumps regularly. Once it cools, I pop it off of the form and epoxy a strip of Kevlar down the center on the inside. This provides nice reinforcement for the entire enclosure specifically at the bolt holes. Once the epoxy cures, I use the CNC again to trim the excess plastic. The tool-path that I use for this step is the same one that I then use to cut out the neoprene gasket. I use one 5/16 inch through bolt at each end of the enclosure to fasten it to the deck. This allows the center of the enclosure to “float” and flex with the deck. I realize this doesn’t utilize any redundancy as far as the fasteners go, but between the meaty bolts going through the deck and the Kevlar, this enclosure should stay in place nicely. Locking wingnuts make it easy to remove the enclosure for accessing the electronics.
There are certainly sexier looking enclosures than this one, and I appreciate builds that have nearly invisible electronics compartments, but this ABS hard-hat style of enclosure is clean looking and very functional. It protects your goods really well and it can take a serious hit.
Next up… the remote. I’ve been making my own remotes using the Firefly/Feather Smart-remote project, and they have been working really well. If you are using a Firefly/Feather remote built by someone other than me and you are having connection problems, try lengthening the external antenna on the transmitter. This made a big difference in my tests.
For the 2.0 of my rendition of this remote I upgraded the original Feather Smart-remote project by adding a very nice military-grade, hall-sensored thumbwheel and created an ergonomic and durable CNC milled, bamboo enclosure. I also increased the size of the OLED from 0.96" to 1.3" and added a second screen, one on both sides, for ambidextrous use… and excess. Both screens are embedded under 1/16" of epoxy. This adds a lot of protection and creates a lens that makes the screen beautifully visible, even in broad daylight. The battery size has been doubled, and additionally, I upgraded the antenna on both the transmitter and receiver. This remote pairs with up to 20 boards, and it has been tested with @Ricco’s Usplit, so it can be used with all kinds of other toys.
For the remaining electronics I used the same hardware based on VESC 6 that I have been using on my 3SK8s. I feel pretty confident that I should be able to push 100A through each ESC. Continuous will probably be around 20-30A per esc. I have one of Team Tri-force UK’s 16s/60v 200A esc’s and I might give that a go as well to see what happens. As far as the battery is concerned I found a random 12s4p 44.4v 20 Ah battery with a 60A BMS on Aliexpress and took a gamble. We’ll see how that pans out. The BMS has a bunch of periphery like an on/ff switch, USB port and all of that. If it all comes together, I don’t know if I’ll be able to hit 45 mph like Torqueboards’ claims, but it should still be a rocket.
That wraps up my first CNC build. The weather sucks here so it might be a couple weeks before I can do some testing. In the meantime I’m excited to get a few more projects rolling. I’ve got a few three-wheelers that I’m working on, but I’ve also got a few four-wheel decks that I’ve already drawn up. They’re all designed for big hubs and will have custom fabricated enclosures. I might even do a stealth build and throw my hat into the ring.
There are some improvements that I’m going to make on this deck+enclosure design, and then I’m going to do a batch of ten with stripes but no graphics. If you have an interest in getting your hands on one, message me. Also, all of my demos are for sale and this one will be too. I haven’t decided on a price. This was an expensive build (which is all Torqueboards’ fault ). Message me if you want to make an offer. I’ll be releasing a small batch of the remotes soon. I’ll start building and shipping that batch shortly after the first of the year. If you want one, contact me and I’ll put you on the list.
Well, that’s it for now. Sorry if that was long. I hope the read wasn’t too bad. Also, the pics might be a little out of order. I hope that doesn’t confuse anybody. Anyhow, I’m going to head back out to the esk8 shed and get back to work (a bold-faced lie). Have a happy Thanksgiving and safe riding!!!