In our final installment of this series, we're going to look at finishing techniques that will make your home-made board look as good as, if not better than, commercially produced decks.
First, I want to offer this piece of advice, use what you've got. If your longboard is made out of an old waterski with beautiful mahogany stringers running through it, for god's sake, don't paint over it. And if the deck's already been painted or the wood has knots or other blemishes, you're probably better off just sanding and painting than trying to go for a natural finish.
Keeping this in mind, you first need to decide whether you want to go for a natural or painted finish. Each has its advantages, and you are only limited by your (or someone else's) imagination. Don't be afraid to swipe other people's designs. Good design doesn't just happen. Usually, it is a progression from various pilfered designs. Go to a good skate shop and check out their decks, especially the new school ones. If you see something you like, try to figure out how to adapt it to your project.
Natural Finishes. If the wood has a nice grain, you'll probably want to go with a natural finish. The obvious approach is a clear varnish. It's quick, easy, and you're done, but don't assume that this is the only option with a natural finish. There are also stains, and oil-based lacquer paints can be thinned with lacquer thinner to the point where you can still see the grain through the color. Just be careful to test on a piece of scrap wood before you try the lacquer approach.
You can also try a combination of all of these. You could use masking tape to make a series of stripes running the length of the deck. Leave most of the stripes the natural color, but stain others with a couple of different shades of stain, and maybe one or two other stripes with the thinned lacquer paint. This way you create the illusion of having different hardwood stringers, running through the deck.
Painted Finishes. Of course, it's real easy to slap a coat of whatever solid color on your deck, but it only takes a bit more work to go for something a little nicer. Stripes are a good choice. They give the deck a 1960's surfboard feel, and they're easy to do. Again, just use masking tape to make your stripes.
Then again, stripes are kind of overdone especially with longboards. This is where looking at new school decks comes in handy. Many have great designs that can be replicated with the same masking techniques that are used for doing stripes.
Additional Graphics. Once you've got the varnish or painting, there's no need to stop there. You might want to put further embellish the deck with other graphics.
Stickers and decals are a good easy way to do this. Don't just limit yourself to skateboard stickers. A trip to the local record or head shop might turn up a great sticker from a favorite band. You might even try the auto parts store. They probably have those large decals that seventeen-year-old kids use to decorate their cars so that it looks like a custom paint job. You might find some flames or something that you could never re-create yourself. To protect the graphics, it's a good idea to put on several coats clear varnish. With enough coats, the stickers start to look like they were printed on the deck. It's a good idea to test the sticker to make sure that the in ink won't run when you varnish.
Clipart is another great source of graphics or if you're good with a computer, why not create a logo for a fictitious skateboard company, as I did with the graphic below.
With computer-generated graphics, use the best paper you can find on the best printer you have access to. I printed the above graphic on my Epson Color Stylus 500 inkjet printer on Kodak Inkjet Photographic Quality Paper. Then it was simply a matter of gluing it to the deck (with good old Elmer's white glue). In the case of my inkjet, I had to fix the print so that the varnish would not smear the design. I used a spray fixative, available at art supply stores, that is used for charcoal and pastel drawings to keep them from smudging.
Some Final Notes. If you are going to be using brushes, get decent brushes. Cheap brushes will often leave bristles in the finish. If possible, use spray paints, especially if you are masking off areas. Sprays are less likely to bleed through the tape.
Make sure you have a safe place to work. I made a deck recently in our garage. I was painting on the floor. Well, it turns out we have a mouse, and the little bastard left tiny footprints all over my fresh paint.
Finally, when you put on the grip tape, use a file or even the rounded edge of a screwdriver to push of the grip tape down around the edges of the deck, and then trim off the excess with a utility knife or single-edge razor blade. This is a lot easier than trying to cut the grip tape to shape and put it on straight.
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Nose Wheelie, except where noted otherwise, was written and created by Chris Sturhann.
Copyright © 1997 Chris Sturhann