Snowboarding is elegantly simple in that it requires only a single piece of equipment — a board. Unlike other popular board sports such as surfing and skateboarding, however, you don’t often hear about people crafting DIY snowboards. Why?
The weather conditions and high loads that snowboards experience make the construction process complex. But it’s not impossible if you’re a handy DIYer and have access to a Foundry and Machine Shop. If your passion is surfing the mountain, we’re here to offer a basic guide to shaping and finishing a handmade board in your home workshop.
Here’s how to start.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Most snowboards use a sandwich-type construction that compresses strips of wood between a waterproof base and a fiberglass top sheet. Metal strips fold into the sides to help with cornering.
You’ll need these items to begin building:
- Strips of vertically laminated wood about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick
- A PTex base sheet
- A PTex top sheet
- Fiberglass and epoxy resin
- Thin-gauge metal
- Hardware and inserts
- Magnetic tape
- Clear packing tape
- Materials to make a press (2x4s, clamps, foam)
Step 2: Establish Your Workspace
Creating a snowboard is an involved process that will require sanding, drilling and sawing. If you haven’t already got a squared-away workshop, you’ll want to make some space in your garage or another well-ventilated area where you can spread out.
Make sure you have plenty of lighting, proper ventilation and a comfortable temperature to work in. Test your garage door if you choose this room to work in. You may want to modernize certain elements like the lighting or door to enhance the space.
Step 3: Create Your Mold
Starting with an old snowboard is the best way to create a mold. Grab an old snowboard with handling characteristics you enjoy and stand it against the edge of a 2×4. Trace the shape of it with a marker and cut the curved form out of the board.
You’ll probably need about six 2x4s to create a solid wood mold. Replicate your initial cut across the other boards, making sure to save the top half for clamping.
Step 4: Shape Your Base and Core
Lay your stencil flat and trace the shape you’ll use onto your PTex base material. Cut out the base using a jigsaw or Exacto knife.
In separate space, lay your core veneers next to one another until they are just broader than the board at its widest point. Use your super glue to stick the individual strips of wood together. Once the core has had time to adhere, you can use your base to trace a stencil and cut away excess material. Then you can sand the wood to remove any irregularities in thickness.
Step 5: Shape Your Metal Edges
Trim the metal you’ll use for the edge to the length of the board. Wear gloves to protect your hands. Press the metal into the shape of the wood by laying it against the side of the board’s base, which you should suspend in a set of clamps. The metal strips should touch at opposite tips.
Make sure to form the metal with the teeth side up. In the final product, the base and wooden core will sandwich the metal teeth.
Step 6: Place Inserts for Bindings
You must place the inserts where your bindings will go before you finish the board. Do this by applying fiberglass and resin. Select the size insert you want to use depending on your preference in bindings.
Your next step is to drill a graduated hole with an outer lip that only goes as deep as the base of the insert. It should graduate into a through-hole the diameter of the insert’s mounting hole. Use epoxy to secure the inserts in your board and cover them with magnetic tape so you can find them later.
Step 7: Cut the Fiberglass
Cut two layers of fiberglass the length of the board and keep them clean until it’s time for the layup. Mix your epoxy resin and begin fiberglass application with the board’s base.
Use a spreading tool to force out any air pockets from between the fiberglass and the base. With this part treated, apply epoxy to both sides of the core and press it into the bottom, and complete your sandwich by laying the fiberglass top.
Step 8: Press Your Board
This step is where your board will start to look like a finished product. There are lots of methods to create a snowboard press, but the simplest is to use the solid wood technique we described earlier to make your mold, and then apply as many clamps as you can find.
Don’t place the snowboard directly into the mold. Instead, use foam on the top and bottom of the board to remove any irregularities in the mold. This procedure spreads the pressure out. Let your creation sit in the press for several hours. Heated machines may work more quickly than those that only use force.
Step 9: Remove Excess Fiberglass
Using a jigsaw and drill, remove the excess material and drill out your mounting holes. Congratulations, you’ve created a snowboard! Now it’s time to mount your bindings and head to the slopes to test it.
Creating a Snowboard From the Bottom Up
Chances are your creation won’t look like any other snowboard on the hill, and even if no one notices, you deserve credit for sticking it. Then again, maybe they will — a custom board looks and rides like nothing else out there.
In any case, you’ll only know when you strap on your gear and start gliding.