So. you want to make your own sandboard? Well, you certainly must be a brave soul and you have certainly come to the right place to learn how to make one. But it will take more than courage and interest to produce a practical sandboard, my friend. Oh yes! It's going to take some materials, tools, time, and effort also. I'm sure the desire to proceed with your sandboard quest burns on.... ahead lies the Doctor's recipe!
Where And How:
The first things you need to determine before you start is where you will mainly ride this custom sandboard and what type of riding you want to do. Will you be sandboarding free style, free riding, slalom, race trails or jumps? How tall and steep are the dunes and what is the terrain like? What type of sand is the dune made of? Is it friendly sand? Will you be the only one riding this board or will others too?
If you are riding very large dunes 300 ft and higher then you will want a longer and wider board, (140 - 160 cm ). You'll also want a full size board if you will be riding at speeds greater than 40 mph (70 kph). Dunes that are not steep or offer shorter runs tend to require a smaller board and generally a different design.
Full size tend to be heavier thus are not as quick to maneuver or as easy to get in the air as a smaller board. Remember this; you want to keep the board as light as possible, regardless of it's size. Some base, (bottom surface), materials are considerably heavier than others but may be necessary depending on the type of sand you will be riding. We will cover base materials a little later.
If you will be boarding smaller dunes, varying terrain or performing tricks, especially air tricks, you will want to stay with a smaller lighter board like a terrain board or a sand skate board. Smaller boards are also a wiser choice for those who like directing the board more by shifting body weight instead carving with the boards edges.
There are a few board designs, (shapes), that work well on the dunes and how you intend to ride will determine what shape is best for you.
Twin tips have a turned up tip at both ends and allow the rider to use the board in either direction. Twin tip boards generally have a side cut very close to a standard snow board and are controlled much like a snow board also.
Square tails work well for general sandboarding and especially for race purposes where the board will only be ridden in one stance. You will tend to maneuver the square tail with your legs more. Some riders say it feels more like skateboarding than the others.
Â Swallow tails add an additional element for turning similar to surf or snow boarding, plus it makes your board look more tech. Oh Yes! What ever shape you choose you must have a turned up tip at the nose. With out the upturn your board will dig hopelessly into the sand every time. The nose can be rounded or slightly pointed but must be a minimum of 2 in. above the sand surface. Some dunes hold more air between the grains of sand than others and your board will sink in deeper. For this type of sand you should consider even more tip to keep it above the sand.
Board Materials: .
Now for the board deck itself. Your board can be made from wood, metal, or a variety of plastics but for the sake of practicality we will choose wood. I recommend using a 5 ply hard wood like oak or maple, but you can use any ply wood as long as it's high quality and not going to snap on your first jump. Remember, this board is going to have to support all of your weight which can be 3 times greater on landing that big air! Generally a terrain board will be about 100 - 120 cm long and should be 9mm to 12 mm thick. If you're not planning to get into jumping or your body weight is minimal you can easily get away with a 9mm thick sandboard.
There are five basic base materials that are being used today and they are as follows:
Formica & Laminex, are brand names and are popular base surface for a sandboard at this time. They performs well on most types of sand, are relatively inexpensive, fairly easy to obtain and come in many colors. Formica is available in various thickness but the thinnest Formica you can find will be the best. Thinner is easier to work with, shape and adds less weight to the board. Formica is also very hard which holds the friction to a minimum. Formica and Laminex do wear however, and at some point you will need to re surface your board. Two types of sand that wear heavily on Formica is volcanic ash and quarry sand for these you will need a much harder surface. Never ride dirt or gravel.
Stainless Steel, is by far the hardest base material but also has the most weight. You will not want to use a stainless steel base for freestyle or air. Stainless steel is more appropriately used for large boards that will be rode for speed or on abrasive sands. Again, volcanic ash will eat up a wood, Formica or plastic base but stainless steel will only be polished smoother and smoother.
Hard Wood, based boards are very common and also the least expensive. Oak, maple or other hardwoods can be used. A hard wood base also allows for a greater variety of contours to the bottom surface of the board. With a wood base you can round, concave, convex, spoon and shape the board to your hearts content. Most beach and ancient dune sand are made of finer and rounder grains of sand so they don't cut into the wood surface as harshly. On these types of sand a wood base is certainly acceptable.
Race Base, is a patented bottom surface made just for sandboarding. Race Base gets faster through use, flexes well, is light weight and will run on just about any surface ( grass, leaves, snow ). Race Base is the most advanced base material available, but is difficult to get. Diamond Race Base is equal in performance but last considerably longer than Race Bace.
Plastics, are earning a place in modern sandboarding also. A number of ultra-high density plastics on the market can also be used to surface your sandboard successfully. Though I have experimented with many plastics I have yet to decide which is consistently the better, so I'll leave this one up to you. Oh yes, whatever base you use, always seek the lightest and hardest.
Below is a diagram of a sandboard very common in South America. Of course other shapes are being ridden successfully, oh yes! Here is a great basic board design for you to start with. My suggestion is to print out this page and enlarge it full size to use as a pattern to cut out your board. And while you're at it you might want to make another pattern that can be used for a graphics template or alter the design for the next sandboard. Keep in mind what we learned in the "What Size" information above before you start cutting as this design may be too short for your needs.
First, mark out the board shape on your sheet of ply wood with a pencil or chalk. Pens or inks can soak into the wood and stain it. At this point you can cut out the board with a jig saw, band saw or similar but not a coarse toothed saw as it will splinter the wood too much. Some like to clamp the ply wood between two pieces of thin wood so it will not splinter at all. If you are not sure how much side cut you want... give it less. You can always cut more off but can not add any on.
Next, give it a basic sanding with a 200 grit paper to remove any splinters off the edges.
Forming the tips:
Now comes probably the hardest part of your quest, turning up the tips. If you have decided on a square tail or swallow tail you will only need to turn up the nose. Some boarders like to soak the ends in water and soften the tip making it easier to form, others like to steam the ends and shape them like a wooden toboggan through use of a weight and clamp system.
A common means to turn those tips up is to cut one or more groove wedges out of the first 3 layers across the deck of the board, bend up the tip to the desired height and then glue it in place. I like to cut three wedges so that the transition is smoother. Below is a diagram for my method. Either way will do the job but remember to keep the tips high enough to clear the sand, this is vital.
Bindings, foot straps, bungees and more! After riding sandboards for years with no bindings what so ever just rubber grip or carpet on the deck I am now a firm believer of bindings so I will not even suggest that you might ride your sandboard like a surf board or skate board although some still do. You will have far more control of your board with some sort of binding system. If you are riding a smaller, lighter sandboard foot straps and rubber bungees are great. You can get in and out of them quickly, they are light weight, inexpensive and you can ride with or without foot wear. Windsurf and wake board foot straps are fine. If you are riding large dunes at maximum speeds and in competition you will want a full binding for maximum support and control. Oh yes! Snow board bindings are the most common but do require boots or shoes. I recently mounted a pair of "sand bindings" to my favorite board, thanks to my friends at Paradox, and was certainly impressed considering this is the first bindings I've seen for sandboards. You can find Paradox and Venomous sand bindings through links on this site. If you mount snow board type bindings but don't want to use snow boots also, I suggest you get a pair of used snow bindings and cut the straps shorter until they feel snug on your feet with your shoes on, these will be for sand only. Any sport shoe you feel comfortable in will work but take a tip from your Doctor, high tops will help keep the sand out and thinner soles will give a better feel of the board. Also, check where the binding straps will cross the shoe, you don't want any knots or buckles under the bindings. If you choose the foot strap option take a look at the others first to get ideas and remember that you are going to have to bolt these to your board. Adhesive will not hold and screws won't hold up for long. Building it sturdy the first time will save disappointments on the dunes. Yet, many a sandboarder make their own foot straps and you can see fromÂ the photos on this site that they are carvin and soarin successfully, Oh yes!!
All wood surfaces of your sandboard that are exposed should be protected with a coating. I recommend that you use a good marine spar varnish. After sanding the top surface, (deck) as smooth as you like give it a good coat of varnish and let it dry completely. Give it a second coat if you like and you may lightly sand the last coat with a 400 grit sand paper in between coats to keep it super smooth but you must let it dry completely in a fairly dust free area. This will protect the wood surface and give the board a nice rich wood look. If you are going to use a wood bottom surface, (base) you will still want to give it a coat of varnish but on this surface coat it very lightly. This base coat is mainly to fill in any cracks or grain lines. You do not want a thick coat of varnish on the base as it will soften from the friction of the ride and tend to stick. It's still a good idea to sand the base with a 400 grit sand paper in the direction of the length of the board. I like to buff the bottom of the board with steel wool until it's as smooth as Formica. Oh Yes! If you actually use a Formica base you will not have to varnish it at all. Painting the deck is another option and any wood paint, brush or spray, is fine but keep in mind that you will be standing on this surface so you should use a fairly good paint, (even epoxy), that will dry to a hard finish and not scrape or peal off easily. It is also a good idea to use a wood primer on the bare wood deck first and, again, sand it smooth before you paint. Do not use varnish underneath the paint but you can use a clear coat on top of the paint to protect it. You may also want to use that second paper pattern of your sandboard to cut out as a stencil to spray paint the board, airbrush or even freehand. It's your board, let it look as you wish.