Righto cocks, I have been meaning to lay this on you for a while now, so here it is. This is how I do it, it works for me, you may need to tweak this method to suit yourself or the materials you have to work with.
Skinning refers to laminating a ‘skin’ onto an existing object (in this instance it’s a skateboard) using some type of resin or sticky stuff of your choosing.
I use laminating epoxy. I live in the convict nation and use the 500 series epoxy from www.trojanfibreglass.com.au
You can use other resins but I know fuck all about them. Polyester is ok but it stinks.
Frit refers to the small granules of glass that will be set in the epoxy to become your grip. Again you can use whatever you like, smash up beer bottles for all I care, but I get my frit from a place local to me www.bluedogglass.com.au
I like the Bullseye frit, and usually do a combination of medium and fine. If you choose coarse you’re a psycho.
Following so far? Good. Let’s get into all the
Other shit you're gonna need
Disposable gloves. Don’t play with this shit without gloves. Its bad for your wussy skin. Get many sets.
Disposable cups or containers. You’re gonna need to mix your resin in something, get creative. These are one and done, don’t plan on reusing these.
Stirring sticks. Epoxy resins are 2 part concoctions that need to be mixed well. Get lots of sticks.
Scales. I use a shitty pair of kitchen scales to weigh out my resin and hardener.
Brushes. Get the cheapest brushes you can find. You’re gonna need a bunch of them. I use ‘chip brushes’ they are cheap, nasty little bastards that drop bristles and cause me all sorts of grief, but they’re cheap.
Rags. You will need these to clean up the sweat from the hard work, the tears of frustration and the semen from your deck when you have completed your masterpiece.
Acetone. Cleans up spilt epoxy. Will also eat epoxy so be careful. Useful for all sorts of stuff. Everybody needs a bottle of acetone in their life.
Isopropyl. Use it to clean your cured epoxy. Also good for cleaning other shit. Get it.
Sandpaper. Last but not least, you’ll need sandpaper. I keep 120grit, 180grit and 240 grit in large amounts. 80grit is also handy to have.
Fabric. I use polyester. I hear that satin is also a popular choice. I have even heard of places that can print on fibreglass. Be warned that some fabrics, especially natural fabrics, will give you some funky textures once the resin goes on.
Digital Printing. You will need to find a place that can print on your chosen material. Ideally, they will supply the material. I use www.digitalfabrics.com.au
Design. Ideally you want your design to be sized larger than the deck so that you will have some overhang to cut off. You’re gonna want at least 20mm overhang on all sides. Your design should be high resolution between 150-300DPI and it’s also a good idea to bump up the contrast a little for a real nice ‘pop’.
This isn’t entirely necessary, but you’d be a kook not to use it after you just busted your balls making your deck all sexy. You need it to have UV resistant properties and to be hard wearing and compatible with your choice of resin. Don’t blame me if you don’t test it first and it fucks up all your hard work.
Scared yet? “Ohh that’s too much stuff, I don’t wanna buy all that” Stiff shit, that’s what you need.
Now the fun begins.
Prepping the deck.
You’ll need to fuck off the grip tape on your board. The easiest way to do this is with a heat gun. If you don’t have a heat gun, use a hair dryer. If tou don’t have one of them, get creative. Heat is the best way to loosen the adhesive.
It’s trial and error as to how much heat you need, and how you tug on the tape. But you’ll get there, i have faith in you.
Sometimes the griptape will leave adhesive residue on the deck. If it does, make sure there are no kids around cos that shit can be a ball ache to get off and swear words will be spoken.
Grab some rags and WD40 and some sort of flexible plastic scraping device (think credit card or similar). Spray the fuck.out of all the residue with the WD40, let it soak into it momentarily and then get rubbing with a bunched up rag. The residue generally tacks to itself and then the wd40 then stops it from sticking back onto the deck. The plastic scraper is handy for the stubborn rogue bits of adhesive that don’t wanna play.
Adhesive off? Great. Now you have a seriously lubed up deck that you need to get sorted out. Clean as much WD40 off as you can with dry, clean rags and then clean the deck with acetone however many times necessary so there is no trace of wd40 left.
At this point you want to sand. You can use power tools, a sanding block, or even just a folded up bit of sand paper and some elbow grease.
If you are lucky, it was bare timber beneath the grip tape. If you are unlucky, the timber will be sealed or painted. You need to get back to bare timber. If it’s a stained ply, thats fine, but it needs to be timber not sealer. Sand your guts out. If you are using power tools, be careful not to gouge.
Your sanding needs to be even and consistent, it can help to start at a lower grit and move up to a higher grit. You want to be sanded to at least 240.
Once the deck is fully sanded, it needs to be thoroughly cleaned again. I use acetone. Don’t half arse it, clean it good, and wear gloves while you’re doing it. Acetone will eat some gloves, black nitrile gloves are good for this.
After this point, do not touch the deck with those greasy mitts of yours. Always wear clean gloves when handling the deck. Even if you just touch it slightly with your skin, you will leave your filthy skin oils on the deck and your epoxy will hate you. I’m gonna repeat this.
FROM THIS POINT ONWARDS, DO NOT TOUCH THE DECK WITH YOUR BARE SKIN. WEAR GLOVES YOU GROTTY BASTARD
Let the epoxy begin
If you are still with me, grab a beer.
You deserve it.
You have your freshly sanded and cleaned deck on the bench and ready to go. It can be beneficial to stick the deck down to the bench somehow.
I told you he’d be back. This is white epoxy pigment. You want a decent basecoat of white down on the deck to really help your graphic pop. If you skip this step you will likely hate yourself.
I always mix epoxy by weight. All resins have their own specific ratios, so read the instructions carefully, grab your scales and don’t fuck it up. Depending on the size of the deck, i usually mix between 30-50ml of resin per coat. Some resins may play differently with pigments than others, but I usually add 5-10% of my resin weight of pigment. Mix gently but thoroughly with a mixing stick, being careful not to introduce bubbles. Ensure that you scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing vessel several times to ensure the best mix possible.
Now it’s time to apply the resin to the deck. If you have chosen a fast curing resin, it’s a good idea to tip it onto a large flat surface like a plastic picnic plate or something. Epoxy resin cures through an exothermic chain reaction and can cure incredibly fast in a cup or similar. It also can get hot enough to melt your cup and make an almighty mess. Ask me how I know.
Grab your brush and start applying resin from one end in long strokes down the length of the deck. Don’t tip it on the deck like a savage. You are aiming for the thinnest complete coat of resin that you can possibly achieve. Once you have covered the deck, you want to go back to the start and brush over the applied resin width ways across the deck, cleaning any excess resin off the brush as necessary. Work your way down the whole length of the deck like this, and then do the same again length ways. And then again width ways. If at any point you notice that the epoxy is starting to kick, STOP.
After you first apply the resin, you may notice that the epoxy doesn’t want to ‘take’ to the deck in certain areas and can leave weird, often circular voids in the resin. These are called fisheyes and you will learn to fucking loathe them. Typically they are there because you were a grubby cunt and touched the deck when I told you not to, but they can be caused by any number of things, like inconsistent sanding, dust particles, silicones, grease, oil, anything. That’s why it’s so.important to keep your deck clean.
A lot of the time the fisheyes can be sorted out with the back and forth brushing. If not, once the epoxy starts to kick, you can very carefully try to smooth these over. You need to be careful doing this though, because if the epoxy has gone too far, you’ll make a lumpy bumpy mess.
Hopefully you’ve ended up with something like this. If not, you can always do another coat of white.
Now at this point is where the value of my quick and dirty method comes in. I’m impatient. If i’m doing something, I want it done today. I don’t wanna wait for shit to cure, and then sand, and then repeat and take a week to do something that can be done in a day. So listen the fuck up.
The ideal time to add an extra coat of epoxy, is before the previous layer has fully cured. This will give you a chemical bond between the two layers, rather than a purely mechanical bond if the previous layer has cured. So you need to be quite vigilant with your timing.
Check the cure, add another coat
Stay close to your piece as it cures and periodically check it by giving it a light poke with your gloved finger in various places. If the epoxy is sticky and comes off on your glove, it’s not ready. If the epoxy is tacky and does not come off on your glove, this is the perfect time to proceed.
If you need another white coat, do it now. If not, mix up a clear batch and lay it down using the same technique as the first coat. Remember
Less is best
as long as you have complete coverage. Spreading the epoxy as thin as possible is the key to avoiding pooling.
The clear epoxy over the top of the white is important for the next step. In the time that the clear is curing, the white becomes pretty much fully cured and becomes impossible for it to be squeezed through the fibres of your fabric.
Let the clear coat tack. It wants to be properly tacky, with no sticky spots. If it has sticky spots, or it’s not quite tacked enough, repositioning your fabric is gonna be a bitch.
Very carefully grab your fabric from both ends, and let it sag in the middle. Aim it as best you can and gently lower it onto the deck. It may take a few tries to get it positioned perfectly, but remain calm and don’t push it down until you are absolutely certain it’s located correctly.
Very carefully smooth it onto the deck, starting from the centre. If you notice any weird creases or folds happening, you can lift the sides of the fabric to try and adjust. Once it’s smoothed in, it can be very difficult to get it back off so take your time and get it right.
Once you have fully smoothed it on, smooth over the whole lot again with a good amount of pressure to really press it down. You will notice if there were still any sticky spots in the epoxy below, as it will likely squeeze up through the fabric. If this happens, don’t stress cos there’s fuck all you can do about it now. Don’t try and wipe it or clean it or anything, just move on.
At this point, if you have a really nice and clean tack and the fabric has stuck down nicely, you can have a break. You can let it fully cure if you want and come back to it another day as long as it stays clean. Or you can just get the fuckin thing done.
Apply more epoxy
Add another coat of clear epoxy using the same method as before. It will take more epoxy this time, as the fabric will soak a bit of it in. You only want just enough epoxy to soak into the fabric. Let the coat tack.
Fabric coat has tacked and it’s time to add another coat same as before.
Once you have evenly spread the epoxy, you need to get the frit into it ASAP. Generally I apply fine frit first all over the board. I hold the jar quite high above the deck and gently shake it side to side so only a sprinkle is coming out per shake. The height is important to evenly distribute the frit, if you are too close, you will see your shake patterns.
I usually then go over the standing areas with medium frit as well. It is important to keep the frit as evenly dispersed as possible. It looks like shit if you have an inconsistent spread. Let it tack.
Another Coat of Epoxy
Once tacked, add another coat of epoxy, same as before. It gets trickier here though because the fresh epoxy will want to pool around the frit. It’s super important to brush over in the length ways and width ways motions trying to remove as much excess epoxy as possible after you have coated the deck.
Once I’m happy that I have the thinnest possible layer, I like to go again with the fine frit, as most of the first pass of fine gets lost under the epoxy.
Thats it! You fucking did it! Let that fucker cure fully for at least 24hrs and we’ll get to finishing.
If you want finishing to be a bit easier, after the epoxy has cured but is still pliable, you can go around the edge of the deck with a super sharp knife and trim off all the excess material.
Once cured and trimmed, you wanna sand the excess on the rails all the way back give it a gooooood sand and get those rails to at least 240 with no excess resin remaining.
If you want to paint the rails, probably best to do that at this stage, i’ll let you figure that shit out.
This is also the time to redrill the truck bolt holes very carefully from the bottom. If you have been careful with your epoxy, they shouldn’t be filled up. Drill them through with very light pressure, letting the drill bit do the work.
This is one of the trickier parts of the process now… you need to clean the freshly fritted deck with isopropyl to remove any ‘bloom’ from the cured epoxy. Use a lint free rag or shop cloth soaked in isopropyl and kinda dab and twist your whole way around using generous pressure.
I like to hang the deck vertically to apply the clear coat. Evenly and lightly apply the clear coat in horizontal and vertical strokes and do at least 3 coats allowing appropriate time between coats…
Rejoice motherfuckers, you just skinned a deck.
Thanks for listening to my TED talk.
And of course, there is more than one way to skin a cat… errr, deck… check out this awesome write up from @rosco