Homebuilt: Using the Roarockit Thin Air Press

 

Homebuilt:  Using the Roarockit Thin Air Press

 
 

You’ve read our review of the Roarockit Pintail longboard, right here on the front page. You’ve seen the wide variety of longboards to be made with the Roarockit kits in the Board Building Forum. Now, it’s time to for us to give you the impressions of a first-time board-builder, using the Roarockit Thin Air Press system. For this review, we gave a standard kit to our inimitable Malakai Kingston and set him loose.

As you’ll see, the board came out great, but this article is about using the Thin Air Press kit and standard instructions. Check it out!

 

 

 

 

Our Novice Builder…  (by Malakai Kingston) The idea, as it was explained to me, was to put the Roarockit Kit in the hands of a novice builder. “Who?” I said innocently. “You!” he replied. I cringed at the thought, with memories of a childhood “building experience” flickering in my mind’s eye: Dad told me to be careful, he said the glue was not to be used in excess or bad things would happen, and then returned to find my elbow glued to the table, my hand glued to my shirt and the tube of super-glue stuck to my arm! In the years following, I’ve managed to staple my hand to a chair, almost sever my thumb with a scythe, get attacked by a Garden Weasel, felled a tree onto myself, inundate a shed with water during a sub-zero winter, survive close calls with large doses of voltage and even smashed my own face with a sledge hammer. I am not “gifted” when it comes to hands on work, okay? I have lived a life in the virtual world and within my own mind. Needless to say, I have NO board-building experience and I am the “novice” the Consortium chose to use…

I had seen the Longboard 101 board building class in action, so I knew a bit about the process itself but not really in a linear sense. All I had gleaned from the class were two essential gems when it came to board building using the Roarockit kit: 1) the glue process needs to be done quickly and, 2) check the seal. That’s it, that’s all I knew. I was going to go at this using only what I had in the box from Roarockit. No lifelines, no checking the net, just directions and a fire extinguisher.

Getting Started. Now a note on space: my condominium is pretty small. All work took place on my dining room/kitchen Ikea table, using a plastic tarp to protect it all and so my fiancé wouldn’t kill me. I had two concerns going into this, I didn’t have ANY tools and I have LIMITED space. Neither turned out to be an issue. Everything you need to lay up and laminate was in the Roarockit box and, honestly, you only need as much room as the mess you plan to make.

I opened the big, sexy box to find the following components:

  • A large, clear vinyl vacuum bag.
  • Some netting stuff
  • Vacuum Pump
  • Foam Mold
  • 6 Layers Pre Cut Canadian Maple 2 Cross, 4 Long
  • Glue
  • 2 chrome nails
  • Potato Peeler
  • [the Surform hand file. –Ed.]

     

     

  • Sandpaper
  • Another maple ply, with graphics on it.
  • Instructions


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    I laid everything out and took inventory. The only thing I think I needed to add was a razor to do the scoring on the lams. Other than that, I had everything. I ran though the instructions, sorted my lams, shook the glue and unwrapped the press kit. More or less, I was intimidated by what I had before me but very impressed with how truly complete the kit seemed. The only thing that I felt was missing was stickers. I want stickers! (apparently it came with a sticker but I missed it).

     



    The “Build” Begins. After reading the instructions, I saw that the first phase of the process would be to score the edges of the cross-grain lams, so they’d conform to the concave better. I wanted a nice solid lip on it, so I made the cuts nice and deep. I tried to keep them evenly spaced, but still close together. So far, so good: I scored both the lams and was still sportin’ ten fingers. I knew Dad would be proud…or relieved.

    Next, I smoothed-off the lams a bit with the sandpaper. I don’t think they really needed it but I did it anyways, because the directions told me to. Then, to be extra sure there was no hostile debris that would muck-up the lam process, I hit it with some compressed air. Well, we (the kit and I) were all ready to go. I grabbed my glue and measuring cup. I was using the standard, white-colored glue and would laminate the deck in “steps”.

     



    Now, the directions say the gluing should take no more than 5 minutes. I don’t work well under pressure so I set my kitchen timer and I was off. I poured the required amount of glue (2 ¾ cupfuls, a little more for the first time you use the roller, since the roller will “soak up” some of the glue) and primed the roller as I evenly spread the glue around the first lam. I worked it around, ensuring both an even coat and that the edges were thoroughly wet. As I rolled glue on the next plies, I felt like I had too much glue, and then change to thinking I may have skimped a bit. This is when the worrying started. I finished up rolling the glue, which was good because the timer went off, and put the nails in the holes of the lams (one in a “back truck hole” and one diagonally opposite in a “front truck hole”) to keep them in place on the foam mold. The cross-ply lam holes were a bit off [The cross-grain plies expand when wet with the glue and “grow” out of alignment with the pre-drilled holes in the long-grain plies. Roarockit has since changed the drilling pattern on the cross-plies.], but a quick whack and the nail went in, no worries! Then, I slipped the netting over the foam/lam combination and slipped the whole conglomeration into the vacuum bag. I left the tape cover on the bag as I slipped everything in, to keep it clean and make it easier to get a good seal. I removed the tape cover and then sealed it. To make sure it was good and sealed, I put the a set of cone-out Kryptos to good use and rolled one along the tape line to make sure there was a solid seal. So far, this was easy!! Now, it was time to suction-pump out the air in the bag. I had seen the teacher at LB101 prime the pump with some water on the seal, so I tried that. I pumped away and managed to get most of the air out pretty quickly. Then, as I wrenched the last of the air out of the bag, the pump became harder and harder to pull up. I counted about 130 strokes before I lost my grip on the pump handle. The suction pulled the pump down on my thumb and bit me, finally some blood, DOH! That was it, the first stage was done, and had been really very easy! I set the TAP bag aside in the kitchen and began to clean up the precious Ikea table. I checked the seal and the pull on the vacuum pump every 15 minutes or so, but it didn’t seem like there was a leak. So, I let it be.

     

    Stage Two. I let the TAP bag sit for the indicated 24 hours. No leaks, it never exploded nor imploded --everything went fine. Opening the seal on the bag wasn’t that tough, really no harder then opening airline peanuts and with less of a mess when I was done As soon as I pulled the mold and wood out of the bag, I was worried. The lams didn’t all look glued! The glue had receded from the edges and I thought I’d screwed it all up! Nevertheless, I set aside that set of lams and got to work on the next set of 4, which included the graphic layer.

     

    I started the timer, got the foam and all the lams set and started. I’d put the roller in a ziplock bag and it was just as wet with glue as the day before, so it didn’t need “priming”. I poured the right amount of glue on the deck and moved it around, trying to really get to the edges with a little bead of extra glue. I managed to get through all four of the lams before my short bus handicapped timer went off. Once again, I nailed, netted, bagged, and vacuumed the entire thing. Checking for leaks every few minutes and rolling a wheel along the opening of the bag seal to start, this was already even easier than the day before. Then, I let it sit for 24 hours.

     



    Final Gluing Day. As I opened the bag, I gasped: these lams were actually just as short on the glue as the one before, but I was sure about having left “plenty” of glue at the edges of the lams! A light went on in my head, and I realized that Canadian Maple was sucking up the glue as it dried! I figured that was a good thing, breathed a sigh of relief and got to work gluing the two lam stacks together. This was a no brainer. I rolled one with glue, pressed them together by hand, then the whole mess again and vacuumed it all up one last time. The process was so simple and familiar by this point, it took no time at all to get it done. I checked the seals and let it sit. Simple enough!

     



    Unveiling the 7-Ply Blank. On the fourth day, I opened the bag and pulled out the seven ply wonder. The shape was rough. Like a stack of pancakes, the edges of the plies were uneven, but we would work on that. I stepped on it and flexed it --it had good flex! I began to feel “accomplished”. I liked it. I have to say, the directions that come with the kit made it very easy to get this far.

     



    The next step was to give the board its final shape, and it’s here that I deviated from the “plan” according to the kit. Ted Hunter sends out either 4-way rasp file or the very handy Surform file with the kits. The UCSD LB-101 teacher told me those tools would “build character”, but I knew he had a faster way for the students in his class to do it, so I hustled on over to the U. Oh, he made me try both tools. “Journalistic ethics”, he said. Well, let me tell you, if you’re going to use a hand-tool, the Surform is the ticket, and I used it later in the day, anyway. But, there were power tools about… Due to a “mechanical difficulty” I am sworn not to divulge, the router table used by the Fall ’05 LB-101 class was out of commission, so I used an electric saber saw to cut the deck to shape.

     

    I didn’t have to cut off much around the edges to see that the plies were tightly glued together just about 1/8” in from the edges. If I’d been using the Surform and working toward the classic pintail shape already cut into the plies, that’s about how much I’d have had to shave off. I wanted to try out a new shape from an LB-101 blank, so I clamped the blank to my deck and chased the outline around it with the saber saw. It was simple and fun to do. I finished up the shape using the Surform to smooth out some lines. When I was done, it was roughly in the shape you see here, but needed final sanding and finishing. I was so proud of the deck that I decided to make it a Christmas present for my younger (albeit more mature) brother in Ohio. I left it in the hands of the LB-101 instructor and crossed my fingers.

     

    The next time I saw the deck, it was a thing of beauty. It had been stained a killer, deep cherry color that went well with the graphic and had been sealed all over, using MinWax Polycrylic. The finish had been applied over the graphic layer and, it really made the graphic pop! I’d been impressed with the matte finish of the graphic before but after being varnished, it really looked killer now. All that was left was grip and ship!

     

    If You Love Something, Set It Free… I gripped the deck symmetrically, with a naked pinstripe in the middle. Its classic, clean lines looked great. It was boxed and shipped and made a great Christmas present. I had ridden one of the LB101 decks, so I had a good idea of how I wanted it set up. I contacted MHM at Mile High Skates and decided what I wanted for my bro to have on the deck. His birthday is right after Christmas so I put together the list and shipped that, too. I used Holey trucks, 1/8” risers and Abec 11 Flashbacks with Biltin 7’s in them. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best setups this deck can be run with.

     

    My bro is in Ohio, so he hasn’t had a lot of time on the deck yet, but he’s skating it when he can. He loves the flex and feels it’s a really fast setup compared to his other deck. You’re killin’ me little bro! I made it and still haven’t ridden it! Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll get a chance to ride it soon.

     



    Yes, Get One of These Kits! In my opinion, the Roarockit kit is the best way for someone who has never made a deck to get into it. There really is no satisfaction like making a deck yourself, and now I have the appetite to build more! For more advanced builders, who know how to shape foam and stuff like that, I can see how the TAP kit could be a great tool to really build some great longboards. Really, it’s only limited by the imagination and skill of the builder who uses it. I really enjoyed building my first deck and since the kit itself is reusable I can’t wait to make another.

     

    There it is. The Roarockit Thin Air Press kit is easy to use, it produces a great product with little difficulty and it’s reusable! Check out the Board Building Forum inside the ‘Fish to see examples of what builders are using these kits to do if you haven’t, already. Go to http://www.roarockit.com/ and order your own.

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