The Beginner's Guide to SK8CAD
SK8CAD (pronounced “skate cad”) is our skateboard 3D modeling program that allows you to generate designs of boards and their molds. SK8CAD is useful for:
1) Visualizing board shapes.
2) Creating molds for 3D printing, CNC machining, or even by hand.
3) Creating profiles that can be used for CNC routing a skateboard, digitally fabricating a wood or paper template, or printing paper templates for shaping by hand.
4) Connecting with makers and suppliers of boards and board building materials.
This will be a brief overview of how to get started with SK8CAD. To get started with board building, check out my virtual workshop and learn at home and at your own pace!
SK8CAD is designed primarily for making skateboards and longboards, though there are many other types of boards and objects that can made by using this software: snowskates, mountain boards, skim boards, snowboards, furniture, sculptures.
A standard, popsicle-style board is displayed by default. You can edit the board's design by changing the values in the parameters window. To keep things simple, you can load several “Example Shapes”, which will automatically update the parameters to create the board style you select. To fully customize your board, use the User Guide to review what each parameter does.
Fun fact: SK8CAD is built using an old version of OpenJSCAD, an open source 3D modeling program.
Most skateboards are made by gluing together a bunch of thin sheets of wood called veneer. This process called lamination. Most often, boards are made of 7 layers of hard maple veneer.
To create the unique bends present in so many boards, you can laminate the boards while bending the wood: glue up all the layers, then bend the layers into the desired shape while the glue is still wet, and leave the wood bent until the glue is dry.
Molds and pressure are used to create this bent shape. Many makers use two-part molds (one male and one female) with either a hydraulic press or simple spar press to squeeze the mold halves together. Another popular option is using a vacuum bag with a male mold (AKA the “Roarockit Method”).
Hydraulic press with wood molds & two 20-ton bottle jacks.
Roarockit thin air press with male foam mold.
SK8CAD allows you to generate 3D models of your mold(s) in STL format so that you can fabricate them using a 3D printer or CNC router. An important feature SK8CAD includes is the mold offset parameter, which helps to ensure that the male and female mold geometries are properly generated to account for board thickness and number of boards being pressed at once. (To better understand mold offset, check it out in the User Guide.)
*Note for CAD folks: at this time, SK8CAD, unfortunately, doesn't currently support NURBS formats, though I acknowledge this would be very beneficial. There are some SK8CAD parameters available to improve mesh resolutions, and there are ways to convert meshes to solids.
With SK8CAD, you can design the “profile” of a board; that is, the two-dimensional top view of a board. Whether you are shaping totally by hand, using a router and template, or using a digital fabrication tool like a CNC router, you'll need to define the shape to cut out from your pressed lamination.
SK8CAD can generate a SVG file of your board profile, so you can get a precise shape. (Keep in mind that, if you are using the SVG to create a paper template, the board's shape will come out slightly different when laid over curves; for example, the board's length will be less when a template is laid along the curved surface of a board than if it were directly projected onto the board, as done with CNC shaping.)
With the “Maker Map”, SK8CAD users can drop a pin showing their location and linking to their website. The goal of this feature is to help small and niche builders connect with other makers, get discovered by new customers, and find suppliers.