Millworks Skateboard MFG.: Out of the Trash, Into the Streets
There is something magical about taking what some people consider garbage—something used, abused, shredded and thrashed—and recycling it to give it new life. This is especially magical when that garbage needing to be recycled is your old skateboard.
Millworks Skateboard Manufacturing, or in more appropriate terms, re-manufacturing, is a small venture started about a year ago out of the Millcreek garage of Aaron Schwendiman. Schwendiman has forever been a skateboarder in the Salt Lake valley, and has always found inspiration from skateboarding. “It started from just a stack of old decks,” Schwendiman says. “Every skateboarder has a pile of old decks—I just wanted to make them skate-able again.” It isn’t just Schwendiman’s boards anymore, though. He has teamed up with his friends and local shops like BC Surf and Sport, Blindside and Milo to keep material coming in. “This is something anyone can do in their own garage with just a few tools,” Schwendiman says, but I know that’s not accurate. I don’t think just “anyone” could do what he does. The man has it down to a science, and a meticulous one at that.
I bought this Deathwish Lizard King pro model just a little while after I moved to Salt Lake in 2007. I met Lizard at Fairmont and wanted to support the cause. That was the best summer ever, so I never got rid of the deck, and brought it with me to Millworks for Schwendiman to restore.
Every board takes three to four hours of time from start to finish to recreate. The first and most crucial step of the whole process is getting a straight line all the way down the middle of the deck so the stencil lines up correctly and creates a balanced product. Millworks boards have a simple, streamlined, clean look. This first step helps ensure every board stays that way.
Next, Schwendiman lays out the stencil on my board and outlines it with a Sharpie. It is a sweet shape: The tail has some small notches cut out, but still remains intact so I can pop up a curb if need be, and the nose comes to a sharp point, so I can be more aerodynamic when bombing around campus. Because every board has its own, unique characteristics, depending on its size and condition, Schwendiman has three different shapes to work with in different sizes, always using as much of the board as possible.
After the shape is drawn out on the board, it is time to cut it out. Schwendiman uses a handheld scroll saw and a customized sawhorse for this. The sawhorse is built so that the skateboard will fasten firmly to it, so he doesn’t need to hold the board with his hands while he cuts. Using the scroll saw, he slowly cuts along the line that he drew only a couple minutes before, until the new shape is revealed.
Since the saw only leaves a square edge, he needs a router to clean it up. A router is like a combination drill and saw—it spins like a drill, but will pull off large amounts of material similar to a saw, leaving a nice, rounded edge. This is the most dangerous step because of how much material gets ripped away. Make sure you put on safety glasses before you play with one of these bad boys—you don’t want to shoot your eye out.
After this step, I was starting to get excited. My old board was starting to look like new again, and we weren’t even done yet. He pulls out the sander and starts gradually making my trippy Kool-Aid man graphic vanish away. My excitement quickly turns to panic. I was so hyped on this deck, and the memories that live within it. I want to keep the print that blasted Lizard King on the tail. Schwendiman has no problem with my request—I guess he loves this city, too. He sands off half the graphic to create a mellow fade of the natural wood, and keeps the Lizard King blast on the tail. The whole project is finished off with a Millworks “X” logo and a clear coat to stop any moisture from seeping in.
These boards are made from older, banged-up boards, making them very sustainable. From my experience, I haven’t seen much increased risk to the integrity of these boards. Schwendiman takes the time to glue and clamp any delaminations he can find, and doesn’t use cracked boards, which makes every Millworks board skateable.
Millworks has three different shapes you can choose from when picking out your recycled cruiser, or Schwendiman can hook you up with something custom like the Summer of Death: Roughside trophies. They were a huge hit, and one of his biggest successes with Millworks, says Schwendiman, while giving thanks to SLUG. “I also want to thank BC, Blindside, Milo, Caleb Flowers, Dickfoot Crew and my wife, Jen, for letting me spend so much time in the garage,” he says.
If you would like to help support the project, you can purchase a reclaimed cruiser from Millworks instead of buying a new one. Millworks can be found at millworks.ws or followed on Facebook at facebook.com/millworks.boardmFg or Instagram @millworks_slc. Remember, once you’re finished with your board, don’t throw it away––give it to your local shop or homie for recycling.