Tag Archives: wax

natural edge board at LV SK8 Six

If you happen to be in Las Vegas on July 6th, swing by the Get Up Gallery (520 Freemont Street) to catch the opening of LV SK8 Six, a show of custom painted skateboards.  Well, I suppose we’ll have to use the word “painted” somewhat  loosely.  Participating artists were provided with a standard blank deck.  These are  made of seven-ply maple, and are pressed into a complex form which provides  a concave surface and an inclined nose and tail.

Instead of a traditional paint job I opted for building out the bottom of the deck with a thick slab of cottonwood bark.  I suppose that I was inspired by the cross-sections of the natural edge bowls that I have been making.  In any case it seemed to be a good use for the bark, which had been hanging around my studio for a few years.

Initial construction involved cutting the bark to rough length and carving it out to match the contours of the board. For final fitting in the center I was able to use the deck itself as a sanding block.


Tail detail showing the natural clefts and striations in the bark. I applied shellac and wax to the cut surfaces, but left the outer (gray) face natural.

Bottom view of board, showing the slight taper on the edges. The truck mounting holes have been drilled through the bark, and although I originally thought I might recess a rectangle for each baseplate I later decided that it would be too disruptive.

The finished deck. To my eye it has connotations of the thick-soled shoes that became popular among skateboarders in the late 80's.

I worked for as seamless a finish as possible in the joinery between the bark and the deck, because I wanted it to appear almost as if it had been peeled straight off of a tree.  I removed the manufacturer’s finish from the top of the deck and applied several coats of shellac, sanding to a fine finish.  This was then polished with paste wax and rubbed out to a silky smoothness.  The overblown textural contrast between the top and bottom of the board is meaningful to me in that it represents my own experience of skateboarding, friction and coarseness are interwoven with smoothness and speed.

wax on, wax off

Adding powdered Indian Red pigment to the molten wax medium

Adding powdered Indian Red pigment to the molten wax medium

Finished collection of colors, with raw wax medium at the bottom of the photo

Finished collection of colors, with raw wax medium at the bottom of the photo

In preparation for a demonstration this week I made a new set of encaustic paints.  The formula is a simple one– just bring natural bee’s wax into solution with about ten percent damar resin for the raw medium, and then mix in the pigment of your choice at the desired concentration.  A modern “laser” thermometer makes it easy to ensure that your heat source stays within a safe range, so once those powdered pigments are coated with wax the only thing that you will inhale is the fragrance of honey.

Most of my familiarity with the medium comes from my friend and former professor Pat Schuchard, who literally brings the wax through the frame and beyond in his innovative works of sculpture and painting.  The surfaces are soaked, incised, and inlaid with a rich lacework of colors.  When they receive their final polish, the images collect light and exude a depth unique to the medium.  If you want to see for yourself, check out Pat’s paintings here.