A typical sand board is constructed based on different layers stacked on top of each other. Sand dune sleds are made with the same process and materials, but differ in shape and accessories.
The construction of sandboarding equipment is very similar to that of snowboards, but the materials used are different and the base a bit harder, which slows down the smoothing process that would occur from sanding. The base material is meant to be regularly waxed which allows both for greater speed while boarding and protects the board against wear and tear.
The most simple sand boards are made from plywood and the more complex are made from a layered construction consisting of sheets of wood, fiberglass, melamine laminates and steel inserts.
Plain Plywood Boards
Most commercial sandboards today are made from layers of wood forming the board and are held together with wood glues or epoxies. Plywood boards are made from various hardwoods such as maple, beach or hard pines. The successive layers of ply are normally arranged in different directions to form a strong but fairly inflexible board. This type of sandboard construction is cheaper, quicker and easier to produce than the boards made from different laminates. This is very similar to the production of skateboards and easy to make at home.
This works well with shorter boards that don’t need much flex. They have the tendency to break as they have no flex to absorb the large impacts. Wood can have weight to strength ratio in comparison to modern laminates. Big wooden boards can prove cumbersome and heavy.
Most boards have a melamine laminate base which is pressed with the board or glued on afterwards.
Composite laminate sandboards
This method is far superior to an all wood construction. This is the method used to make snowboards.
The first layer of the board is the top sheet. This is the top protective layer of the board. It is also the decorative layer which holds the funky designs. This can be simple layer of paint just to hide the construction materials below or layer of some hard material such as a layer of fiberglass, plastics, material or Formica.
Paints can be the easiest to produce but can be time consuming to produce a nicely finished product. It does not add much weight to the board which is always an advantage.
A precured top sheet of fiberglass can also be used which is then pressed in the sandwich construction.
Plastics such as abs which is a common material used on snowboards are sometimes used. They are durable and can hold printed graphics.
Composite materials are a combination of materials which are combined to form one hard layer. Fiberglass and epoxy resin are a common choice.
Resins are used to bond the elements of the sandboard together. It is combined with a hardener which forms a chemical reaction to set the resin and form the board into a single durable product.
During the sandboard construction fiberglass is used on either side of the wood core to increase the strength of the board and to regulate the flexibility of the board. These layers have a great strength to weight ratio and serve to stiffen the wood core but at the same time keep the board light. Fibre glass has different structures and density. It is often measured by grams per square metre. A typical density would be about 650 gsm per sheet of fibreglass on either side of the board. The structure of the fibre glass can vary the properties of the board. They can be longitudinal, bi axel, tri axel or even quad axial. These strands are then oriented in various degrees to each other to produce different amounts of flex.
Other composites can be used such as carbon fibre and Kevlar.
The core is the powerhouse of the sandboard construction. It is basically a laminated piece of wood to increase the strength properties of the wood. It can either be a horizontally laminated plywood core or a vertically laminated core. Wood definitely has some of the best properties for a core although there is one manufacturer I know who has used foam cores and honeycomb cores to produce some very light boards.
The horizontally laminated wood cores are made much the same way as for the plywood boards. These are normally bought premade in sheet form to cut expenses.
The vertically laminated cores are king and at this time I think the only board maker that makes some of their boards like this is Venomous Sandboards. They are made from various woods such as poplar, beech, spruce, aspen and others. This method can be combined with other core types to produce the best of both worlds. I have made boards like these but there is not much demand for them as they are expensive. These boards definitely produce the best rides around.
The inserts are special steel nuts which are embedded in the board to which sandboard bindings are attached. Most boards have their own bolt hole pattern to accommodate their own binding but they should also have the eight or ten bolt hole pattern which fit bindings.
The most commonly used base is the melamine laminate such as Formica. This base is made from resin impregnated paper at high temperatures and pressures to create a very hard wearing material. It is a very common material used to surface table tops.
There are other materials that are used such as plastics, stainless steel and wood. So far they are not as versatile and widely available as Formica but hopefully someday they will be. As sands vary in structure so will the type of base you use. Fine grained sand that absorbs water needs a softer base such as ptex, whereas hard large grained surfaces need a harder base than Formica. It all depends on what surface you ride which will dictate the type of base you need for your sand board construction.