A few months back, we ran a piece on AlumBoards and how owner Trevor Dericks took his intricately designed aluminum longboards from figments of the imagination to street-approved creations. While this piece scratched the surface on what exactly goes into producing these functional works of art, we decided that a trip to Dericks Sheet Metal Works [DSMW] in Totowa, New Jersey was necessary to reveal how this process actually goes down.
Trevor Dericks with one of his masterpieces.
Starting off with the backstory to the men behind the operation himself, DSMW, a metal fabrication shop was opened back in 1936 with his great grandfather and grandfather. All the while a family run business, Dericks has been surrounded by custom metal work his whole life, reminded by his father that “If you can’t find what you want, make it.” As time progressed, Dericks future at the shop rested on a coin flip between working at the business or pursuing a teaching career. Thankfully for the longboarding world, the coin kept Dericks working with sheet metal.
From there, Dericks self taught himself Auto CAD and intertwines this knowledge with the use of 5 other programs when drafting and designing each deck. As his personal favorite part of the operation, Dericks says he strives to hide engineering necessities, like strong horizontals to hold the deck’s concave, when drawing out the cuts. Similarly, features like organic-looking hand and finger holds are intentionally included but come across as coincidental when embedded in the intricacies of the rest of the deck’s design. As Dericks describes it, he “likes there to be design purpose while not being blunt about it.”
CNC handles the aluminum beautifully.
After the drawing stage, Dericks starts the magic into turning an unassuming 4’ x 10’ sheet of 100% recycled, aircraft-grade aluminum into a practical deck fit to take on the Broadway Bomb. As pictured, Dericks loads the sheet onto the bed of a water jet cutting table and raises it up slightly to keep the excess cuts from tripping the machine path. Then, after calibrating its starting point, Derick puts the machine to work. At 60,000 PSI, water and garnet fuse together to blast Dericks’ design into the metal. The water within the table is used to keep the material cool as it gets cut and keep the machine quiet enough to operate near. The garnet, in turn, is used as a form of sand/abrasive with the water to provide accurate cuts to thousandths of an inch. Generally keeping designs under 48”, the cutting of the board Dericks put together during our visit took just over a half hour from first cut to the last.
Next comes a brief stint of polishing before giving the board its concave. This step is key since most Alum Boards are preferred to ride without grip tape. In the same roller that Dericks once rolled one of his fingers at age 12, he fine tunes the decks to give them the desired amount of concave for appropriate flex and comfort. By dialing the custom concave in just right, riders are able to enjoy the sensation that aluminum grants, a smooth ride that dampens road vibrations unlike any other board out there. Finally, Dericks channels his unparalleled his attention to detail one final time as he polishes the edges of finished decks until he can see himself in the reflection.
In the grand scheme of AlumBoards, Trevor Dericks keeps the customer at the forefront of all the decisions made throughout the building process. His efforts to keep the production as a hands on, boutique-type experience are supported by the craftsmanship seen in the remarkable final products. Therefore, as AlumBoards are set to hit the road in 2017 for new collaborations, new events and new builds, the meticulous handiwork that we saw on our visit will not be going anywhere.