Category Archives: Gear

The Stall…

That is just sort of where life is at the moment.  Stalled.  Training is at an abrupt halt, except for the body weight Bulgarian Split Squats I do with my office chair at work at my standing desk.  As we are settling in to life here, training of all kinds is on the back burner in favor of keeping the kids alive and staying on top of work.  I did acquire a new barbell that I am looking forward to reviewing in the near future.  Beyond that, I haven’t meaningfully skated in a couple of months.  With the weather getting colder and indoor practices now only being on Sundays, I don’t anticipate inline skating until the spring.  I may get to ice skate around Christmas, though.  This is where training and fitness are right now, though:  Stalled.  I am planning for the future, and that will probably never stop.  Until then, the new garage gym is outdoor and gets take apart after every use.  My programming is pretty limited, power cleans, front squats, hack squats, dead lifts and Romanian dead lifts.  It is grip intensive.  The new bar is very helpful with that, though, as the knurl just sticks to your hands.

the stall


Crickets and Tumbleweed…

For anyone that actively follows this blog, you are probably wondering what happened.  For those that are here looking through the archives, you may be wondering whether this blog has died the typical death of anything posted by a hobbyist on the internet.  Hopefully, this post will prove that this blog isn’t dead, at least not yet.

A lot has been going on in my life lately.  My wife and I welcomed our second child.  Within a couple months of that wonderful expansion of our family, we moved from Minnesota back to Chicago.  I started a new job, we sold our house, and I sold a considerable amount of my exercise equipment, but by far, the hardest item to sell personally was my barbell and iron plates.  I kept the standard plates, dumbbells, and bumper plates.  The other big stuff, including my bike, trainer, my dip stand, floor mats, Bosu, and some other items are in storage, but did make the trip.  My bigger items, like my plyo box and squat stands, went with the barbell set and iron weights.  Since the move at the beginning of July, I have skated a couple of times, but haven’t had the chance to lift.

As a result of family, a job change, and big move, training has hit the back burner.  My race season has been cut significantly based on what I had hoped for the year.  I have a presentation in the Twin Cities the weekend of the North Shore.  That means that my entire season is the Chicagoland Inline Marathon.  This race is hard.  I am looking forward to skating a familiar course.  My lack of training this year will make a good result difficult.  I have a low bar, hoping to finish the race in less than 2 hours.  At the same time, I have finished at least one other race with an unexpected result racing unprepared.  However, those were different circumstances, with a very different course.

For this race, I am looking to stick with the lead pack as long as I can and then to find a good, consistent pace line to roll with through the finish.  Pain stays at home tomorrow.  I can suffer for a couple of hours to know I put everything into this race.  My legs are strong enough to skate hard for that distance.  My lungs are decent enough to keep a manageable pace.  The skates are in good shape.  I have a brand new set of Matter G13 wheels and a full set of TwinCam ILQ9 Pro bearings fresh from the package.  I will, at the very least, have a good review of the wheels after tomorrow.

I hope to have a reasonable report and a video that is not too boring to share after the race tomorrow.

Race Report: 2014 Chicagoland Inline Marathon

This year, the Chicagoland Inline Marathon took place on July 20, 2014.  The weather is usually a source of concern for this race because, as one friend and fellow racer of mine put it, its like racing on the surface of the sun.  It is usually brutally hot and terribly humid, but that is what you get when you schedule a race in the Chicago area in July, basically the dog days of summer.  This year, though, the race start for the Advanced division at 8 AM, the weather was reasonably pleasant.  The temperature was in the mid 60’s and the humidity was around 70%.  The Elite group had a little tougher time weather wise, but it never got much more humid.  Generally, pleasant conditions for skating, all things considered.

The race started shortly after 8 AM, and the group came off of the line typically quick, with the speed of the lead pack jumping quickly up to 20 MPH.  As the group thinned to the 20 of us, or so that could hold that pace.  The pace stayed in that range, and for the first half of the race, we were averaging 18+ mph even over the hills.  Last year, I got dropped after the the hills on Central, headed up Huntington toward Lakewood.  This year, I managed to stick with the lead pack through the entire first lap, and through the long outbound stretch on Central to the turn around about 12 miles in to the race.  For this race, it is the longest I have managed to stick with the lead pack.

Like previous years, we lost half of the pack on the hills on the return on Central.  This group got together and hung together for the rest of the race.  The lead pack put some good distance on them in the half of a lap or so after we got away.  However, it wasn’t too much longer before I lost the lead pack.  At the turn around, I got shuffled to the back of the pack.  When we came around the corner back onto Central, I had the opportunity to jump up the line, but, mentally, I wasn’t there, and miss the opportunity.  The guy in front of me lapped the line, and I got stuck in the accordion effect of the sprint back toward the hills on Central.  I couldn’t get my legs under me and sprint after the pack to stay in the draft.

I lost the pack after 12 miles, and then skated the remainder of the entirely alone.  I tried to pick up a skater or two on the way, but wasn’t able to find anyone to skate with.  Another skater was on my tail, but not closing fast enough to allow us to work together.  I think we both may have done better if we managed to connect and work together.  Regardless, after seeing one of my team mates with a bit of a lead, I was hoping to catch him.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t close the gap and I spent the rest of the race in no-man’s land, skating solo in the wind, fighting for every minute I could manage.  I finished the race in something of a disappointing 1:35:20, 5th in my division and 16th overall in the wave, as I hoped to finish around 90 minutes.  However, I do think this is one of my highest overall finishes at this race, which does give me some hope that the work I have been doing on technique and fitness are helping.  This time was better than last year, but not better than the year before, which was a personal best at this course, if memory serves.  The advanced division race results can be found here.  The rest of the results by category can be found here.

This race is challenging.  While the road conditions get a lot of complaints, that isn’t what really makes this race hard:  it’s the hills.  To race Chicagoland, you have to be ready for hills, intervals, and hot weather.  Without that combination, you won’t last.  The road conditions are just another layer that will separate those who are comfortable skating on any surface from those who aren’t.  I will keep attending this race because I like the challenge.  I wasn’t prepared mentally, and could have used a little better physical preparation, but I learned a lot (like how my form on hills falls apart when I get tired, leaving me with heel blisters to remember the experience).  My hips were pretty sore after the race, too, which also gives me confidence that my work on technique is helping as the kind of soreness and fatigue I came away from the race with is a good indication that my technique wasn’t as bad as my feet would have me believe.  That said, the goal for next year is to hang with the lead pack through the entire race.  I have a better idea of how to train now, generally, and will be adjusting my off season work to accommodate a lot more base cardio, something I missed this last winter.  Mixed with a strong helping of weight lifting, a little bit of ice skating, and a mix of other things that I will probably discuss more at length come October, I am hoping for a stronger finish next year.  Overall, I can’t complain much about this race.  I did better than last year and placed higher, overall, than I have at this race.  My time wasn’t spectacular, but given the other gains, I can’t say that this race was a total loss.  I know now what I need to work on, and if I am not learning something in this sport, I am doing something very wrong.

From a gear perspective, I have been messing with my frame placement, and I think it was a little off on both skates, but more so on my left skate. That is where the biggest blister was after the race.  I skated some earlier this week and noticed the placement issue.  I moved the frames in a couple of millimeters, and they feel dialed in at the moment.  I am going to stick with this placement for the near future, probably through the end of the season.  While cleaning my bearings before the race, it became apparent that my Adam’s Swiss bearings were dead after not being properly clean after getting wet during the Apostle Island race.  It was a stupid mistake that forced me to replace the bearings with ILQ9 Pro bearings.  I like the ILQ bearings from TwinCam generally.  They are a good product, but I wish I had more break in time on them.  They roll very smoothly, and I couldn’t complain about the team price.  It is also what a lot of the guys that skate in Minnesota run, too.  The WRW Truth wheels seem to be doing reasonably well, but they are wearing more quickly than I anticipated.  I will have to see how they fair over the next two races to provide a better review.  Any experience I had at Chicagoland this year will be colored by a lot of other gear changes that contributed to my struggles in this race.

The next race is the Minnesota Half Marathon on August 2. I don’t feel ready for this race, but I didn’t feel ready for Apostle Island this year or the Minnesota Half last year.  My goal is ambitious, though I don’t know if I am capable.  Last year, I accomplished my goal of staying with the lead pack.  This year, I am shooting for a top 10 finish in the open division.

My race video follows.  I am switching to DashWare to create the gauges, but building custom gauges in that program takes some time.  I hope to have that program in the mix for the NorthShore in September.  Beyond that, I used Lightworks to do all of the editing, rather than having to create the titles with an image editor and importing them into the video.  The new version of Lightworks is great.  If you need an NLE video editor, check it out.  As for the video, judge for yourself:


Race Report: Apostle Island Inline Marathon

I wasn’t planning on attending the Apostle Island Inline Marathon, but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance.  My wife and I decided to make the trip to Ashland, Wisconsin, around mid-morning, and tried to set plans in motion to leave at the end of the work day the day before the race.  I hurriedly prepared gear and registered for the race while my wife found a hotel for us to stay at on Friday night.  The race was scheduled for the morning of June 14, 2014.  For those that are not familiar with this race, it takes place on Madeline Island which is off the cost of Wisconsin in Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconsin.  You get to the race by taking a ferry from Bayfield to the Island.  Once on the Island, it is a short walk to the start/finish line and the event location.  This area of the North woods of Wisconsin is beautiful, and we happened to be driving through a national forest on the shore of Lake Superior just in time to see the Honey Moon.  It was a fun, though impromptu, road trip to be sure.  We got to our hotel in Ashland, Wisconsin, late Friday night, and, after reviewing the schedules, determined we needed to be up early Saturday morning in order to make it from Ashland to Bayfield (a roughly 30 minute drive) and catch the ferry to the island.

Packet pick up is typically held on Fridays at the Amory in Ashland, and it stays open pretty late.  However, we didn’t arrive in Ashland soon enough, and opted for race-day packet pick up.  It wasn’t hard, and everything was very organized.  We got on the ferry and made it over to the Island with about 30 minutes prior to the start of the first race wave.  I signed up for the recreation/fitness wave because most of the guys I usually race with in the Advanced divisions signed up for that wave.  It was cold, probably high 40s for the temperature, and it felt like it was going to rain prior to the start of the race.  By the time I was dressed and took about a mile or so skate to warm up, I was ready for the race.  We lined up by division in our different waves, and the race organizers started the event promptly at 8:30 AM, with each consecutive wave leaving about 30 to 60 seconds behind each other.  The rec/fit men lined up behind the pro women.

The race is a three lap circuit around the island that is just short of 9 miles per lap.  The weather was mostly dry, a little cool, and I was worried it would rain during the race after looking at the weather.  We did get a little bit of rain, but only enough to wet the pavement.  It wasn’t hard or steady, and it didn’t seem to change the course conditions.  I chose to race on my 110mm World Record Wheel Truths that are 87a hardness.  This is stiffer wheel, and I was hoping to get good roll.  They rolled very well, with good grip, even in the wet conditions.  It wasn’t wet enough to get a good feel for how they would work in a steady rain, but they stuck during the race, and that is all I cared about.

We got the call for the start of our wave, and, as the gun went off, a group of about 1o of us came off the line and took the first tenth of a mile to figure out how the line would start.  One or two guys got out front, and as the line formed going up the first hill after the first left hand turn, we caught up and formed up in the line.  The pace started pretty quick and stayed there.  We eventually caught up with the chase pack for the pro women’s group and, at some point, the advanced skaters from the 50+ group.  There wasn’t anything really exciting that occurred during the race.  There weren’t any real attacks, but the faster skaters did pick up the pace when they reached the front and pulled the pace line.  The action didn’t heat up, really until the last lap.  There was a lot of anticipation in the pace line on that lap.  The pace didn’t start to pick up until about 4 miles in when people from the back of the line started to move up.  Those of us in the front of the pace line kept pace, and the attacks built until we were 6 miles into the lap.  At that point, the line broke up and everyone was skating for the finish, hoping to gap the group and lead a flyer to the finish line.  We finished as a pretty solid group, all within about a minute of each other.  It made for an interesting pack sprint in the last half mile.  Unfortunately, my helmet camera died and I didn’t get video of the pack sprint.  My wife did get finish line video, though.  What makes the finish on this course hard is the 90 degree right hand final turn.  It is narrow and sharp, and only leaves a couple hundred meters to the finish.  Once we got through that corner, which everyone seemed to take wide when I cut right at the curb, it was a full sprint to the finish.

My goal for this race was to hang on to the lead pack in my division.  I didn’t train for this race, had only done one interval skate, and was coming off of a training week that included a heavy lift and a tempo skate.  Even with 2 days off before the race, I didn’t feel 100%.  Also, sleep the night before was a bit elusive thanks to a fitful toddler that couldn’t seem to get comfortable.  So, with little or no preparation, I signed up for this race, and just hoped to finish, ideally with the lead pack in the wave.  I couldn’t be happier with the result.  I ended up pulling the line a couple of times and finishing with the pack in the pack sprint.  I used a lot of what I learned at the Joey Mantia Clinic the week before, and the changes in technique helped to insure I had the energy to finish with the group.  I plan on doing a lot more technique training, too, in hopes of increasing my average pace and have solid finishes in the rest of the races this year.  My finish time was 1:25:08, a new personal best marathon by nearly 7 minutes.  I also managed to win my division and finished in the top 10 or so of my wave.  It was a great race.

I can’t extol the virtues of this race enough.  The course is amazingly smooth.  I don’t think there is another Midwest race that has tarmac in such good condition.  This meant the pace was fast the whole race since we weren’t fatigued from rough road.  The weather was not as great as it could have been, but it was far from terrible.  The race was well organized and in an spectacular location that is only rivaled by the NorthShore for its scenery.  While the race can be a little hard to get to, it is a must for any skater that wants to skate a full or half marathon.  I had spent a couple of years trying to make it to this race, and now I never want to miss another one.  My helmet camera video follows.  Check it out:

VO2 Max Test

One of the benefits of living near a major hospital is the opportunity to be poked and prodded for science.  These studies usually involve remuneration and are rarely the kind of thing  you consider doing absent a specific interest in a project or need some easy money.  A couple of months ago, I signed up for a test because it offered the opportunity to take a VO2 Max test for free.  Usually, these kinds of tests can only be found in sports medicine programs, and can be expensive.  I jumped at the chance to learn more about my physical condition and have another tool to focus my training.  However, I can only expect this to be a one-time test, and will hope to alter my training and use any future tests I might happen into for further analysis of my training over the longer term.

This test was taken on a bicycle, though some are performed while running.  The point of the test is to push you to your physical limit while observing how your body absorbs and expels Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide during the increasingly difficult exercise.  They took my weight and height and some blood for labs.  I was heavier than I expected but right about where I expected for height.  Weight is a determining factor and one of the ways to increase your VO2 Max is to decrease your body weight.  My weight has been a bit of a battle for me lately because I have been bulking from lifting so much weight.  After the initial measurements and blood draws, I was prepped to get on the bike.

The Bike was set up like a spin bike, but with road and aero bars.  The pedals had cages, but the guy running the test said they had a clip-less set-up.  I was slightly frustrated by not having my cycling shoes, but I don’t know if it would have made a very large difference.  The test went for about 10 minutes.  I scored 39.6 on the VO2 Max, and that puts me in a pretty average range for my age.  My maximum heart rate was 171, which  is low for my calculated maximum.  Basically, this result was unremarkable, and barely showed I had been training cardio.

My anaerobic threshold results were telling, and really provides the best indication of where my training needs work.  My AT was at about 135 bpm heart rate.  This happened 6 minutes into the work out and at 200 watts resistance.  That seems low, and means that most of my training lately has been taking place above my AT, which doesn’t directly help cardiovascular strength.

I came across an article recently that discusses this exact point.  Basically, base cardio is built with training in HR Zone II, where you burn both carbohydrates and fat for fuel.  This would also explain why I am not losing much weight, but that is mere speculation as I haven’t been very consistent with my diet.  Regardless, my seemingly normal VO2 Max result indicates pretty clearly I am not training effectively for cardiovascular fitness.   As a result, I am changing up my training to have more longer duration lower HR sessions on the bike and skates.  I am going to use the time on skates to work technique.

Speaking of technique, I am also attending the Joey Mantia Clinic in June that will be at the Roseville Oval.  I am really looking forward to learning a lot more about technique, and will likely update these pages around that time.  For now, though, I guess I am headed back to the bike.

How To: DIY Squat Stands

Since I started lifting weights in earnest at the end of 2012, I always felt like a lack of appropriate equipment was limiting the benefit I got from my lifts.  I started lifting with a 40 pound dumbbell kit that you can get just about anywhere.  I got mine at the local sporting goods store.  I had to modify a lot of my movements to get the right target muscles for skating specific cross training.  This meant modified versions of dead lifts and squats to work with the dumbbells.  Weight was also limited, and I very quickly moved beyond the weight I had.  Also, dumbbells aren’t ideal for lifts that target your legs.  I then acquired a standard barbell.  It was a 5 foot long standard width (1″) barbell with screw-on end caps.  This totally changed the game for weight lifting because I was no longer having to modify lifts that started on the ground.  Squats remained a problem.  I quickly got beyond the 150 pounds or so in weight that I had amassed in standard plants, that included eight 10 pound plates, and two 25 pound plates.  All of my standard gear then got traded for a 300 pound Olympic lifting set.  While I continued to progress in weight for lifts that started on the ground, I found it more difficulty to modify for squats.  I was doing all of my squats hack-style, where you basically lift like a dead lift but with the bar starting on the ground behind you.  My form suffered, and I don’t think I was making gains that really helped.

After doing some digging, a squat rack or stand seemed to be the missing piece in my weight lifting kit.  I don’t do a lot of upper body, so a bench wasn’t necessary.  However, I also wasn’t in the position to spend big money on a set of stands, a cage, or a rack.  A little more internet research led me to two blogs:  End of 3 Fitness and Homemade Strength.  End of 3 has a great section of DIY fitness projects, and promotes street parking, the idea that your garage can be your gym.  He made a set of squat stands out of 4″x4″ posts and buckets, with the posts set in buckets.  I liked the idea, but the build required tools  I didn’t have or couldn’t get a hold of.  Also, the build didn’t seem to be as effective as it could be, as there is no back-stop for the weight as it rested on the stand.  More digging led me to Homemade Strength, where the blogger had designed a set of squat stands that used variable height 2″x4″ rather than 4″x4″ posts.  After reviewing the build, the instructions on Homemade Strength ended up becoming the best option for the project.

I bought my materials at Home Depot (no link, this isn’t a sponsored project or post).  The store in my area gives you two cuts per piece of wood, so I premeasured based on the instructions, and went in with a list of materials.  It included four 10′ 2x4s, two 8′ 2x4s, two buckets, and Quickcrete.  Since I had the lengths I needed in mind, I could be more economical with my choice of 2×4.  In the end, this saved me money and resulted in less re-usable project waste.  I also used 2.5″ wood screws for the project.  Since the store did my cuts, I didn’t need a saw.  I went in with my measurements, grabbed my wood, and walked to the cutting station.  The associate helping me marked the wood, cut the pieces to length, and I walked out with all of the materials I needed ready for my build.  When set side by side, my pre-cut 2x4s looked like this:

photo 1
I then lined the pieces up on top of one another and screwed them together.  The pieces I picked out ended up being more warped than I expected, and the lack of a very strong drill meant there were some gaps in the wood.   If you can avoid this when you do your build, I would strongly recommend getting the wood to sit flush after it is screwed together.  This should prevent unnecessary cracking in the cement.  Also, when I set the stands in the buckets, I found that the top rest was about two inches too tall.  Before setting the wood in the cement, I had to cut the excess from the bottom of the stands.  Thankfully, I didn’t hit any of the screws.  This also resulted in a slightly uneven base.  I used the concrete to correct this problem when setting the posts.

After screwing them together, I placed them in the buckets and started working with the concrete.  I probably used a little too much water for the concrete as it cracked some after it set.  This may be caused by the warped wood problem, too.  After mixing the concrete in a tub, I started adding it to the buckets.  I put down a layer of wet concrete in the bucket and then put the post into the bucket, driving it down to the bottom of the bucket.  This compensated for my uneven cut to shorten the posts by allowing the concrete to fill in around the gaps in the bottom of the posts.  Once I got the concrete and the stand legs into the buckets, I used a level to make sure everything was even, and pushed the stand legs around until they leveled front to back and side to side.

photo 2
The end result is a solid set of stands that has two levels, one at squat height, and the other at bench height.  I probably didn’t need to do a set at bench height, but I have found this helpful for moving the weight from the ground to the top of the stands.  I dead lift the weight to the bench height, then move them up one side at a time to the top of the stands.  So far, it works pretty well, and I am glad I followed the measuring instructions for the bench height.  Otherwise, I would be forced to unload and reload the bar every time I need to switch from ground lifts to stand lifts.  This cuts down on wasted time during work outs.  This is what the stands look like loaded:

photo 3
I like the buckets.  The slogan is good motivation.  Aside from the tip concerning making sure the wood is screwed together flush, my other suggestion is to use Quickrete’s post setting concrete product.  I used Quickcrete 5000, which is a commercial grade concrete for heavy duty uses.  I may have let my ego get the better of me with that purchase.  I bought two 80 pound bags, and had about half of a bag left over.  I think the post setting concrete product is sold in 60 pound bags.  The post setting product also requires a lot less mixing, meaning you can empty the contents of the bag into the bucket with the post, pour the required water in the bucket, level your posts, and walk away.  The post setting product will set in a couple of hours, with a full set after a day or so.  This cuts down on a lot of the extra mixing work and equipment required by working with the commercial grade product.  It also requires less experience working with concrete.  If that aspect of this build seems daunting, the post setting product removes that concern.  If you don’t need a height for a weight bench, you can also set the lower height level for a short person, or just a lower starting height for your squats.  Using 2×4 provides a lot of additional options over using 4×4 for the build.

Why do this build?  First, it was cheap.  Commercial stands run about $200.  This build cost me about $52 (I needed some mixing tools for the concrete, a trowel and basin).  Second, having the stand means I can do proper squats, work on maximizing my squat form, and have more productive work outs.  Hack style lifting was probably sufficient, but this will insure that I lift properly, and build the muscles I want/need to build for skating.  So far, this and my other DIY projects have saved me over $300 in commercial equipment.  I have been working out with this set-up for most of January, and I really like it.  If you find yourself  needing squat stands, you can’t go wrong with this build.


Update 4-10-16:

After moving from Minnesota to Illinois and selling most of my gear including my prior set of squat stands, I built another set. The posts of the stands, in order from front to back, are 37″, 36″, 52″, 51″, and 62″ tall. I put the screws in through the back so you can’t see them. I used Quickcrete Post Setter this time and it was very easy. This is still a great, easy, cheap set of stands. I anticipate building a full rack at some point in the future, but this will work fine for now. 


Now, I can restart training. Hopefully there will be more posts on this progress. 

How To: DIY Slide Board

Slide boards are a training tool used predominately by ice skaters, but there they are great training tools for inline skaters, also.  Known in the fitness world as lateral slide trainers, this kind of equipment very effectively works the hip and inner thigh muscles in the legs.  Hockey skaters also use slide boards for off-ice stick handling training.  Speed skaters on ice and inline use it for polishing technique and building power.  The main drawback to the slide board is typically the cost.

You can find slide boards geared towards hockey players on Amazon for between $200 and $300.  Last year, I acquired a slide board from Amazon, but it developed a big problem.  The board wasn’t made for more powerful speed skaters.  The guy who makes the board told me as much over the telephone.  The cheaper boards are priced in the $150 range, some of them even lower.  However, most of these boards are built to be portable, made out of fabric like materials or other materials that roll up to be portable.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are very high-end slide boards that are a single piece, generally are not portable, and are made for world class gyms.  These boards range in price from $300 to $600.  You also need to nearly double the price to get them shipped.  After destroying my slide board earlier this year, I went on a hunt for a suitable replacement.  I wanted to make sure a replacement was not cost prohibitive, which, after my initial research, ruled out commercially available options.

After some additional internet investigation, I came across Kevin Jagger’s instructions for building a slide board on  This was the general starting point for my design, and I opted to focus on finding suitable materials.  My budget goal was $50.  Knowing that the most important, and potentially most expensive, part of the board would be the sliding surface, I was very careful about choosing the material.  I hunted for a supplier, but wasn’t able to find anything suitable or geographically reasonable for the 8 foot by 2 foot sheet of material I needed for the project.  However, earlier this year, my wife and I bought a house for our little family, which means we made several trips to Ikea.  I learned from another friend who skates that you can get good sliding surfaces for slide boards for reasonable prices from the As-Is or “Handy Person’s Corner” at Ikea stores.  We have all seen those shiny looking storage units sold at Ikea.  It turns out the doors make pretty good surfaces for slide board building.  I picked up an 8 foot by 3 foot sheet of this door material, which appears to be a form of coated and compressed laminate particle board, for $10 in the As-Is section of the store.  While the purchase required a harrowing 60 mile ride home through wind and rain with the board strapped to the roof of our car, and it made noise like an airplane engine, it proved to be a great find and became the base for the project.

Starting with the sheet for the surface, the next step was to make end-stops.  The end-stops are made from 2×4, foam pipe insulation, duct tape, and light weight black denim.

the 2×4 is 3 feet long, in this instance, to match the width of the board.  I started off by using the duct tape to attach the foam insulation to the 2×4.  I then cut the denim fabric to length so I could use it to wrap the end stop, with the denim being stapled to the 2×4 to hold it in place.

IMG_1733 IMG_1734 IMG_1736 IMG_1735

I wrapped the denim in a manner similar to wrapping a box with wrapping paper and also secured it with the staple gun.

IMG_1738 IMG_1737 IMG_1739 IMG_1740 IMG_1741 IMG_1742 IMG_1743

You can see from the ends that one of my sections of pipe insulation wasn’t the full three feet of the 2×4.  This hasn’t proven to be a problem during use, and had more to do with poor measurements in the packaging and reduced length after cutting.  Once you get this assembly completed, you have two reasonably attractive end stops.

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The next step is to attach the end stops to the sliding surface.  I did a lot of research, and my design ideas went through several iterations, because I knew that the ends tops needed to be able to handle a lot of abuse.  Generally, these stops will have to withstand upwards of 300 pounds of lateral pressure against a mounting that is perpendicular to the direction of force.  Since I had a bad experience with my last board, I wanted to make sure that this board would last a long time.  My original plan was to use four 2 inch long, half inch to inch thick, flat headed lag bolts that would attach to the end stops through the bottom of the board.  I planned to countersink the space for the nuts on top, drilling the countersink hole large enough to hold a washer.  This would, in theory, provide more than enough structural support to withstand the push force exerted on the end stop.  Ideally, it also would have meant the entire project would have been reasonably easy to disassemble.  However, after speaking with one of the hardware guys at Home Depot, He indicated that two and a half inch wood screws would work just as well.  This option ended up being cheaper, and has so far matched the expected performance.  I used 12 gauge wood screws to be sure.  I bought a box of 50, and, in an act of over-engineering, used 25 screws to attach each end stop.  I staggered the screws an inch or two apart vertically and horizontally as shown in the pictures below.

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While working with my old slide board, I noticed that it had a tendency to slip on the floor when I pushed.  To correct that problem, I bought some shelf liner and put it on the floor under the board.  This, generally, created more friction so that the board wouldn’t slide as much.  Theorizing that this could also be a problem with the new board because it would be placed on painted concrete and be heavier, I stapled the shelf liner to the bottom of the ends of the new board.  They are evenly spaced at the middle of the board, and the board digs down into the liner during each push.  So far, this seems to have prevented the board from sliding on the ground, but I do not know for certain whether it is the shelf liner, the weight of the board, or the floor surface that is preventing the board from sliding.  It is nice to have a stable board.

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The completed board is 8 feet long, 3 feet wide, with an approximate 7 foot sliding surface from end-stop to end-stop.  It probably weighs about 50 pounds, and is not portable with out a second set of hands and a large vehicle.  However, it does appear to be very durable.  I waxed it with NuFinish Once a Year Car Polish and used the booties from my last slide board.  The end product has a very nice sliding surface.  I have to apply the car polish every other use, but the benefit in reduced friction is worth the extra care.  You can also use Pledge furniture polish, though I haven’t tried it on this board.  A friend of mine uses a silicone lubricant on his with good results, also.  I will likely need replacement booties, though, because the ones I currently have aren’t very high quality and they have some holes that could end up causing my shoes to bind on the sliding surface.

I store it leaning up against the wall as shown in the picture.  I am considering making some nylon straps that will be stapled to the underside of the board to make it easier to move.  So far, though I haven’t used it much, I am very pleased with the result.  My total budget ended up being approximately $55 because I purchased a staple gun.  If I had the tools, it would have been much cheaper.  The following is a general budget for the build:

Board Surface:    $10.00
8′ 2×4:                   $3.00
Denim:                  $8.00
Wood Screws:      $5.00
Pipe Insulation:   $5.00
Staple Gun:           $18.00
Staples:                  $5.00
Total:                      $55.00

All in all, this project was far more economical and educational than spending $300 to $600 on a commercially manufactured product.  At my current level, I probably don’t need a Pro-Slide or Ultraslide board, and, depending on how this board holds up, I may never need to make that kind of investment.  However, if you are interested in purchasing rather than building, you can check out the 3G Slide Board, BlackHole’s Slide Board, the Hockey Train portable board, or a G1 Slide Board.  Even with the commercially available options, I highly suggest building your own.