Lee Thomas is one of our more unique customers. I found his work on Instagram by following #roarockit and instantly I fell in love with his boards. Blending board building with classic woodworking techniques his boards are as beautiful as the rainbows in the sky. I caught up with Lee on his travels and asked about his work.
Hey Lee how's it going today, can you tell me a little about yourself?
Doing good! On my way back to Toronto from Calgary via airline, squished like cattle in the back. At least it's in the right direction - home. I am 36 years old, currently employed as a corporate pilot flying a Cessna Citation CJ2+ jet. I spend a lot of time on the road. I have a passion in woodworking and have built the majority of the furniture in my house. Over the past year and a half I've been using those skills to start building unique longboards.
What got you into building skateboards? How long have you been building?
A little over a year and a half ago my son broke his leg in daycare. Quite a tragic event for a little boy who just learned to walk. To help him get around quicker and have a little fun, I built him a skateboard scooter. It's a small plank of walnut with Thunder trucks, light-up LED wheels and a T-bar handle. He sat on it and pushed around everywhere, now he is almost three and scoots around like greased lightening. Of course, once I finished his board I decided I needed to start skating again!
I had a Roarockit vacuum bag for veneering various drawer fronts on my furniture and noticed that the box mentioned skateboard building. I looked up your website, which is a wealth of knowledge and purchased a 20x70" bag and 3 sets of veneer. That was about a year and a half ago. I've built many different boards for myself, testing each one trying to find shapes I prefer, thicknesses, finishes and to refine my process.
You have a very unique style to your boards. What inspired you to build boards like this? Was it Mario Kart Rainbow Bridge?
Wood! The medium dictates all my work. There's nothing like going to the lumber mill, searching through the stacks of boards, looking beyond the rough surfaces imagining what grain resides beneath. My favorite part of each board that I make is selecting the board, planing it from a rough stick of wood and seeing what resides underneath. I then draw up the mating pieces on the board, picking areas with gnarly grain and beautiful figure. Mix and match stringers, glue it up, slice it and watch the beauty in the design present itself. Rubbing the oil on a finished board, watching the grain come to life is deeply satisfying.
Yes the first rainbow road board is one of my favorites. Inspired from many sleepless nights with friends on sleepovers. Nothing bonds teenagers more than a battle to the death in N64 Mario Kart.
Do you skate? How long have you been skating?
I do! I skated endless summer nights when I was in high school, but over the years grew away from the sport. I would visit skate shops, check out their wares and think "I used to be cool!"
When I built the first longboard, the snow had just started to fly, so I took it with me on a layover down in Marathon, Florida. I was hooked. I rode all over the place, cruising with a grin on my face. I got excited again to layover in interesting new places. Notable skating longboard layovers - Aspen CO, Lexington KY, Burlington VT, Santa Barbara CA. Portland MA. Skating around places is such a fantastic way to get out and explore!
Do you use Roarockit products in the making of your boards? How did you find out about us?
Yep! I have several TAP bags, maple veneers, both dyed and non. You guys also have the best pricing on Titebond 3 in the GTA! I don't currently make a high volume of boards so the solution is perfect for me.
I found out about Roarockit when I bought the veneering kit at Lee Valley. I've built many many veneered drawer fronts with my original kit. It was an affordable yet excellent solution to my problem. I looked up info on your website and found all your resources to build skate decks.
If people wanted to find out more about your boards. Where can they see your creations and contact you?
I am launching my company shortly called LAYO Longboards (www.layolongboards.com) By the time the website launches it will have an inventory of many boards with different species of mixed hardwoods. I plan to have a ton of building process pictures up from various stages in making the boards.
Thanks again for your time Lee, any last words for the readers back home?
To all current and future parents, there are so many different sports your kids can get into that varies from the main stream. So much money and focus is spent on the big sports, soccer, football, baseball and hockey. Keep a keen eye out for what interests your child and try various things with them. Maybe in the future we can start coining phrases other than "hockey dad" or "soccer mom". I like the ring of "longboard dad", "rock climbing dad", or "VELO Pappa"? Help them create school teams and clubs based on their interests. Developing friends with common interests is such a fantastic feeling.
Oh, and wear safety gear! Namely a helmet. Safety never sleeps!