About this project
We've been working on our ride for two years and after multiple prototypes we want to bring our winning design, A 17 oz. biaxial fiberglass layered up with an 11 oz. carbon fiber tape for adding reinforcement based on the rider, to life for the 2014/2015 riding season. We're raising these funds so we can build 50 snowboards in-house and entirely ourselves.
Our Humble Beginning - The Seed Stage
Our very first snowboard started shape as a text message several years ago. Could it be possible that we can build snowboards the way we wanted them to ride? After tons more hours of research, lonely nights in front of AutoCAD, and sore muscles from scratching our heads we finally proved ourselves right.
That whole winter we rode the board in all sorts of snow; from the hard pack and ice on the East coast, to the greatest pow on Earth in Utah. After testing and abuse by riders way too big for the boards size we learned quite a few things. Most importantly, the process that we used worked great. Unfortunately, our design was flawed.
Refinement - Stretching our limbs
Now that we knew it could be done, we needed to see how well it could be done. Despite being a traditionally styled camber model, our first prototype had handling problems because it was way too stiff. Unless you were riding on perfectly groomed trails, the board was just no fun.
That summer was spent tweaking angles in AutoCAD, poring over composites, and picking out the wood that would become our snowboard cores. The goal for the next version was to have it be completely ours including a never before seen board shape to create an All Mountain ride.
To get that all mountain feel we started with the essentials for each type of riding we liked to do. For POWDER days we gave the design wide floaty tips to keep us aloft. For bombing GROOMED runs we wanted a side cut that would bite and keep us in control. For going big off jumps and conquering FREESTYLE competitions we wanted to keep the board light and poppy.
Combining all these elements resulted in our spoon tip design, a low profile wood core, and a triangular side-cut.
The spoon-like design provides more surface area at the tip and tail to increase lift in powder. With the extra float, we were able to reduce the boards rotational weight by clipping small sections out of the tip and tail. Less weight at the end = faster turns, easier spins!
Our low profile core drops the weight and allows us to make more cores from a single block. The thinner cores are balanced out by carbon fiber stringers added during assembly for extra strength and bigger pop off kickers.
The triangular side-cut helps with edge hold on hard pack and icy slopes. Designed so the rocker section comes in contact with the snow as you first roll on to your edge to initiate a turn, the camber section between your legs takes over with a sharper edge for a perfectly radial turn when you really lean in to it.
The ride was finished by profiling it to ride buttery smooth in most conditions. A rocker tip and tail provides lift in powder and helps with turns on steeper slopes by smoothing out the transition between heel side and toe side edges. The camber section that stretches just outside the binding inserts gives more pop underfoot and adds stability at high speeds for bombing all of the runs.
We were confident our design was improved but weren't sure exactly what type of composites would help realize that "just right" feeling for the ride we wanted. Many a sample pack of fiberglass and carbon fiber were narrowed down to just 8 fabric variations that would, in theory, give our ride that buttery smooth, ultra-poppy feel that we wanted.
We needed to build 8 snowboards with different materials. This is where we first tried crowd funding by offering the prototypes for sale at cost - sight unseen. Two were paid for out of pocket by ourselves, and the rest were bought by riders in California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Ohio, and New York.
The promised delivery date for something that existed only as a blueprint was no later than Christmas Day of 2013. With funds in place, it was time to deliver.
CNCing raw materials
Ben created tool paths out of our AutoCAD files and we set off with a trunk full of core blanks to get them milled on a CNC machine. We were lucky to have been there at the right time over and over and over and over again to convince the shop foreman to let us to pay for the time of his engineer and run our blanks through their (very expensive) mill.
Together with custom built insides, the outside got a polish with graphics made to each riders request and a crest with our logo bearing their name was added to finish off each top sheet.
With all of our parts ready to be sandwiched together in the vacuum bag, it was time to answer the question of "Which materials give us the buttery smooth, lightweight, poppy ride that we want?"
After a full season of riding we tested eight fabric variations, three different mold types and were fortunate to receive a bunch of feedback from our friends riding in all sorts of different conditions. The winner?
A 17 oz. biaxial fiberglass layered up with an 11 oz. carbon fiber tape for adding reinforcement based on the rider's specs to maintain the desired feel.
During prototyping we also discovered three things that needed to change so we could cut down on waste and improve our end product.
First, we'll be switching from a traditional cutting bit to a drag knife, and pouring our own sidewalls. The plastics for the base and the sidewalls create a lot of waste from being machined. Using a drag knife creates precise cuts without any of that confetti-like waste material. We'll also be mixing a polyurethane sidewall ourselves to use a more exact amount of material instead of trimming them down for every board.
Second, we'll be switching to a press. While vacuum bagging is great for prototyping, all of the materials we used ended up being thrown away because none of the films, tapes, or fabrics are reusable. Pressing means there will be no waste from pressing any of the boards because all of the parts will be reusable after some cleaning.
Third, we created a modular mold and split the board into sections. Not everyone rides the same mountain. While some of us are chasing fresh powder every day; others make do with groomed ice sheets. To fine tune our ride for varying conditions we split it in to three sections to tweak the final board profile from all rocker to full camber, and everything in between by switching out mold pieces before the boards get pressed.
Growing Further - Snowboard 1.0
We want to share our love of home grown snowboarding with more people by creating a limited run of 50 snowboards for the upcoming 2014/2015 season. We need your help to be able to do this entirely on our own.
Here's how your donations will be used:
Purchasing materials in bulk will help us get fiberglass and carbon fiber woven to tighter specifications, ensuring a consistent product from board to board.
Why get materials? It would be pretty hard to build anything without 'em!
Building a Heated Snowboard Press
A heated press will allow us to mold and cure a snowboard in 24 minutes versus 24 hours in a vacuum bag. Building it ourselves means we make it exactly how we want it to work by incorporating our modular mold design. We'd also save 55% of the cost versus buying a ready made press which leaves more of your money to produce an actual product.
Why a press? In one sentence: planning for the future. Our current method relies on vacuum bagging which is very wasteful. Each time we put a board in to the mold it required 16' of vacuum tape, a 6'x14" piece of peel ply, breather fabric, and vacuum bag material. None of this stuff was reusable either. By eliminating these materials we'd save 11% of our resources on each snowboard - that's a lot of materials that get saved from ending up in the garbage. At that rate, the press would pay for itself after 100-120 snowboards.
Build a CNC Machine
Having a computer controlled mill will realize our CAD blueprints in to wooden realities 10x faster all while cutting down (ha, get it?!) on waste by using a drag knife to cut materials where possible.
Why a CNC? A CNC machine is crucial for milling precision pieces like each of the different mold parts, and all of the wood cores in a timely manner. We are committed to creating a quality snowboard and the CNC is crucial to doing this because it creates consistent parts cut after cut. Like the press, the CNC machine would quickly pay for itself after roughly 150 cut cores.
Testing and Insurance
We're 100% confident in our snowboards and we want to be able to guarantee them 100% as well.
Why get tested and insured? To keep you, the rider, safe and protected. We want to make sure that you get an awesome board and awesome protection should anything go wrong with it.
Risks and challenges
Our background in woodworking, fabrication, and design gives us a huge advantage because we already did 85% of the work in-house for every board we made; up to and including building our own tooling and programming a CNC to shape our design. What we're doing is putting in the remaining pieces of the puzzle to come one step closer to having everything done in-house.
We do, however, intend to improve our process with each iteration of the boards. Doing something new can always create stumbling blocks, but we are still confident in being able to deliver our project on time. We're confident in this because there is already a proven, working method in place to make each of our boards.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The available board sizes will be a 141, 145, 148, 151, 153, 156, 159 and a 162. We made a blog post that gives some vital dimensions for each board size. Check out that post at http://www.empiregrown.com/…
All of the artwork currently up at the top of kickstarter (except the lion) is available on any of our boards. We're also finalizing some super awesome textured prints for the next batch. Here's a sneak peek of two designs we are considering: https://www.dropbox.com/s/dz8ljuvc0worft0/Photo%2030.03.14%2014%2045%2054.jpg and https://www.dropbox.com/s/apffxca3su3awg0/Photo%2030.03.14%2014%2045%2010.jpg
None of these are finalized and we're always open to suggestions. In the end, we want you all to ride these boards and really love looking at them! Feel free to send us graphic suggestions to email@example.com
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