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Best Material for the top of a Snowboard Box

- October 11, 2009

From my experience the best material for the top layer of a custom snowboard box is a sheet of polycarbonate. (Note 2010: HDPE – High Density Polyethylene – is a better solution than polycarbonate if you can come across some. HDPE is a bit softer and won’t fracture as easily as polycarbonate, it’s also slightly less expensive. It should be available at your local plastics supplier, ask for pricing on sheets of 1/8″ thickness.)

polycarbonate sheetsPolycarbonate is a particular type of plastic which can be molded into any shape during production. The final product is resistant to both temperature and hard impacts, making it both strong and durable through the winter. In fact, you probably have some in your home or work place in the form of CD’s, DVD’s, water jugs, business signs and much more.

The problem with polycarbonate is that it is generally expensive to purchase in small quantities, and only available through industrial plastic suppliers. However, If your going to purchase lumber and invest time into a decent snowboard box, its worth throwing down a couple extra bucks for a decent top layer that actually works and lasts! After all, this is the one part of the box you don’t want to skimp on.

A quick call to your local plastics supplier will get you general pricing for polycarbonate. You’re going to want to ask if they have it available in sheets. Sheets come in various thickness, as well as lengths and widths. Naturally, the thicker, the more expensive. Ask for pricing on sheets of 3/16″, 1/8″ or 3/32 thickness.

The boxes I built were used for roughly 50 sessions until one of the top sheets fractured, they have since been replaced with HDPE top sheets (see comments below). They were each built using 1 sheet of 12″ x 72″ x 1/8″ thick polycarbonate that I purchased for around $25 each, however price will definitely vary, and I was able to pick them up locally to save on shipping. The $50 investment on a good top coating is what made these boxes practically perfect. You will find your that board will slide across cold polycarbonate like a hot knife through butter. Just make sure to counter-sink the screws into the plastic when attaching it to your box, it’s also a good idea to sand down the edges of the plastic. Snags = Bad.

Polycarbonate Snowboard Boxes

(Above) The snowboard boxes in winter 2011 with polycarbonate top sheets.

(Below) The snowboard boxes (and a new 2 x 8′ butter box) in December 2011 with the new HDPE top sheets on them. The serious lack of snow is making it a bit hard to session them right now though…

Snowboard Boxes HDPE

Installing the HDPE (or polycarbonate) to the Box

Items you will need:

  1. 1/2″ stainless flathead screws, similar shape to this.
  2. Painters edging tape, or other easily removable tape.
  3. Power drill
  4. A counter sink bit (photo)
  5. 3/32″ drill bit, or something a bit smaller than the diameter of your screws (photo)
  6. Sandpaper, 80-120 grit

Process:

  1. Lay the HDPE across the box and align all 4 corners.
  2. Tape the HDPE down with removable tape in a few areas so it doesn’t slide. I used painters edging tape.
  3. Using your 3/32″ drill bit, drill through the HDPE and about 1/4″ down into the box. I drilled holes about 1″ from edge of box in all 4 corners as well as every 2 feet or so along box. (see photo, refer to red dots)
  4. Using the countersink bit, countersink the holes you drilled in the HDPE just enough so the screw heads will fall slightly below flush. (see image)
  5. Insert screws into your pre-drilled holes.
  6. Remove tape
  7. Sand edges of HDPE so they are rounded. Sanding the edges of the HDPE is essential! Not only will you snag the edges much less, but if you leave the edges “sharp” you risk damaging your clothing. I slid against the unsanded HDPE edge the first season I made these and sliced my jacket open from the friction!!
  8. Enjoy!

Hope that helps. I’m sure there are other ways to successfully attach the HDPE but this was my method. This method will also allow you to easily remove the HDPE from the box if you need to make repairs or what not. Let me know if you have any questions.

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Posted by Dan, under Tips, Tricks & Helpful Info.
Comment (RSS)
  • rusty

    If you’re going to spend money on HDPE you might as well do it right. Throw some tubing or angle iron on the sides. Then you won’t ever snag on the edge. As far as the HDPE the thicker the less it will be prone to ripple. If you use coping leave a small space about 1/8th for expansion. Also the ticker the easier to counter sink your screws or bolts properly. IF you’re on a really tight budget you can get a box like feel with pvc tubes. Not nearly as nice but can still work fine for the backyard. For that frame a box at whatever width you want. Then attache 1″ pvc tubes side by side all the way across. Can drill in from underneath all the way down and then drill in the ends to get them snug or drill holes in the top and put screws the whole way down. Also for the guy asking about wakeboarding I’d probably go with pvc unless money isn’t an issue. Wakeboards don’t have the edges like snowboards. Shaving in to pvc isn’t an issue.

  • trent

    Where can i find sheets of HDPE for a low price???

    • Dan

      Search online for a local plastics supplier, most larger cities have one. If there’s none close to you, you can have it delivered but it might be costly and more effective to look into a metal rail solution.

  • Shawn

    What’s the thinnest HDPE you can get? If its too thin then when you counter sink it, the nail will got right throught. I dont want to get too thick because i dont have much money.

    • Dan

      Shawn I used 1/8″ thickness and it worked fine but I wouldn’t recommend any thinner. Most places wont cut large sheets much thinner anyways.

  • Alba Sheinbein

    i have the base of my box built, but its only wood :/ i use it in the summer so i am constantly wetting the wood. i want to put a good material on top of the wood to slide on. at my Menards they have PVC and safety glass(plexi glass) but its veryyy expensive and idk how to attach it. My other idea is PVC the box is 10 inches wide so i as thinking three pieces that are 3 inches wide. but idk how to attach it or other sizes that’ll wok. plzzz help:)

    • Dan

      You use the box in the summer? :) I would recommend against PVC but if it’s your only option you will just have to wing it. I would think the best way to attached it would be to drill up from underneath. However there are plenty of places online where you can order HDPE in small sheets (12×48″) and have them shipped rather than messing with PVC.

  • Rose McParland

    Yeah that helps, thanks! What thickness of plywood do you use on the sides? And is there another piece of plywood on the top of the box underneath the HDPE, or can it be supported on its own?

    • Dan

      I built the box frames from 2×4’s and then covered the sides and top in 1/4″ plywood. Definitely use plywood on the top, otherwise you would need much thicker than 1/8″ HDPE which is relatively MUCH more expensive than the plywood.

  • Rose McParland

    hi, im wondering if you can use polyethylene for the top of the box? i cant find anywhere that sells polyurethane!

    • Dan

      Hi Rose, Yes, HDPE is High Density Polyethylene and probably the best solution available. Perhaps you just misread the top of the post? Good luck!

  • http://goodwinterskiinglocations.blogspot.com/ Matt

    This is awesome information and your boxes look nice, now i just have to find a local supplier to start making the box!

  • Bill

    Dan,

    I have a 12″x72″x 1/8″ Piece of HDPE to attach to my wooden box’s top. How is this best done? Screws, glue, etc.? Can you please describe the process that you use in some detail? Much appreciated!

    Bill

    • Dan

      Hey Bill, I screwed my HDPE onto the boxes.

      Items you will need:
      1. 1/2″ stainless flathead screws, similar shape to this.
      2. Painters edging tape, or other easily removable tape.
      3. Power drill
      4. A counter sink bit (photo)
      5. 3/32″ drill bit, or something a bit smaller than the diameter of your screws (photo)
      6. Sandpaper, 80-120 grit

      Process:
      1. Lay the HDPE across the box and align all 4 corners.
      2. Tape the HDPE down with removable tape in a few areas so it doesn’t slide. I used painters edging tape.
      3. Using your 3/32″ drill bit, drill through the HDPE and about 1/4″ down into the box. I drilled holes about 1″ from edge of box in all 4 corners as well as every 2 feet or so along box. (see photo, refer to red dots)
      4. Using the countersink bit, countersink the holes you drilled in the HDPE just enough so the screw heads will fall slightly below flush. (see image)
      5. Insert screws into your pre-drilled holes.
      6. Remove tape
      7. Sand edges of HDPE so they are rounded. Sanding the edges of the HDPE is essential! Not only will you snag the edges much less, but if you leave the edges “sharp” you risk damaging your clothing. I slid against the unsanded HDPE edge the first season I made these and sliced my jacket open from the friction!!
      8. Enjoy!

      Hope that helps. I’m sure there are other ways to successfully attach the HDPE but this was my method. This method will also allow you to easily remove the HDPE from the box if you need to make repairs or what not. Let me know if you have any questions.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/josuphoto19?feature=mhee Jon

    Hey Dan
    Do you know where can i find some metal hedges or square pipes 10 ft long in NH ?

    • Dan

      Hey Jon, not off the top of my head sorry. If you find a place let me know! haha

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/josuphoto19?feature=mhee Jon

    Thanks Dan for the tips, helps a lot.
    I will go to plasticsupply Manchester Nh witch is at 30 min from my location to buy a couple of sheets. and built two or three funbox for the winter…
    Hopfuly we will get some snow soon.
    I’ll post pictures of the boxes when they will be done and let you know how it works

    • Dan

      No problem Jon! I look forward to seeing how they come out.

  • Zach

    Got a 2′ x 8′ x 1/8″ thickness for $25 and two 1′ x 8′ x 1/8″ thick sheets for $20/ea. Where did you get these?

    • Dan

      Hey Zach, I got them at http://www.plasticsupply.com/, which is in driving distance from me so I was able to pick them up and avoid shipping costs. I estimated the pricing off the top of my head from memory and was a little off, I looked up my invoice and the actual pricing was 2′ x 8′ x 1/8″ for $38 and two 1′ x 8′ x 1/8″ for $19ea.

  • Davec

    Hey guys, Im currently picking up supplies to make a 12′ long 1.5′ wide fun box for the winter. HDPE is what I heard is the best, unfortunately it is expensive only because you must buy a full sheet, a custom order is not an option. A 4′ x 12′ and 1/2″ thick piece would set me back $300. Im a poor student so does anyone have anysuggestions that would cut cost?
    I figured i could buy a 4′ x 8′ piece at a smaller thickness, and cut out two pieces and connect them together on top, but i fear i would endager the sliding surface of a notch

    • Dan

      Hey Dave, Does your local plastics supplier only offer that size sheets of HDPE? The cost is high because of the 1/2″ thickness, you dont need nearly that thick of a top sheet, 1/8″ will work fine and reduce the cost extraordinarily. I just picked up a few sheets for my boxes the other week. Got a 2′ x 8′ x 1/8″ thickness for $25 and two 1′ x 8′ x 1/8″ thick sheets for $20/ea. Check them out, picture is a bit washed out though. I’ll post some pics of the actual boxes with the HDPE on them asap.

  • Chris

    HDPE is not good! i made a box out of hdpe and it only slides when it really cool outside ive literally gone on the box and stopped and had to jump off then end. also it scratches soo easily, i have alot of hits on it too about the same as you, and im ready to switch out to something different

    • Dan

      Interesting Chris, thanks for the input. Similar to HDPE, the polycarbonate doesn’t slide really good when temps are above 40F either… What I do on warm days is just throw a few handfuls of snow (or slush) across the boxes as I hike past them back up hill, this ensures a really smooth slide every time.

      After the 3rd season I finally broke plastic on one of my boxes made with the polycarbonate top sheets by snagging an edge…hard lol. But these boxes don’t have metal edges, so its part of the risk. I’m going to replace the top sheets shortly with HDPE for this season and see how it works.

  • http://DERFWORLDWIDE.com Fred

    I agree with Ryan. HDPE is the best to use. I run a snowboard Terrain Park at a mountain, and I build boxes and rails. I use nothing but HDPE. VERY expensive, but worth it.

    • Dan

      Awesome, sounds like a fun job Fred. I would agree HDPE is the material to use after looking into this matter. I built these boxes two years ago without that knowledge, however they are still great. My next features will use HDPE

      • Bradey sexton

        Hi Dan, I was wondering if HDPE is durable for wakeboarding? I’m trying to build a slider but I don’t know if it’s good to use?

        • Dan

          I am not a wakeboarding expert but I would assume it is ok. For durability you may consider using a thicker piece, such as 1/2″ or 3/4″ thickness.

    • Jake

      what thickness do you you, Fred

      • Dan

        1/8″ thickness will work well and is affordable.

  • Dan

    Cool thanks Ryan, it probably is a great solution as well and i’ll look into it for my next feature. My two boxes above are still working great though and haven’t had any problems with the polycarbonate even after hundreds of hits on the boxes.

  • http://schupanalum.com Ryan in MI

    The best material is called High Denisty Poly Ethylene, or HDPE for short. It’s what all the pros use for snowboarding or wakeboarding. Go to schupanalum.com or call 1-800-531-3434 and ask for HDPE.