April 10, 2024/ / ARTICLES/ Comments: 10

Fingerboards have come a long way since I was begging my mom in a now bankrupt Toys R Us for a Tech Deck. To start, they aren’t plastic anymore. Instead, they’ve evolved into pressed veneer, legit wooden replicas.

The pursuit of a scaled down skateboard, down to the minute details, leads us to Clark Checketts of DudeGuy Fingerboards and his world of recycled fingerboarding wheels. He figured out how to take old Spitfires, Orbs, etc. and turn them into insanely accurate mini fingerboard wheels.

Since I couldn’t get the image of burnt, swiss-cheesed Formula Four’s or resulting pea sized wheels out of my head I hit up Clark and took a look into the process of making these miniatures.

How many fingerboard wheels can you make out of one regular wheel?
It kind of depends on the size of the wheel, but typically 24 fingerboard wheels per skate wheel.

You make like 5 or 6 different fingerboard wheel shapes, but does it actually matter? Can you feel the difference while fingerboarding?
At my skill level, which I’m definitely not the craziest fingerboarder out there, I think it’s more aesthetics than anything else. One of the big things that you can actually feel is the width of the contact area, like how much material is in contact with the ground changes how grippy a wheel is. A really slim wheel with a small contact patch will be less grippy than a big fat bowl wheel. Also, a larger diameter will offer more pop height between the tail of your board and the ground. It changes the feel of a setup for sure.

Where are you finding those tiny ass bearings?
I don’t know what they were originally made for, but now there’s such a demand for them that these suppliers just label them fingerboard bearings. It’s crazy, the couple times I’ve messed up a bearing and dismantled it, it’s the exact same thing. It’s got tiny ass ball bearings, the shield, the plastic caging. It’s even got the tiniest, perfect amount of grease.

To make these, do you use similar tools to a watchmaker? Do you have that magnifying glass headset?
I need those glasses! I used to do some soldering work and I had a friend that would put on this monocle for the tiny circuit boards he’d be working on. I would love some form of magnification [laughs].

My approach to this whole operation has been really DIY. The tools I use are the most random stuff. The first tool I used for cutting wheels I found in the yard when we moved into our house. It was this old rusted out metal file.

Have you upgraded since? What tools are you using now?
I just use a drill, which can be tough because it dies all the time munching through urethane. I did get a corded drill recently which fixed that issue. Super clutch.

Basically I use these tile coring drill bits, which make a little plug. I put the plug on a mini lathe to shape it down and get the right diameter. From there I cut it off, drill out the center, put a bearing in, and the last step is shaping it on the dremel. I also use tweezers and metal files to do the small detailed stuff.

Does anybody push mongo in fingerboarding?
[laughs] Only as a joke. Nobody pushes right, so that’s the thing. There are style choices though.

Fingerboards have evolved tremendously over the years. How similar is a pro fingerboard to an actual skateboard today?
Everyone just wants to miniaturize their skateboard. Black River trucks tried to make Independent Trucks miniaturized. Now I’m out here like, “Well, everyone likes Spitfire Formula Fours so let’s try and make them miniature.” Making a fingerboard deck is the same process as making a real deck, but it’s kind of impossible to fully scale it, so everyone’s trying to shoot for as close as possible.

Have you tried to repurpose wheels that are too beat up?
I haven’t, I mean I’m taking such a small chunk of the wheel. People send me sets that have flat spotted or something like that, and I like that because I’m giving them a second chance rather than them just going to the dump. I try to never buy wheels that are completely fresh, because while that’s technically upcycling, it’s not recycling.

How long does it take you to make one set of wheels?
From start to finish, on a good day, it takes about an hour and a half. Sometimes people will specify certain dimensions, like 7.5mm by 5mm radial wheel, and I’ll be cutting it down until I’m like “Shit, it’s 7.4mm” so I’ll have to start over. Some wheels have taken two to three hours.

Will someone actually notice that 1mm difference?
Some people break out the calipers and take a measurement [laughs]. Customers are very specific about their fingerboarding setup, and if they care that much I think they should get what they ask for.

This is so nerdy.
Oh yeah [laughs]. I’m an engineer, I love this stuff. I’m out there doing math all day. It’s a lot of fun.

Do you find that your customer base is similarly nerdy?
Whether they are or aren’t, they like to hear about it. Even if they aren’t as inherently nerdy as I am about it, when I get in and nerd out on my Instagram story people love to hear it. They are curious and think it’s fun.

People are pretty intentional about what they buy, and it’s pretty expensive. I guess with a skateboard you can just grab whatever wheel, like pick up whatever the skateshop suggests, whereas a lot of the people that buy these kinds of wheels in fingerboarding know exactly what they want. It’s much more intentional. People will plan out their perfect fingerboard.

Speaking of price, $55 is kind of steep for four mini wheels, right?
I’m not going to lie, to me that feels low [laughs]. It totally makes sense though. If I was in anyone else’s position I’d think it was crazy too. There’s two purposes to these wheels, one is function and the other purpose is not that different from buying local art. Maybe that sounds conceited, but every single set is unique and it took many months of failed attempts to get good at this. It’s not a product for the sake of being a product. There’s an experience that comes along with it.

If no one was willing to pay me $55 a set I would lower it, but the fact of the matter is currently, whenever I do a drop it’s usually in the range of 15 to 25 sets available and they sell within 60 seconds every time. I can’t keep them in stock.

I saw you also make 3D printed riser pads. Can you get wheelbite on a fingerboard?
Big time, especially with recycled wheels because they are so grippy compared to standard fingerboard wheels like Tech Deck, which are plastic. There’s no grip with those, so when you throw on a pair of Spitfire Formula Fours which have the normal amount of grip you’d expect out of a skateboard wheel you can totally get wheelbite.

You stress grip a lot. Why is good grip so important to fingerboarding?
There’s no real function to having grippy wheels. Stylistically some people enjoy it, and people will talk like “Oh, if you can land a trick sideways and keep rolling your fingerboard sideways, it’s too slippery or it’s too easy.” People think if you do a backside flip you should have to land all the way 180, like in skateboarding.

So the desire in fingerboarding is to get as close to the real thing as possible?
Essentially. If you do a powerslide on a skateboard it’s not easy. Well maybe if you’re really good it’s easy, but for a skateboarder like me it’s kind of hard. If you can just slide your fingerboard wheels sideways super easy then it’s not “realistic.”

Do you think the fingerboarding community will continue to grow?
I can’t say for sure, but it seems like fingerboarding is getting a lot of traction on TikTok with the younger generation and it seems like it’s going to be alive and well in the future. I’m 30, and the middle age demographic is definitely growing, like the people who used to play with Tech Decks as a kid and now have some spare time and a couple extra bucks to throw around. There’s even guys who used to skateboard and now have a job and family and can’t get injured.

Can you get injured fingerboarding?
[laughs] Ok, I can’t say for sure but I have a current wrist injury that could be fingerboarding related. I’m pretty sure it’s from shoveling a bunch of snow, but it has definitely affected my fingerboarding.

When you see those videos of people putting miniature pants and shoes on their fingers is that mega corny to you?
The skater in me says that that’s hella corny, but the child in me is like “You know, if that’s getting more people into fingerboarding because it pops off on TikTok, go for it.”

That’s the weird realm that fingerboarding is in that is super beautiful. It’s not that serious, but you can take it seriously if you want. You can sink hours into trying to learn how to nollie heel and it’s way hard, and when you finally land it it’s so satisfying, but it’s also just a toy. You can just have a good time, and people are very chill in the fingerboarding community.

Why can’t you just turn on a 3D printer and have it print 1,000 wheels in a day?
You can, and some people do, but I have a really high expectation for the quality of my wheels. I have some 3D printed models, but I hand sand every single wheel because every 3D printed product has surface level blemishes. Imagine taking a 3D printed fingerboard wheel and scaling it up to the size of a normal skateboard. Those little bumps and ridges would be pretty noticeable. In order for it to work for fingerboarding it has to be pretty fucking smooth.

Do you think you’d make a good surgeon after dealing with so many tiny skateboard parts?
No [laughs]. I mess up all the time, but it is a special touch. I’ve been trying to train someone to help me and it’s really crazy to try and teach someone. I’m like “Can you take a half a millimeter more off on this tiny ass face here?” It’s so technical.

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  1. Blackninja900

    April 15, 2024 12:50 am

    Duck jenkem go duckurselfs

  2. Relo

    April 16, 2024 3:39 pm

    I’m thinking about getting into finger boarding, but I dont know much about it. What size board do I want? What are some good begginer tricks to work on that won’t get me vibed on at the local spot?

    • Clark

      April 25, 2024 1:38 am

      34mm is a good size for a beginner or 32mm works too. Nobody really cares what level you’re at in fingerboarding so just have fun! Shuv it’s and Ollie’s are usually the first things to learn!

  3. B A D G U Y

    April 21, 2024 2:55 pm

    Dude, I had an extra set of wheels for you. They had flat spots, but they are yours till you scrap some money together to buy a new pair. oh shit, my room mate must of taken them to use for his finger board company. Damn it!!! He basically ruined some rideable wheels. Dude…i’m pissed.

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