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Skate Engineer: The Open Source Skateboards story

By Ross Gruet, Friday, October 15, 2021

Skateboard design has come a long way. Surfers in the 50’s used to dismantle roller skates and bolt the wheels and axles to simple wood planks that may or may not have been cut in the shape of a surfboard for the ability to “surf the streets”. These days the most common skateboard deck construction utilizes 7-ply rock maple with lots of curvature created in a pressurized mold. This type of construction provides shock absorption, varying levels of flexibility based on the overall size of the board, and structural integrity due to unique curvature. With the growing popularity and repeatable precision of CNC tools, skateboard design is more customizable than ever before. We recently talked to Beau Trifiro of Open Source Skateboards, a business that combines a passion for skateboarding, an engineering background, and a desire to inspire and empower everyone to get creative, with skateboard design as a launching point.

Beau has a degree in mechanical engineering and has competed in freestyle skateboarding at a professional level. After working as an engineer for a few years, Beau moved from the East Coast to the motherland of skateboarding, Southern California, to pursue skateboard design and fabrication. The initial goal of starting his own brand was to design a skateboard deck to specifications that best suited his personal taste for freestyle riding. “I had trouble finding a board that I really wanted, which was something truly symmetrical, while most boards aren’t. And something that was also made in the US, with responsibly sourced materials, or at least a more transparent build and brand.”


A few years into the start of Open Source Skateboards, it was clear that Computer Aided Design (commonly known as CAD) would be a key proponent in establishing board shapes and sizes. While exploring the open-source software known as JSCAD, Beau realized it would be a perfect platform for designing skateboards and molds, but it needed some tweaking. Since this software is open source (free to use) Beau took it upon himself to learn how to program and proceeded to modify the software to create his own unique skateboard design software. SK8CAD was born. This is a unique endeavor for any trained CNC machine operator, and especially unique within the skateboard community. As a result of the development of SK8CAD and designing his own custom boards, Beau has worked with some major manufacturers as a consultant and has created prototype skateboards and molds for their brands.


Beau’s custom skateboards, and molds for making these boards, used to be produced with only common woodshop tools. While these tools still have a place in his process, the incorporation of CNC manufacturing was a logical step for this experienced CAD designer. Beau joined a makerspace that has the ShopBot Buddy CNC tool. Visit Open Source Skateboards on Instagram and you’ll see a number of videos featuring the ShopBot carving out custom skateboards very quickly (among other very entertaining photos and videos). ShopBot CNC has helped Beau complete custom orders much faster, with repeatable precision. 


“The ShopBot I use is a Buddy BT48. I’m a resident artist at a nonprofit called A Reason To Survive, and it’s the CNC machine in their shop. Funny enough, it belongs to Chris Schaie who used to work for ShopBot. I use Vectric VCarve Pro for CAM, and primarily use SK8CAD (software I created based on OpenJSCAD) and Onshape for the 3D modeling.”


Skateboard design/development illustrates math and engineering concepts, so it was only natural that Beau finds teaching board building in local schools and organizations to be incredibly fulfilling. He’s helping students better understand technical concepts and inspire creativity beyond the board.


“Open Source Skateboards has been growing, and I’m excited about quite a few things! One of my main projects right now is updating the website, including making updates to help make SK8CAD easier to use for both board builders and skaters looking to purchase a board tailored to their own specifications. SK8CAD is free browser-based software for designing skateboards, skateboard molds, and skateboard vectors (and also those for fingerboards). I recently launched a video class on how to design and build boards, so people all over the world can learn to build boards. While I cover making molds by hand in the class, I also have a section on how to design molds using SK8CAD and Onshape – which, of course, produce files that can be used with CNC machines). I always have multiple projects in the pipeline – tools, resources, and products for builders and skateboarders, design/build experiments, and more. The ShopBot has been such a useful tool in bringing ideas to reality quickly with high quality. I share some of my builds (along with skateboarding tutorials) on my YouTube channel:”

“The main mission of Open Source Boards is to inspire people to get creative and empower people with creative tools, using skateboarding as a vehicle to do that.”


Beau has been skateboarding since 2000 and has competed professionally in freestyle skateboarding. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Villanova University and over 10 years of engineering experience in a variety of industries. 


Relevant links:

Open Source Skateboards Website



(Photos: courtesy of Open Source Skateboards)

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