Behind the Mask: Ben Paik of Woby Design

You may have seen a woodworker create a skateboard, but how many projects have you seen made from recycled skateboards? Meet Ben Paik, the maker behind Woby Design who has spent the last five years testing the limits of what a broken skateboard can become – from a coffee table to a guitar to a bicycle. In addition to digging into his woodworking craft by day, Ben has spent his nights studying videography and content creation to document his the process behind each project which has led to a growing YouTube channel of entertaining content enjoyed by a global fanbase. Check out one of the most ridiculously cool woodworking projects we’ve seen as he worked his way through building a bike out of recycled skateboards.

Q: What was your woodworking experience before prior to going all in on skateboards as your medium? Where did you learn your skills?

A: To be honest, I had zero woodworking skills when I got into this. I knew I wanted to do something with my hands because I was good at fixing things, but I never took a class or anything like that. About a decade ago I had to do community service and I worked with Habitat for Humanity. I realized there was so much furniture being thrown away while there were so many people in need, so I came up with the idea from there. Living in LA, where there are a lot of people who skate so it just made sense to put those boards to use instead of throwing them away. 

Q: What was the first project you successfully completed out of skateboards?

A: The first thing I made out of recycled skateboards were clocks. I did a Kickstarter to put myself out there and luckily it was a great first project for me.

White analog clock designed by Woby

Q: Tell us about the bike project. The high, the low, and what you’re most excited about.

A: Before I started building it, I went into it without thinking too much about it and ultimately it bit me in the a$$! There were so many little details that I didn't take into account and I definitely learned the hard way, making every possible mistake I could make. A few takeaways from this project and really any project are:

  • If you're working with multiple different parts, I'd highly recommend labeling things so that you don't make simple mistakes. Which side is the outside, which side needs to be carved, what end connects to where, etc.
  • Always take your time and don't rush things. I personally get impatient and often try to take shortcuts, but I end up paying for it at the end. 
  • Get used to sanding because that's one thing you can't avoid in woodworking! 

Bike frame on a pedestal designed by Woby

Multicolor wooden bike frame designed by Woby

Q: We know skateboards are plentiful in California, but how do you actually go about getting them? Is it a dumpster dive? Relationship with skate shops?

A: Since there's so many skate shops around LA, I reached out to every skate shop near me and developed a relationship with them. I showed them what I do, gave them small items I made like pens and clocks, and now, they call me when they have bunch of skateboards to give away.

Shelves lined with multicolored skateboards

Q: How many skateboards do you estimate you’ve saved from landfills and made into something new?

A: I don't know the exact amount, but I'd say I'm now in the thousands. My objective is to bring value to these broken skateboards by influencing others to create with with them as well so ultimately we don’t have any skateboards going into the landfill.

Close up of Woby's skateboard material

Q: What do you love about your craft?

A: I love that I can make whatever I want. I also love coming up with creative ideas on what I should make next. I don't like to make the same thing twice so it's nice to challenge myself and see how far I can go with making something out of recycled skateboards. 

Q: When do you wear the RZ Mask® for your work? What aspects of it do you like?

A: I'm constantly wearing my RZ dust mask because I'm always sanding. I work inside of a small shop with fairly poor ventilation so it's extremely important for me to be in the habit of wearing a mask when I'm working. One of the biggest benefits of the RZ mask for me is the convenience. It's so easy to put it on and very comfortable to wear while working. It's super lightweight and it doesn't fog up my safety googles. I wear both the M2 mesh for shorter sanding sessions and the M2.5 Mesh for when I’m wearing it for longer periods.

Woby sanding wood while wearing an M2.5 Mask

Q: What are your top 5 tools to get the job done?

A: Table saw for 80% of my cuts, Bandsaw for re-sawing skateboards, drum sander to sand down the re-sawed veneers, drill and driver combo, and the dust collector.

Overview of Woby Design Workshop featuring bandsaw

Q: If you had a daily mantra, what would it be?

A: Keep it moving! Leave the past behind, be in the moment, and look forward to the future.

Woby sitting on a stack of skateboards

See more of Ben’s projects and stay tuned for his upcoming van makeover on the Woby Design YouTube page!