Coffee tampers and portafilter handles from reclaimed skateboard wood

December 08, 2019
Joey Goldstraw
barista tools
Revenue: up to $500 / month
People working: 1
Tell us about yourself. What business did you start?

My name is Joey, I'm 36, from a small coastal village in the north east of England. I design and make unique items from recycled skateboards in my workshop. My most popular products are coffee tampers and portafilter handles made from old skatewood.

SkateReclaimCreate barista tools from reclaimed skateboards
My passion for crafting, coffee and skateboarding led me to start creating products that people love. I started doing this after my second child was born. It was a great way to top up the household income while we had only one wage coming in. I work full time as a mechanical engineer in the water industry by day, and then spend most evenings, after the kids go to bed, crafting things in my home workshop.
How did you come up with this idea? What’s your background story?

I’ve always enjoyed making things, which has stemmed from grandparents and my dad. We built the new home workshop together. It was originally going to be a 20ft shipping container but we had issues moving it. So we took the decision to build from new. It’s also half buried in my lower garden at home, which is quite cool.

In the workshop have my trusty bench top lathe, where I turn all of my items. I also have bandsaws, sanders, and routers for shaping the wood to get it ready to be turned on the lathe. Space is limited, so I need to think smart about what tools I choose.

Joey's Workshop

I started out making things for myself. Mainly handles for my coffee machines. Over the years I’ve had a range of different espresso machines. Currently I use the Sage Dual Boiler and Compak E8 grinder. I don’t buy new. I’d much rather find a machine to restore and learn with. The La Pavoni espresso machines are great for restoring. As an active member of the UK Coffee Forums, I would then post pictures on there of the things I made. One thing led to another and I started to generate some interest from the members. Word of mouth took hold a little bit, and I started getting orders.

The idea of reclaimed skateboard wood came from skateboarding for about 15 years solidly, which petered off a bit when children came along. I still like to have a push around when I can, and both my boys have their own little skateboards.

I’ve had the opportunity to customise some interesting things, such as the beautiful Conti Espresso Monte Carlo and also the Niche Zero grinder.

Customised Conti Espresso Monte Carlo coffee machine
Customised Niche Zero coffee grinder
How do you design and make your product?

I focus on to customising items that are already in production. My goal is to then make sure my skatewood versions are as good as original.

To make a tamper handle out of ordinary wood, you take a block of wood and turn it in the lathe to size. But with skatewood you have to make the block first by gluing together the old skateboard wood parts. This typically involves:

  1. Sourcing the old or broken skateboards
  2. Stripping and reparing the skateboards (removing griptape, stickers, graphics and sanding down to bare wood)
  3. Cutting and gluing pieces of wood together
  4. Cutting the blocks into workable pieces

Recycling old skateboards into workable wooden blocks

Once the skatewood block is ready, you can turn to size, apply the finish and add to the base.

One of the main problems I have with the old skateboard blocks is when the workpiece doesn't hold together. On occasion I’ve had the block blow up’ when spinning on the lathe. This is due to poor preparation when making up the block. It could also be down to the tools not being sharp enough. I’ve recently switched to using carbide tips wood turning chisels which help with keeping a sharp edge for turning.

For those wanting to get into wood turning you would need the following to get you going:

  1. Wood turning lathe (benchtop is all I use)
  2. Wood turning chisels
  3. Grindstone for sharpening
  4. Dust mask and face visor

With those few items you could start to turn wood. Youtube is a great source for learning, that’s all I ever referred to. I hadn’t done any wood turning previous to this, but with time you can learn the basics and develop your own skills.

Sourcing old skateboards isn't that hard after being a skateboarder for so long. Fellow skaters are happy to donate their broken boards. Also from skate shops that happen to have them left when people come in to buy new ones. Ronny over at Legacy Skatestore has always been really supportive. I’ll always try to make something for the people that donate as a thank you.

Describe how you launched the business.

I started my Instagram page to mainly just post pictures of the things I make. It was never really meant as a sales channel, however it turned out I get request for items mainly through there.

I also have my Etsy page that is slow going, but I don’t give it the time it would need to do well. Next year I'll be setting up a nuMONDAY page and giving up the Etsy as a trial to see what it’s like to manage. I’m all about keeping things stress free, so whatever is the easiest to use.

If you’re looking to start making handmade products, then you really need to assess your product and target audience.

I think if you’re looking to start making handmade products yourself then you really need to assess your product and target audience. For example, where I live is a quiet village on the coast. There isn’t much of a market locally for the items I make, hence why I wouldn’t bother going to local craft fairs and trying to sell that way. Online is the place for a product like mine, sharing with social media and getting it out there using the internet. Unless I lived in a big city then circumstances may be different.

How do you grow your business?

My plan for the year coming is to improve the products I currently make. I'm experimenting a bit with stabilising my own woods to try and create something with more durability. If all goes to plan I’ll likely drop a few of the items I have made in the past and look to streamline the stuff I want to take forward. Time is very precious when you have a young family, I need to be as efficient as I can be.

In the past I also experimented with paid advertising by promoting posts on Instagram. It was good to get the picture exposed to others that wouldn’t have found the page on their own, but I wouldn’t say there was a great deal of gain from that, other than likes. Maybe I’ll try this again when I come up with the improvements I'm planning.

How do you market your product?

I use social media a lot. Mainly Instagram, but with Twitter and a Facebook page linked for ease. Most communications come from instagram though. I try to have new content to post every few days, whether it's a past post or something new. I often post Instagram Stories, sharing things I have been tagged in or other stuff I'm interested in. I will always try and share items from other makers too. The online maker community is a great place to be.

SkateReclaimCreate coffee tamper and portafilter

To gain more visibility and engagement, I sometimes like to run giveaways like when hitting a follow milestone. It’s a great thing to get more exposure.

Social media is a great platform for getting your items out there, but you will always see another 100 making the same thing. Try not to get wrapped up in what everyone else is making. It can get stressful trying to keep up with others.

How do you keep your customers happy and returning?

I always try and give everyone a personal experience. 99% of the time it’s a custom order, so we can discuss how things will be made, timescales etc. I’ll then add a card with a personal thank you message that’s handwritten, and some custom stickers.

I try to be as ethical as i can when it comes to packaging. I like to reuse any packaging I have. If I buy packaging, then it needs to be something that can be used again and isn’t just going to go to landfill. A good method for packaging the tampers is a steel tin filled with shredded paper or wood shavings.

What do you recommend to others who want to start a handcrafting business?

I don’t think I would really do anything different other than try not to accept every request that I got. Learning how to say no is important, and sometimes you have to do it to keep your own sanity.

You need to always try and enjoy it. Always focus on that. If it stops being fun then why do it?

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