A bit of history on Mervin Manufacturing – Lib Tech and Gnu
05 Oct, 2010
Some Mervin history and board building blah blah some dude wrote about Mervin for a Scandinavian Book:
They wanted it loose ‘Mervin style” and asked how a snowboard is made and for a bit of how Mervin got started.
How to make a good snowboard by Mervin Manufacturing.
There are many definitions of a good snowboard…every human is shaped differently, has different riding styles, muscle make-up/fitness, ideas on what should be done on a snowboard and how it should be done. We started the simplest way possible, we built boards for ourselves to ride. Mike is tall so he built long ones and am a little shorter so I built some that fit me. We built them ourselves so we wanted to use the safest non toxic resins and materials possible. We didn’t have any money, so we wanted to be as efficient with material usage as possible… no waste. We both grew up in the Northwest corner of the USA in the 70s during the first wave of environmentalism (solar, wind, electric power was big and the gas crisis hit, love canal and 3 mile island all made an impact on us). Skiing and mountaineering parents were also a factor, we wanted to use sustainable low environmental impact materials in the boards right from the beginning.
So back to making a good snowboard…you have to gather up all the materials…if you are doing it DIY this can be a bit difficult because a lot of the materials are not really for sale in small quantities or to consumers. Mike is really good at sourcing materials. He has a photographic memory and has the patience to spend weeks on the internet and phone comparing pricing, strength properties and safety data on endless different woods, fiberglasses, resins etc. If you can trick a supplier into thinking you are a big company you can often get samples for free…sometimes enough to last for years! Once we have nailed down the materials we think we want to use, ordering up some sample materials is a go…Mike tests all the resins, glass, and wood in house…sometimes what you read on the internet isn’t really what is going on. First hand testing is a must…you need to work on your recipe…how much of what glass you need with what thickness of woodcore and resin you want to have the right strength and flex properties…trial and error is usually the go here. You need to establish a starting point….build a board with the same recipe and change one variable at a time until you get the flex etc. right. Now you are ready to go…test it. Build, ride, refine, build, ride, refine, build, ride, refine…
• One highly skilled acton hero craftsman.
• One Banana “rocker between your feet”
• Two cambers located at each end of your board.
• One Beans Top sheet made from Bio-polymers and sublimated so you don’t need toxic clear coats that make
other boards shiny but cause cancer.
• Steel edges, tucked in and custom tempered at the tip and tail for flex
• UHMW Plastic tip and tail bumpers for light swing weight and excellent impact resistance. (Car bumpers are
plastic…steel is heavy…don’t ride a board with steel around the tips…you have a choice)
• Sintered base material sublimated so you can recycle the scraps (no epoxy inks)
• One vertically laminated wood core built with fast growing farmed eco timbers
• Rubber foil to keep the steel edges damp quiet and bonded.
• UHMW sidewalls…tough rugged fast and a Mervin first
• Stainless steel inserts…never pull out or rust.
• Basalt Fiber: tougher than kevlar, stronger than carbon and environmentally friendly. Made from volcanoes!
• Lib Tech Skate Banana Wax made by One Ball Jay
• Handbuild Near Canada in the USA at Mervin MFG. The world’s most environmental snowboard company.
How Mervin was started.
Mike Olson built his first snowboard in 1977 in junior highschool shop class…he waxed it with as special wax he was gifted by a friend…turned out to be Klyster warm weather crosscountry ski wax and tried to slide…it didn’t work. So he thought snowboards didn’t work.
A few years later he tried again and this time he waxed right and realized he could surf and skate the snow.
As other boards began to show up at local resorts Mike realized his designs worked better than the board other companies were building. He thought maybe he was onto something.
Mike built boards in a garage under the name “DP Gravity Harness no Guarantee” and then “Gnu”.
Mike asked me to help him in 1984 and we both dropped out of college to build Gnus in a horse barn.
We built Gnus until 1988 when our distributor decided not to pay us and started Nitro snowboards instead…they asked us if wanted to join them…we decided it wasn’t for us. Our distributor left us $300,000.00 in debt and so we started Mervin Manufacturing named after our surfer friend and built boards under the name Lib Tech(our underground skateboard brand).
Every board had a skeleton graphic on it….this was when skeletons were dead and the skateboard world was all happy with brands like New Deal. We worked with the bank and payed all our suppliers extra for every material until we payed them back. We have been building boards as Mervin Manufacturing ever since…These days we are still pretty much the same as we were back then: a hands on board building shop. We have been a part of Quiksilver for about 12-13 years now and they have been really good to us through tough times in the industry and when things have been good. We have an incredible factory where we build all our own tools and presses, our crew is talented and experienced and we have access to all kinds of materials to make toys with and our favorite thing is to build things and go out and ride them. Skateboards, Surfboards, Snowboards and NAS. I think we make the world’s best skateboards, NAS, Snowboards and Mike is working on Surfboards that are pretty strong, environmental and incredible now…the surfboards should be coming out soon.
We have had some fun innovations over the past decade and it has been fun to be able to improve board sports and make things better for everyone. Magne-Traction serrated edges work great on the Snowboards and NAS.
Leading the way with rocker technology has been incredible…Banana Tech and C2 Banana Tech were fun projects to create. The surfboards are going to be awesome!
We have been able to work with some incredibly creative and great riders over the years: Jamie Lynn, Jacob Wilhemson, Travis Rice, Markku and Hampus, Eric Jackson, Sammy Luebke, Jesse Burtner, Danny Kass, Barrett Christy, Matt and Temple Cummins, Math Crepel, Zack Leach, Kaitlyn Ferrington, Torah Bright, Erin Comstock Blair Habenicht…etc. All these riders have helped us develop technologies and test their validity at the highest level of freeride, dork jib fun or competition. Now days our process is very refined and we have a huge base of knowledge to draw from when we design boards for other people’s needs from pros to first time riders.
Ride a Banana!