You might be riding skateboards regularly, but do you really know how skateboards are made? Surprisingly, making a skateboard is not as difficult as most people make it out to be, but it sure does have a lot of processes involved.
You may even be amazed at how much work goes into making a skateboard that looks rather simple on the outside. This article would give you basic and detailed steps to make skateboards.
I promise you’ll have a better understanding of the different parts of your skateboard, as well as how skateboards came to be, included in this article. More so, shouldn’t you be curious about how some of your favorite skateboard brands create their boards? Sit tight, let’s dig in!
- Understanding Your Skateboard
- Brief History of the Skateboard
- Basic Materials Required
- The Manufacturing Process
- Professional Skateboards
- Home-made Skateboards
- 1. Purchase 7-9 pieces of 30” × 10” wood
- 2. Apply evenly spread wood glue on each board
- 3. Place your deck on the mold and tape them together
- 4. Seal the mold containing your wood in a vacuum bag
- 5. Suction out as much air as you can with an air pump
- 6. Leave the board in the vacuum bag for a minimum of 8 hours before removal
- 7. Gently remove the mold from the vacuum bag
- 8. Outline the shape of an old board onto your wood with a pencil or marker
- 9. Use a jigsaw to cut your board out
- 10. Sandpaper your board
- 11. Use an old board to drill holes for the trucks
- 12. Design your board as you like
- Assembling Your Skateboard
Understanding Your Skateboard
A skateboard is a small piece of wood similarly shaped to a surfboard with four wheels attached to it. A skateboard can only allow for one rider at a time, and the rider is expected to guide the board’s movement with his/her feet.
While some people majorly use their skateboards as a means of transportation over short distances in their city, others use them to perform tricks and stunts as a form of recreational sport.
The basic components of a skateboard are:
Deck: The deck is the actual board. It is typically made of wood and has a defined nose and tail with a little concave at its middle. An average skateboard deck is about 32 inches long, 8 inches wide and less than 0.5 inches thick. The deck also has a sandpaper-like material called grip tape, attached to it.
Trucks: This is the metallic component of the skateboard that houses the axle and attaches the wheels.
Wheels: Skateboard wheels are usually made of polyurethane, and a wide variety of wheels are available for different board types. The average size is usually about 1.3 to 1.5 inches wide.
Other parts of the skateboard include:
Bearings: Bearings allow your wheels to roll smoothly. They usually come in either steel or ceramic. While steel bearings are standard, ceramic bearings have less friction and are more durable. However, the latter is costlier than its steel counterparts. You will need 8 of them.
Hardware: This is simply a collection of 8 screws and 8 bolts needed to assemble your skateboard.
While nearly all skateboards have similar components and characteristics, their dimensions could differ slightly based on use. While some skateboards are built for speed, others could be built for freestyle.
Brief History of the Skateboard
Though there is no confirmed evidence, it is believed that skateboard-like apparatuses have been in existence as early as the 1900s. Then, there were no wheels and people would simply glide across surfaces.
It wasn’t until the early 1940s that people started attaching wheels gotten from roller skates or scooters to boards, so they could ride them like skateboards. In the late 1950s, California hockey players started using plywood for their boards rather than steel or aluminum, which were becoming too expensive at the time.
Soon after, skateboarders from Australia began experimenting with how long and wide these new skateboards should be. The first recognizable skateboard that was ever made, however, dates back to 1963.
A man from Southern California named George Powell, with the help of his son, Alan Powell, designed the first skateboard with polyurethane wheels. George’s company was called Powell Manufacturing, which later changed to Powell Peralta in the 1970s.
Today, there are hundreds of different skateboard brands that have improved the process that George started, with several shapes and sizes of skateboards now available.
Basic Materials Required
The materials used in skateboard manufacturing could vary, depending on the type of skateboard being produced or how the deck is shaped. However, the basic materials needed to create a complete skateboard are relatively the same.
Skateboard decks are typically made of wood (mostly maple), but some are made of fiberglass, composites, or other artificial materials. Some could likewise be made of other wooden materials (not maple), like plywood or bamboo.
Skateboard trucks are usually made of metal materials like aluminum, brass, steel, or some other alloy. The wheels are made of polyurethane, which is a synthetic rubber polymer.
The Manufacturing Process
- The selected piece of maple wood undergoes a treatment that results in it being peeled into thin sheets (veneers), and these sheets are then delivered to a deck manufacturing company. The wood must be stored in a climate-controlled environment to ensure that the moisture content is optimal, as too much moisture sometimes found in wood, is not ideal for the manufacturing process.
- Each veneer is then put into a glue machine manually. The function of the glue machine is to coat each veneer with water-based glue, that has been designed especially for wood.
- After being coated with glue, the veneers are given numbers and then stacked according to their grain and usefulness.
- The stacks are then put into a two-part mold inside a hydraulic press. The mold gives the deck its characteristic nose, concave, and tail feature.
- The stacks should be allowed to sit in the press for a few hours. However, the longer the time, the more perfectly the wood and glue set.
- After the now-formed deck is removed from the press, eight holes that would be used to mount the truck are drilled in place manually, with a drill rig.
- A shaper then takes the drilled deck and with the guidance of a previously made template, manually shapes the deck with a band saw.
- The deck is then sandpapered and coated with a paint or sealant. Now, it’s ready for screen printing.
- After the paint or sealant has dried up, a decorative design is imposed on the deck. Different colors can be painted with the aid of a custom screen printing machine.
- The deck is then dried and readied for shipment/assembling.
- Using either clay, plastic, or wood, a standard truck pattern is hand-tooled. This truck pattern is used to make a match plate, through which a sand mold is created. A sand mold utilizes sand as its basic mold material, typically clay and water.
- The mixture is packed around the match plate, and left to dry, after which the plate is removed.
- Aluminum bars are then heated in a furnace to about 708°C, which makes them molten. The molten aluminum is poured manually into the sand mold’s cavity. However, the sand mold should have all truck axles in place before the molten aluminum is poured in. Such pieces include the kingpin knob, riser pads, base plate, and pivot cup.
- The mold, now filled with molten aluminum, is then allowed to cool while its contents solidify.
- The sand mold is then broken and all the axles removed. The removed parts are treated at high temperatures, drilled, and polished.
- To wrap things up, the now formed metal truck is assembled with kingpins, nuts, brushing, and grommets, then prepared for shipment/assembling.
- Two polyurethane components are heated to liquid form and mixed together in a predetermined ratio in metering machines. This mixing can be done at varying temperatures depending on the wheel’s quality.
- While in this liquid state, if the wheels are to be colored, the pigment is poured in now. The resulting mixture is then poured into an aluminum mold and allowed to solidify.
- The resulting wheel is removed by hand and cut on a lathe. With a blade, the radius and riding surface is cut into the wheel.
- If the wheel is to be decorated, digital artwork is converted to film to make a print plate. The image on the print plate is then printed on the wheel with the aid of a silicon-pad machine.
- The wheels and then packed, and readied for shipment/assembling.
Yes, you read that right… Homemade Skateboards! You would agree that making a professional skateboard does seem a little complicated with all the technical terms and professional equipment required.
This video details how you can DIY build a skateboard with materials from the shop.
It would interest you to know, however, that you can build your own skateboard from the comfort of your home with 2-3 days of work. All you require is a basic knowledge of carpentry, a skateboard mold, a jigsaw, and a vacuum press to construct a deck.
With a little patience, you will have your skateboard hitting the park in no time. We would run through this process in 12 easy steps.
1. Purchase 7-9 pieces of 30” × 10” wood
As much as it may seem like so, skateboards are not made of a single piece of wood. Rather, several thin layers of wood (veneers) are glued, layered, and pressed together for prolonged periods to create a strong deck that can withstand the stress of riding.
The standard number required is 7 pieces of wood and after its construction, your deck should have a final thickness of about 10mm. For a more durable deck, we would recommend you purchase Canadian maple for your face pieces and Baltic Birch for your core pieces. These specialty woods would provide you with veneers thin enough to use.
2. Apply evenly spread wood glue on each board
Using a paint roller, spread a thin layer of wood glue on the bottom of your upper face sheet and top of your first core piece. Repeat this process until all seven pieces of wood adhere to one another.
3. Place your deck on the mold and tape them together
You can use masking tape to adhere your board to the skateboard mold. Alternatively, if you don’t have a mold, you can fit your wood in between two old decks of the same shape.
4. Seal the mold containing your wood in a vacuum bag
The bag must be completely airtight or the board will not mold perfectly.
5. Suction out as much air as you can with an air pump
It is advisable to have a friend nearby to help you hold the bag in place as you do this. You could also place a piece of mesh underneath the air pump, to allow the air to escape easily as you suction it out.
6. Leave the board in the vacuum bag for a minimum of 8 hours before removal
You could likewise leave the board to press for a full day, but you would need to check the bag regularly to ensure that it is still airtight. You might even need to suction out more air from time to time.
7. Gently remove the mold from the vacuum bag
You can do this without rendering your vacuum bag useless for future decks. Carefully open the bag to allow some air in before pulling the vinyl all the way, and sliding the mold out.
8. Outline the shape of an old board onto your wood with a pencil or marker
After removing your now-pressed deck from the mold, trace the shape of an old board out on it. This will be your guide to cutting out your new board.
9. Use a jigsaw to cut your board out
You should cut along the outline you traced to create your rough board. A band saw or scroll saw are good alternatives to a jigsaw. You could also use a coping saw but it would be more difficult.
10. Sandpaper your board
After cutting, your board would have roughened edges, so you would need fine sandpaper or grit paper to smoothen it out. The edges of your board should curve slightly (about 4-5mm) towards the wheels. A belt sander would do the trick.
11. Use an old board to drill holes for the trucks
To do this, you simply have to place an old deck over your new board and use a pencil to mark out the location of the holes. Use a straight drill to drill each hole and at the end, you should have 8 holes with two sets of four at each end.
12. Design your board as you like
Now that your deck is fully crafted, you can paint on some graphics and give your deck the custom design you dream of.
Assembling Your Skateboard
After either manufacturing/purchasing the three components of your skateboard (the deck, truck, and wheels), they must be put together.
A grip tape is needed to provide traction for the rider. It usually comes in a large rectangular sheet, often larger than the skateboard deck. It is smoothened out by hand over the board to get rid of any air bubbles.
The edge of the board is defined with a file and the excesses of the grip tape are removed with a knife or scissors. With a pointed object, the 8 truck holes are punctured through the grip tape and the mounting bolts are placed. The trucks are then installed and the bolts tightened.
A set of bearings are then placed on each of the four truck axles. The wheels are attached next, and the other set of bearings are put in the wheel. The wheels are then secured with washers and nuts, and voila! Your skateboard is now ready to roll.
We sure do hope this article provided the much-needed answers to the questions you had on how skateboards are made. Is there anything we missed out? Do let us know in the comments.