One of the most rewarding activities a skater can take part in is building their first custom skateboard. When you build your own skateboard, it gives you an opportunity to customize all the skateboard parts and assemble everything for a more personal ride.
You’ll get to fine-tune the axle and make sure all the nuts, bolts, and all your parts are above the industry standard. If you’re somewhat mechanically inclined, this building process will probably come easy.
If you’re not used to assembling things or working on skateboards, you might need a little help. Don’t worry; we’ve got everything you need in this guide to make sure you’ve got our skateboard parts ready.
Table of Contents
Why Would You Build Your Own Skateboard?
What’s the point in assembling a custom skateboard if you can just buy one already made? Isn’t it a lot easier to go get one that’s already put together and ready to ride?
Yes, it would be easier to do things that way. However, sometimes the easiest method isn’t always the most rewarding or satisfying.
Assembling your own board, starting with the skateboard deck and building it out from there, is very rewarding. When you’re finished, the final product is created with your own hands. It’s something you can show off and be very proud of.
There are also other technical and mechanical benefits to building a skateboard. These are some of the main reasons it might be worth it to fashion your own board.
· You know exactly what went into making your board. Every working piece was assembled by you, so you have a better feel for how the board should operate.
· If something goes wrong, you automatically have a better idea of how to fix it.
· It’s an impressive feat that can be a good conversation starter at the skate park.
· You can customize the board to your specifics and get it ready for any style of riding. (street skating, longboarding, cruising, etc.)
Clearly, it can be well worth it to take on the task of putting your own skateboard together. There are two different routes you can take to assembling your board. The first method includes buying an already-made skateboard deck (minus the grip tape) and all the separate components (including nuts and bolts). You’ll use a skateboard tool to put everything together.
If you want to get really intricate, you can use raw wood to assemble the deck too. Before we get into riser pads, wheels, bearings, and trucks, we’re going to show you how to create the deck. You could also learn more here about the anatomy of a skateboard.
Building a Skateboard Deck
Skateboard decks are made with 6 to 9 layers of pressed plywood. Typically, the deck ends up with a thickness of about 10mm.
When you add or subtract a layer of wood, it changes the way the board functions. Changes in weight and flexibility will substantially alter the skating properties of the board. Keep this in mind when you build your deck.
To completely manufacture your own deck, you’ll need veneers, deck glue, a skateboard mold, and a press. The mold is made from concrete or aluminum and is placed in the press to help shape the board.
Veneers are pieces of sanded and unsanded plywood arranged in layers that form the deck. There is no grip tape on blank veneers. When you’re done, you’ll need to add your own grip tape. The way these pieces are arranged dictates the weight and flexibility of the deck. This is a typical arrangement:
This configuration can change slightly, depending on how many layers are being used. For this example, we will be using seven layers.
Gluing the Deck
Place the sanded part of the face veneer on the ground. The unsanded side should be facing up; this is the side that will receive the glue. Place the glue on the unsanded side, and place a center layer on top of the face. Repeat the process for the other six layers using the configuration above. When you’re finished, the final face veneer should have the sanded side facing up.
Pressing the Deck
After the glue is applied, you’re ready to press the deck. The amount of time it takes to press the board depends on the strength of press you are using.
For example, if you are using a press that can put out 28 tons of pressure, you can have the board molded in about 2 hours. However, if you are using a 5-ton hydraulic press, the wood will need to stay in the mold for 24 hours.
After allowing ample time for the board to mold and press, remove it and set it in a dry area. Give the deck 24 hours to cure after removing it from the press.
Rounding, Shaping, and Cutting
You’ll need to use a mini-router to round the deck and give it its trademark radiused edges. The amount of radius should be about 3/6″. After rounding the edges, use a sander to smooth the top and bottom of the deck more. Make sure you sound the wood to a flat surface. It needs to be smooth so the grip tape will stick efficiently.
We’ve found the best way to cut and shape the board is by using an older deck as a template. Trace the deck onto your uncut blank using a pencil. Use a bandsaw or a jigsaw to cut the shape into the new deck.
Use a tack cloth to remove the excess sawdust. This works very well to get the board clean; you won’t want any residue left behind before you seal it.
Sealing the Deck
Use a high-quality lacquer to seal the finished deck. Before applying the lacquer, make sure there are no foreign objects on the surface.
After allowing 24-hours to dry, you can apply whatever graphics you want on the deck. You can use paint, screen printing, or whatever you have access to.
Finally, when your graphics are done, you’ll need one final coat on the board. Use the lacquer from before to put one more seal-coat on the board, and you’re good to go. Make sure the lacquer dries completely before you add your grip tape in the next section. The surface should be free of any imperfections or inconsistencies. You don’t want any raised areas when you apply the grip tape. Now it’s time for your build-out.
Building Your Custom Skateboard
Now that the deck is all finished, you can install all the components. This is the skateboard hardware you need to build custom skateboards:
· Grip tape
· Skateboard trucks
· Nuts and bolts (truck bolts)
· Skate tool (a socket wrench or allen wrench will work too)
· Razor blade
You can get the bushings if you want, but those can also be purchased later if you aren’t sure what type you want to use yet. It’s up to you which skateboard brands to use.
Riser pads are also optional. You should only use riser pads if you have short trucks.
Assuming you have all the skateboard parts, let’s get ready to build a skateboard.
1. Grip Tape
Apply grip tape to the deck you just created. Make sure you lay the grip tape evenly, using a razor blade to cut the edges when you hit the end of the deck.
After removing the air bubbles, use the razor blade to go around the edge of the deck to slice the excess grip tape.
Excess tape makes the board look tacky, so make sure it doesn’t overlap the edges of the skateboard.
2. Punch Holes for the Skateboard Trucks
Pop holes through the grip tape and skateboard for where the bolts will go. There are eight holes drilled for fastening the skateboard trucks to the skateboard.
Using nuts and bolts, secure the trucks to the deck with a socket wrench. Using a socket wrench instead of power tools is a better idea. Tightening the nuts and bolts too much will put stress fractures in the deck and cause it to crack. Overtightening can also ruin the grip tape.
The kingpin nuts should be close together, facing each other in the middle. If you put them toward the outside, the board won’t move properly, and you’ll be in trouble. You can adjust the tightness of the trucks by turning the kingpin counterclockwise if you need to.
3. Skateboard Bearings and Wheels
Fit the bearings into the wheels using the axle. You’ll need two bearings for each wheel. If you bought the balls separately, you’d need a bearing press to make the bearing itself. These instructions assume the bearings are already put together.
Whatever you do, don’t use a hammer to insert the skateboard bearings into the wheels. Don’t attempt to bang the bearings into the wheels with anything. The skateboard bearings are not designed to take a heavy force like a hammer, and you will break them.
The easiest way to do this is to let the bearing slide down the axle until it stops. Tilt one of the wheels slightly and slide it over one bearing. Push down, and it will pop into place. Do the same thing with the second bearing. Continue doing this to all the wheels and bearings until each component is assembled.
Make sure the trucks are where you want them before finalizing the skateboard wheels. Use a speed-ring washer to put the wheels on the axles. Tighten the axle nuts gradually, but don’t over tighten them. The perfect amount of torque will make sure they continue to spin freely. Use your skate tool to tighten the washers and nuts. Alternatively, you can use the socket wrench or allen wrench.
After finishing the washer and axle nuts on one half, move to the other side and install the second washer. Repeat the process until the wheels are spinning the way you want them.
Congratulations, your new skateboard is done. Now drop that deck, plant your feet on the grip tape and take it for a test ride.
Key Points to Remember When You Build a Skateboard
1. Use plenty of grip tape on the first step. There’s nothing wrong with using two layers, but anything more than this will weigh the board too heavily. Make sure you cut away all the extra grip tape, so it doesn’t snag and cause you to wreck. If you plan on doing technical skating, get the grittiest grip tape you can find. Grittier grip tape allows your feet to stick to the board better when you’re doing tricks.
2. Don’t use any power tools when you go through the building process. This can put too much pressure on your board, and it will ruin the entire setup. You will have to start over from scratch if anything cracks or breaks.
3. Don’t rush the process. We know you’re excited to test the board out, but slow and steady wins the race. You want to make sure everything is set up perfectly before you move to the next step. Make a skateboard checklist to be sure you covered all the important parts.
After you test ride the board, go back and tighten or loosen everything accordingly. Have your skate tool ready if you need to make adjustments. You might have to adjust the nuts and bolts, but don’t be alarmed. This is normal if you want the board to be as responsive as you’d like. Make sure the grip tape feels right under your feet.
Here are some final tips that should help you with your board customization.
Final Board Customization Tips
Set a final budget for your skateboard project. It can be easy to go overboard when you’re assembling your own skateboard. Whatever the final figure is, don’t go over it, regardless of what happens. The money factor can quickly get out of hand when you’re working on a project like this. Don’t allow your wallet to start hemorrhaging.
2. Be Sure of the Size and Shape
You need to be very sure of the size and shape of the skateboard. The length, width, thickness, and other measurements need to be concrete before you put a blade to the wood. Remember, once you make that first cut, there’s no going back.
Give this portion of the project the most thought because you’ll be stuck with the final product for a while. It’s not cheap to design and build your own board, so we doubt you’ll be doing another one soon.
3. Plan Where You’ll Be Skating
Try to think ahead of where you’ll be doing the most skating. We know that you won’t always use the same spot, but you should have a general idea of where you’ll use the board the most. This will help decide all your parts and their characteristics, such as harder wheels, longboard wheels, and other specific elements of how you’d like to build the design out.
4. Get Help If You Need It
If all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is a very important project you are taking on, and you need to make sure it’s done right.
When something is bothering you, like the measurement or placement of a certain part, stop what you’re doing and contact someone who can help. You will be a lot happier, in the end, doing it this way instead of forcing your way to a solution.
5. Plan Your Graphics Carefully
Plan the graphics portion of your board carefully, and don’t rush through them. Choose a design that’s personal to you to make the board special. Maybe you can use initials or a certain date that means something.
Whatever it is, you should plan carefully and ensure the graphics are something you will be satisfied with. If you aren’t the most artistic person, contract someone to take care of the graphics for you. This will garner a much better end result instead of a crappy drawing on an otherwise awesome board.
There’s nothing more disappointing than building a great board mechanically but having it disappoint visually. Don’t underestimate this portion of your project.
Don’t forget you can also customize your wheels. You can buy blank wheels and some powdered dye. Dip the wheels in whatever colored dye you want and you can have them match your skateboard graphics.
Building a custom board is a serious project to take on. It can even be intimidating to someone who’s not familiar with building or assembling things with their own hands.
One last-minute tip we have for you would be to practice first. Use some old pieces of plywood and do a practice run that won’t cost you if you break it and throw it away. Likewise, this is a good idea for playing around with the graphics too.
Be sure of yourself in every cut part of the board you fashion and take your time. Taking an extra moment when you’re unsure can leave you with a finished product you can be proud of.