How do I Build a Skateboard?

Hillary Flynn

Skateboarding isn’t just a hobby--or even just a sport. It’s become a lifestyle, and those who partake in 50-50 grinds, ollies, and other precarious airborne maneuvers with what seems nothing more than a bit of wood and a few tiny wheels, take much pride in their sport. This pride extends to the vehicles that enable them to perform such nail biting feats. The truly committed want to fly on something unique, something that identifies them as “real” skateboarder. These skateboarders aren’t content to pull just any board off the shelf; they want to build a skateboard. They want special colors, exact sizes, and components customized for their particular body type and skill level.

Anyone can build a skateboard as long as they have an interest in creating a unique board.
Anyone can build a skateboard as long as they have an interest in creating a unique board.

Several companies offer kits for the enthusiast who wants to build a skateboard. These range from deck kits in a truly virgin state that require the crafter to glue individual sheets of wood veneer together, using a vacuum pump and pressing kit to squeeze, shape, and mold the deck to the exact specifications desired, to preformed decks that can be manipulated with files and other woodworking tools. In either case, to build a skateboard, certain supplies will be needed.

Skateboarding kits can be purchased.
Skateboarding kits can be purchased.

These include the deck, trucks (2), wheels (4), bearings (8), grip tape, and mounting hardware. Also required to build a skateboard are a skate key or 3/8 inch (1 cm) wrench, file, Phillips head screwdriver, and some sort of straight blade or knife. Once parts and tools are in hand, it’s time to begin work on the deck. Assuming the deck has been ordered preformed or is dry and ready to go after being pressed and molded by the skateboard crafter, the first item on the agenda is identifying the nose and tail. Preformed decks come with pre-drilled holes. Measure the distance from the holes to the tail and nose, and mark the longer as the nose. The next step taken to build a skateboard is application of the griptape.

Peel approximately two inches (5.08 cm) of adhesive backing from the shorter end of the griptape. Lay the long edge of the griptape against the long edge of the board, and when the alignment appears square, working very slowly down the board, peeling the backing and adhering the griptape to the board. Bubbles should be smoothed and worked out throughout the process. When the position is accurate, the griptape should be pressed into the wood and a wheel used to smooth any remaining bubbles or bumps by rolling it back and forth. Use a straight blade or knife to carefully trim the excess griptape from the edges, and use the file to smooth edges and prepare the board for the wheels.

Grab a truck axle and remove the nut. Slide a bearing onto the truck axle, and then place the wheel in position. Press the bearing into the wheel, and once the bearing and wheel are attached, remove them from the axle and repeat the process for the remaining three wheels. Remove the nuts and washers from each axle and begin attaching the wheels. The order will go washer, wheel with bearing, washer, and nut. Use the wrench to tighten to the desired specifications.

Finally, it’s time to mount the wheels. Poke the mounting bolts through the deck tape on the top of the board, then attach the trucks on the bottom, tighten with the bolts and the board is ready to go. The procedure is simple enough for anyone to build a skateboard as long as they have a bit of patience and interest in creating a unique board.

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