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    Make a Skateboard

    more on woodworking safety

    Tools and Materials

    How to Make

    Cruising on a longboardclick to enlargeFoot view

    Cruising on a longboard: The longboard is a distant cousin of the standard short skateboard, and has grown in popularity over the years with riders from California to New York City. As I've discovered, crafting a skateboard (especially out of a kit) is a fun, relatively inexpensive way to introduce anyone to woodworking.

    Cruising on a longboardclick to enlarge

    Skateboarding lessons: I built more than 50 skateboard decks before coming upon the Roarockit kit, which includes all the tools and materials required to craft a genuine skateboard deck. The operation is founded on a hand-pump vacuum press system known as the Thin Air Press. The remaining components included in the kit are: seven sheets of hard Canadian maple veneer (five long grain and two cross grain for true plywood construction), a Styrofoam bending form, a 20-mil thick plastic veneer bag with a simple valve, and a plastic hand pump similar to the ones you can pick up at a wine shop for removing the air from opened wine bottles. It also came with glue and a roller, rubber gloves, sand paper, and a file,

    Cruising on a longboardclick to enlargeApply the glue

    Apply the glue: Directions for making the skateboard deck fit on a single piece of paper, which is a clear indication of how easy this kit is to assemble. In three stages, the maple veneers are laminated against the foam bending form in the vacuum bag, giving it a concave shape along its length and width. Working quickly, apply an even coat of glue with a roller to one side of each maple veneer.

    Cruising on a longboardclick to enlargeVeneer work

    Assemble the veneers: When the glue is applied, stack the veneers and place them on the foam bending form. A nail driven through the truck holes aligns all the veneers so they stay put as the glue dries.

    Cruising on a longboardclick to enlargeWrap the veneers

    Wrap it: A mesh wrapper helps keep the veneers together and allows air to travel through the bag.

    Cruising on a longboardclick to enlargeBag it

    Bag it: Insert the form into the veneer bag and seal the end.

    Cruising on a longboardclick to enlargeRemove the air with a hand pump

    Pump it: The Thin Air Press vacuum bag works with a hand pump. It takes about one minute to get the air out. Any longer and you should check for air leaks.

    Cruising on a longboardclick to enlargeProblem solving

    Troubleshooting: There are only a few things that can go wrong with a glue-up. One is air pockets. But these can be easily fixed by slicing open the pocket with a utility knife and injecting glue, then pressing it back together with a clamp or in the veneer bag. However, if you closely follow the directions for glue application, air pockets can be avoided.

    Cruising on a longboardclick to enlargeMarquetry

    Customize your deck: For most skateboarders, the graphics featured on the underside of their deck is a personal statement. Roarockit offers a variety of graphics with their kits that the kids will surely endorse, but I decided to create my own with a decorative marquetry design that would show off my other hobby. Marquetry is an image or design in wood that is made up of colorful veneers taped together like puzzle pieces. Once taped into a single sheet, the marquetry veneer is laminated to the underside of the skateboard deck using the same vacuum bag technique described above. With some final sanding and several coats of an oil/varnish mix, the board was ready to ride.

    Cruising on a longboardclick to enlarge

    Install the hardware: You'll need to buy trucks, bolts, risers, bearings, wheels, and grip tape to finish up your board. Combined these pieces can cost upwards of $100. They can be purchased online or at a local board or sporting good shop. If you're a first-time buyer, I suggest you consult with the store when placing your order. When installing the hardware, there is only one real requirement: that the trucks and wheels line up. On the Roarockit kits, this isn't a problem because the company pre-drills the four-hole pattern for the trucks in each sheet of veneer.

    Teach a skater to woodwork: Over the last decade I've met several people like me who enjoy woodworking and making custom skateboard decks. I've also seen how this project can turn an unwitting young skateboarder into a woodworker. Roarockit sponsors deck building workshops around the U.S. and Canada and has introduced woodworking to a lot of young people. I have a special appreciation for this when I think about the decreasing number of industrial education programs in public schools, which used to play a huge role in getting the word out about woodworking. So even if you're not ready to hop on a skateboard, you might consider trying out a Roarockit kit with someone who is and introducing a skateboarder to woodworking.