I've been longboarding on and off for years, and not too long ago it occurred to me that the reason i wasn't skating more was that my longboard was a bit of a big bulky pain in the arse to carry around if i skated down to go shopping in town, or went out to the pub on it. I considered buying a small retro cruiser, had a quick look at how much they cost (blimey) and decided to make one for myself! It ended up being *much* cheaper than buying a new one, plus i got all the pride of making something shiny.
Step 1: What You'll Need
Skateboard - modern style double kicktail trick board
trucks - standard shortboard trucks that i got with the board wheels - i used penny wheels as they're soft and cheap (after a month or two I swapped these with the Abec 11 70s Flashbacks, 70mm, 78a duro from my other skateboard. I *love* those wheels)
bearings - bought a new set of the cheapest from my local skate shop.
bushings - mine were ok, didn't have to buy new ones
varnish - i used something like this - see below for more detail: http://www.maxwellsdiy.com/painting-decorating-c3...
Of the stuff you buy, try and buy as much as possible of this from your local skate shop. They're generally good for advice for good gear and good skate spots, plus if you ask nicely they'll give you stickers! Woo, stickers! Conversely if they're rude dickheads, loudly and politely tell them so, and take your money elsewhere. There's no need to reward bad service.
Sandpaper in a variety of roughnesses: 80,120,180,240,400,800,1200, although you only totally need just 80, 240, 800
Half round file
Screwdriver/allenkeys for truck bolts
stanley knife (aka craft knife)
You don't need power tools for this, but they will save you a bit of work. I did a lot of the work on this at Newcastle Maker Space http://www.makerspace.org.uk/ where there are workbenches, powertools and space to get dirty. Have a look, there might be one in your town!
Step 2: Get the Bits
So, either you own a skateboard that you want to modify or you don't have one yet. if you do, woohoo, you're halfway there! If not, old skateboards are pretty easy to get. Ebay, Gumtree, Freecycle and Craigslist have them come up all the time. I used the android app "Local Ebay Deals Finder" which scans ebay listings in your local area that are pickup only. Most of the time these go a lot cheaper as people are too lazy to go get them. I got a total bargain, paying £10 for two decks, two and a half pairs of trucks and some wheels.
Take the skateboard apart. Make sure you stick all the hardware in the same place, so you don't lose any of it. Ziplock bags are pretty good for this, but any old ice cream tub, cardboard box etc will do fine as long as it's not going to get disturbed or anything.
Take off the manky old grip tape. You don't have to if the grip is nice, but I recommend it. Griptape is pretty harsh on saw blades and it'll be harder to get a nice finish.
Step 3: Mark Out Your Cuts
Mark out your cut lines. I almost totally removed one kicktail to reduce the length (i chose the most splintered/broken end) and cut some big honking wheel cutouts, to avoid wheel bite. These turned out to be far too large, especially for the Penny wheels (and the 70s flashbacks) and I'd probably make them around half the depth next time. The wheel wells were semicircles (50mm radius) made using a compass, measuring across from the middle of the truck bolts and centred on the edge of the board. Mark the bits you're going to cut out to avoid sawing mistakes. The front curve was made by folding a piece of paper in half, sketching the curve i wanted, cutting it out and using the unfolded bit of paper as a template.
For each of these next steps, please wear safety glasses. if the job is noisy or dusty, wear ear protection (i.e. ear plugs) or a dust mask too. You'll look bloody stupid when you've made an fantastic skateboard, and you're smashing into things because you permanently scratched the surface of your eyes by getting a load of sawdust into them, and you won't ever be able to see more than 9 feet away ever again. Same goes for listening with music with hearing damage and coughing continually due to dust in the lungs (spoiler: they both suck).
Step 4: Cutting to Shape
Use a bandsaw or a jigsaw to cut out the bits you want gone. You could use an handsaw, it'll take a little more time, but you can still do it. If you're not too precise with a saw, you can cut well inside of the line and rasp, or sand (using a rough i.e. 80 paper) back to the line. Takes a bit more time, but you can get your cutouts nice and precise this way. It always makes it easier and safer if the board is firmly clamped to a bench or table, as it doesn't jump around and try and bite the saw.
Check the trucks you have fit the hole pattern on the board. Mine didn't for some odd reason (and longboard trucks almost certainly won't fit shortboard hole pattern), so you'll have to drill new holes. You could also do this if you wanted to increase the wheelbase of the board, which will make it a bit more stable at high speeds, but a bit less turny. I bolted the truck onto the board, using the two holes that were the same, and used the truck base as a guide for the drill bit so I got the holes in the right place. Use a countersink or a big drill on the top of the board to countersink the holes. If you're using domehead bolts, don't bother to countersink! If the previous holes are visible, use some of the sawdust you made cutting the board out, mixed with a bit of woodglue to form a putty which works really well to fill in any holes or cracks there might be in the board. Don't worry if the putty potrudes out of the hole, as it gets sanded back later.
Step 5: Sanding.
Use sandpaper, a scraper or a power sander to remove all the old paint, stickers and other crap from the bottom, top and sides of the board. Again, clamping it down makes this a lot easier, quicker and safer. If you have old clothes, wear them for this. It gets messy. Use a rasp, file or sandpaper to radius (round off) the cut edges so they're the same smooth curve as the rest of the board.
Now comes the fun bit! Sanding the board until it is amazingly smooth and pretty. Use a selection of grades of sandpaper, going from rough to smooth to make the board all pretty. I went from 80 -> 120 -> 180 -> 400 -> 800 -> 1200. Cut each sheet into quarters and use a sanding block (mine is just a bit of wood about half the width of the quarter sheet of paper). This gives you a flatter surface and saves your hands from crippling pain. If you have a power sander you can use it for the first few roughnesses, but i prefer doing the finer sanding by hand. I didn't spend much time making the top of the board smooth as it was going to be hidden under the griptape, so I only used up to the 120 grip on the top. This bit can take an hour or two, or even longer, depending on how smooth you're trying to get it. I recommend doing it while watching longboarding films on Infinity List, or listening to the Tested.com podcast "Still Untitled"! When it's so luvverly and smmoooovvveee you could slide a newborn baby down it, wipe it all down with a damp cloth to remove all the dust left over from the sanding.
Step 6: Varnishing
Now to make it shiny, as well as smooth. Depending on how the wood looks now it's all sanded down, you could paint it or stain it (the first longboard i made looked beautiful with a light blue woodstain). I left this one the natural plain pale wood with the lovely grain that it turned out to have beneath the rancid old exterior.
I varnished it with many coats of water based quick drying varnish. (I only gave the top two or three coats as it was going to be protected under the griptape) The benefit of water based varnish is that it dries quickly without a strong solventy smell, which is great for when you're working in your house. It also lets you clean the brushes quickly and easily with water. However, it didn't set particularly hard, so the first few times i went out in the rain it got quite tacky. Apparently water based varnish doesn't like getting wet. Who knew? I solved this by giving the bottom and sides of the board a couple of thin coats of automotive spray can clear coat, which sealed it nicely. Before you do this, give a quick spray on a bit of varnish that's going to get covered over, in case the spray makes the varnish go nasty. I think if I did it again I'd use yacht varnish, which dries much harder, and also can be polished up to a really *really* nice shine. It's bulletproof! It does however take a whole lot longer to dry, smells bad when drying (unless you like very strong solvent smells in your house), and is a pain to clean out of brushes. You need fairly nasty solvents such as white spirit to do it and they're pretty environmentally nasty. Also, careful you don't accidentally get varnish with woodstain in it as it'll stain your board right up.
Step 7: Griptape
Once it's all dried, The griptape goes on. Roughly cut the tape to length (leave a generous overhang on all sides as the board will be cambered, and it's quite annoying when you've cut it too small). Make sure it's all lined up. You can tape one end of the tape to a table or bench to make it easier to get the tape aligned properly. Getting a friend to help makes a big difference at this point, as griptape is a dog to pull back off once it's stuck to something. Peel a few inches off from the underneath and stick the start of the grip tape down as you slowly pull the tape off from underneath. Slowly work down the board doing this. I've found this way tends to give wrinkle free results.
Trimming the tape to the edges of the board is best done with a file. If you file the tape against the board at the right angle it neatly cuts the excess tape of with a neat smooth edge. It takes a little practise, so if you've never done it before , practise on a wood offcut with a scrap bit of griptape. If you've never seen it before and ask nicely, the staff at your local skate shop might demonstrate for you. Poke through the truck holes with a small screwdriver or other pokey thing. If the holes were countersunk, use the countersink on the griptape to clear the hole of griptape.
Step 8: The Ride...
Time to put all board back together. Now is an ideal time to clean and lube your bearings. When you put the bearings back in definitely use bearing spacers and speed washers. These let you clamp down the wheel nuts nice and tight without distorting your bearings, so that you get the full benefit of all that well-lubed bearingy goodness when you ride! Make sure you've put the trucks on the right way round. I forgot to. It hurt a lot. If your trucks were previously setup as a stiff kickflip/grind weapon for the technical tricks, you might want to get softer bushings.
Now go ride it like you built it, and let the love roll in!
For me, this is the shortest and thinnest board i'd ever ridden, and it took a little getting used to (My main board is a Z-Flex pool deck with Randall 180s and Abec 11 70s Flashbacks 70mm 78a). It's great! Turny and manoeuvrable, but still has a nice carve to it. It's been perfect as a commuter rider, and is perfect for burning round the town. It slides quite nicely too! (I wouldn't drop any big hills on it, mind). Bring on the gnar!
No,Ii can't believe i said "Bring on the gnar" either.