Introduction: How to Make the Perfect Longboard Deck
What is a longboard?
You may know the answer to this question or you may not; either way, I'm going to explain it to you. The longboard is one of the world's simplest means of transportation. A "deck," generally a flat piece of wood, attached to two hunks of metal, called "trucks" (why? The term actually relates back to British railroad cars which had an assembly of wheels, axles, bearings, and flexibility points that were termed "trucks"). Longboards are propelled by foot, like a scooter, and direction is changed by leaning to the left or right.
Why use a longboard?
Longboards are simple, easy to use, and fun to ride. Perfect for college students, businessmen (@caseyneistat), and everyone in between, long-boarding provides a fun and efficient way to get from place to place. Trust me, when you're running late to class and have to choose between a longboard and walking, you'll choose the longboard every time.
Why make a longboard?
While longboards are arguably the greatest creation since sliced bread, they can be very expensive. Often costing upwards of $250 for a 44" board, the price is too high for a piece of laminated wood and some metal. Making a longboard is significantly cheaper than buying one and allows you to customize it any way you want. Another aspect that few think about is the feeling of making something that you can use everyday. The pride and joy you experience by simply looking at it is immeasurable.
1. Longboards are easy to use and fun to ride
2. Making a longboard is cheaper than buying one
3. Longboards are fully customizable to meet your needs
4. You'll feel awesome after you do it
Now that you have a basic idea of what's going on, let's get going!
Step 1: Design Your Longboard
This process doesn't have to be any more complicated than "it's gotta be longer than it is wide"; however, the more thought you put in here the better the final product will be. Depending on the purpose of your board, you will want different characteristics. I implore you to do some research and read "The Longboard Glossary" (https://www.thelongboardstore.com/the-longboard-glossary/) and get a good idea of what you want.
You should consider the following:
- Purpose of the Board
- Turn Radius
- Flex of the Board
There are dozens of styles of longboards, but three styles are the most popular among the culture. Cruising Boards, Freestyle, and Downhill.
Often referred to as "cruisers", these boards are by far the most common and are mainly used for transportation. The turns radius of the board should be dependent on the environment. Shorter boards will give you a smaller turn radius, which can be useful for cities, while longer boards will be better for moving in straight lines but have a larger turn radius. These boards are often shaped after surfboards for a "pin-tail" effect and have a slight flex in them for comfort.
These boards are meant for one thing, going downhill at incredibly high speeds. The world record for speed on these boards is 91.17 miles per hour, so the board must be incredibly stable. To achieve this riders use a longer board that which drops down in the middle, called a "drop-down" or "drop-through" deck for research, and is incredibly stiff to reduce wobbling at high speeds.
Freestyle boards combine downhill with sliding; that's right, people will purposely lean off of these boards and slide over the ground. (I highly recommend researching this just because its cool) This ability is made possible by a medium size board with a moderate turn radius. These boards are often drop-through or drop-down in style and have some flexibility to break away from the pavement.
When researching keep in mind that the longboard will be supplemented by trucks and the wheels to create a one of a kind ride, and the quality of these components will matter just as much as the longboard's design.
I want a good cruising board with a lot of flexibility, so I have chosen to modify a pin-tail design. My goal is to create a board long enough to be stable while all also incorporating a squared-off tail that ramps up at the end. I am basing my design off of a small surfboard native to Hawaii but will be adding my own flair for fun.
Step 2: Acquire Materials
The required materials for this project are simple but will require a trip to Home Depot or a local hardware store. If you explain what your project is the employees will help you out and steer you in the correct direction when it comes to materials. I even needed to cut some wood down so that it would fit into an Uber and the employees were generous enough to do this for me in-store.
- Wood for the Jig
- Thin flexible veneers of wood which will eventually be a longboard
- Wood Glue
- Clamps, lots of clamps
We will be creating a Jig to form the longboard with, so we will need one piece of wood that is longer, thicker, wider, and significantly stronger than your intended board and some smaller strips of wood that are about one inch thick. This forming wood will depend on what you want your final result to be and will vary from project to project. Various screws are necessary to hold the pieces of forming wood together and wood glue will be used to laminate the board together. Any available weights or clamps will be used to hold the wood to the Jig, so acquire as many as possible from friends, family, or even strangers.
Along with these materials we will need wood for the longboard itself. This wood should be larger than you intend your final product to be, and very very thin. If possible, get several sheets of wood veneer which add up to your desired thickness. Wood veneers are very thin and flexible but when sheets are added together the board gets more and more stiff, so thickness will also relate to stiffness.
Step 3: Making the Jig
A longboard jig will be used to create the longboard; if used properly these jigs can be reshaped and reused in the future, so put some effort in here. The Jig's design will be dependent on the longboard, so the features in the Jig should reflect the desired characteristics of the longboard. These features will be created by using high and low spots. A high spot, wherever you want the board to raise up, will have extra wood between it and the jig's base, while a low spot will have nothing between it and the Jig.
I want my longboard to feature a large ramp at one end and concave along the entire board. In order to create the ramp I will add a large high spot to the end of the jig and concave will be acquired by adding high spots along the left and right edges of the board, and a low spot along the middle.
High spots will be physically created by screwing pieces of forming wood to the Jig's base, which is best achieved by cutting the forming wood to height and length, clamping the wood together, drilling a pilot hole, and then screwing a screw in place.
Step 4: Jig'n the Board
The simplest way to describe this step is to glue the wood veneers together and clamp them in the Jig. This process should be prepared for, executed, and then checked to ensure that nothing went wrong.
Start by laying out everything that you will need; the Jig, wood veneers, clamps, and glue should all be within reach. Then place two sheets of wood veneer next to each other and get ready to glue.
Once you have mentally prepared yourself, pour and spread an obscenely large amount of wood glue on both sheets and squish them together so that the sides with glue are touching. Make sure the glue is spread in an even layer across both pieces before pressing them together, otherwise there could be some air bubbles trapped in your board. Repeat this step until you have used all of your veneers and then place this bundle of joy onto the Jig. Once positioned properly, start clamping the veneers to the Jig at the low spots. I recommend using pieces of scrap wood between your clamps and the wood so that there is no damage in the final product.
This step has been done correctly when wood glue is oozing out from the edges of the veneers and you can see the longboard beginning to take shape. Take a look around the entire jig to make sure it is evenly clamped. Once you deem the wood to be in the proper place tighten each clamp a bit more and leave it to dry for at least 24 hours.
Step 5: Draw the Board Lines
After 24 hours you may remove the veneer collection from the Jig and it should remain in the shape that it had been in for the last day. Now begins the fun part of shaping the board. I am basing my design off of a small surfboard native to Hawaii and was able to print off a full size replica on paper. If you have a different design this same technique can be used, or you can freehand a drawing onto the veneer collection and measure with a ruler for accuracy.
After getting the general shape of your board down, you can go through and change it up by hand. I wanted a thinner nose and tail, so I hand drew the features in for when I cut the board out. After the board lines are completed get your tools set upon to cut out your deck!
Step 6: Final Shaping of the Deck
All that's left to finish up the board is to cut it out, sand it down, drill the holes for your trucks, and lacquer the board!
Once the shape has been transferred onto the board you can use a jig saw, scroll saw, band saw, or pretty much anything that ends in "saw" to cut out the board. Being careful not to cut yourself, leave about 1/4" of space between the blade and the lines of the board so that you can sand the deck to its final shape.
Carefully use a belt sander to remove most of the remaining material and then sand the edges by hand to remove any burrs. When sanding by hand, go from a light grit sandpaper to a heavy grit sandpaper in small increments. I suggest starting at 100 and working your way up to 500 grit so that the final product is smooth and splinter-free.
Drilling the holes:
The holes of trucks are fairly standardized but have been known to be slightly different depending on brand, so where your holes go are a mix of personal preference and factory specifications. For this step I took my board to a skate shop where an employee was able to line the trucks and mark where the holes should go. Once the location is marked, take a hand drill or use a drill press and drill them out. Make sure that your hole is a bit smaller than the hardware that you will be using for your trucks, that way the trucks don't become loose from the deck.
Lacquering the Deck:
Wood lacquer is a substance which will make the board watertight and durable. Either spray on or wipe on a couple coats of wood lacquer and let the board dry for another 24 hours.
Step 7: Add the Fun Stuff
My favorite part of making longboard is adding Grip-tape, stickers, and deck art for a more intimate design. This is the part that really makes the board your own, but before I did any of this I added something that I had never done before: LED lights.
Adding the Lights:
In order to add in the lights, I carefully dug a channel along the side of the board with a rotary tool. I made this channel slightly smaller than the LED light strip I was going to put in it so that the pressure of the wood would hold it in place. The battery compartment was command-striped to the bottom of the deck, and another coat of lacquer was added so that no water seeped into the channel.
I combined my love for stickers and my desire to make my board stand out by adding stickers not just to the bottom of the deck but to the top as well. I positioned the stickers on the deck and then rolled on a layer of clear grip tape. Applying the grip tape is simple as it's essentially a giant sandpaper sticker. Once the grip tape is rolled on, rub a piece of metal against the edge of the board. This creates a weak point in the deck so that the excess grip tape can easily be cut off with a sharp knife.
Now that your board is grip taped and decorated, all you have to do is add trucks and wheels and you're longboard will be complete!
Step 8: Wrap-Up
Now you have completed your longboard! Congratulations, the process isn't necessarily easy but the reward you feel when you ride it is worth every second. Remember what makes the perfect longboard isn't how expensive it is or the quality of materials; the perfect longboard is the one that makes you feel both proud and excited.
Now lets talk cost, at the beginning of this Instructable I sold you this idea by saying it would be cheaper and I have fulfilled my promise. Below I have the prices and links, if applicable, to products that I used to creat my own board.
Various pieces of wood - $40.34
Screws - $3. 23
Wood glue - $7.99
LED Lights - $7.95
Stickers - $6.89
Grip tape - $8.99
Trucks, Wheels, and Hardware - $34.99
Clear lacquere - $7.99
I achieved my goals of making a longboard for a total of $118.37 including tax, which is less than half of what it would cost to buy a similar length longboard from a retailer. This process was both cheap and fun, and now I never have to worry about being late to class.
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