Longboard: a Hot Ride for $80 or Less

Introduction: Longboard: a Hot Ride for $80 or Less

About: I am a Student at the University of Michigan, studying Computer Engineering. I love to make things, work on teams, teach, learn, and assist others. I design circuits for the Kasper Space Lab and do some free...

Longboarding: 1. a sport very near to skate boarding, but involves you screaming down hills at any speed up to around 45mph
2. A coasting vehicle, relatively close to a skateboard, but twice the size. Maneuvered with your body movements according to the direction in which you want to go.
(via urbandictionary)

So I've had a couple longboards throughout the years. The first of which turned up in my garage out of nowhere; beaten up, with some very rusty trucks. It worked for a while, but not too long. After that, I happened across an opportunity for a custom metal longboard, 1" thick, made of aluminum. It's cool, but it's quite heavy. Aside from that, I was still using the poor trucks off of the previous board. What that all accounted for was a bit of a waste of space, as I never rode the boards, because they were really just impractical.

With college coming up, I needed a new method of transportation, as I would be leaving my beloved Jeep at home. The solution seemed simple; longboard. I had been wanting a nice longboard for quite some time, but commercial ones are SO expensive. Plus, I'm a maker. Makers make things, and I knew that's what I was to do for this project. So I set about building a board in the cheapest way possible, while still getting great quality!

I am not liable for any injuries caused by following this instructable! Create and ride at your own risk.

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Step 1: Brain Child

"to boldly go where no one has gone before"

I want to build a longboard for cheap. This doesn't happen often, because other instructables, as great as they are, tend to suggest some expensive additions. My goal again, is to make a beautiful, reliable board, for under $80.

Before any other development can happen, I need to know what I'm looking for in this board. Photoshop, here I come. You can certainly use other editors, but I do a lot of graphic design so not only am I comfortable with photoshop, I thrive in it. I first needed to create an idea, or "brain child" if you will, of what to put on it to make it my own. I opened up a new file (40"x10" at 200 dpi, a VERY large file, to maintain quality) and got to work.

First off, my name is Gage. I often enjoy the play on periodic table elements 31 and 32 which are Gallium and Germanium, with the combined symbols Ga Ge. That, I decided would be burnt onto the top. I mocked it up with a woodgrain texture.

I then proceeded on the same scientific note, and put a large atom I had rendered months before into a galaxy scenery with lenses reflecting light rays. This may mean nothing to you, but it really reflects on the deep set interest in science that I have.

The main point here, is don't go in blind. Make a plan, stick to it.

You may notice there are two different board designs here. The one with an astronaut is for a friend who wished to join in the project. He will be featured all along, as well.

Step 2: Materials!

I went into this project with little knowledge of woodworking, so I walked into home depot dazed and confused looking for this things. It turned out to be really simple. If I can do it, you can too.

I'll give you a list, but I want to note; DON'T buy everything at once. You'll find that during some of these processes, there's waiting time. To keep your momentum up, wait until that down time until you buy materials for the next step!

Step 1: Woodworking!
Plywood~$5 (I used standard home depot 1/4" birch. I was able to buy a 4'x4' and cut out 3 layers with a spare)
Wood glue~$5 (get the good stuff, it'll pay off)
Large paper or cardboard~FREE

Pencil! (for tracing, and erasing!)
Jigsaw (Replaceable by CNC router)
Drill (the holiest of tools [get it?])
routing bit (approx. 1/4")
sandpaper (both fine and course)

[Optional] Step 2: Additions By Laser!

Laser cutter

Step 3: Applying the Foundation (purchase with step 1 materials)
Wood varnish~$10 (I used clear coat)

Paint Brush
Clean place to apply varnish
Drying Rack!

Step 4: Decals, Grip Tape, and All Things Sticky!
Vinyl decal
Grip tape

SHARP Scissors
Credit Card-ish Thing
Cutting board?

Step 5: Load Up the Trucks and Head out (Order immediately. Will be used for planning.)
Longboard Trucks
Longboard Wheels
Skate Bearings
Screws & Locknuts
[All the above can be purchased as a kit]

Screwdriver (phillips)
Wrench (1/2" & 1/4")

Step 3: Woodworking!

Grab that plywood you just bought, and cut some layers out! The best way to do it, is to cut 1 ft wide strips and about 42" long, with opposite grain directions. If you didn't get enough wood for that, don't worry too much; plywood is already layered like that.

This is where the most can and will go wrong. Don't worry, you'll get through it. Improvise a little.

You'll need a big sheet of paper, or cardboard to make a stencil out of. This is going to be critical to consistency. Just draw and cut out EXACTLY what you want your board to be shaped like. To keep symmetry going, draw a center line. Don't forget to add your truck holes on the stencil, we will drill those out. Put them on the center line and keep them straight. After having traced the same stencil on 4 sheets of wood (you'll probably only use 3, but it's nice to have a spare), carefully cut it out using a jigsaw, then drill your truck holes. If you're doing a drop-through, make sure to trace your drop-through hole, too.

Alternatively You can use a computer aided drawing program in union with a CNC router to cut it out PERFECTLY by computer! This is what I did, seeing as I have access to a very high-quality CNC machine. If you're going to do this, make sure when you cut it out, the sheet is mounted down, otherwise it'll move and the machine won't stop. We lost a whole sheet of plywood this way... Set us back a couple days when we had to get more.

Now that you have four identical sheets, identify your three favorites (unless it's very thin) and we will glue these together. To do so, just HEAVILY apply wood glue to one side of a board, then use a brush or roller to spread it evenly, then put the next layer on top and make sure it aligns nicely! Don't worry too much if it's slightly off, you can drill your truck holes out to make them a little straighter once it's dry.

Now that they're glued, clamp them down as much as you can, apply weight on them, sit on them, whatever you have to do to keep pressure on them! If you're looking for a bend in the board, create leverage by leaving no support under the section to be dipped in, and put a LOT of weight there! As it dries, it'll stay exactly how it looks when you walk away from it.

This is one of those down times where you can go get stuff for the next step. You will wait 16-24 hours for it to dry before doing anything else.

After your board has dried, take the router bit to round the edge leading into the bottom of your board, believe me, it looks VERY nice in the end.

[note that if you'll be laser engraving AND plan to flex the board, laser engrave the layer that will be presented first, THEN come back to this step]

Step 4: [Optional] Laser Engraving


Seeing as I'm planning to enter this in the Epilog challenge, what better to include than a step about how I laser engraved it!?

My local makerspace, GR Makers, has a laser cutter on hand, and I decided to take advantage of it for my project! I wanted to etch my symbol in, so I had a friend help me out, and together we were able to laser engrave it from the photoshop file in about 1 hour from start to finish! It's cool, gives a woodburn look, and there's a laser. So yeah. Personally, this is one of my favorite parts. I'm not great at explaining how to work this, but I would suggest you look up your local makerspace, ask if they have a laser engraver, and GO FOR IT. It never hurts to learn, and it'll impress all you friends :)

Winning the Epilog Challenge for me would mean I could really boost a graphic design business, as well as do cool side jobs to help people out, because when it comes down to it, that's what I like to do. Please vote :)

Step 5: Applying the Foundation

Whip out that varnish you bought; it's time.

This is where we will give our wood a very nice lacquered look, at the same time waterproofing it!

Get out your can of lacquer and mix it up a bit! then, put your board on a raised platform, make sure that it's cleaned off (maybe even blow it off with an air compressor), and then pull out a brush, and apply the lacquer liberally and evenly to one side! Allow to dry for 30 minutes, then flip it over (any less time and you'll mess up the other side's layer) and do the other side! Make sure you get the edges the whole time, it'll help a ton. Once you've covered the whole board, set it back on the drying rack for about 6 hours and let it REALLY dry before gently sanding with a fine-grit sandpaper and applying the next full layer.

Do this for 3 or 4 layers of lacquer.

The more you have, the more waterproofed it is. And the better your decal/grip tape will stick. And the cooler you will be. Just trust me.

Step 6: Decals, Grip Tape, and All Things Sticky!

This will be the most frustrating section. You can do it.

Be sure to order the things for this (grip tape and decal) during the lacquer process. If you're doing the lacquer process correctly, it should take about 2 days to get all your layers on. If you order these just after your first layer, they should arrive right on time!

For my decal, I decided to go vinyl. The alternative being printing it out as a poster (or two), and lightly brushing glue over them, then putting another layer of lacquer over it. I saw vinyl as the more sensible option.

I ordered my decal from a local graphic design place with some really cool machinery like a vinyl printer and cutter! They did a great job, were prompt, and did it for only $30! It was an extra $20 for them to, so being the DIY guy I am, I saved a few bucks and went for it myself.

For this section, grab a friend and a credit card (we accept all major cards) or rewards card. Without these, you'll become a part of WWE because you'll be wrestling with your decal so much.

To start, peel back about 2" of vinyl, align everything just how you want it, and stick it down at the starting point. Have your friend hold back the remaining vinyl so it's where it will be going once your separate the protective layer from the back. Move at about 1" at a time, just peeling back, and pressing it flat against the board with your card. Then repeat as many times as necessary. Moving too quickly will result in bubbles and imperfections. We don't want those.

Now thank your friend for their gracious help, and move on to grip tape.

A common misconception about grip tape, is that it has to be everywhere. It doesn't. Really, it only has to be where your feet will sit. I chose to apply only stripes of it where my feet set on my board, while my friend covered the good majority only cutting out some designs of planets. Just know you have freedom to be creative.

As far as the grip tape goes, if you're going to apply it to most the board, set your board on the back, and TRACE IT. That way with just some VERY sharp scissors, you can get a nice fit for your board right away. No matter what you'll be doing though, strive for perfection. You'll regret it later when you're trying to show it off and people point out imperfections if you rush through it. I went so far as to use a cutting board for accurate measurements and straight lines when cutting my strips of grip tape.

Now that you've conquered the beast, we're almost done!

Step 7: Load Up the Trucks and Head Out

Trucks are pretty self-explanatory. What you need to know, is that you put bearings into your wheels on each side, slide them onto your trucks, tighten the nuts down, and repeat for all other wheels. Once you've done that, you'll just put some bolts through holes in your board, and screw down the nuts on those. Boom, done.

NEED TO KNOW. Your trucks will probably come with lock-nuts. These will FEEL tight when tightened by hand. They're not. Use a wrench, get them down until they're actually tightened. Otherwise the nuts will fall off, and then the wheels, and then you. Ouch.

Now you have a longboard! Congratulations! I had a few products at hand, such as some spare lacquer and woodglue. Due to this, I was able to do this project for just $65.

That's right, an EXCELLENT and SUPER-FLY custom longboard for only $65.
Even if you don't have certain things on hand, I'm confident that you will be able to keep it around $70 or $80.

On that note, go. Be free to ride where you'd like, and be the coolest kid on the block!

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    6 Discussions


    5 years ago

    Instead of grip tape, you can apply a little sand where it isn't blocking your design. When the lacquer is wet, mask off where you want grip, apply sand, then pour of excess, them when dry, apply another coat of lacquer. This can be done with ground glass or glass beads as well for a reflective touch. That's what they do to fire hydrants.


    Reply 5 years ago

    Thanks for the note! Actually wish I would have thought of that while I was working on this! Would have been a nice touch.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    No, I opted out of a concave surface, just because to cause a concave width-wise, you either need a jig, or a steamer. I didn't want to go through the trouble. If you do this, please let me know how it goes for you!

    That longboard turned out amazing looking. Congratulations for doing it on the cheap. Thanks for explaining your process so well!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the enthusiasm and checking out the instructable! I hope if you're ever interested in making a longboard, this will be a help to you :)