Introduction: Making a Longboard
This summer, we decided to build our first Longboard. Jaimie had never ridden a longboard before and while Jay has been a skater for most of his life, he'd never actually built a board from scratch either. We decided it was a perfect project for us. Whether you're a longtime longboarder or want to get into it for the first time, we hope this Instructable will help inspire you to build your own board.
We recommend watching the video above to follow along as you read through the steps.
What kind of Longboard is this?
It's a straight, hardwood deck with some flex but not much. We're aware that a lot of longboards have a lot of flex and have a curved shape that allows for carving, etc. but we were not worried about that for our first build. After riding it for the past half a year, it's still holding up perfectly and is a ton of fun to ride.
How hard is this project?
If you have some basic woodworking tools, you should have no problem following along with this build. Read on to see the tools and materials we used.
Step 1: The Tools, Materials & Hardware
The materials for this build are fairly simple and easy to find. We used some offcuts we had laying around the shop for the wooden deck. You should easily be able to replace the wood we used with anything you have on hand. Just keep in mind if you use a softwood (e.g. pine, cedar) it can and will break easily. We recommend using hardwood for this style of build (e.g. oak, walnut, maple).
During the build, we use quite a few tools because we have access to them. Most of the tools can be swapped out for something you have and we try to list other options for tools in each step. For example, the jointer and planer are completely optional and if you don't have a bandsaw to cut out the profile of the skateboard you can easily use a jigsaw instead!
- Hardwood Strips (We used walnut, sapele, and maple)
- Wood Glue (Preferably water-resistant for outdoor use)
- Black Spray Paint
- Polyurethane (Spray Can)
- Spray Adhesive
- Gullwing Sidewinder II Trucks
- Bones REDS Bearings
- Orangatang 4President 70mm Wheels
- Independent Hardware (1.25")
- Clear Grip Tape
- Band Saw (OPTIONAL)
- Table Saw (OPTIONAL)
- Jointer (OPTIONAL)
- Planer (OPTIONAL)
- Chisel (OPTIONAL)
- Spokeshave (OPTIONAL)
- Bench vise (OPTIONAL)
- Inventables X-Carve CNC Machine (OPTIONAL)
- Utility Knife
Step 2: Preparing the Wood and Making the Panel
Our skateboard deck is going to be cut from a flat hardwood panel. We joke in the video about how this closely resembles the process of making a long-grain cutting board out of wood, because it's very similar.
To make the panel, we started by rough cutting the 4 hardwood strips to about 4 inches longer than the final length, which was 38.5" (978mm). Since we're just rough cutting them, any saw capable of cutting wood will work here. We used a circular saw at the workbench.
Since we're attempting to make a flat panel to build our deck from, getting the hardwood strips flat and square will help with that quite a bit. This part is completely optional but we ran each strip across the Jointer to make them perfectly straight.
We then ripped the three smaller strips to an equal width at the table saw. If you don't have a table saw you could set up a guide and use a circular saw to make these cuts.
To glue up the panel, we put the boards in order and then applied wood glue evenly across the entire edges of three of them. We then used as many clamps as we had to clamp all of the boards together and let it dry overnight.
When the glue is dry, we used a chisel to scrape off any dried glue squeeze out and then put the panel through the planer to flatten it. This is another optional step. If you don't have a planer you could also sand the boards flat or use a hand plane to flatten the panel.
Tip: When gluing up a panel, ensure that you've got enough glue to cover every bit of the edges you're gluing together. Modern wood glues will cure harder than the wood itself so the only reason these joints would ever come apart is if the joints themselves were not glued up properly. Taking your time here will extend the life of your project!
Step 3: Setting Up the Hardware
To install the bearings into the wheels, we slide the bearing onto the truck and then press it into the wheel. We forgot to use bearing spacers on this project...(we know...)...but usually you'd put a spacer in-between the two bearings and then repeat the process on the opposite side of the wheel.
Each wheel gets a bearing on each side (and a spacer in-between, if you so choose).
Lastly, there's a nut that gets screwed onto the end of the truck to hold the wheel in place. Remember that if it's too tight, the wheel won't spin but if it's too loose, the wheel will wobble. Dial it in just right!
Tip: It's not essential to assemble your hardware before building the longboard deck, but you can use the completed assembly to help figure out the necessary width of the deck and the placement of the trucks!
Step 4: Figuring Out the Deck Shape
There is a lot of variety when it comes to the outer shape of a longboard (or any skateboard, for that matter). We weren't sure on exactly what shape we wanted so we spent some time looking for reference and inspiration on Google Images. Ultimately we decided on a pintail shape, based on a design from Gordon & Smith.
We copied the image and then pasted it into Photoshop. (If you don't have Photoshop, "GIMP" is a great free alternative with almost identical features.) We then "ctrl" + 'left click' the Layer to select the shape, [Select -> Modify -> Smooth] to remove any jagged edges, create a new Layer, and then use the Stroke feature set to 2px to give it a nice outline.
Since we're going to finalize the outer shape by hand, we didn't need this line to be perfect.
We then printed out the outline at full size and taped it down to the table. The next step was to figure out exactly where the skateboard trucks were going to be placed. Since we aren't copying the original template at exactly the same size, the existing holes would not line up so we had to measure and make them ourselves.
We did this by aligning the trucks in the same spot they were on the drawing and then using a ruler and square to ensure they were centered and square to the deck. We then traced the holes with a pencil.
Lastly, we taped the deck outline down to some cardboard and used a utility knife to carefully cut out the shape.
Tip: Unsure on a shape, detail, or just a general direction to go on a project? We spend a lot of time studying reference online for inspiration. There's no shame in using an existing project or style to guide your creativity. Just think about what you're trying to accomplish and start searching and you'll definitely find something that inspires you!
Step 5: Making the Artwork on the Deck
Before we cut the outer profile of the longboard deck, we wanted to do the carving on the bottom. We did this first because it would allow us to use the straight edges of the panel to make sure the board was square to the work table. We did trace the outline of the deck onto the panel though so we could see where we wanted the carving to go.
To do the carving, we used the X-Carve from Inventables. You very much do not need to use a machine like this to make artwork on your skateboard deck. We enjoy using it because we have access to it and it produces a bold, dramatic look. If you don't have access to a machine like this, another great option is using a stencil or a screen-printing technique.
The artwork we're using is our Wicked Makers Skull logo. We offset it and rotated it a bit to get some asymmetry into the design, and then figured out exactly where we wanted it to go.
We used a 1/8" straight bit in the machine and let it go to work. When it was finished, we used some sandpaper to go around each line to ensure everything was clean and free of burrs.
Next, we covered the majority of the panel and sprayed a few coats of black primer spray paint. Once it was dry, we used a sharp razor blade to carefully remove as much paint as we could from the surface and ran it through the planer to remove any leftover paint. Don't have a planer? You could remove the paint with a razor blade and then sand it for a similar effect.
Tip: Paints, finishes, (and anything that isn't wood) will dull sharp blades very quickly. This is why we tried to remove as much of the paint as we could with a razor before running it through the planer!
Step 6: Shaping the Longboard Deck
The next step was to make the outer profile of the longboard deck. To do this, we used some craft spray adhesive and sprayed it onto our paper template, let it dry about 30 seconds, and then carefully stuck it down onto the wood. A center line on the template helps us align with the center of the panel, as seen in the picture.
At the bandsaw, we then carefully cut around the template as close to the line as we could. Don't have a bandsaw? A jigsaw would also work really well here.
Before removing the paper template, we used the tip of a screw to mark the location of the holes for the trucks.
We didn't need to cut it exactly on the line at the bandsaw because next we used a spokeshave to fare out the curves and get the shape dialed in. This helps not just to remove saw marks and get it smooth, but to get the curves to the exact profile we wanted.
With the outer shape complete, we then drilled the holes for the trucks and counter sunk the top to make room for the screw heads.
Tip: A spokeshave is a really great tool for working with curves in wood. It has a short "sole" which is perfect for curvature. It's also incredibly fun to use!
Step 7: Finishing the Longboard Deck
To prepare the surface for finish, we sanded the entire surface to 320 grit. We then cleaned off all the sawdust using mineral spirits and then used compressed air to blow any sawdust out of the carving on the bottom.
Since this is a skateboard and it's going to be used outdoors, probably get wet, and probably come into contact with quite a bit of dirt, gravel, and stones at some point, we opted for a polyurethane finish and put about 6 coats of it from a spray can. The spray can also helped us to get the finish inside the carving, which would be more time consuming with a brush or rag.
Tip: For an ultra-smooth finish, you can "raise the grain" on wood before applying your finish by completing your sanding and then spraying it with some water. As the water dries, any loose wood fibers will stick up which roughs up the surface a bit. Once it's dry, sand it one more time with your final grit of sandpaper. Now, your loose wood fibers are gone and won't stick up when they first come in contact with your actual finish and your surface will be perfect!
Step 8: Adding the Grip-tape and Hardware
Grip-tape is basically like sandpaper and it helps your feet stay gripped to the board when you ride. It comes with a sticky bottom and can be rolled onto the deck.
Once we rolled out and stuck down the grip-tape, we needed to get the air bubbles out. We tried a few different ways to do this and ultimately found that a block of wood worked well. Don't use your finger. Bad idea.
Once all of the air bubbles were gone and it was completely stuck down, we then used a hard surface (a screwdriver, in our case) to rub the edges of the deck. This ensures the edges are stuck down and also shaves off a thin layer of the grip/sand so you have a clear spot to cut. We then used a razor blade to carefully cut off all of the excess tape.
The trucks are then put in place and bolted in using the hardware.
Tip: The direction that you install skateboard trucks is dependent on the type of trucks you get and the style of riding you prefer. The kingpin can be facing inwards or outwards. We've received comments in the past stating that our trucks are backwards -- they definitely aren't. :)
Step 9: The Final Result!
We thought about just hanging it on the wall when it was done and not riding it...that is how amazing it looks in person. We did ride it though, a LOT, and have been constantly!
Although the board is flat and has very little flex, after about 6 months of riding it's holding up really well and is incredibly fun to ride. It hasn't delaminated, it hasn't been hard to ride, and the lack of curvature in the deck has not made it any less fun.
Fun to make? Check.
Fun to use? Check.
Looks amazing? Check.
We hope you enjoyed this build and that you've inspired to try it yourself. If you do, let us know we'd love to check it out! Stay wicked!!
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