In the early 1950’s, surfers would take old surfboards, attach metal wheels to them, and ride around on the street. These surfers wanted a way to get their surfing fix when they couldn’t get on the water. The term “skateboard” hadn’t yet but many believe the concept was born then and there. Still others claim the pastime we now know as skateboarding was invented much other when people would take wooden crates, attach roller skating trucks to the bottom, and ride the crates around. How skateboards are made has evolved over time but the idea remains the same.
Regardless of it’s origin, skateboarding was an activity born out of curiosity and the human desire for adrenaline. The modern skateboard, though still very simple in its construction, has taken on a life and personality of its own. Once a simple homemade surfboard on wheels (or crate on wheels. Depends on who you ask), it has become a way to display one’s personality, attitude, and fashion preferences.
In this article, we will take a deep dive into how skateboards are built today and the materials most commonly used to build them.
The Modern Skateboard: What It’s Made Of
A skateboard is comprised of the following parts: a deck, trucks, wheels, bearings, hardware to attach trucks, and often grip tape. The following materials are generally used to build these parts:
- Maple Plywood Veneers
- epoxy or glue
- carbon fiber
- paint & primer
- Various metals
- Steel/Nickel/Various metals
We will take an in-depth look at how skateboards are made and look at each of these components and the materials they are made of.
How Skateboard Decks are Made
The modern skateboard deck is comprised of wooden veneers (usually 7 ply or 9 ply veneers), Maple being the most commonly used wood. After veneers are formed, either a glue or epoxy resin is applied to them and the veneers are pressed together in the rough shape of a skateboard.
The veneers are pressed to a mold which gives the deck its shape and the upward curve of the nose and tail. Some skateboard decks are drafted and cut by hand (with the help of a bandsaw) while others are mass produced being drafted and cut with the help of computerized software and machinery.
Finishing the Skateboard Deck
After the skateboard deck has been cut, shaped, and sanded, the deck is primed and painted. Depending on the manufacturer, any number of things can happen next. Depending on whether the skateboard will be sold with grip tape already applied or not, the skateboard deck will either be sanded and smoothed, a design will be applied, or custom grip tape will be applied to the top of the deck.
Often a lacquer will be applied to the skateboard deck to give it a shiny appearance and a seal. One of the most important elements of the skateboard manufacturing process is the design. Skateboard designs give skateboarders and opportunity to express themselves with different styles and designs.
Skateboard designs are generally made by printing a graphic on a thin sheet of plastic before adhering it to the top or bottom of the deck.
If you buy a skateboard without grip tape, you will need to buy your own grip tape. Be sure to buy high quality grip tape. You will also need to be prepared to put on the grip tape. To help ensure you apply the grip tape correctly, follow this guide for putting grip tape on a skateboard.
How Skateboard Trucks are Made
A Skateboard truck is made up of: a baseplate, hanger, axle, and kingpin. The baseplate and hanger of the skateboard trucks are molded from various metal alloys, mostly made up of aluminum. The highest quality trucks are made from aircraft grade aluminum. The axle is made of a similar metal alloy. The bushings of the kingpin are made from polyurethane and allow the skateboard to turn and handle properly.
The trucks are an important element of the way a skateboard handles and performs. Trucks should be chosen carefully and a skateboarder should do the proper research to make sure they buy the best trucks for their skateboard.
How Skateboard Wheels are Made
No part of the skateboard manufacturing process has come further than how skateboard wheels are made. Many skateboard wheels were once made of metal, making it very hard for skateboarders to gain traction or handle properly. The tricks we see skateboarders do today would not be possible without the handling and shock absorption of the modern skateboard wheel.
The process for making skateboard wheels starts with the mold. Molds are designed and built to form wheels of various shapes and sizes. The shape and size of the wheel does a lot to determine the type of handling the wheel is built for. Some wheels are built for cruising while others are built for sharp handling.
Skateboard wheels are made of polyurethane. Polyurethane starts as a liquid made from different chemical compounds. The mixing of the different compounds creates a chemical reaction. In the case of skateboard wheels, the liquid is poured into the mold and the application of heat solidifies the wheels.
After the wheels have solidified, they need to be contoured or sanded down to its exact shape. The wheels then have a design applied to the wheels using a special printer. Throughout this process, the wheels are constantly being tested for hardness, rebound, and quality control.
Like skateboard trucks, skateboard wheels are a key component to the performance of the skateboard. Follow my skateboard wheel buying guide to find the best skateboard wheels.
Putting a Skateboard Together
Skateboards are sold different ways. Sometimes the skateboard is assembled by the manufacturer and shipped to stores to be sold completed and ready to ride.
Expert skateboarders may prefer to by the parts separately and assemble the skateboard on their own. They do this because of preferences they have on the the different components. Professional skateboarders are very particular about the types of decks, trucks, wheels, and grip tape and each component is an important detail.
The way skateboards are made has changed dramatically over the years. It is a fascinating process and one that gives skateboarders tons of customization options.