Posted on 08 March 2008.
Beginning skaters are usually content to pick up a complete, pre-assembled, skateboard off the shelf and get practicing. As your skill and style evolves, however, you’ll start to notice that standard boards are missing something. Maybe you need better handling on your slalom curves; maybe you want a little more cushion when you grind the rails, or perhaps you are finding your aluminum trucks have a shorter lifespan than your relationships.
Building a custom board is a task which will demand an intimate knowledge of the design and options available for your deck, truck, and wheels. When planning out how to make a skateboard, you will need to think about not only the type of surfaces you tend to skate on now and your favorite moves, but also the terrain you plan to explore on your journey to the ultimate adrenaline rush.
The skateboard deck you choose will largely depend on whether you spend most of your time practicing tricks, coasting curvy slaloms, racing downhill, or just getting around town. For tricks, you’ll want a deck with a deep concave shaping, with raised kicks for ollies and flips. Downhill skaters prefer a more streamlined longboard that picks up speed as it cuts air. If you’ve seen footage of Jamie Thomas breaking right through his board while attempting his infamous Leap of Faith you’ll understand how the actual strength of your skateboard can save your bones and you might look for a few extra ply in your deck wood.
The trucks you select while planning how to make a skateboard will be a choice among subtle variances, balancing weight against durability. Some skaters are fanatical about reducing the weight of their boards, and look to shave every ounce of mass by ordering cast aluminum. Other skaters, especially those on a budget, go for stronger trucks made of titanium alloys or pewter. Skateboard tricksters might also consider impact dispersion systems with thick rubber shock pads available from such manufacturers as Phantom Trucks. Those with a few bucks to spend might like to bling up their trucks with 24k gold, but don’t expect those to stay pretty for very long if you do a lot of grinding.
Most skateboard wheels are made of rubber, specifically urethane blends of varying hardness. The latest technology offers wheels of dual texture, with soft inners for improved support and tough, rock-hard surfaces. You’ll need to sort out the best wheel profile for your needs, whether flat and fat or tight and hard. And of course design; some of the most dynamic artwork in the skateboard world appears on wheels, which can be neon bright or devil dark, puffed up and phatty like the tires on a low-ride Cadillac, or translucent and tight like a lollipop.
Building your board from the basic components represents a step forward in your evolution as a skater. No longer merely a blind consumer riding someone else’s idea of the perfect vehicle, creating a custom board frees you to be the master of your own destiny. And when inches count, ounces count more and split-seconds mean the difference between a smooth landing and a rough slam, you’ll want as much control over your equipment as humanly possible.