Skateboarding has given me everything that I have and created who I am - Rob Dyrdek
Skateboarding has always followed its own path and prides itself on its adherence to underground philosophy, and tends to, where possible avoid mainstream culture and ideology.
Throughout its rich history, skateboarding has passionately held on to its independent roots, and throughout its formative decades, the nineteen seventies and eighties rigidly followed a largely unwritten code that its devotees seemed to absorb through collective osmosis.
At one time, learning how to make your own deck was a skating right of passage that most four-wheeled warriors attempted to undergo at least once.
There are two main reasons why a lot of skateboarders from the formative era started their own skate companies, necessity and because they learned how to make decks by watching others do it, and following their lead through a process of trial, and more often than not, error.
And because it’s become a largely forgotten art, we’re going to guide you, step by step, through the easiest way to make your own skateboard deck.
Designing Your Deck
Every deck starts with an idea, and the design of your deck is entirely up to you.
Most decks are between twenty-eight and thirty-two inches long and between seven and a half and eight inches wide, so make sure you have an adequate amount of thin card to draw and shape your initial template.
You’ll also have to decide whether you want your deck to have a single or double kicktail and make allowances in your design for said single or double kicktail. Once you’ve measured and drawn your template, carefully cut it out and keep it safe.
Gathering The Materials - Wood, Tools And Glue
While it might seem like a fairly obvious step, proper preparation is everything, and many a world-renowned skater has stumbled at the first block and forgotten one or more of the things that they need to fashion their deck.
As a skateboard deck is made of a series of veneers or thin layers of wood, you’ll need to make sure that you have enough veneer to cut between eight and ten separate layers out of, and enough wood epoxy (or skate resin as it's sometimes called) to glue each layer together.
You’ll also need sandpaper, a jigsaw, a set of clamps, and a lot of patience.
Cutting Your Deck
Even though it’s a straightforward job, you’re going to need a fairly large area to work in, preferably indoors as you’ll need a source of heat to bend and shape your kicktail(s) into each of the veneers that you cut for your deck.
Once everything is in place, it’s time to start cutting the wood that you’re going to fashion your deck from. Glue your template to the wood, and carefully cut around the edges of the template.
As you’re going to need between eight and ten layers to build your deck, you’ll need to repeat the process between eight and ten times, depending on how many layers of veneer you want to include in your deck.
Shaping the Veneer
Once you’ve cut your desired number of layers from the sheet, or sheets of veneer (using the initial template and veneer that it’s now glued to as the template for the other layers of your deck), carefully try to remove the thin card template from the first veneer, or layer of your deck. It may or may not peel off, and if it doesn’t use some sandpaper and a little elbow grease to sand it off.
While it isn’t exactly necessary to do it yet, we’ve always subscribed to the theory that it’s better to be ready early, so take an hour to lightly sand all of the layers of your skateboard deck.
Remember to pay extra attention to the edges as this is the perfect opportunity to remove any burs or rough edges that might have been left when you cut the layers out of the initial veneer.
Now that they’ve been sanded and are ready to glue together, the next stage of the deck making process is the shaping. As the veneer is a thin layer of wood (usually around three millimeters), it’s easy to bend and shape, and the best way to do it is with a little steam. And odd as it may seem, the best and most effective way that we’ve found of shaping a veneer is with the steam from a boiling pan of water.
Fill a pan full of water, place it on a stove, and put a lid on the pan, leaving it slightly ajar so that it forms a small vent. Turn the stove on, and wait for the water in the pan to boil.
When it begins to boil, hold the veneer at the point that you want to from the bend for your kicktail(s) over the steam that’s escaping from the vent that the pan lid has made.
As the veneer heats up (it won’t take long, maybe ten to twenty seconds, but keep checking it at regular ten-second intervals if it takes longer), it becomes malleable, and when it’s gathered enough heat to bend, remove it from the steam, make the bend for your kicktail and hold it gently in place until the veneer cools down.
When it’s cooled (again, this will happen incredibly quickly), your kicktail will have been shaped into the first veneer. If you want a double kicktail, place the other end of the veneer over the steam, remove it and repeat the process, and when it cools you’ll have a double kicktail on your first veneer.
Now, take a deep breath, because you’re going to have to repeat the process for every potential layer of your deck. Measure and mark each of them and repeat the bending process until each of the layers has a kicktail - don’t worry about being too precise, as the epoxy and clamps (the next stage of the process) will iron out and correct the small imperfections.
Assembling Your Deck
Remember we mentioned being patient earlier? This is the point at which you’re going to need to exercise a lot of patience. Carefully spread a layer of epoxy on the first veneer of your deck, and lining up another veneer, attach it to the layer with the epoxy on.
Once you’re happy that both layers are lined up, you’re going to need to apply pressure to hold them together until they’re completely dry. Gently fasten three clamps to the deck at regular intervals.
If you apply too much pressure, it’ll crack, and if you don’t apply enough the layers won’t bond. As a rule of thumb, if the clamps are finger tight that should be enough pressure to help the layer bond together.
It should take about an hour for the epoxy to harden (depending on the epoxy that you’ve used, drying time can vary so always read the label on the epoxy carefully before you use it) and the pressure from the clamps to help the layers to bond together.
Once the first two layers are glued together and have completely dried, you can add the next veneer. Repeat the gluing and bonding process (don’t forget the clamps!) until all of the layers of your deck are glued together.
And remember what we told you about the little kinks in the shape of each layer being ironed out when they were glued together? The pressure from the clamps holding each layer in place will ensure that they disappear.
That’s it, your deck is now ready to be painted, varnished, and measured for its hardware. And you’ve got your own, one of a kind skate deck made to your own specifications.