Build Your Own Pro Grade Skateboard

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Build Your Own Pro Grade Skateboard

Assemble Your Own Skateboard
Build Your Own Skateboard. Jamie O'Clock

When buying a new skateboard, you basically have two options - you can buy a complete skateboard (that's one that is already assembled for you), or you can piece together your own custom skateboard that fits you exactly!

There's nothing wrong with buying a complete skateboard - go for it! But, if you want to design your own, these step-by-step instructions will take you through all of the details of picking out the right sizes and shapes of all the parts that go into a skateboard. You can also use these instructions if you already own a skateboard, and would like to upgrade or replace a part.

If you are buying a skateboard as a gift, then before you start there are a couple of things you will need to find out before you begin. You will need to know how tall your skater is, what kind of skateboarding he or she likes the most (street, park, vert, all terrain or cruising), and what skateboarding brands he or she likes.

Before we begin, I want to make sure that you understand one thing over all - these are only guidelines, designed for beginner or intermediate skateboarders. If you want to get parts that don't match this skateboard buyer's guide, that's fine! Do it! Skateboarding is all about expression and doing things your own way. I would hate to find out I killed anyone's creativity! But, if you want some help in picking out parts that are the best size for you or someone you want to give a skateboard to, then read on!

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Part 2: Deck Size

chosing your skateboard deck size
Chosing your skateboard deck size. Powell Skateboards

The deck is the board part of the skateboard. This skateboard deck sizing chart is meant for beginner and intermediate skateboarders - it's not a hard rule, but a guide to help if you want it. This chart is adapted from CreateASkate.org (with thanks).

Compare the skater’s height to this chart:

Under 4’ = 29” or smaller
4’ to 4’10” = 29” to 30” long
4’10” to 5’3” = 30.5” to 31.5” long
5’3” to 5”8” = 31.5” to 32” long
5”8” to 6’1” = 32” to 32.5” long
Over 6’1” = 32.4” and up

For your skateboard’s width, it all depends on how big your feet are. Most skateboards are around 7.5” to 8" wide, but can be wider or narrower. If you have larger feet, get a wider skateboard deck.

 

Once you have the basic size in mind, you can tweak it a little depending on what you want to do with your board. If you want to skateboard transition or vert, if you want to ride a lot of ramps or spend most of your time riding at the skate park, then a wider board is a good choice (8” wide or more). If you want to ride around streets more, and do more technical tricks with your board then try to keep it under 8” wide. If you are looking for a skateboard to cruise around on, and don’t plan on branching into tricks too much, then a bigger, wider board is always better.

These are only guidelines. Feel free to tweak these sizes as much as you want! One final note to parents – making sure your son or daughter likes the graphics on the skateboard deck you pick out is very important! It might seem silly or petty, but getting the wrong brand, or a picture that he or she doesn’t like can mean the difference between them being excited to ride the board, and embarrassed. For ideas of what brand to get them, check out the top 10 skateboard deck brands.

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Part 3: Wheels

Skateboard wheels come in a variety of colors, sizes and degrees of hardness. Skateboard wheels have two stats -

  • Diameter, which means how tall the wheel is. This is measured in millimeters (mm) for skateboard wheels.
  • Durometer, which means how hard the wheels is. Most skateboard wheels use what's called the "a-scale". You don't need to understand all the details of how the a-scale is measured, just that the higher the number, the harder the wheel. For example, you'll see the hardness of the wheels written "a95" for a an average street skateboarding wheel. Softer wheels can be all the way down to a70, or even lower.

For a quick and easy answer to what kind of wheels to get,

most skaters will be happy with wheels from 52mm to 54mm, with a hardness of 99a

. Also, check out this

list of the best skateboard wheels

. But, if you want to give it a little more thought, then first ask yourself what kind of skateboarding you think you'll be doing:

Transition / Vert

Larger skateboard wheels roll a lot faster, and when riding ramps this is what you want. Try 55-65mm size wheels (though many ramp skateboarders will use even larger wheels -- try something like a 60mm wheel first, as you learn), with a hardness of 95-100a. Some wheel makers, like Bones, have special formulas that don't list durometer, like the Street Park Formula.

Street / Technical

Skateboarders who like doing flip tricks often like smaller wheels, as they are lighter and closer to the ground, making some skateboarding tricks easier and faster. Try 50-55mm skateboard wheels, with a hardness of 97-101a. Some brands, like Bones, make special Street Tech Formula wheels that also work very well, but don't have a hardness rating.

Both / All Terrain

You'll want something in the middle, with slightly softer skateboard wheels. Try a wheel size 52-60mm, with 95-100a hardness. This should give you a balance between speed and weight.

Cruising

Usually cruising wheels are much larger for speed (64-75mm) and much softer for riding over rough terrain (78-85a). Other wheels for cruising are available, such as huge dirt wheels with knobs, but these aren't recommended for skateboards (try longboards or dirtboards).

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Part 4: Bearings

Your bearings are inside little metal rings that fit inside your skateboard wheels. There's only one way to rate bearings at the moment, and it doesn't work well with skateboard bearings. The rating is called ABEC and goes from 1 to 9, but only odd numbers. Unfortunately it was originally developed to rate the bearings in machines, not on skateboards (for more, you can read "What does ABEC mean?".

Therefore, the ABEC rating only rates the precision of a bearing. Plus, the more precise he bearing, the weaker they usually are. Skateboarders take their bearings and abuse them, as normal skateboarding does. Skateboarders want bearings that are both precise and durable, so the ideal ABEC rating for a skateboard is 3 or 5. Smooth enough, but not going to break when you jump on your board. Some skateboard bearings don't even bother with the ABEC rating system. The best thing to do is try some out, ask your friends, or ask the guy behind the counter at the skate shop.

One warning, though: don't rush out and buy the most expensive bearings right away. You'll likely do something without thinking about it and ruin your first set, and there are some good medium-priced bearings out there, like Bones Reds.

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Part 5: Trucks

Skateboard trucks are the metal axle-style part that connects to the bottom of the deck.

There are three things to pay attention to:

Truck Width

You want to match the width of your trucks to the width of your deck. Match your truck side to your deck with the following chart:

4.75 for up to 7.5" wide decks
5.0 for up to 7.75" wide decks
5.25 for up to 8.125" wide decks
For 8.25" and up, you can use 5.25 trucks, or use super wide trucks (like the Independent 169mm)

You'll want your trucks to be within 1/4" of the size of the deck.

Bushings

Inside the trucks are the bushings, a small part that looks like a rubber donut. The Bushings cushion the truck when it turns. The stiffer the bushings, the more stable the skateboard. The softer the bushings, the easier the turn. For a brand new skateboarder, I recommend using stiff bushings. They will break in over time. For more seasoned skateboarders, medium bushings are usually the perfect choice. I would only recommend soft bushings to skaters who want to spend most of their time carving on their skateboarding. Soft bushings can make tricks difficult, and require a lot of control.

Truck Height

The truck height can vary. Low trucks make flip tricks easier and add some stability, but with lower trucks you will want smaller wheels. High trucks allow you to use larger wheels, which will help when skateboarding at higher speeds or long distances.

If you are a new skateboarder, I recommend using medium trucks, unless you know for sure that you want to use your skateboard for street or cruising. For street, low trucks are good and for cruising, medium or high trucks are a good choice.

For help on picking out a good brand of trucks, see the Top 10 Skateboard Trucks list.

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Part 6: Everything Else

There are a few other things to think about when buying a skateboard:

Grip Tape

This is the sand-paper-like layer, usually black, that is on the top of the deck (find out more). One sheet is all you need to cover your board. There are slightly better, finer grip tapes available, if you want. It all depends on how much you want to spend on your board. At skate shops or online, you can often have them put the grip tape on for you, but you can also apply the grip tape yourself, and make your own personal designs. It's fairly easy - read How To Apply Grip Tape to a Skateboard Deck.

Risers

Risers do two things. They help relieve stress from the trucks, which helps keep the deck from cracking. More importantly, risers help keep the wheels from biting into the board on a hard turn, causing the board to suddenly stop. It's a bad thing to have happen. Most risers are about 1/8" high. If you have extra large wheels, you'll want higher risers. On the other hand, if your wheels are small (52mm), then you might not need risers at all. It all depends on what you want.

Hardware

The nuts and screws to put the board together. There are special colored nuts and bolts available, if you want. This is all just for looks -- if you're on a budget, just get the basic parts.

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Part 7: It All Comes Together

If this is your first board, ask for help at the shop to put it together, or simply order a complete set up with the parts you've picked out. Completes are a great way to go when first starting out, and often they allow you to customize quite a bit.

If you want to assemble the skateboard yourself, here are some instructions to help you:

  1. How to Apply Grip Tape
  2. How to Install Trucks
  3. How to Install Bearings and Attach Wheels

But, if you are new to skateboarding, or even if you aren't, it's nice to have to people at your local skate shop put your board together for you. They have special tools that make the process smoother.

Using these guidelines, you should be able to get the perfect board for you. And remember, as you skate, pay attention to what you like and what you don't -- these aren't hard and fast rules, but just good guidelines to start out with. Every person is different, and every person's own skateboard should be different, too. Once you have your own skateboard assembled and ready to go, just slap some stickers on it and hop on! If you are brand new to skateboarding and want to read some simple steps to help out, read Just Starting Out Skateboarding.

If you got lost or confused on any of these steps, you can always write to me (follow the link above), or ask for help at your local skateboarding shop. This article is rather in-depth, but you don't need to know all of this in order to get a good skateboard. Many companies make complete skateboards designed for beginners that are a good choice (read this article to find out more about Beginner Complete Skateboards), and almost every other skateboarding company has complete skateboards that can be ordered.

And as always, remember the most important thing - have fun!