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Simple Longboard

Making your own custom longboard is simpler than you think.

Simple Longboard

Last year my 13-year-old daughter asked for a skateboard, so I gave her my 20-year-old board (which wasn’t seeing much use). She liked to ride it along the bank of the Los Angeles River, and I would ride with her on a Razor scooter. But after a while, I started to miss having a skateboard, and I thought it would be fun to make one.

I put it off for a few months, until I saw a video of Lloyd Kahn, the well-known maker and former geodesic dome guru, cruising down a gently sloped street (makezine.com/go/kahn). He’s 75 years old, and his skating skills are top-notch. This was the inspiration I needed to get off my butt and make my own longboard.

I went online to look for plans. There are many plans and kits available, but they seemed overly complex for what I was setting out to do. I simply wanted a 4-foot-long board that wouldn’t sag too much when I stood in the middle of it. My solution was to make a board with a hump in it.

Here’s how I did it.

Steps

Step #1: Glue.

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  • Squeeze a liberal amount of Gorilla Wood Glue (alternately, Titebond III also works well) on one side of two 48"x8" lengths of 1/4" Baltic birch plywood.
  • Then use a paintbrush to spread the glue in an even layer.
  • Stick the glued sides of the 2 boards together.

Step #2: Bend.

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Simple Longboard
  • Suspend the board between 2 bricks placed at its far ends.
  • I set a couple of heavy boxes of books in the middle of the board so that it sagged in a U shape.

Step #3: Clamp.

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  • Using multiple clamps, pinch the boards together. Do not disturb the setup for 24 hours.
  • The next day when I removed the boxes of books, the 2 pieces of wood stayed bent. I flipped the boards over, stood on the hump and bounced up and down a bunch of times to make sure it could support my weight without breaking. It passed the test.

Step #4: Mark.

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  • Next, you need to draw a template of the end of the skateboard. Naturally, it helps if you have a board on hand for reference. I drew a template using Adobe Illustrator.
  • Cut out the template, and tape it to one end of your new board.
  • Then use a pencil to transfer the shape to the board. I used the same template on both ends.

Step #5: Cut and sand.

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  • Cut out the rough shape of the skateboard using a band saw.
  • Then sand the edges.

Step #6: Add trucks and wheels.

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  • Next you need to add the trucks and wheels. I bought a set from Amazon for about $35.
  • Install them on the board and test it out in on the pavement.
  • I discovered that when I leaned into the skateboard, the wheels came in contact with the wood. The skateboard would come to a screeching halt, sending me sprawling.
  • So I used the band saw to cut some clearance arcs for the wheels. This did the trick. Now I could make turns without having to worry about the wheels jamming into the wood.

Step #7: Finish.

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  • I painted a design on the bottom of the skateboard and sprayed on several coats of polyurethane.
  • Finally, you will need to add grip tape. I added clear grip tape to the entire top surface of the skateboard. (I found out that I don’t like clear grip tape, because it gets dirty really fast. Next time I’ll use black grip tape.)

Conclusion

After installing the trucks and wheels, I invited my daughter to go skateboarding with me along the bank of the L.A. River again. She took her skateboard and I took my new one. My board worked beautifully. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way it handled. My daughter asked if she could try it out.

“I love this!” she said, as she glided smoothly down the paved embankment. “Can we trade?”

It looks like I’ll be making another longboard soon.

This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 26.


Comments

  1. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    Hey John, as long as you have those cutouts on the side it really shouldn’t matter how big the wheels are. I used 76mm wheels. Here’s the package I bought: http://www.amazon.com/LONGBOARD-Package-SILVER-TRUCKS-WHEELS/dp/B002R7IDRQ

  2. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    I really like the work of Jim Flora. He was a jazz record art director in the 1940s and 1950s. He was really good at making visually exciting designs using just a few colors. Here’s a link to some of his work: http://jimflora.com/gallery/recordcovers.html

  3. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    Hey Adam, sorry it didn’t work out for you! A couple of questions:

    1. How thick was the plywood?
    2. Did you use a generous amount of glue?
    3. Could you send me some photos so I can inspect it?
    4. If you are coming to Maker Faire, please bring it with you so I can have a closer look.

    Please don’t get discouraged. We will figure it out!

  4. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    I’m not sure which ones I got. I would get the larger ones, though.

  5. Goli Mohammadi says:

    Thanks for sharing your pics with us, Mike! I just blogged it on Makezine: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2011/05/make-volume-26-diy-simple-longboard.html

    Cheers!

  6. Tod Tyler says:

    Adam, I think I ran into the same problem as you. I bought the Birchwood plywood from the HomeDepot. But I think Ben Klebe had it correct that we should really buy the Baltic Birch. I am heading out to get some of the Baltic Birch from my local WoodCraft store. I will respond back to let you know if this is successful.

  7. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    Hi Ben, don’t have the curve handy, but you should be able to make one easily with a compass.

    The center of the truck axle is seven inches from the end of the board (both ends).

    Good luck!

  8. Tod Tyler says:

    Very cool design! I just finished my first for my niece to take back to school. She is a huge Dr. Who fan.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/todalantyler/2011AugustTiajaSLongboard?authuser=0&feat=directlink

  9. Elli Wachtman says:

    Hey Tom I was just wondering how did you make the ends of your longboard? I am a thirteen year old making this simple longboard and I really like your design! Is there any way you could reply back how you did them or a digital template?

  10. Ben Klebe says:

    Yeah. That’s exactly what happened to me when I used the wrong plywood. If you inspect all the edges of the plywood, you might see slats of other wood or foam or plastic down one end, meaning the wood is not solid. If this is the case, try and find a Woodcraft store or another store that clearly advertises Baltic Birch plywood. This wood is much more forgiving and should flex only slightly when you stand on it.

  11. Ben Klebe says:

    The instructions dictate that he left the board like that overnight. Then you get the right form and the glue dries while it is still bent, leaving the polymer as an extra support to hold the board in shape.

  12. Ben Klebe says:

    When we built mine, it was strong enough to hold my dad, (I am 13) and let me say that it was strong enough to hold his weight and the curve only deformed by about 3/4 of an inch. He mentioned that the Baltic Birch was some of the toughest stuff he had ever use in a woodworking project.