Learning how to assemble a skateboard isn’t very hard. You can easily build a functioning skateboard whether you’re a pro skater or a beginner. In this easy-to-follow guide, you’ll learn everything you should know when building your own custom skateboard.
Also Read: Best Beginner Skateboards
I’ll guide you to the right materials, parts, and tools and explain how to handle every step of the process. I’ll help you craft a self-assembled skateboard you’ll bond with instantly.
Don’t want to build? No problem. You can always buy a pre-assembled skateboard. And some of the best read-to-ride skateboards are pretty good quality and can last years.
Different Kinds of Skateboards
The skateboard market offers three main types of skateboards namely:
- Penny skateboards
- Regular skateboards
A joke among skateboarders goes “A Penny board breaks your ankles, a longboard breaks your spine, and a skateboard your wrists.” Well, it’s a joke, but tell you what? Everyone falls.
So, wear protective gear before jumping on your board, especially if you’re a beginner. Or if you’re re-igniting your love for skateboarding after a long hiatus. Grab the right helmet for a big head or a standard-sized one, knee pads, wrist pads, and elbow guards.
Now, let’s briefly look at each of these boards.
1. Penny Skateboards
Penny boards are the smallest boards you can find, and the name Penny is actually a brand name. A company based out in Australia (established in 2010) popularized these boards to the point where everyone considers every small plastic board a Penny board.
Think of Rollerblade Skates and how products made by brands other than Rollerblade are still referred to as Rollerblades.
A 5-year kid, Ben Mackay invented Penny Skateboards. When his father bought him a small, plastic skateboard from a yard sale, he loved it instantly.
He painted the board blue and white (stripes) and even constructed a kick ramp in the garage. Soon, the small boy was skating every skatable thing and obstacle around the neighborhood.
Thirty years later, Mackay founded a skateboard-making company that perfected the plastic board, popularizing it all over the planet. So, it’s a product birthed by passion for skateboarding.
Penny boards couple together cruiser wheels (big, soft wheels about 55mm to 65mm) with cruiser trucks and a fairly small plastic deck. Small, lightweight, and plastic is probably the most accurate way to think of Penny boards. And as you might expect, they’re more affordable than either regular skateboards or longboards.
These boards come in 4 different sizes: 22″, 27″, 32″, and 36″ in length, so there’s a board for pretty much everyone.
Typically, these boards have a tail and no nose. Also called banana or nickel boards, Penny boards are mainly used for cruising short distances. But you can also pull off tricks with it, except it’s pretty difficult for most people.
2. Regular Skateboards
Most skaters ride regular skateboards. These boards come with a tail and a nose. Think of these as the middle option between longboards and Penny boards.
These boards let you have the best of two worlds — doing tricks and cruising. Anyone who’s thinking of learning a few skateboarding tricks should definitely go with a skateboard.
I’ll focus on how to assemble a skateboard from scratch rather than a Penny or longboard.
These boards run on small and medium-sized wheels, typically 50mm to 60mm. However, you can use larger wheels on them if you’re ok with raising the center of gravity via riser pads. Remember, higher CoG means less stability.
Longboards are longer and heavier than either skateboards or Penny boards. And they use large, soft wheels (60+ mm wheels). Actually, longboards run on the largest wheels on the market. Since these boards are longer and heavier than the other two types, it’s much harder to do set up skateboarding tricks with them.
They’re best for cruising. And when it comes to making turns around sharp bends at high speeds, these are the best boards. They’re also the best when it comes to bombing hills or soft-wheel sliding.
Penny Boards Vs Regular Skateboards vs Longboards
Penny boards are the smallest, regular boards are larger, and long boards are the longest. Longboards and Penny boards use cruiser wheels while skateboards can use either standard wheels or cruisers.
Skateboards are the most versatile of all three skateboard types. They’re good enough for cruising (if you attach cruiser wheels to them) and excellent at pulling off tricks. Longboards, by comparison, are amazing at downhill skating and cruising, but they suck at tricks.
As for Penny boards, I can’t think of anything they do exceptionally well. They’re just affordable boards with which to get around town.
In terms of speed, a Penny board doesn’t give more than jogging speed. But due to its short wheelbase (distance between the front and back wheels), a Penny board wobbles excessively at high speeds. And at such speeds, it becomes extremely hard to control these boards.
The good thing about Penny boards is they let you do extremely tight turns. For that reason, these boards are what you need when skating on crowded sidewalks.
A regular board has a medium-ish wheelbase. And the fastest you’ll ride with these (safely) is bicycle speed. If you move too fast on a skateboard, it starts getting a bit unstable. Skateboards are commonly used for skatepark and street skating.
Longboards have a much longer wheelbase. For that reason, they remain remarkably stable even when you’re cruising at a car’s speed. Longboards are what you want for daily commuting.
Here’s how a dude I’ve known for years described each of these types of skateboard:
“Skateboards excel at tricks, longboards shine at downhill skating and cruising, while Penny boards excel at nothing.”
So, What’s the best skateboard for a beginner?
It depends on what you’re looking to get out of your skating experience. If you plan on skating casually or cruising around, a Penny board would be a good enough option.
If, instead, you’re looking to master ollies, grinds, and flip tricks, get yourself a 7.75″ to 8.2″ regular skateboard. And if you need something for commuting, get a longboard.
Pre-assembled Skateboards Vs Building from Scratch
You’re wondering whether to buy a pre-built skateboard or build one yourself. What’s better? In most cases, it’s cheaper and better to buy a pre-assembled skateboard. Why? It’s because, for the most part, brands use professional decks. And decks happen to be the most replaced part regardless of your skateboard type.
If you’re a beginner, I’d say buy a pre-built one. But if you’re someone who’s been doing this thing for years, you’ll probably want to build your own. Building a skateboard lets you customize every aspect of the assembly. It allows you to leverage your vast skating experience, crafting a board that helps you unleash your potential in full.
Most stores offer to assemble for their customers. But what skateboarder ever wants that done for them? No one; that’s who. Many experienced skateboarders often just want to replace the deck and wheels and occasionally bearings and trucks.
And decks happen to be the most replaced part regardless of your skateboard type.
What’s the best skateboard brand?
Look, it matters who makes the deck, where it’s made, deck stiffness, durability, concave, shape, and more. In my opinion, Chinese decks rarely last as long as US-made decks do, with a few exceptions. I’ve come across a ton of bad things said about various Chinese decks including Girl decks. But I’m not saying there are no good Chinese-made decks.
When it comes to shape, you can choose decks with a sharper tail and nose. Or you can go with a deck that features a more rounded tail and nose. Personally, I prefer the first type because I feel this shape lets me pop my board easier.
Most decks are made using American, Chinese, or Canadian maple. And if you’re wondering what deck brands offer the most durable decks, I hear Canadian ones are the best bet. If that’s true, it’s probably because Canadian maple trees grow in extremely cold temperatures. In very cool climates, trees tend to grow more slowly than in other places. And they tend to have much tighter annual rings that potentially add to the deck’s longevity.
With that being said, I love Baker skateboards best. Still. I have heard lots of great things about Deathwish, Enjoi, Santa Cruz, and even Chocolate.
What’s the trend when it comes to deck size? A few years back, 7.625″ and 7.75″ decks were quite popular. But these days, though, most skaters are increasingly choosing wider decks, 8.0″ to 8.5″. Seems like 8.25″ decks are all the rage nowadays.
How Much Does a Good Skateboard Cost?
I’ve seen $25 boards and $400 boards. Your budget, of course, determines how much you’re willing to spend on a board. In my opinion, any board costing between $100 and $200 from the right brands should be good. I’ve bought a $200 board because I just felt like supporting a certain skater-owned company. Only you can decide whether to buy Vans, Complete, or Penny skateboards on Amazon or wherever.
Now, let’s build your skateboard.
How to Assemble Your Own Skateboard (Easily)
Materials and Tools Needed to Assemble a Skateboard
Here’s what you need:
- A deck
- A grip tape
- Trucks (2 of them)
- 8 Bearings
- 4 Wheels
- 2 Riser pads (optional)
- Skate tool / Allen wrench
I’ve mentioned what deck brands are best. But what about trucks, bearings, wheels, and whatnot? Let’s examine each item.
Trucks are parts to which you attach the wheels. If trucks have metal at the top and bottom and they didn’t come with the deck, they’re very likely decent.
Trucks may be low, medium-height, or high. Low trucks offer more stability and are great for grinds. And high ones have you feeling every turn.
I think Independent are the finest skateboard trucks on the market. Many skaters would agree with me on that. Plus, Independent trucks are manufactured in California. And that’s nice. It’s a pretty decent company that’s persisted in the skating niche for decades (since 1978). They’re my fave trucks.
Hanger width and Overall Skateboard Stability
The hanger width of your trucks may affect how your trucks feel while skating as well as your board’s overall stability. Wider hangers tend to provide more stability in general.
But your wheels’ core placement also kicks in and affects the stability of your trucks. If you have center-set wheels attached to 195s trucks, it’d feel like you were riding offset wheels on 180s trucks. So, keep that in mind.
You may have heard that your skateboard trucks should be as wide as your deck or slightly smaller. And that if your trucks are slightly wider than the deck, your wheels will stick out. There’s also the argument that it becomes harder to pull off tricks with such a board. They also say you may trip over your wheels if the trucks are 0.25″ or so wider than the deck. Now, this is not exactly true.
Unless your trucks are too wide (9″+) while the board is too narrow for them (7.75″), you shouldn’t experience any problems. In fact, pro skaters have reported that slightly wider trucks (by about 0.25″) allow for easier locking into ledges, coping, and rails. And in my experience, if your trucks are too small, you’ll likely feel skating rails, ledges, and tranny a little harder.
Truckers that are slightly wider than the deck aren’t necessarily a bad idea. In fact, somewhat wider trucks let you lock into rails, ledges, and coping much more smoothly.
Hardware basically means the little things that hold everything else together — nuts and bolts. You can choose Philips or Allen Wrench bolts, but I’d say go with Allen Wrench. Why? It’s because Allen Wrench bolts are the finest I’ve seen. Actually, these bolts are fast becoming the norm. Why? It’s hard to damage them while skating, tightening, or loosening these bolts. By the way, you should learn how to tighten and loosen your skateboard trucks.
You need 8 1″ bolts and 8 nuts, 4 at the front and 4 at the back of the deck. But if you’ll use riser pads, be sure to buy longer bolts, preferably 1.5″ ones.
You can actually use 2 bolts on each set of wheels if you choose to. Some skaters do that, and it works for them. If you’re a beginner, though, it’s probably best to go with 8 bolts.
In most cases, one of the bolts you get will be colored. Have that bolt at the front of the deck. It’ll help you know which direction you’re heading in when skating.
The griptape provides your board with friction so you can do various skateboarding tricks with ease. Some people prefer course griptape, others favor finer griptape — it’s a matter of personal preference.
I’d advise you to pick the toughest griptape you can find. Mob griptape works best for most skaters. It’s tough and durable, and it keeps the rider on the board throughout the session (when you’re not up in the air, that is). If you’d want something softer, instead, buy Jessup.
I’ve reviewed the best bearings for a skateboard, and I’d advise you to go with Bones Reds. They’re fast, smooth, and long-lasting. Almost everyone uses them.
However, if you love premium products, go for Bones Ceramics. Mini-Logo bearings are also decent, and they’re pretty cheap.
You can buy ABEC-rated bearings. But keep in mind that being ABEC rated isn’t an indication of superior quality or performance. Don’t worry about size, pretty much all bearings are size 608, and that should fit every standard board. Oh, and you’ve gotta learn how to clean your skateboard bearings as the need arises.
Some folks out there may tell you to buy $100 ceramic wheels. But in most cases, those are commission-thirsty marketers who naturally would be happier if you bought pricier bearings. I mean, you can buy pretty decent sub-$20 steel bearings that work just fine. So, why buy $100+ options?
Being ABEC rated isn’t an indication of superior quality or performance.
You need 4 wheels for your skateboard, of course. Wondering what the best skateboard wheels for skating are? If I were you, I’d choose Bones wheels or Spitfires. Both brands are affordable, and they show pretty decent performance.
If you’re building a regular skateboard (and we agreed you are, right?), you need small to medium-sized wheels.
Go with sizes 50mm to 56mm even you don’t want to use a riser pad. In most cases, 56 mm or larger wheels necessitate using risers. With riser pads, such wheels give you wheel bite. Wheelbite is when your wheel(s) suddenly touch the deck, and the rider usually ends up eating crap. And believe me, it’s no fun.
Now, let’s talk about durometer (wheel hardness) a bit. Harder wheels outlast soft ones, tend to be noisier, less grippy than softer wheels, and not as bouncy. But hard wheels aren’t always comfortable on crusty surfaces. They’re best for tricks and street skating.
Soft wheels are naturally bouncier and grippier than harder ones. Also, they offer more comfort on terrible terrain, and they tend to be quieter. And if they’re large (they usually are), soft wheels can be quite fast. For a normal skateboard for street skating, go with 90A to 103A. Now, 90A wheels are moderately hard/soft while 103A are pretty hard.
Durometer XA vs XB vs XC vs XD
Some wheels are described as durometer Xa, Xb, Xc or even Xd. If a wheel is Xb, add 20 to that number (X) to estimate its hardness in terms of durometer A. And if the wheel says Xc, add 35 to the number to estimate its hardness in durometer-A scale. And if it’s Xd, increase the number by 50 to arrive at the wheel’s XA number. You can use a durometer converter.
6. Riser Pads
Risers are optional unless you wish to raise your deck that should otherwise use small or medium-sized wheels. Risers help prevent wheel bite (and small accidents) and shocks while skating. Generally, the higher the risers, the higher ability to absorb shocks. But risers also shift the center of gravity upwards, reducing stability.
Metal risers may be durable, but in my experience, they’re no good. By comparison, plastic risers offer a bit more usefulness, but they’re not the best. It’s best to choose tough rubber risers.
Have a skate tool with you. You need this for tightening bolts on the trucks, baseplates, risers, and on the trucks’ axles. You’ll also need a screwdriver. The good news is a T skate tool typically comes with a screwdriver. Meaning you can finish the task using this tool alone. You can also use 7/32″ and 1/8″ Allen wrenches, remember Allen bolts?
Other Things You May Need
Most bearings come well-lubed. You likely won’t need lube for now. But you’ll want to buy decent lubricant down the road. An abrasive cleaner may also be necessary in the future for cleaning the griptape. You’ll also need an appropriate cleaner for your bearings. Citrus-based cleaners are often best.
Here are the steps for assembling your skateboard at home:
Step #1: Grip Your Skateboard
Gripping a skateboard isn’t exactly rocket science. But new skaters and even some experienced ones may find the exercise a little daunting. Their intimidation stems from a baseless fear that they might do it wrong or make mistakes. Tell you what? It’s not easy to make terrible grip job mistakes.
Actually, gripping a board is a pretty easy and straightforward process. There really is no science to it. Here’s how to handle it correctly:
Hold the grip tape with both hands and get down to business. Mob grip may seem extremely rough, but you won’t want to skate anything else once you experience it. I use it, I know. One unique quality about Mob grip is it comes adequately perforated. And that causes air bubbles to work themselves out.
One way to add the grip tape to the deck is to start in the middle. So, hold the tape with your fingers and place both ends on the tail and nose. Then, simply drop the middle of the tape midway between the tail and the nose. Then, use your hands to press the air outwards in both directions. Do it right to ensure no air bubbles remain between the deck and the tape. Well, air bubbles never detract from the skater’s overall experience, but they don’t look nice.
Note: But before you put the griptape on the deck, peel off the paper at the back and put it aside, you’ll need it.
Another way to grip your deck is to peel it off in bits and stick it progressively from one end to the other. I prefer this technique as it tends not to cause air bubbles. Think of this process as putting a bandaid on a wound.
Step #2: Trim Excess Griptape Off
How do you trim excess griptape correctly? How do get cleaner cuts? To handle the process right, make sure you’re using a sharp razor. But a box cutter does a better job in my opinion.
Start with filing the grip all around the edges of the deck. Your T skate tool should have a file with which you can do this job. And when it comes to actually cutting the grip, angle the razor 45 degrees rather than keeping it straight up. Remember, you’re to cut the tape, not saw it.
I’ve found the task gets easier if I make small incisions at the curves (at the tail and nose). It’s also somewhat easier when I cut the grip from underneath.
You likely won’t get super clean edges the first time around. But that’s where the excess you cut off comes in. Take the strips and sand the rough edges down. And you’ll love how nice they’ll look.
How to Remove Air Bubbles from Your Board
If you do the grip job correctly, you shouldn’t see any air bubbles. But just in case you got a few bubbles, you can easily smooth them out. And that’s where the paper you peeled off comes in. Pick it and put it on top of the griptape. Then, use your hands to squeeze the air out while sticking the tape firmly and evenly on the deck.
But how would you take air bubbles out of an existing deck? It’s easy. First, identify all the areas with air bubbles. Then, pick a small safety pin and prick those bubbles, releasing the air inside. Then, press the tape down, and that should solve the problem.
Step #3: Poke Holes in the Griptape
Decks normally come with the holes drilled. But since you’ve gripped your deck, the holes on one side are now covered. So, flip the deck over so the griptape is facing downward, and using a screwdriver, poke holes through. Then, turn the deck back up and poke the holes from the top side. Doing that removes any edges that may stick out. That’s how you end up with a super clean look.
Step #4: Install Bearings into the Wheels
Pick one of the bearings and slide it down one of the axles. Then, take one wheel and put it on the axle just like you did with the bearing. Next, using your hands, press the wheel down. That should make the bearing pop right in. Note that each wheel needs two bearings.
So, remove the wheel and put another bearing on the axle, repeating the process above. Now, you have a wheel with two bearings inserted into its core. Do the same for all the other wheels, and take them off the axle.
Next, take a washer and put it on one axle, and then put one wheel on top. Then, put the second washer on the upward-facing side of wheel. Note that the bearing’s shield should be facing the outside and not the inside.
Step #5: Attach the Wheels to the Trucks
Finally, add a nut, and using your tool, start turning it until you have almost no play on the wheel. I’ve seen some skaters say tighten till there’s no play. But you sure don’t want the wheels too tight.
Repeat the process with each of the other 3 wheels. Now, you have two sets of properly mounted wheels, and the setup is ready for the trucks and hardware.
Step #6: Mount the Trucks on the Deck
Now, with the board facing upwards, take the hardware (screws) and insert them right through the holes. Then, stand the board on one of its two parallel sides. Next, put the hardware (and the trucks with the wheels) on the deck from the back of the board. Then, start fastening the nuts on the screws using your fingers.
Note: the kingpin on the trucks should be facing the right way when you’re screwing the hardware on the deck. Ensure it’s facing inside, toward the center of the deck. In other words, neither kingpins face the tail or nose.
At this point, grab your power drill and tighten the nuts. But don’t overdo it. The heads of the bolts should be flush with the top of the deck rather than sunk in too far. If you drive the heads too far in, you’ll likely see pressure cracks on the underside of your deck.
Step #7: Test Your Skateboard
Finally, you’re all set to test your board. If it’s your first time skating, here’s a few beginner skateboarding tricks to start you off.
And if you’re a pro, just jump on your board and skate the hell of your skateboard. Get a sense of how the trucks feel. Maybe they need a little tightening? Maybe the wheels are too tight? For experienced skaters, tweaking the board until it’s perfect for their particular skating style is the ultimate goal.
Congratulations! You’ve done it! But will your board last?
How Long Does a Skateboard Last?
A skateboard can last just a single skating session, or you can have it around for years. If you pick any of those cheapo Target or Walmart boards, you’ll likely smash them in a day.
Your board’s longevity depends on how much skating you do. A beginner who does light skating a few times a month may have their board lasting 10+ years.
But what if you really abuse your boards by subjecting them to the most complex tricks ever invented? In that case, expect to buy a new board every 4 to 6 months. Again, every person’s situation is different.
How to Put Together a Skateboard
Putting together a normal skateboard isn’t difficult. You really don’t need to be the handy type to successfully craft your skateboard.
First, obtain all the materials and tools needed. This is the most critical step. Then, grip the board. Next, install the bearings. Then, link the wheels to the axle. Finally, test your skateboard and make adjustments if and where necessary. I wish you success in your project. Ask me any questions you may have in the comments section below.