I Built A Skateboard Deck From Scratch

As a southern California transplant, I’ve never outgrown my fascination with skate culture. And though my skill level plateaued at the sidewalk-cruising stage, my fixation with all things skate has lasted longer than Avril Lavigne’s sk8er boi phase.

Recently, I let my obsession rip at the “Making & Designing Skate Decks” Converse CONS Project, run by godfather of the modern skate deck, “Professor” Paul Schmitt. As luck would have it, building a deck is easier than landing a switch tre flip on a 7 stair.

I knew I wanted a cruiser, so I measured and labeled my deck template accordingly. Nine inches across for a wider riding area, and 5 and 6.75 inches for the nose and tail, respectively, for deeper turns around city corners.

There were 12 templates laid out for nose/tail shapes—I went with a round nose and slighted pointed tail. Seasoned skaters will tell you the slightest variations in curvature will affect performance, but I pretty much selected the two varied shapes so I could distinguish the front and back.

After figuring out overall board dimensions (sadly the most difficult part of the entire process, because math) and tracing the templates, I used a box cutter to create my stencil.

After the stencil was quickly sanded down to smooth out the inconsistencies, I traced the board's exact shape onto my rectangular block of hard maple wood. Speaking of, hard maple veneer is the preferred building block for skateboards, because of its resilience against the elements and wipe-outs alike.

Cutting it, or rather, letting the Professor cut it while my hands made negligible contact with it, was…well, effortless.

Next came the OCD-indulging step of polishing the unfinished board to buttery smoothness.

First, with an industrial polisher.

Then, with sanding blocks of four different grit sizes (36, 50, 80, and 120). The first block required the most arm power, while the last really just felt like an industrial-sized nail filer.

Once the board felt blemish-free, the guys from NYC-based Grotesk Studio helped me personalize it. I made the rookie move of spraying downward (holding the can upright will ensure none of the liquid paint escapes the tube), but I imagine that’s how Banksy started out.

Finally I slapped a coat of all-weather polyurethane sealer on, and laid it out to dry. Now warm weather night cruising is just one set of glow-in-the-dark wheels away.

Michelle No is an editorial assistant at Supercompressor and dreams of one day skating with Murdy the Dawg. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.