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This article is from Issue 71 of Woodcraft Magazine.

This solid-wood sidewalk surfer will get you on your way in no time

As I note in my book The Handmade Skateboard (Spring House Press), the skateboard was born in the 1950s in Southern California, when some teenagers fooling around in a garage nailed a set of roller-skate wheels to a plank of wood. The universally-awesome concept quickly caught on around the world and, as the popularity of the skateboard evolved, so did its design. By 1970 the kick tail was added for leverage to hop up curbs. In the 1980s, skateboard makers added a concave bend for extra strength and maneuverability. Today, skateboard decks are laminated from seven layers of hard maple veneer to create a precision deck with complex bends and curves.

Still, a vintage pin stripe hardwood cruiser like this is fun to ride and easy to make, even with limited shop space and tools. It’s great for first-time riders, urban commuters, or for just getting around the neighborhood. And you’ll have a good time mixing and matching wood species to create your own unique design that will turn heads wherever you take it.

Dry run. In preparation for glue-up, completely rehearse your clamping procedure, including sandwiching your blank pieces between cauls to keep the parts aligned under clamp pressure.

Build the blank from solid strips

Mill straight, square lengths of stock at least 5⁄8" thick, rip them to widths that suit your design, and arrange them to your liking. Try to slope the wood grain on all the pieces in the same direction for cleaner shaping later. Draw a triangle across the arranged pieces for reorientation, and then practice your clamp-up procedures to prevent any surprises or delays during glue-up. Then liberally apply glue to all the mating surfaces, and clamp up the blank. After the glue cures, plane the blank to 9⁄16" thick.

Saw the profile. Use a jigsaw or bandsaw to cut just outside your profile line, then follow up by carefully sanding to the line on a stationary belt sander.

Make a pattern and saw the profile

Make a full-sized paper pattern (see page 25), and use it to transfer the profile to the blank. Outfit a jigsaw with a clean-cutting blade, and saw to within 1⁄16" of your layout line. Follow up by sanding the edges smooth and then rounding them over top and bottom to create a bullnose profile.

Shape the edge. A stationary belt sander makes quick work of roughing out the bullnose on most of the edge. Round over the tail section using a half-round file, and then refine the entire profile with files and sandpaper.

Fast cut. A spindle sander outfitted with a coarse sleeve makes quick work of sculpting out the fender recesses.

Shape the fenders and drill the truck holes

Referring to your full-sized pattern, lay out the recessed fenders on the underside of the board. Then sculpt them out so that the wheels won’t contact the deck when you lean it into turns. To lay out the truck holes, first draw a centerline along the underside of the board. Then carefully position your trucks in perfect alignment with each other, and mark out the bolt locations at the truck mounting holes. (Important: Orient each truck so that its kingpin is toward the center of the board.) Bore out the through holes on the drill press, and then countersink the top ends to create a recess for the flathead machine screws.

Rough it out. Start by roughing out the cove-shaped fenders with a rasp and file.
Scrape it. Use a utility knife razor blade to smooth the surface and fair the curves.

Smooth it. Sand the fenders to a finished surface using a flexible sanding block.

Pretty and gritty. A mixture of silicone grit and varnish creates a lovely, protective, non-skid finish that dries clear.

True grit finishing

For a finish, I prefer a fast-drying exterior varnish with UV protection, like the water-based polyurethanes from General Finishes and Minwax.

Apply 3 coats to the underside and edges of the board, sanding between each coat with 220-grit paper. As for the top, rather than covering the pinstripe pattern with black grip tape, brush on a coat of finish mixed with transparent grit. Mix 1 tablespoon of clear silicon grit with 3 tablespoons of finish, and stir it into a thick slurry. Brush it onto the raw wood surface, making sure to evenly distribute the grit.

Trucks and wheels. A truck consists of a baseplate, bushing, a kingpin, a hangar, and an axle inside the hangar. Trucks, wheels, and bearings are available in a wide variety of types and sizes that will affect the versatility and durability of your board.

Selecting trucks and wheel assemblies

It only takes a few minutes to complete your board by setting it up with trucks and wheels. The challenge is selecting from among the array of brands and styles available. Here’s how I navigate the options to outfit a board like this designed for cruising.

Start with a pair of skateboard trucks equal to the maximum width of the skateboard deck (8" wide for this design). Independent is the premium brand, but there are alternatives. The trucks mount to the deck with 1" flathead machine screws and locking nuts, with a 1⁄8" riser pad in between to soften the connection. The ideal wheels measure anywhere from 58mm to 60mm in diameter—the softer the better—and they mount to the trucks with a set of precision bearings.

If you don’t want to puzzle out the selections yourself, see the Buyer’s Guide on page 64 for my specific recommendations for trucks and wheels for this type of board.


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