Making a Skateboard Deck with Converse CONS and Create-A-Skate
Converse CONS held the closing workshop of CONS Project: Los Angeles - free, interactive skate, art and music seminars reaching out to the next generation of creative spirits. “Making & Designing Skate Decks,” pairs them up with the CreateAskate.org organization, led by founder Paul Schmitt.
Schmitt created CreateAskate.org to get the next generation involved in the skateboard making process. Commonly referred to as "the Professor," Schmitt is a lifelong skateboarding veteran, who has been responsible for many of the technical developments in the skateboarding industry, and creating the shape of the skateboard as we know it today.
The goal of the group is to introduce formal discussion in schools, in regards to educating teenage students how to handle wood-working machinery, and hopefully stimulate their interest in the hands-on industry, so their mission combines perfectly with Converse CONS. This DIY workshop would be showcasing how a skateboard is built from scratch.
Creating the Deck Blank
A primer was given on how the seven plies of maple were formed, glued and bonded in a wood press.
After several days of being pressed, and allowing the glue to bond the plies of wood, skateboards are then delivered in their initial mold shape
Choosing a Shape
From here, they gave us free reign on how to design the board.
A series of templates were provided that would give us an idea on possible shapes, and sizes that the boards could be, or are commonly cut to.
For this exercise, the sizing template allows users to dial in the exact size (width and length) that they wanted.
Below is a mock up, with me standing on "the board" to get a feel for what it would actually be like once cut to size.
Scribing the Template
With the template cut out and secured, the outline was then traced on to the uncut board. This would be my guideline when cutting it to shape.
With the template being a half cut, the centerline of the board was marked, and the cut was flipped over the center line to create a mirror image - and a symmetrical board.
Cutting It Out
With the shape determined, it was time to get milling. With instruction on how to use the band saw, belt sander, and router, we were let loose with the power tools.
The band saw is used to cut the majority of the excess wood away from our templates. Using this machine was the most dangerous operation on today's agenda, and as such, supervision was required. We were advised to not use pressure and force to move the wood through the saw, but to instead gently move the wood through it, with any turns being gradual and arc-like in nature, in order to not burn or seize the blade.
The belt sander is used to finish the shaping of the board. With the band saw, we were advised to leave at least ¼-inch margins on the board for fine tuning with the belt sander. This tool is much smoother in action, and much less dangerous. By smoothly moving the board back and forth across the sander, the final shape was slowly forming. By this stage, the board looks complete to the untrained eye, but there is one more step in the process.
The router is used to create a beveled edge on the side of the board. This is a fine tuning step that helps skaters better feel the edges of the board. Seasoned workers at Schmitt Stix can route a skateboard deck in under 10 seconds.
Decorating Your Board
With that, the skateboard is complete, and looks as it does when it arrives at your local skate shop. Well, not quite. CreateAskate.org and Converse CONS had organized a small Q&A with renowned skateboard graphic artist, Ben Horton. Horton elaborated on the individuality present in skateboarding, and how the graphics were a big part of that. He led us to a table with paint pens, spray paint, stencils, and acrylic paints with rollers and brushes, and said to go for it.
The floor became a flurry of painters and artists, as people began to branch out, some going outside to use the spray paint, and others sprawling out on the floor to paint their creations.
I opted to leave mine natural and enjoy the textures and colors offered by these seven plies of hard maple.
So, that is how a skateboard is made - from scratch.
If you’re interested in more information about the Create-A-Skate program, please check out: www.createaskate.org
If you would like to attend a workshop, or see what's happening in your area, please check out: www.consproject.com