Making a longboard from scratch is a fun woodworking project. You can build a longboard with a few simple tools and can get amazing results even if it’s your first time working with wood. Learning how to make a longboard is a great way to get a fully customized board. Here are a few tips to help you get started on this exciting project.
What Kind of Wood Should You Use?
You should know that plywood and processed wood you can find at home improvement stores won’t result in a sturdy board. You can use plywood to practice since it’s an affordable material, but you will have to invest in solid pieces of wood to build a durable longboard.
We recommend using maple or birch. Birch is more affordable and flexible. Maple is more challenging to work with but will result in a stronger board.
Don’t hesitate to experiment with other types of wood once you get the hang of making longboards. Birch is probably your best option if you are ready to invest in quality materials.
You will need to use two or four sheets of wood pressed together to make your longboard. The thickness of the wood depends on how many sheets you want to use.
A longboard with four sheets of wood will be less flexible and more durable. Aim for a thickness of ½” and consider making a thicker board if you want a downhill board.
You can also customize your board by adding a fiberglass or resin layer. You can either attach a fiberglass or resin layer to a wood layer or insert these materials between two layers of wood.
Building a Longboard Press
You need to use a press to apply pressure on the two or four sheets you will use to build your longboard. Look into purchasing a press if you plan on making more than one board. Building a press from scratch is easy, but you can save time by buying a press.
You can build a simple press with some bolts, plywood, and some 2×4. It shouldn’t take you more than an hour, and you can re-use the press to make more boards.
The size of the press depends on the length and width of the board you want to make. Longboards are typically between 33 to 59” in length and are either 9 or 10” wide. However, learning how to make a longboard opens up more possibilities for customization. Don’t hesitate to build a press that is smaller or larger than a traditional longboard if you want to create something unusual.
Here is how you can build a longboard press:
- Cut a piece of plywood to use as your base. The length and width of the base should exceed the size of the board.
- Nail two pieces of 2×4 to the base to create a frame. You will place your longboard between those two pieces. The distance between those pieces will determine the width you can work with.
- Insert three or four screws on each 2×4 at regular intervals.
- Cut a thick 2×4 to match the length of the base.
- Nail three or four thinner 2×4 pieces horizontally on the thick 2×4 piece.
- The spacing and position of these pieces should correspond to the screws you have attached to the base of the press.
- Drill holes in these thinner pieces so you can use bolts to secure the two parts of the press together.
You can then place your longboard on the base and use the bolts to tighten the top portion of the press and apply pressure on the board.
You can build a more advanced version of this press by adding horizontal pieces to the base. The advantage of this design is that you can shape these pieces to add a curve to the design of the board. You will have to carve corresponding top pieces to create a series of clamps that will shape the board.
Building a Vacuum Longboard Press
Creating a simple press with 2×4 is a good option if you have a small budget and want a press that you can re-use. However, this type of press allows you to create longboards with flat designs.You should think about creating a vacuum press if you want to create more complex designs. Once you become more comfortable with DIY projects, you can use a vacuum press to create a drop-through board or add a kick tail to your board.Here is how you can build a simple vacuum press:
- Cut two pieces of foam to create a mold for the board. Use dense foam that will maintain its shape and cut the foam to add a curve to the board.
- Place the board sheets inside of the mold.
- Place the mold inside of a vacuum bag.
- Use a vacuum to create pressure inside the bag.
You will need to invest in quality vacuum bags with valves. The downside of this method is that you will have to create a different mold for each board that you make, but it opens up more possibilities since you can add curves to your designs.
You can use a utility knife to shape the foam. It’s best to start with a simple board design since creating two halves of a mold that fit together can be difficult. Remove small portions of the foam and check how the two parts of the mold fit before you continue shaping them. Your first mold won’t be perfect, but you will be able to create more regular and complex molds as you practice.
How to Press the Longboard Sheets Together
You need to press your wooden sheets together before cutting the shape of your board. Cutting the different layers of the board before you assemble them will result in an uneven result.
However, you shouldn’t hesitate to trim your wood sheets so they will fit your press. You will need to use glue to attach the sheets. If you want to add a resin layer, you won’t need glue since the resin mix will seal the wood or fiberglass sheets together.
Use a brush to apply glue or resin mix to your board layers. Place the board inside of the press and wait for the glue or resin to dry.
Leave the sheets in the press overnight. You might need to leave the board in the press longer depending on the materials you are using. If you are using a bolt press, check it regularly to see if you can tighten the bolts.
Creating a Template for Your Board Shape
You can print a template or create one from scratch. You can use a template based on a longboard you enjoy using or create a brand new shape.
Think about how you will use the board when choosing a shape. You can explore many different options, including downhill boards, cruising boards, or use a template for a fishtail design. You can also work with a pintail shape if you want a board with a sharp nose and tail.
Print or draw the shape of your longboard on a piece of cardstock. Using cardstock will help the template retain its shape once you cut it, and cutting cardstock is easier than working with cardboard.
How to Cut Your Longboard
Make sure that your sheets stayed in the press long enough to form a sturdy board. Leaving your board in a press overnight should be sufficient, but don’t hesitate to wait longer.
Place your template over the sheets and trace the outline of the board. You can then start cutting your longboard.
The best way to cut your longboard is to use a jigsaw with a universal blade. You should also use a woodworking bench. If you have access to a woodworking shop with more equipment, cut your board with a stationary band saw.
Wear protective gloves and glasses when cutting the board. Read the instructions of the saw you want to use before you get started.
If you are using a jigsaw, place the sheets of wood on a bench. Keep the shoe of the saw on the wood you need to cut and apply pressure to guide the saw. Maintain pressure on the saw, so it always stays in contact with the wood.
Guide the blade of the saw to cut outside of the line you traced. You can sand your longboard later to get a more precise result. However, you will have to alter the shape of the board if you cut too far inside of the outline.
Use relief cuts to get rid of large pieces of wood. Relief cuts will help you get a precise result. All you have to do is cut along a diagonal line to remove pieces of wood that you don’t need. Take your time and practice on a piece of plywood if you don’t feel confident about using a saw.
If you have access to a band saw, you will have to move your board around the stationary blade. Use relief cuts to make the process easier.
Sanding Your Longboard
Cutting your longboard with a jigsaw or band saw will result in a board with rough edges. You will have to sand those edges until you get a smooth result.
The best way to get smooth edges is to use sandpaper. A belt sander will remove too much wood from the edges of your longboard. Sanding your longboard can take some time, but it will become easier as you get more practice.
Pay attention to the abrasive pattern of the sandpaper you use. Sandpaper with large grains will work best on soft material like birch wood. If you used a harder material for your board, use sandpaper with a closed-coat pattern.
Start the sanding process with large grains and switch to finer sandpaper as the edges become smooth. Spend as much time as you need on this process and get the edges of the board as smooth and regular as you can.
Adding the Trucks and Wheels
Wheel clearance is important when designing your longboard! If you want to have a low truck, think about cutting the board to allow for more clearance. You can create a board with cut-out shapes for the wheels or draw a template with a thin nose and tail to allow for more clearance.
You will need to drill your longboard and secure the trucks and wheels with sturdy bolts. Mark the location of the trucks before drilling the board and measure the distance between the holes and the edges of the board to make sure you align the trucks properly.
You can either re-use trucks and wheels from an old longboard or purchase a new set.
The best part of creating a longboard is that you get to decorate your board. You can use a wide range of techniques and materials to customize your longboard.
Before you think about putting any finishing touches on your board, figure out how you will seal your longboard. You can apply a coat of varnish, resin, or urethane for a durable finish. It’s important to seal your board because it will protect the layers of glue or resin that hold the sheets together. A layer of varnish or resin will also protect your board from damages.
It’s best to apply paint under your varnish layer since it will protect the paint, but you can also add finishing touches such as stickers over the varnish layer. If you want to paint your board, consider using spray paint or acrylic paint. Use painter’s tape to get straight lines or cut a stencil to create a fun design.
You should also think about applying grip tape to the surface of the board. You can customize your board further by painting over the grip tape or adding designs with markers.
You should have a better idea of how to make a longboard, but keep in mind that there are many additional tricks and techniques to explore. Get started with a simple project and use your creativity to create more unique boards.
Featured photo via Pixabay