Your skateboard deck plays a big role in the amount of pop you get off an ollie, the way the road feels under your feet, not to mention how long your set-up will last. Take a peek into the making of a skate deck and what types of features and sizes you should consider when buying or building one of your own.
Most skateboards are made using laminated sheets – or veneers – of hard North American maple, a durable and somewhat flexible wood. Typically, skates are formed using a 7-ply construction, where seven veneers are layered on top of one another, but there are several companies that offer fewer or greater plies to decrease weight or increase strength.
To begin, the veneers are stacked on top of one another with the grains running lengthwise. A few of the veneers may be turned so that the grains run widthwise, a technique known as cross beaming, to add strength across the board. They are glued into place before going under the hydraulic press to be formed. The pressure from the press structures the seven layers of maple sheets into a single, dense strip with an upturned nose and tail and a concave center. After the glue sets, holes are drilled into the deck for the trucks. Now the wood is ready to be shaped.
The deck-to-be is shaped using a band saw. The saw cuts the wood into the shape of a skate deck before it’s routed and sanded smooth. Unlike the hydraulic press, which can handle several decks at once, the shaping process takes a little longer because each deck must be dealt with individually. Once the deck is glued, formed and shaped, it is then sealed to protect it from weather damage.
Finally, graphics are added to the underside of the board. Screen-printed skates are most common, but there are boards that are hand painted, too. (Slick-bottom boards are the exception. In this case, manufacturers add a printed sheet of plastic to the bottom ply before it is laminated and glued.) After the graphics are finished, the decks dry completely before getting boxed up and sent into the waiting arms of skaters around the world.
The width of most skate decks falls between 7-1/2” and 8-1/4”. To choose the best size for you, consider your stature and the type of skating you do most. If you are into vert riding – going off ramps or shredding the pool – wider boards perform better. The same is true for larger skaters, who need more room for their feet and a larger surface area to counteract their higher center of gravity. Narrower boards make tricks such as kickflips much easier, so if you are into riding street, opt for a smaller board width.
The length of a skate deck is measured from the nose to the tail and tends to fall between 28" and 32". (Of course, there are also longboards, which can be much longer than the typical small skate.) The shorter the board, the more narrow it will likely be. Conversely, longer boards tend to be wider. Therefore, the suggestions from above come back into play: smaller boards work better for technical street tricks, while bigger boards are more appropriate for vert riders. If you just enjoy cruising around, you might consider getting a longboard or a longer, wide board to improve your stability and balance.
The nose is the front end of your deck and tends to be thicker and a bit longer than the tail.
The tail is the back end of your deck and tends to be thinner and a bit shorter than the deck.
The sunken indentation in the deck’s surface is its concave. The sides of the board between the nose and tail are curved upwards, giving riders more control and stiffening the flex for added durability. The amount of concave that works for you is best determined through trial and error; judge the way it cups your foot and how much control and feel it lends to your riding.
The wheelbase is the measurement of the distance between the two sets of mounting holes drilled into the deck for the trucks. It is usually about 13" to 15", with the preferred distance dictated both by the rider’s height and personal preference. Taller people will likely be more comfortable with a wider wheelbase, which lets them widen their stance while skating.