Assembling a Longboard is fairly simple, and is almost exactly the same process as putting together a standard skateboard, but some boards and setups require a few extra steps. Many skaters like putting their gear together on their own, because they get a hands-on look at all of the components and they can fine-tune each as they see fit. This guide gives you a step-by-step manual on how to assemble top mount and drop through longboards from gripping to shredding.
APPLYING THE GRIP TAPE
Grip tape is an essential part of the longboard setup, because it provides the traction necessary to keep your foot on the board, especially when doing tricks, slides, and cornering. Some boards come pre-gripped, while others do not. No matter what you’re riding now, at some point in your longboarding career you’ll need to grip or re-grip a deck, so read through this article and learn how!
To get started, assemble the following materials, which you’ll be using to apply the grip tape.
GRIP TAPE You’ll need a sheet of grip tape, which usually comes pre-cut for installation. If you are planing to use your setup for cruising, carving, transportation, or like to do ollies and flip tricks, then we recommend using a fine grit grip tape, like standard Jessup, that wont tear up your hands and shoes. If you are planning to freeride or downhill on your setup, you may want to consider a coarser griptape like Vicious or Blood Orange, to help keep your feet on your board during slides.
RAZOR BLADE OR BOX CUTTER An individual blade or a box cutter is used to cut the grip tape. Your job will be a whole lot easier if it’s sharp. If you are using coarse grip tape, a box cutter will provide a convenient handle as you cut through the thicker, tougher material.
RASPING TOOL To grind down the edges of the grip tape, you’ll need a rounded metal rod. An old screwdriver works great for this purpose.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you are gripping an entire deck. If you are gripping a drop through deck, follow the steps below, and continue through the Gripping a Drop Through section. Once you get an idea of how the process works, you can customize all you want. You can cut out designs in the grip tape or even make windows to display the board’s graphics if they’re just way too cool to cover up. To keep it simple, we’ll lay down the basics:
RE-GRIPPING If you are re-gripping your longboard because you have worn the original grip tape down or smeared it with mud during hours of hard riding, you will first need to remove that old grip tape. It is recommended that you also remove your trucks before re-gripping so you don't lose your hardware under the new grip tape. Having some sort of heat gun or hair dryer to warm up the adhesive for an easier peel will make this process far less grueling. Start from the nose or tail of the deck and slowly peel from one end to the other, heating the grip along the way. You may first need to run a razor blade between the grip tape and deck to get a hold of the tape. Once your trashed grip tape has been removed, you are ready to lay on a fresh sheet.
LINING IT UP Start at one end of the deck – nose or tail, it doesn’t matter. Take the sheet of grip tape and lay it on the deck so that it sticks over the end about an inch. (This will ensure that you have some extra material to work with when you’re edging with the screwdriver in a few minutes.) Now check that the sheet of grip tape, when flush with the deck, extends all the way to the other end of the deck, plus an inch or two. If everything looks good, you are ready to apply the sheet permanently.
GLUING IT DOWN Start by cutting off a small corner of the overhanging grip tape, and using it to sand down the deck. (Make sure this is a corner of the material that would otherwise end up in the scrap pile.) Now you can peel the grip tape backing off JUST A LITTLE. Starting at the end of the deck, lay the sheet down as you did when lining it up – center it across the width of the board but leave about an inch of overhang at the tip. Use your hand to flatten the grip tape as you work your way down the board, peeling off the backing as you go. When you reach the other end of the deck, you should find that the grip tape is straight and extends over the edges a little.
RASPING THE EDGES In this next step, you’ll want to work your way around the deck, grinding an outline of the board into the sheet of grip tape. Use the rounded stem of your screwdriver or rasping tool to rub the grip tape down along the edges of the deck, eventually creating a visible white line in the material. This line indicates that you’ve ground the grip tape down along the edges of the skateboard, providing a secure edge that won’t peel easily. (It’ll also help you get clean lines as you trim the extra material during the final step.) Now it’s time to finish off the job.
TRIMMING THE EDGES Using a sharp razor or box cutter, carefully cut off the edges of the grip tape. Follow the white line that you made with the screwdriver in the previous step; not only is it an excellent guideline, but the material there is weak so it’s easier to cut through. When the scrap pieces have been removed, your board should look nearly complete. All you need to do now is take that screwdriver and round down the edges again. Rub them into the longboard deck to provide a good transition between deck and grip tape, and to make sure that the material won’t peel off.
If you just gripped a top mount or flush mount, you are finished gripping and are ready to assemble all of the parts to build yourself a complete longboard setup. If you need some help assembling the rest of your longboard, scroll down to the Assembling the Trucks, Wheels, and Bearings section for easy step-by-step instructions. If you are setting up a drop through longboard, follow these extra steps below.
GRIPPING A DROP THROUGH You should now have your board fully gripped, but will need to remove the grip tape from the drop through mounting holes before you can mount your trucks. First, flip your board over so that the newly applied grip tape faces down. Then, poke through the screw holes with a small screwdriver. Do this carefully so as not to poke your hand. Next, use your razor blade or box cutter to cut a series of slits in the grip tape which is suspended over the drop through mounting holes. It helps to make cuts at 45 degree angles from each corner of the drop through mounting holes, then feel free to make as many random cuts as you want throughout the exposed grip tape.
Next, flip your board over and use your rod or screwdriver to rasp the inside edges of the drop through mounting holes until you can see its clear white outline. Be careful not to scrape your knuckles on the grip tape during this process. Finally, flip your board back over and use your razor blade or box cutter to trim around the edges of the drop through mounting holes. It may help to flip your board back and forth to get into the tight corners. To get a clean looking finish and make sure that the edges of the grip tape wont peel up, you can go over the edges with your rasping tool one more time.
Once these steps are completed on both drop through mounting holes, you are ready to mount your trucks, wheels, and bearings!
ASSEMBLING THE PARTS
MATERIALS Before we get started assembling your board, let’s make sure that you have all of the required components:
GRIPPED DECK (1) If the deck still needs to be gripped, consult the instructions above.
TRUCKS (2) WITH HARDWARE Each truck should come with four screws/bolts and four nuts, which fit through the baseplate and secure to the deck. They also each have four axle washers or speed rings and two lock nuts. Hardware totals: eight screws, eight corresponding nuts, eight axle washers, four lock nuts. Make sure all hardware is accounted for before beginning to assemble your setup.
Longboards often require longer screws/bolts than your average skateboard because they are usually constructed of more plies of wood. 1'' screws will work for 5-7 ply boards but 1.25'' screws may be required for 8-9 ply boards. If you are using riser pads, just add the thickness of the riser pads to the length of hardware you need for the thickness of your board.
WHEELS (4) Four wheels go on the axles of the trucks, no more no less.
BEARINGS (8) Two bearings fit inside the core of each wheel, for a total of eight bearings on a complete.
BEARING SPACERS (4) One bearing spacer fits inside each wheel and sits between the bearings. (optional: not all bearings come with spacers, but they are highly recommended for longboarding, especially if you plan do do any type of sliding)
ADJUSTABLE WRENCH OR SKATE TOOL The wrench should adjust down to 10/32. All-purpose skate tools have three sockets to fit every need.
PHILIPS SCREWDRIVER OR SKATE TOOL Skate tools almost always come with a Phillips screwdriver inside. A power drill will save you some effort, but be careful not to strip or over tighten your hardware.
Now that you’ve gathered all of the individual pieces, let’s get them put together!
TOP MOUNTING THE TRUCKS If your deck is newly gripped, you’ll want to start off by poking through the screw holes in the deck from the bottom with a screwdriver. Do this carefully so as not to poke your hand. If you are setting up a drop through deck, scroll down to the Drop Through Truck Assembly section for further instructions. However, all drop through decks can be top mounted if you so choose. If you are setting up a top mount deck, put all eight screws into the holes from the top and flip the board over, bottom side up. Now you can slip the trucks onto the screws, through the baseplate. (If you are using risers, you’ll want to put those on first, between the deck and the baseplate.)
If you are using standard kingpin trucks, the trucks should be placed so that the kingpin and the bushings of each truck face inwards, toward the center of the deck. If you are using reverse kingpin trucks, the trucks should be placed so that the kingpin and the bushings of each truck face outwards, toward the tip and tail of the deck. Attach the nuts to the screws to hold the trucks loosely in place until you can fasten them securely.
Using the skate tool or the adjustable wrench to hold the nuts in place, tighten the screws in a “crisscross” pattern: if you start with the northwest screw, tighten the southeast one next, then the southwest, then the northeast. This ensures that the hold is evenly distributed over the entire baseplate. If you are using a skate tool and a screwdriver, it is easiest to hold the screw in place with the screwdriver, and rotate the skate tool to tighten. After you’ve secured both trucks, you can get ready to add the bearings and wheels.
DROP THROUGH MOUNTING THE TRUCKS To drop through mount your trucks, first loosen and remove your kingpin nut, then remove your top bushing washer, top bushing, and hanger from the kingpin. You may need to wiggle your hanger side to side to help pull the top bushing out of the bushing seat and remove the hanger's pivot from the pivot cup. You can leave the bottom bushing and bottom bushing washer on the kingpin. Next, place the baseplate on the top of your deck so that the kingpin points through the drop through mounting hole.
If you are using standard kingpin trucks, the trucks should be placed so that the kingpin and the bushings of each truck face inwards, toward the center of the deck. If you are using reverse kingpin trucks, the trucks should be placed so that the kingpin and the bushings of each truck face outwards, toward the tip and tail of the deck.
Line up the mounting holes in the baseplate with the mounting holes in the deck and place all four screws through the holes from the top down. (If you are using riser pads to lower your deck even more, you’ll want to put those on first, between the deck and the baseplate.) Attach the nuts to the screws to hold the trucks loosely in place until you can fasten them securely.
Using the skate tool or the adjustable wrench to hold the nuts in place, tighten the screws in a “crisscross” pattern: if you start with the northwest screw, tighten the southeast one next, then the southwest, then the northeast. This ensures that the hold is evenly distributed over the entire baseplate. If you are using a skate tool and a screwdriver, it is easiest to hold the screw in place with the screwdriver, and rotate the skate tool to tighten.
If you are planning to swap out your bushings to customize the way your board turns, this is a good time to do so. If you need advice on the types of bushings and which bushings might be right for you, check out our Choosing Longboard Bushings page.
After you’ve secured both baseplates and selected your bushings, you will need to reattach your bushings, hangers, and bushing washers. First, make sure that you did not lose your bottom bushing and bottom bushing washer while attaching your baseplates. The order of items from the base of the kingpin should be be baseplate, washer, bushing, hanger, bushing, washer, and finally the kingpin nut to hold it all together. The best strategy for reattaching the hanger is to first place the hanger's pivot into the pivot cup then lower the hanger into place. When reassembling your trucks, make sure that your bushings fit snugly into the bushing seat.
Finally, tighten your kingpin nut only until there is no vertical movement from your hanger. Tightening too much will minimize the performance of your bushings, and leaving your kingpin nut too loose will give you a sloppy and unstable feel to your turns. The kingpin nut can be used to make fine adjustments to the tightness of your trucks, but major adjustments should be made by changing the bushing's shape or durometer.
Now that you have set up your drop through trucks on your drop through deck, you are ready to get some wheels and bearings on your board!
ATTACHING THE WHEELS AND BEARINGS The first thing you’ll need to do is get those pesky bearings into the wheel sockets. This is probably the toughest part of the whole assembly process, because you need to use some manpower. You can buy a tool called a bearing press, which is specifically designed for this step, but your own two hands will work just as well if you know what to do.
Start by flipping your skateboard bottom up with either the nose or tail pointed towards you. Remove the axle nuts and one speed ring from each axle of the truck closest to you. There should now be only one speed ring on each axle. Bearings are very delicate and their integrity will be compromised if you aren’t careful when handling them, so take extra precautions during this phase of assembly. Proceed by placing one bearing on each axle, then one bearing spacer on each axle, then a second bearing on each axle.
Next, you will take two wheels and simultaneously slide them onto each axle with the graphics and outer lips facing towards each other. Apply inward pressure on both wheels until you feel and hear the bearings slide into the cores. Slide both wheels, with their one attached bearing each, off of the axle and flip them so that the graphic and outer lips face away from each other, and slide them back on the axle. Apply pressure once more to insert the second bearing into the core. This will also lock the bearing spacer into place between the bearings.
Finally, place one speed ring back onto each axle followed by your axle nuts and tighten. As you tighten your axle nuts, be careful not to dent the bearing shields with your wrench or skate tool. If you are not using bearing spacers, do not tighten your axle nuts down all the way or your wheels will not spin. Leave a little space so that the wheel has a small amount of lateral movement on the axle. If you are using bearing spacers, you can tighten your axle nuts all the way and your bearings will still spin unobstructed.
Once you have the first two wheels on, rotate your setup so that the opposite end is facing you and repeat the previous steps to attach the remaining two wheels, two bearing spacers, and four bearings.
Theoretically, your board is now rideable. However, you should always do a thorough once-over to make sure that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place (as in: no extra hardware lying around, everything is tightened).
Then, at last, you can get out of your garage and hit the road!