A skateboard looks simple. But, in reality, it’s a finely-tuned vehicle that can handle speed and a lot of hard knocks.
That requires a sturdy build.
To have a complete skateboard, you need only seven main components:
- A deck
- 2 trucks
- 4 wheels (with bearings)
Each main part of a skateboard has additional parts built-in.
You also need connecting and supplementary hardware to hold it all together, some of which plays its own vital role in skateboard functionality.
Parts of a Skateboard
Many parts of a skateboard come pre-assembled.
When you buy a skateboard truck, for instance, you get all necessary components, such as nuts and bushings, along with it.
That makes it easy to build your board even when you’re starting from scratch.
However, some skateboard components wear down faster than others.
You are almost certain to have to replace smaller parts, like bushings or griptape, before you have to replace major components, like the trucks or deck.
(Unless you’re practicing new tricks. In that case, you should budget in regular new decks.)
Since skateboard components do wear down, it’s a good idea to have some knowledge of the parts of your board and how they go together.
A skateboard has a fairly simple design. You should be able to fix many problems or faulty pieces yourself.
Once you know your riding style, you can also swap out components and fine-tune your skateboard for a custom riding experience.
But it’s essential to know what you’re working with first.
What makes a skateboard a skateboard, the deck is the part of the skateboard you ride on.
Standard skateboard decks are made of multiple hard wood sheets glued together and coated in polyurethane.
Skateboard decks can be numerous widths, but 7.5” to 8.25” are the most common sizes mass-produced by major manufacturers.
The nose is on the front of the deck.
It’s a slight upward curve in the mold of the deck.
Another name for the nose is a kicktail.
The deck tail is the back kicktail (slight upward curve) on a skateboard.
It’s a little wider, while the nose is a little more pointed.
Griptape is the abrasive covering on the top of a skateboard deck.
It clings to the feet, making it easier to stay on the board and perform tricks.
Griptape is not required for a skateboard to be a skateboard.
That said, it is absolutely essential for riding.
There are also non-abrasive griptapes made of rubber, but they are uncommon on pre-built boards.
The truck is the metal part of the skateboard that connects the deck to the wheels.
Trucks are a skateboard’s base and operation center.
As such, each truck has some very essential components.
The truck hanger is the main part of the truck.
It’s one of the parts you see when a skateboard is put together.
The baseplate is the other main part of a truck you see when a skateboard is assembled.
It’s the part of the truck that connects to the deck.
Additional components of the baseplate are the:
Kingpin: a large bolt that protrudes from the baseplate to which the hanger attaches.
The pivot cup: the plastic piece inside the baseplate where the nub on the hanger rests, allowing it to move.
Bushings: cone or barrel-shaped pieces that keep the metal components of the truck – namely the baseplate and hanger – from rubbing together.
Kingpin Nut/Washer: the large nut on the kingpin that holds the hanger and bushings in place.
The axle on a truck goes through the hanger and juts out either side.
The axle is where the wheels are attached to the truck.
Truck Axle Nut
The axle nut is the nut that tightens onto the truck axle.
Once a wheel is on the truck axle, it’s the axle nut that keeps it there.
Skateboard wheels are the actual wheels a skateboard rolls on.
They attach to the axles on the trucks.
Wheels for skateboards come in two main variations – hard and soft – which affect the way the board handles.
Hard wheels are faster and slide better on paved surfaces.
They are ideal for skateparks, street skating, and performing tricks.
But they absorb less shock than softer wheels.
Soft wheels are softer, larger, and feel better on rough terrain.
They create a less jarring ride and are ideal for skateboard commuting.
They are less responsive than hard wheels.
The bearings in a skateboard wheel are what make it turn on the axle.
Each wheel has two bearings, that fit tightly into the wheel’s core.
Some skateboard wheels come with bearings already installed, but most do not.
Bearings simply press into each side of the wheel.
Skateboard hardware consists of 8 bolts and corresponding nuts.
Hardware is used to attach a skateboard deck to the baseplate of the truck.
How to Build a Skateboard
Yes, knowing the components of a skateboard can help you with maintenance and repair when things go wrong.
More importantly, it can help you do something far more exciting – it can help you build your own custom board.
To build a custom skateboard –
1 – Choose your components.
You will need the following components to build a skateboard.
- Deck (1)
- Griptape (1)
- Trucks (2)
- Wheels (4)
- Bearings (8)
- Skateboard Hardware (1)
When choosing your skateboard components, keep in mind not all skateboard components fit together.
You must choose your trucks based on the size of your deck and your wheels based on the size of your trucks.
The best way to build a skateboard is to start at the top.
Choose your deck first, choose trucks that fit the deck, then look at the wheel selection in that truck size.
It doesn’t matter which deck you choose. You should be able to find all types of wheels and trucks to match.
2 – Gather your tools.
To assemble your skateboard you’ll need a few special tools.
- Skate tool: an appropriately sized multi-tool for tightening nuts and bolts
- Precision craft knife: for trimming your griptape
- Needle: for punching holes in your griptape
3 – Affix the griptape to the deck.
Griptape comes much like a sticker. It is self-adhesive and comes in one long sheet.
Center the griptape over the top of the deck, so you know where it needs to go once you remove the backing.
Remove the backing paper and press the griptape against the deck.
Avoid bubbles and make sure the grip tape is flat against the deck.
4 – Trim and punch holes in the griptape.
Use the craft knife to trim the griptape so it lines up with the edges of the deck.
Flip the deck so you can see the bottom.
Press the needle up through each of the bolt holes in the deck to make small holes in the grip tape. Make sure the holes are large enough to see.
5 – Attach the trucks.
Line the first truck’s baseplate up with the bolt holes on the deck.
The kingpin should face inward toward the center of the board.
Pass the bolts through the griptape and deck into the holes in the truck’s baseplate.
(Wiggle the bolts around a bit to gently pass them through the griptape.)
Put a nut on each bolt and tighten it securely.
Repeat the process with the second truck, making sure the kingpin faces inward.
6 – Prepare the wheels.
Line the first wheel bearing up with the hole in the first wheel.
Press until the bearing pops into place in the wheel’s core.
(Some skate tools include a special bearing press tool for this.)
Turn the wheel over and press a bearing into the other side.
Repeat for the other wheels.
7 – Remove the axle nut and washers from one truck axle. (This hardware should come with the truck.)
Place one washer on the axle, slide the wheel into place, put the second washer on the axle, then secure with the nut.
Repeat for the remaining wheels, tightening one onto each axle.
Just like that, your board is ready to ride.
But not so fast.
When you build your own skateboard, the point is to make it your own.
You need a board that works with you, a custom-built vehicle that responds to your personal riding style.
So, let’s talk customization.
Along with your choice of deck, trucks, and wheels, there are multiple ways you can customize your skateboard’s performance.
Once you have the main components in place, it’s time to start thinking about small changes you can make (or accessories you can add) to change the way your board feels and functions.
As you build your skateboard, here are some parts and adjustments you’ll want to consider:
The bushings on a skateboard’s trucks absorb a lot of shock and vibration.
Because of this, they are one of the first parts of a skateboard to wear out.
So, you should get used to replacing them.
You can also swap out bushings for performance purposes.
Different bushings are better for different things.
Harder bushings make trucks tighter and sturdier, but decrease responsiveness on turns.
Softer bushings make trucks looser and turning easier, but create a less sturdy base.
For heavier people, softer bushings can also be too soft, causing a board to sink and making turns even harder.
When choosing a truck, pay attention to the bushings.
Or just swap them out once you get a feel for your riding style.
Much like bushings, bearings are an easy swap that can vastly improve your skateboard’s performance.
Some are better for speed. Some are more durable.
The ABEC classification for a bearing is super useful in finding the bearings that are right for you.
The lower the ABEC rating, the less precise (and less expensive) a bearing is.
The higher the ABEC rating, the more precise (and more expensive) a bearing is.
ABEC 5 is the middle ground for bearings and the best for skateboards in most situations.
ABEC 3 is not quite as fast and a little cheaper, but can be perfectly fine for everyday riding/cruising.
ABEC 7 is ideal for racers for whom speed is the most important factor.
Shock Pads and Risers
Shock pads or risers are small additions to a skateboard build that can make a huge difference in turning capability.
Both shock pads and risers are polyurethane pieces that install between the baseplates of the trucks and the skateboard deck.
They absorb vibrations and reduce the force between the deck and trucks when riding on rough surfaces or performing tricks.
Shock pads are typically 1/8” thick and meant solely for shock absorption. Though, they will give the board a little lift.
Risers are ¼” or higher and meant to absorb shock and create more clearance between the deck and the wheels.
More clearance means easier turning and less risk of the wheels rubbing the deck, especially when riding on loose trucks.
Speaking of trucks, when it comes to small tweaks that change the way your board rides, truck tightness is a powerhouse adjustment.
How tight or how loose your trucks are determines how your board steers.
Your bushings are one part of truck responsiveness, but so is the tightness of the truck itself.
By loosening the nut on the kingpin, you give your truck more space to move around, making turns easier.
By tightening the nut, you decrease the truck’s mobility, which makes your board feel more stable, especially at higher speeds.
Truck tightness is a small adjustment you can make at any time to change the way your board responds.
That’s why it’s always nice to have a skate tool with you.
Hardware and Griptape
The smallest, least monumental changes you can make to your skateboard are decorative hardware or griptape.
Hardware comes in many different color schemes and designs, adding instant punch to your board’s appearance.
Griptape comes in even more designs, and is the simplest way to decorate your board.
For a completely unique appearance, you can cut and combine multiple griptapes into a design, making your deck one-of-a-kind and entirely you.