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Putting It All Together » Assembling your deck, trucks, wheels and accessories into a functioning skateboard.

Maybe you saved a few bucks by buying a complete skateboard - one that comes pre-assembled. Often you can get a better deal that way, but you loose a lot of the customization of parts. What if you wanted an Element Mike V deck, Black Magic grip tape, wide Indy trucks and 56mm Bones wheels with swiss bearings? You probably can't buy that set-up "off the rack" as they say.

I prefer buying individual components because I get exactly what I want. And I dig assembling new skates. Your local sk8 shop will assemble the parts for you, which is a good idea if you've never done it. If that's the case... watch closely and learn. On the other hand, assembling a new sk8 isn't all that difficult. We'll walk you through the process.

Tool List:

Gather your tools - you're gonna need 'em!

  • Philips-head screwdriver
  • Box-cutter or insanely sharp knife
  • Sharp/pointy tool for poking holes through the grip tape
  • Bearing press -or- almost any sk8 tool that will serve the same purpose
  • Socket/driver set with 1/2" socket, a 9/16" socket and a 10/32" socket -or- a sk8 tool with the afore mentioned.
    • 1/2" socket to attach the wheels to your truck's axles
    • 9/16" socket for adjusting the kingpin
    • 10/32" socket (for attaching your trucks to your deck
  • Cooler full of beer

Notice that we didn't list any power tools. Although you may choose to use power tools to speed up the truck attaching process, we don't recommend it. Too often tools are high in tork and wind up tightening the bolts too much and inducing stress cracks to the top of the board (which you won't be able to see due to the grip tape, but you'll hear them). It is advised that you use some simple hand tools and not screw up a $60 deck.

Parts List

Presumably you have all the components you need, but we'll run through them in case you dropped something after your best friend's sister rejected your advances with a kick in the balls and releasing the family dog on you.

  • 1- Skateboard deck
  • 1- Sheet of grip tape (wide and long enough to cover the top of your deck)
  • 2- Skateboard trucks (aka: 1 pair)
  • 8- Bolts and matching nuts to attach the trucks to the deck
  • 2- Riser pads (optional)
  • 2- rails (optional)
  • 4- Skateboard wheels (all the same size & durometer - it's a skateboard not a dragster)
  • 8- Bearings
  • 4- Bearing spacers (most good bearings come with spacers - use ‘em)

If you are missing any of the required parts, we recommend tracking them down before starting. It will be far less aggravating if you can complete the assembly and have a cool sk8 to ride.

There's no correct way to put a sk8 together, but there are a few things that have to happen before other things. Here's how we do it. Grip tape goes on first - makes sense, right?

1: Gripping

Putting grip tape on the deck seems very daunting to some folks. It's actually quite easy. You have to be calm, go slow and don't get stupid about it. I know some people can't use tape of any kind. Once they unfurl a length, it gets twisted and sticks to itself and becomes a big mess. Grip tape doesn't really have the same qualities as scotch or duct tape, but you have to be careful.

Begin by placing the sheet of grip tape on top of your board (before removing the backing) and verify that it spans both the length and width of your board. If you bought a standard popsicle shape (7¼" x 30"), you'll have no problem. Wider (old school) decks that are sometimes as wide as 10" are wider than the average sheet of grip tape. More on that in a minute.

Once you know that the grip tape is wide and long enough, take notice of how well it fits the surface of your skateboard. In other words, when you remove the backing and it' all sticky, you'll want to know where to lay it down so you'll be able to cover the entire surface. Now lay your skate deck on a sturdy flat surface with the graphic side down.

You're ready to remove the backing and stick it on your board. Stand up straight (I know your Mom always told you that, but we want you to doit so you don't get carpet fuzz and other crap all over the sticky side). Hold the sheet by one of the short ends and peel a corner of the backing close to where you're holding it, with your other hand. Pull the backing off the grip tape. Do this slowly and carefully so that the sticky side of the grip tape doesn't swing around and glom onto your pants or worse, your hairy leg (we know you ladies won't have this issue, but it still hurts).

Hold the sheet of grip tape at both ends and pull the ends taught so you can hover over the top of your deck with the sheet of grip tape.

At this point there are several methods from rolling it nose-to-tail to dropping it on and slapping it. We like to take it slow. Stick one end of the grip tape to the edge of the tail of your board. Make sure it really sticks. Lower the other end of the sheet towards the nose of the deck, but don't stick it down yet.

Take the hand that was holding the tail-end of the grip tape sheet and gently press the sticky side against the deck, slowly moving towards the nose where your other hand is till holding the sheet taught. Don't worry about air bubbles; they're mostly a myth unless you really screw it up. Very unlikely.

You now have a large rectangle of grip tape stuck to the top-side of your deck. You have to trim away the excess. First you have to define the area to cut and firm up the edges so they don't peel away with use. Grab that phillips head screw driver or similar metal object and rub it's shaft along the upper edge of the board. If you're applying standard black grip tape, you'll see a grey line appear as you score the edges with the shaft of the screw driver. This creates a line along which you can trim the excess.

You don't have to do this next part, but I find it makes trimming the grip tape from the concave shape of most boards a bit easier. Using the box cutter, slice the grip tape from each of the 4 outer corners of the deck to the edge of the grip tape. This lets the excess grip tape flex as you trim it away. Now you're ready to trim the excess.

With the box cutter, place the blade into one of the 4 cuts you made with the blade facing you at arms length. I find it easier to cut towards my self - not in a way that might accidentally remove an internal organ, but this lets me see the plane of the cut better. Make sure your blade is very sharp. Cutting through the grip should fell effortless, not like you're having to work at it. You may need to slide the blade back and forth a bit, but for the most part the blade should travel through the excess grip tape with ease.

Try not stop too often and keep the blade at the same angle as you cut. This will eliminate some squiggles in the final cut, giving you a smooth edge where the grip tape meets the board. At this point, you can put the board on the floor and stand/stomp on it or whatever makes you feel that the bubble are gone and it's adhering well.

Don't forget to use the excess pieces, you trimmed off, to give yourself a bikini wax. When you're done assaulting your crotch, use an excess piece of the grip tape to remove any thready stuff around the edges. Just use a hunk like sand paper and give the edges a rub down.

Gripping Wide Old School Decks

It's a popsicle stick world out there isn't it? Right down to the width of most available grip tape. There you stand with your 9½" Dogtown deck and a sheet of grip tape that just ain't wide enough. What do you do?

Be aware that the solution to this is rarely found in skate shops. I've found way too many shop employees who sort of shrug their shoulders and look at wide boards with a beleaguered stare. You may find a few souls who've solved this mystery. If not, here's a few ideas.

You can do the nose-to-tail stripe by cutting the sheet lengthwise and letting the stripe absorb the extra width (see section below). Or you can grip it horizontally across the width of the deck, joining the factory-cut edges for a somewhat seamless effect. The key is creativity, not defeat.

Grip Tape Alterations and Options

Once you get the hang of gripping boards, you may want to do something a little more interesting. At the very least, you may want to leave a horizontal stripe to delineate the nose from the tail. In other words, apply the sheet in two pieces with a small (½" or 1") gap. Here's a tip for that...

Each end of the sheet of grip tape is factory cut, meaning the edges are perfectly square. If you want to grip you board with the small gap in the grip, cut the sheet where you want the gap to be relative to the board and flip each piece 180 degrees so the 2 factory cut edges are facing each other. This way the crappy cut you make can be trimmed away and you don't have to worry about making a smooth perfect cut yourself. The same holds true for creating a vertical stripe from nose to tail. Just flip the pieces around so the perfect cut makes up the inner edges of the gap.

If you want to get all fancy-pants about it you can make any number of customizations to the grip prior to sticking it down. If you have a sticker you want to show through, simply trace it's outline on the grip tape, apply the sticker to the top of the board and carefully lay the cut-out down to let the sticker show through. Get imaginative. There's no excuse for a boring top-side!

2: Attaching the Trucks

So, you've done some cool custom thing to your grip tape and are ready to bolt on your trucks. Presumably, the grip tape is covering the 8 holes you need to put the bolts through. Get out your sharp/pointy tool (or an old nail) and stick it into each mounting hole from the underside of the board, just enough to make a puncture. Don't worry about cleaning out the excess or making a hole big enough for the bolt to fit. All you need to do is be able to locate the hole from the grip tape side.

Shove 4 bolts through the holes, letting any excess grip tape get pushed into the holes with each bolt. If you want riser pads, now is the time to put them in place (although they're optional). Fit the truck into place making sure it faces the correct direction. Too often people randomly toss on the trucks backwards which causes the board to turn opposite of the direction you lean. This causes may a novice assembler to crash to the ground on his/her first push with their new board. Naturally, this is funny as hell to witness.

Mount the trucks so that the king pins face each other. As you look down at the bottom of your board, the king pins will be on the inner side of each truck (aka: facing each other). We recommend attaching the trucks with hand tools as opposed to power tools. Power tools are very often a lot more powerful than people realize. Once they realize it... it's too late - the board is cracked. Such stress cracks are caused by the force of the power tool over tightening the bolts and pulling the head of the bolt too deep into the board, causing it to crack. This sucks - avoid it - use hand tools.

3: Inserting the Bearings

I've seen countless pros do this and it irks me every time. They attach the trucks, then dump 2 bearings and a wheel on the truck's axle and tighten it down until it seats the bearing. Don't do this!

It might work, but take a few extra minutes to make sure. If you have a bearing press, inserting bearings is a snap. otherwise, you'll need a garden variety sk8 tool to properly seat them. Take each wheel and lay it on the flat side. drop in one bearing. Use the wide driver to ease the bearing into place (aka: seating the bearing). When pushing a bearing into place, the tool should touch the outer rim of the bearing so as not to crush the more delicate parts. It should seat itself with minimal force. Insert the spacer and repeat the process on the other side of the wheel. Each wheel needs 2 bearing for those who didn't understand why bearings come in 8's not 4's.

After completing each wheel, I like to hold it, by the bearing, with my thumb and middle finger and give the wheel a spin. The spin should feel smooth, not wobbly or harsh. If you feel any wobbles, give the bearings another push on each side and try again. If you have small hands, get a friend to help or try the same test on the truck's axle, although you'll be able to feel it better in your hand.

4: Mounting the Wheels

Satisfied with the bearings in each of the 4 wheels, you can now mount the wheels on the truck axles. For the most part, skateboard wheels are symmetrical, meaning there is no front or back side. Most people put them with the graphic side visible, but reversing them usually won't make much difference. If you're using old school conical wheels, then you want to mount them with the cones facing out.

But, before you remove the bolts from the truck axles, make sure you see two washers on each side of the axle (4 per truck). They may seem like thin insignificant pieces of detritus that should be cast aside like a cheap whore, but you shouldn't (and you should be nice to whores - they're people too).

Remove the nuts from the truck axles and pull off one of the washers, leaving the other on the axle. Place the wheel on the axle, put the washer on and hand tighten the bolt. Use your socket to tighten the bolt completely. Too often people just jam the nut into the socket and force it on, thus screwing up the threading on the axle. By hand tightening it, you'll get it on properly and can finish it off with the driver.

How Tight?

Tempted to go down a path of sexual allusion, we're just going to get to the heart of the tightness issue. Much like the sexual allusion... you want the nut to be tight, but not too tight. But what is too tight?

It's partly personal preference, but I like my wheels to spin fast, while still staying on the axle. You'll have to make several adjustments to get it just right. Tighten the nut until the wheel spins freely. Next, tighten it a little more so you feel a slight degradation in the spin. Loosen the nut until you get that free spinning feeling (about a quarter turn or less). You'll have to experiment a bit to get it just right. Many times you'll be adjusting tighter and looser in very small increments until it feels good and spins freely. Try to replicate this evenly on each of the 4 wheels.

Girl with a beer

Go grab a beer out of the cooler. You've earned it.

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