Most skateboards are laminated from thin sheets of 1/16″ veneer that are stacked one on top of another with glue between each layer. The veneers are then pressed in or on a mold. Usually the veneer in a seven layered skateboard are configured as shown below. Depending on the boards’ use, extra layers can be added or subtracted from this configuration. A typical configuration would be similar to below.
There are many different types of presses that can build a skateboard. Below are examples of a number of presses used.
2 part mold using a hydraulic press. This is what the industry uses. If you are manufacturing skateboards on a large scale where you have spent the R&D time creating a shape that you know will sell this is the established process to use.
This press puts out a whopping 250 tons of pressure per opening and will hold 16 molds at a time and yield 80 decks in a 1 1/2 hour period.
Great for production.
Very expensive to buy and operate.
Molds are milled from aluminium and are costly.
Not really an option for a small start up company.
Cannot do custom builds using this type of press.
DIY Home Made Press
This press will make one skateboard at a time. Depending on board design sometimes multiple boards can be pressed at once.This type of press uses a single or sometimes double hydraulic ram. Many small production skateboard builders use this type of press. Depending on the amount of ram pressure this type of press will exert around 175 PSI (Hydraulic ram pressure = 25 tons or 50000 pounds / square inches of your board (12 X 36 = 432) = a usable PSI of 115)
Here is a good calculator for the amount of head pressure needed for laminating skateboards of different sizes. FRANKLIN
Jason at DIY Skate has a good tutorial for building this type of press.
Can be custom built to suite different board configurations.
Expensive but within a price range of an experienced home board builder.
Can be built using local materials from a metal scrap yard and automotive supply retailer.
Board design has to be well thought out.
Molds can be expensive and time consuming to build.
You need to be handy with metal building tools to build a press like this.
This type of press is great for home builders who want to use local materials that can be bought from most hardware stores. It works great for building boards from plywoods like 1/8″ Baltic Birch. You will need a jig or bandsaw and an electric drill.
Ryan Snider, RS Skateboards built the mold above.
Chudibap has a great build tutorial on YouTube showing how to build the above mold.
Relatively cheap to build.
Easy to construct.
Will last for many boards.
Great if you want to duplicate a shape.
Works well for boards made from plywood.
Basic tools need to build the press.
Does not work well with 1/16″ Canadian Maple veneers because of the inconsistent pressure if the ribs are spaced apart. Bubbling can occur as the maple swells from the water in the glue.
Hard to build complex boards like drop boards with because of the precision needed to duplicate the top and bottom form of the board.
You need to have a good understanding of board shaping. Once you build your mold it is difficult to change it.
Threading all the bolts can take longer than the wet time of the glue and will cause delamination between the layers.
Not good for custom one off decks.
Takes a lot of work to get it right and by the time you add up the costs of all the material, it can be expensive.
A friend from Montreal came up with the idea of using foam in a simplified 2 part mold to press longboards. The “Dimm press” is very popular with beginner boardbuilders.
Easy to build.
Build with locally bought materials.
Works well for building Baltic Birch boards.
Few tools needed.
Inexpensive to make.
Will not work well 1/16″ maple veneers because of veneer bubbling between the gaps in the foam.
Hard to know what the final shape of the board will be once pressed.
Boards can change in shape after consecutive pressings.
You need a bunch of woodworking clamps that are costly to purchase.
Delamination is common with boards built from these presses. This is caused by uneven clamp pressure while pressing.
These types of presses are great for beginner skateboard builds using Baltic Birch plywood as they depend on the rigidity of the plywood to even out the amount of pressure needed to glue the materials together. Most people use 1/18″ or 1/4″ plywood to build their boards from. The material needed to build this board press with is easily found at any lumber store like Lowe’s and Home Depot.
Inexpensive if you already have clamps.
Materials can be bought locally.
Presses are easy to build.
Works well for building boards from Baltic Birch plywood.
Need to have a number of woodworking clamps that can be expensive to buy.
Mixed results because of uneven clamp pressure causes boards to sometimes have delamination problems.
Will not work well with 1/16″ maple veneer.
Roarockit Thin Air Press Method
This is our patented method of using a Styrofoam, one-sided mold in a vacuum bag to build a board. Typically this method uses a manual, electric or venturi vacuum pump as a vacuum source to evacuate air from a sealed bag forcing atmospheric pressure to act as a clamp to press multiple layers veneer together into a skateboard shape. Shaping foam is a relatively simple process and one that has made it possible for builders to build complex shaped skateboards. There is lots of information on this site, in tutorials that show all you need to know to get started.
Easy to use.
Works well with 1/16″ maple veneer and 1/8″ Baltic Birch.
Molds are one-sided and can be made easily from Styrofoam bought locally.
Styrofoam molds are light-weight and easy to to store.
Styrofoam molds are easy to modify.
More complex shaped boards like drop boards can be achieved by adding addition mechanical clamps to your pressing.
Great for prototyping deck design and for building custom one-off boards.
Easy to see what is happening while pressing your deck through the clear vinyl.
With consistent pressure, the vacuum bag exerts even clamp pressure over the entire pressing.
Have to be careful when handling vacuum bags as they will rip or be punctured if not treated with care. Removing veneer from bag to quickly or dragging bag over a workbench can easily tear a hole it it.
Vacuum bags need regular maintenance. Checking for leaks or maintaining the sealing tape is a must.
While no experience is necessary, there is a learning curve.*
There are many different types of boards you can build using a Thin Air Press. The learning curve for vacuum bagging complex board can be high. It is best to start with a simple shaped board, learn the timing of the process and then go on to build more complex shapes. Almost all boards can be shaped using Styrofoam as a mold.
Learning how to shape Styrofoam (extruded polystyrene) into a mold is relatively simple but knowing what shapes work and what do not, will take time to figure out. Styrofoam for board building can be bought at almost all Lowe’s and Home Depot. You will have a difficult time finding it in California and Texas where the laws prohibit its sale. Its main use is for house insulation and comes 2′ x 8′ in 1″ or 2″ thicknesses. It will be either pink or blue in color. Styrofoam work in a vacuum bag because the density of the foam is high enough to withstand the pressure exerted on it by the vacuum bag. What we use is Foamular C300 for all our custom board molds.
Styrofoam is easily cut with a long utility knife and can be shaped using hand tools like a Surform and sanding block. For sanding I glue 100 grit sandpaper to a scrap of 2″ foam. Make it around 4″ x 12″. This works well for final shaping of your mold. Accurate drawn guidelines, before shaping is a must to keeping your mold uniform. I use a black marker, straight edge and tape measures to keep things accurate. Most of the time working with the mold is taken up in the drawing process. Cutting the shape takes little time once you learn how to use the tools. The more accurate your mold is shaped the better your board will be.
Dow Styrofoam (blue in color)
Owens Corning Foamular (pink in color)
Bending Styrofoam for Camber
Styrofoam is flexible. A good way of putting camber into a deck is to, after you have vacuumed a small amount of air from your pressing, place a block under one end of your TAP bag, Depending on the amount of camber the block can be varied thicknesses. Vacuum the remaining air from the TAP bag, pressing down firmly at the pump, bending the mold while evacuating the air. Once the air is removed the pressure will hold the bend of the foam. Here is a video that shows the process. This saves a lot of time hand shaping camber into a mold.
TIP: For Extreme Bends:
Two inch thick foam if you are bending extreme shapes can distort the Styrofoam at the bends. This will happen when the rigidity of the veneers is greater than the rigidity of the foam. A quick fix for this is to cut a piece of 3/4″ plywood to the same shape as your foam mold and place it under the mold, inside the TAP bag while pressing your veneers. Make sure the sheet of plywood is straight as any deformation will transmit to your finished board.
*Our Master Deck Kits are designed to teach/learn the vacuum laminating process without wasting materials and time by providing all the materials, tools and illustrated instructions in one box.