Pressing your own longboard can be time consuming, frustrating and difficult but it comes with great rewards. Covered in this document will be how to procure materials, how to assemble a press and how to use the press to shape a deck.
Choosing and being able to find the right materials can be one of the most difficult aspects of this project. The wood and glue that you use will reflect heavily on how your board performs and lasts.
The standard wood that is used when pressing a board at home is Baltic Birch; this wood is flexible, strong and inexpensive. Another wood that is very good to work with is Hard Rock Maple; this wood is less flexible and stronger than Baltic Birch. Knowing the kind of wood is the first step, but finding this wood is not always easy. Hardware stores like The Home Depot will carry Birch and Maple plywood but the wood that they carry is NOT the wood that you want to use. If you use this wood you will end up with a board that is liable to break which is obviously a problem when creating something that will carry you at high speeds. The reason for this is that the wood that they carry has fillers in it. The fillers make it less expensive and weaker. The wood we want can likely be obtained from a woodworking store or a speciality plywood store; it is 1/8” thick plywood with no fillers. This wood is a great beginning material. It is possible to get thinner wood but this is even harder to find. When actually purchasing the wood from a supplier they may ask if you would like the wood cut. You most likely want your wood to be cut into one foot wide strips, but it is important to ensure that they cut the plywood with the grain so that the strips produced have the grain running along them and not across them. This will provide the board with a sturdier feel.
Choosing the right glue is important to making a quality board. Aside from industrial glues there are two main glues that fit the criteria for a home-made board. Titebond three is wood glue that can be bought in any major hardware store and it will make a very sturdy board. Glue that makes more sense if you are making a lot of boards is Multibond Sk8 which can only be bought in large amounts online.
There are many ways to build a board press. As you get more advanced in building boards you may experiment with concrete presses, hydraulic presses and vacuum presses. The simplest way to press a board for beginners is a bolt press. A bolt press can be easily adjusted to make different shapes and sizes of boards, unlike many of the other presses. To build a bolt press you will need six eight inch long half inch bolts, each with two washers and a nut, a twenty six inch by five foot piece of plywood that is three quarter inch to one inch thick, two five foot pieces of one inch by one inch strapping, three twenty six inch long two by fours and one five foot long two by four.
The bottom of the press is assembled by fastening the one by one pieces to the plywood one inch from its edge and drilling three half inch holes a half inch from outside edge; two holes on foot from each end and one hole in the middle of each side. The bolts can then be inserted into each hole with a washer on the bottom side of the plywood as illustrated in figure 1.
The top of the press is assembled by drilling holes a half inch from each end of each twenty six inch two by fours and placing them onto the bolts as seen in figure 2. They are placed onto the bolts to align them. The five foot two by four can then be centred on top of the twenty six inch two by fours and they can be screwed together as seen in figure 3.
Pressing the Board
When the materials have been gathered and the press has been assembled it is time to start building a long board deck. Either three or four sheets of the eighth inch plywood can be used depending on the length of the board, the weight of the rider and the desired flex. For a board that is more than thirty inches long it is recommended to use four sheets of plywood. For a rider above two hundred pounds or for a stiffer feel it is also recommended to use four pieces of plywood.
Before laminating the plywood together it is recommended that you outline the final shape that is desired on the top piece of plywood so that when the shaped wood comes out if the press it can be cut out with a jigsaw.
Laminating the pieces of wood in the press is done by covering all sides of the plywood that will contact another piece of plywood with glue, laying them on top of each other and placing them onto the bottom of the press. Once the plywood has been centered on the press the top is put in place and tightened until the desired shape is reached.
To get a kicktail on the board a two by four can be placed in the back of the press as shown in figures four and five. Different glues will have different drying times so do not remove the board from the press until it has had sufficient time to set.
Cutting a Final Shape
Now you have a piece of wood that has concave and camber. The last part of building your own longboard is cutting out a shape. To do this you need to establish where the center of your concave is and draw a line from the tip to the tail. I suggest using a chalk line to do this. This line will act as a point of symmetry when you cut your shape. The next step is to draw out on paper the shape you want and then transfer this on to a piece of 1/8th inch plywood. Cut this design in half lengthwise and then cut around your design; you should end up with half of a template for the shape of your board. Clamp this template to your shaped wood so the edge of the template is lined up with the centre line that you drew on your board and cut around the template. Flip the template over, clamp it to the other side of the board and repeat the cutting. Now you have a symmetrical board.
Drilling Truck Mounts
Drilling holes to mount the trucks is very important and if done wrong can ruin all your hard work so far, so be careful. The trucks need to be mounted very straight or your board will be unreliable. Using your center line, draw the distance from the center of your truck to the hardware holes and make a chalk line for each distance. Decide where you want your trucks, mark the holes and drill them through. See figure 6.