The History of Skateboard Construction

Published: 27th April 2009
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The first skateboards were completely home made. They we made of planks of wood with roller skate trucks fastened to the bottom. Most early skateboards had t-handle fastened to the top, so in essence they were homemade scooters. The interesting mechanics of these homemade scooters made it easy for the t-handle to come off due to the large amount of leverage exerted over the t-handle fasteners.



Soon children and teenagers where skating around their cities on their broken homemade scooters. It wasn't until the 1950s did surfers in California tried to replicate their on-water maneuvers on skateboards after their surfing sessions. Surfers from Venice California began to spend more time perfecting surf related skateboard moves which prompted them to try new skateboard designs.



In the 1960s skateboard decks became mass produced products. From the beginning there have always been two types of skateboard materials chosen for skateboards. The first was plywood, which was cheap, easy to machine and provided good flexibility. The second was plastic, which was cheaper in mass quantities, but lack the mechanical characteristics of wood skateboards. In the 1970s a few skateboard manufacturers experimented with fiberglass boards. These did not last long because of the difficulty to manufacture.



By the 1980s 90% of all skateboard decks were made of maple plywood. Maple is very strong when fabricated into cross laminate plies. Skateboard manufacturers began to press skateboards in molds that took on three dimensional shapes. Skateboards were no longer flat pieces of wood. They started to have up turned tails and concavity. The up turned tail helped skaters turn better. The concavity helped make the skateboard stronger.



At the end of the 1980s skateboarding began a transition from vert skating to street skating. A few early pioneers of street skateboarding like Mark Gonzalez, Ray Barbee and Mike Vallely began making waves in the skateboarding world by not skateboarding on skate ramps. Instead they spent all their time in the streets, skateboarding on ledges, curbs, benches and small metal rails. As their notoriety began to pick up steam in videos and magazines, young skateboarders began to copy their moves outside their homes in the streets and on the curbs.



By 1991 skateboarding had changed completely. No one was skateboarding on ramps anymore and everyone had gone to the streets. Skateboard companies that had focused entirely on the vert market were nearly bankrupt. New skateboard companies had emerged with new skateboard deck designs geared for the street skateboarder. The new skateboard decks were thinner in both width and thickness and now had an up-turned nose as well as tails.



The maple ply construction of the skateboards of the 1980s have remained as the standard skateboard composition even to this day. Some skateboard companies have released models with carbon fiber top plies for added strength and stiffness. However, skateboarders tend to not like this because the "pop" of the board is not springy enough.



Concavity has also been increased in modern skateboard manufacturing. Street skaters of today are performing much more intense tricks. Skateboard breakage is now extremely common whereas 20 years ago a skateboard deck would last years. Skateboard old timers now consistently say "Skateboards are made the way to use to be".

Wade Knoxville
skateboard reviews


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