Understand the Process

Skateboard Presses

There are many different types of presses that can build a skateboard.

Depending on the choice of wood, there are pros and cons to each type of press. 

 Roarockit Thin Air Press

Roarockit Thin Air Press

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 is configured as shown below. Depending on the intended use of the board, extra layers can be added or subtracted from this configuration.


Hydraulic Press
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.
Industrial Press
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.

 Industrial Hydraulic Press

Industrial Hydraulic Press

Pros

  • Great for production
  • Even pressure


  • Cons

  • Very expensive to buy & operate.
  • Molds are milled from aluminum 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. Sometimes multiple boards can be pressed at once, depending on board design. 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).
    Franklin has a good calculator for the amount of head pressure needed for laminating skateboards of different sizes.
    Jason at DIY Skate has a good tutorial for building this type of press.

    Pros

  • Even pressure
  • Can be custom built to suit 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
  • Cons

  • 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

  • Ribbed Press
    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 this mold.

    Chudibap has a great build tutorial on YouTube showing how to build this mold.

    Pros

  • 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


  • Cons

  • 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.

  • Dimm Press
    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 board builders.
     

    Pros

  • Easy to build
  • Build with locally bought materials
  • Works well for building Baltic Birch boards
  • Few tools needed
  • Inexpensive to make


  • Cons

  • 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.

  • Rail Press
    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.

    Pros

  • 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


  • Cons

  • 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 one-sided foam 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 a lot of information on this website, in tutorials that show all you need to know to get started.

    Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • 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.
  • Foam molds are light-weight and easy to store.
  • Foam molds are easy to modify.
  • Complex shaped boards like drop boards can be achieved by adding external 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.
  • Cons

  • Have to be careful when handling vacuum bags as they will rip or be punctured if not treated properly. Removing veneer from bag too quickly or dragging bag over a workbench can 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.