Skateboard Building- My New Self-Acquired Skill

Hey Guys welcome to my blog for my Art 221 course.

For this course I am learning and documenting a self-acquired skill that eventually I will use to create an artwork. I have decided to take my love for the aesthetics, design and culture of skateboarding as well as the basic woodworking skills I have and combine them with some existing information (from the internet, books and experts I can talk with locally) to create and build a few different types of skateboards. Along the way I will share some resources I have found, show you what I have done and hopefully contribute back as a source that others can learn from. In the end I will use these newly acquired skills I have to create a work of art. The final artwork will use the aesthetics and design of skate culture along with my newly acquired skills to represent my vision of the art form and some of the processes that I have gone through over the course of the project.

In order to get to my final project however I have to start somewhere.

I am a firm believer that when it comes to art of any form you have to learn the rules before you can break the rules. So let’s take a look at the evolution of the skateboard from a design and cultural perspective.

The Skateboard a retrospective:

The first skateboards are mostly attributed to being designed by surfers in Southern California in the mid-late 1950’s. Most sources agree that the desire to surf as much as possible lead surfers to find a way to surf the urban environments that were growing around them on days when they couldn’t be in the water. Thus the invention of “sidewalk surfing” or skateboarding. The first skateboards were made out hardwood slabs of oak or maple and had roller skate wheels bolted to them.


The first skateboards with roller skate wheels img src: Skateboarding Magazine

This just goes to show that from the very beginning skateboarding and the skateboard culture was very “DIY”. Over the course of a few years the popularity of skateboarding took off and skateboards began to be mass produced. This mass production started to change the aesthetics of skateboard design. No longer hand shaped like the surf boards they were based on. The mass produced skateboards of the 70’s had clean lines, subtle curves. Yet the skate culture still had a very surf inspired aesthetic.The surfers of the 70’s were still seen as alternative, rebels and often dangerous, and uncouth.

1977 Sims Skateboard Ad from Skateboarder magazine. img src:

Although the kicktail concept for skateboard shape was invented in the 60’s by Larry Stevenson it was during skateboarding’s 1980’s resurgence that it truly came in to force as a design. The kicktail would become a prominent design element in the 1980’s as skaters embraced the styles known as vert and street skating. Vert skating grew out of the pool surfing of the late 1970’s during the draught in California. Vert as a style has to do with the riding of verical walls. At first these were the walls of the empty pools of California but eventually this style of skating grew to incorporate the use of plywood ramps and half pipes.

During the same era there was a tansition towards what was called “street skating”. Where vert skating used ramps and walls to perform arials and tricks street skaters were starting to do flatland tricks. One of those tricks was the no-handed aerial or the ollie invented by Alan “Ollie” Gelfand.

The ollie and the drop-in (of vert skating) would not have been possible without the invention of the kicktail. In addition to the kicktail, the skater owned production companies started to make change to the shape of the board in order to allow easier control and execution of different tricks in street and vert skating.
The vert/street board of the 80’s became wider with a more pronounced kicktail This resulted in what is a fairly standard shape for the 80’s however some companies and skaters such as Tony Alva pushed the design even further into very specific board forms and eventually several companies would have their own unique board shape.

Tony Hawk’s 1980’s Skateboard donated to the Smithsonian Img Src: ESPN

It wasn’t until the late 1980’s, in fact it was 1989, that World Industries released the now infamous Mike Vallely “Barnyard Deck” the first double kick style design.

This deck not only revolutionized a style of skating by allowing skaters to perform tricks from both sides it was also one of the first skateboards to have a graphic that strayed away from the typical styles of the era. The barnyard deck was not only integral in the shaping of the type of skateboarding being done at the time, it also carried a message about Vallely’s feeling towards animal rights. Read more about the barnyard deck here.

From there the design remained fairly similar. A few tweaks to the shape of the nose and tail and a slight slimmming of the deck lead to the standard design of street skateboards today. A symmetrical board with equal kick or curve at both the nose and the tail. Today’s street skateboard design is know as the “popsicle stick”. The graphics on pro model boards have followed the barnyard design and are often quite eloborate and represent the pro the board was designed for in some way.


The Tommy Fynn “Mandela” 8.25 Deck from Plan B Skateboards

The skateboard has come a long way from the surf inspired chunks of hand carved wood attached to roller skate wheels of the 1950’s but the rebel culture and the aesthetic appeal of skateboarding remains very prominant even today.

Now that we can see some breif stages in the evolution of the design and the aesthetic of the skateboard we can see that with but a few exception skateboard construction is a place where form has often been a result of function. With that in mind I intend to use this project to not only learn about creating the functional form of the skateboard but also to play with  and change the form to demonstrate the aesthetic and the feeling of skateboarding and stray away from the function.

Now on to the fun stuff. Time to start building my first skateboard.

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