03 May Cruisin City Guide: how to build your own old school skateboard
Whether you’re a veteran skater from the 70’s or just getting into skating – there’s a lot of fun to have on old school skateboards!
Nowadays, the modern skateboard is practically a feat of engineering: from precision bearing tolerances to highly calculated deck concaves, we’ve come a long way since the first skateboards!
Just like anything in life, we can learn a lot from our past. Lucky for us, many of the earliest skateboard companies still exist today. Even better, many of them still produce the same stuff they did back in the day!
This is the definitive guide to building your own old school skateboard.
We’ve put this together for anyone who wants to assemble a skateboard like those used by our previous skateboard brothers.
The basic components of old school skateboards are the same as those today (deck, trucks, wheels, bearings). However, you’ll generally find that sizes can be much different from modern set-ups.
We’ll show you how to coordinate everything together to build the ultimate old school shredder!
Plus, we’ll give you some tips for common old school parts like slide rails, riser pads and more.
How to choose an old school deck
Your deck is like the bread and butter of your skateboard set-up.
Most importantly, the size will determine both how it feels to skate and what size trucks to pair with it.
From the 1970’s to late 1990’s, skateboard deck sizes and shapes have changed drastically. From really small to really big and everywhere in-between, different eras can be seen in deck sizes.
This video from Transworld Skateboarding says it best:
How do you choose an old school deck? Well, this isn’t going to be very helpful, but it simply depends on what you like to skate!
A narrower board (7.5” – 8.75” wide) will be more responsive for street skating or various skate terrains.
A wider board (8.75” wide and up) will be more stable for bigger skaters, at high speeds, and for skating bowls and half pipes.
There is no “rule” for which deck size is best for you. Skaters with bigger feet often prefer a wider deck. However, some bigger skaters prefer the more technical, quick control of a narrow deck.
Old school decks come in many sizes: you’ll find that the “normal” width of an old school deck is usually between 8.5” – 10” (larger than most popsicle decks of today).
Old school deck shapes – Many pre-1990 deck shapes had little to no nose. This is a great difference from modern skateboards. Nollies, nosegrinds, and noseslides are generally not possible. However, this no-nose design is part of what will make your old school board feel truly retro!
Old school decks will give you a whole new perspective on skateboarding. They’re a way to understand how and why skate tricks have developed the way they have.
Many 80’s shapes have squared-off tails or wide sections in the center. They’re also often very flat. This lack of concave and wide shape makes them harder to do flip tricks.
But, they’re a whole lot of fun to skate curbs, rails, and bowls! You can see why the “slappy grind” on curbs came from the 80’s era!
Our goal at Cruisin City is to provide you with the biggest and best selection of old school decks. With the knowledge above, check out our deck selection and pick out some of your favorite old school boards.
Again, there’s no rules! Just find a board that looks fun to skate!
Here’s a link to our old school decks at Cruisin City.
Griptape for your old school deck
A standard sheet of griptape is 9” x 33”.
The problem: many old school decks are wider than 9”! You have some options:
- Buy 10” wide griptape.
- Get creative!
Skaters have been getting creative with their griptape since the beginning! Even if you have a 9” sheet for a 10” deck, try cutting and placing the sheet different ways on your board. Not every inch of the deck necessarily needs griptape. Plus, many old school decks feature awesome top graphics to reveal!
Here’s a video to get your creative griptape juices flowing:
Finding the right trucks for your old school skateboard
As a general rule, you want to match the axle width of your trucks as closely as possible to the width of your deck.
With old school decks, this can be a bit more complicated.
Remember, the width measurement of a deck is taken at the widest point of the deck. Decks shaped like a fish or other unique shape may have a huge width measurement (10” for example).
In reality, the width where the trucks are mounted may really only be like 9”-9.5” wide. Therefore, it can be tricky to match the deck and truck width exactly.
Try to find a truck that’s somewhat as wide as the width of your old school deck where the trucks are mounted.
It won’t be terribly bad if the trucks are a little narrower or wider than the deck.
Decks 9” and under should be pretty easy to find fitting trucks for. You can select your desired truck axle width on our “Trucks” page here.
Side note: some old school decks have 8 truck mounting holes drilled for the top truck. This is simply so that you can adjust your wheelbase (the space between your top and bottom truck). Nowadays, mounting holes are standardized so that all trucks will mount on any deck. Only some very special old school boards from the 70’s may be different.
Contact us if you have questions.
Choosing wheels for your old school set-up
Much like decks, skateboard wheels have changed a lot over the years.
If you really wanted to experience what the very first skaters used, you’d find some metal or clay roller skate wheels for your board! We’re warning you – there’s a reason we’ve evolved from these early wheel designs. They weren’t so good…
In the late 1970’s and 80’s, it was common to skate wheels between 55mm and 64mm.
- Durometer (Hardness)
– Hard wheels (96a and up) – Faster, more slide-ability, better for smooth skatepark/ramp surfaces
– Medium wheels (85a – 95a) – A mix of qualities between hard and soft wheels
– Soft wheels (78a – 84a) – Grippy, quiet, smooth even on rough surfaces
- Diameter (Size)
– 50mm – 53mm – Modern, street skateboard wheels for technical skating
– 54mm – 56mm – Most preferred sizes for transition/ramp skaters today
– 57mm – 60mm – Common for old school set-ups or fast transition/vert skating
– 61mm and up – Ideal for cruisers or large old school set-ups in combination with riser pads
Important: bigger wheels require high trucks or else you’ll get wheel bite.
– Wheels larger than 54mm are best with “high” trucks.
– Wheels larger than 56mm may want to consider riser pads to raise the distance between your wheels and deck. Simply choose a riser pad thickness that gives your wheels enough space to turn without touching your deck.
– Wheels larger than 60mm will most likely require riser pads ¼” to ½” thick.
Want to give your old school set-up an early 90’s vibe?! Sounds like you’re into the ‘Big Pants, Small Wheels’ Era!
Check out our 50mm wheels and hit the streets like Mike Carrol in Plan B’s 1992 video Questionable:
Bearings, hardware, and other old school accessories
Did you know: Leonardo Da Vinci is credited with creating the ball bearing in the year 1500? Learn more about that here.
Who would’ve thought we could thank old Leo for being able to get gnarly on our shred sleds?!?!
Skateboard bearings have developed in a good way over the years. Honestly, your board won’t skate very good without quality bearings.
If there’s one component of your old school board that’s left modern, we highly recommend that it’s your bearings.
Check out our full bearing selection here.
The most important thing to remember about hardware is that your bolts must be the right length if you are using riser pads.
Skateboard Hardware Size Chart:
- No riser pads – 7/8” hardware
- 1/8” riser pads – 1″ hardware
- ¼” riser pads – 1 1/8” or 1 ¼” hardware
- ½” riser pads – 1 ½” hardware
Pick out some fitting hardware for your set-up here.
Back in the day, many skaters liked to pimp out their board with accessories like slide rails.
Rails can be attached to the bottom of your board with screws included in each package. Not only do they look cool and retro, you can slide curbs and coping for super long distances with rails! Trust us, they’re a lot of fun!
Also popular in the 1980’s were tail guards! Protect your tail, board graphic, or just do crazy tail scrape tricks with the Powell-Peralta ‘Tail Bone’:
There you have it!
That should be everything you need to build your dream old school skateboard.
Pretty soon you’ll be shredding the streets like Lance Mountain, Christian Hosoi, and Eric Dressen in their early days!
Still have questions or need help putting together your old school board?
Contact Us! We’re ready to help with any questions.
Happy (Old School) Skateboarding from Cruisin City!
Text by Skatetexter.