Longboard & Skateboard Deck Materials
With the exception of cheap plastic boards, all longboards are made from a laminate which consists of several layers, or plies that are stacked on top of each other. To make the laminate plies are placed into a mold with a special epoxy between each layer. The mold is then placed into a press that applies pressure to the mold and squeezes all the plies together. Once the epoxy has cured the laminate can be removed from the mold and cut to shape.
The plies or layers that make up the laminate can vary but are most commonly a variety of wood species. As longboarding gains in popularity, the materials used to make the laminate have become more exotic. It is now common for fiberglass to be used in tandem with the wood. Carbon fiber can also be used to make decks stiffer and stronger, both desired characteristics for stability. When a deck uses more than one type of material in its laminate it is referred to as a composite construction.
While you can make a longboard out of just about any material you can dream up, there are a few common materials that are used widely. Below is a list of these materials, each with their benefits and drawbacks.
Bamboo is among the fastest-growing organisms on the planet, making it the most sustainable material used in longboard construction today. The long fibers in bamboo's cellular structure make it super strong and flexible along the grain. Pound for pound bamboo rivals the strength of steel… strong stuff!
Running the grain lengthwise on bamboo longboards allows the most supportive deck, while creating the perfect amount of flexibility. Bamboo tends to have higher strength along the grain then across, so it is often paired with other materials like fiberglass or maple wood, to form stronger laminated planks.
Decks are made by stacking these laminated sheets (0.5-5 mm thick) in a mold, then adding pressure, creating a thick laminate plank. The thicker planks are then cut to the desired shape and enjoyed by skaters!
Maple trees are extremely dense because they grow in cold, wet regions with short growing seasons. Maple's density provides the perfect amount of strength and flexibility required for skateboard production. Its flexibility is unique because unlike other woods, it can be bent and shaped while maintaining complete structural integrity. To make the maple even more sturdy, several layers of ply (or veneers) are often used together to create a deck.
To make a multilayer maple deck, 7-10 pieces of maple ply will be stacked both length and width wise with adhesive in a process known as cross-beaming. The cross-beamed stack then goes through a process which hydraulically presses the sheets together to create the general board shape. To complete the board, the deck is then cut, sealed, drilled and printed with the desired design.
Carbon fiber is an extremely lightweight, but strong material made from bonded/crystalized carbon atoms. It is known for being stiffer and lighter than steel, while also being extremely chemical resistant and temperature tolerant. Its adaptability, ease of use, and strength have lead it to become a supportive material for decks in the ever-evolving skate industry.
The carbon fiber and bamboo board mixture is a match made in heaven. Bamboo is known for its along-the-grain strength and flexibility, while carbon fiber is known for its stiffness and stability. By adding one layer of carbon fiber to a bamboo board the result will be a stiffer, yet more responsive ride.
Fiberglass’ woven fabric dipped in plastic or glass provides a lightweight and strong layer to products such as hockey sticks, surfboards, and skateboards. Its ability to bend and form to its necessary shape before hardening is the reason for its versatile use.
Adding one to two sheets of fiberglass to a skate deck’s 7-10 wooden layers adds strength without compromising flexibility. It allows the deck to flex during turns while maintaining structural strength.