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Life Of A Skateboard Manufacturer

Posted by admin 07/19/2017 0 Comment(s) Skateboards,Manufacturer,


I found this image of some skateboard veneer we printed before it was glued up in my press.   This takes me way back to before I even had my own factory.  Back in 1995 I was skateboarding at the Basic Bowl in Huntington Beach California.  I met a ton of professional old school skaters that I used to look up to back in the 80's.   Guys like Geoff Grosso, Christian Hosoi, and many others including pro surfer Christian Fletcher.  It was one of the best times in my life because there was not a worry in the world.   Skateboarding most of my day living with my mom and dad not having to work made my skateboarding skills improve drastically.   Spending each and every day at the Basic Bowl was a blast and then meeting up with the owner of Basic Skateboards Greg Castle was a great inspiration for me.  A guy that had a skateboard company came to the house that he rented out to my best friend from High School.  I was doing a ton of filming and sitting talking to Greg Castle we came up with an idea to make a skateboard video.  At the time I was also doing a ton of snowboarding and was sponsored by Black Fly's, Vans, Gouge Clothing and without a board sponsor I shortly found out that Greg from Basic Skateboards was also making Snowboards.  He put me on his team riding snowboards.  I was a much better snowboarder then skateboarder or surfer.  I started out skateboarding in the early 80's when I was also really into surfing at the time.  When I was about to graduate high school I fell in love with snowboarding.   So when I made the team on Basic Snowboards I was deep into skateboarding again and snowboarding.  The Basic team took a tour all the way to Canada and back and this is the time in my life where I hit a crossroad.  It was either keep the job I had at Vons Grocery store or go on tour.  My boss at the time tole me if I left I would loose my job.  I left went on tour and the owner of Basic told me that I could work for him doing the video and graphics for skateboards and snowboards.   I knew nothing about making graphics but I did put in the hours of not getting paid to figure out how to work in Photoshop and Illustrator.   The dedication I have for skateboarding and snowboarding drove me to put in the time.  Shortly I had been getting into the manufacturing process of making snowboards.  In the factory making snowboards I quickly started working on the skateboards.   The Basic Skateboards brand was buying their skateboards from a local factory Clearwood that is no longer making decks anymore but we would get the veneer and heat press a wax print on the veneer.   This was pretty cool because it made the decks slide really good.   Once the owner of Basic found a girlfriend that knew how to use Photoshop and Illustrator I basically was out of a job but he was nice enough to let me work for his retail skate shop.   I was working directly with the consumer helping them pick the trucks and wheels for all the top brands we carried.   Assembling the skateboards for the kids was fun and I got to know a bunch of new people.  Some of were the reps for the brands.  I ended up getting a job from a skateboard manufacturing company and ran it for a while and quickly was replaced by a guy that ran Clearwood.  Since I was running the wood shop and someone else was taking my position I had to get the heck out of there.  Clearwood was one of the largest manufacturers at the time making boards for Element, Flip, Birdhouse and many more.   So I got a job working at a T shirt printing company and once the owner of the T Shirt printing company found out I knew how to print Skateboards we quickly added the service and I was back into printing skateboards.  On the side I set up my own shop and with all that I knew about making or manufacturing skateboards I knew everything there was to making a skateboard.  I designed my own press, made all the screen printing tables, set up the wood shop all for my own company.  It was a long hard struggle and still is to this day.  It is even more of a struggle now because the more equipment you have the more space is needed and the more money that has to go to the MAN!  I printed skateboards every way you can think of and one was printing on the veneer before we pressed it.  This was years after of printing on bent screens.  The flat printing was nice it gave us better registration and a cleaner print.  This process did not work for all graphics because the veneer in the press would shift so when the board was cut in the middle of the concave it was possible to have important images or text cut off when shaping the decks.  Years went by and a thing called heat transfer for skateboards came to life.  I large hot roller smashing down on a skateboard did not seem like a good thing.   I was making a board for a guy that wanted me to switch to a heat transfer so I did.   This opened up a whole can of worms.  We started out printing our own heat transfers back in 2004 this was at a time where all the heat transfers were made overseas.   I was always ahead of my time when it came to manufacturing skateboards.  Once the orders were large enough we bought some transfers from overseas but I did not feel good about sending my customers images to a potential competitor.  That was short lived and we continued to do it all in house.  Even before I started my own factory I had a dream to automate it.  I loved engineering in high school and took a few classes at our local college way before I was even in the industry.  So I bought my first robot and dreamed up and engineered all the pessary tools and fixtures to make it work for my factory.  This was at a time that labor was hard to get.  Most guys that were looking for a job wanted some outrageous pay check and when they did start working for my company they all left shortly.  The repetitive work of making a skateboard may seem glorious but it is really hard on the body.   When I started posting videos of my new state of the art automated manufacturing facility there were a few negative remarks.  Like that is the job I wanted.  The thing is that now days there are few hard working Americans that will work in the conditions of this manufacturing process.  This was also at a time where all the other factories were moving to China or Mexico.  I decided to stay and make it work.  It hurts my soul to see all the top brands leaving the states for some other place that could make it cheaper.    I truly believe that we can do it here in the USA for the same price as going overseas or importing them.  With labor at an all time high and the price of skateboards going down due to the cheap imported decks it is a daily struggle that I do enjoy.  I know I could be making tons more money in some other industry with the knowledge I have of robotics.  It is more of a point I must make to the skateboard industry.  I did actually get my chance to explain it to the owner of Flip Skateboards that paid me a visit last week.  We had a real long talk about the industry where it has been where it is going and what we can do to improve it for the USA brands.   From what I know is that the big brands are having a real hard time as well.  There are so many new brands out there flooding the market.  My take on it is that when the big brands left the USA to other countries to manufacturer their decks the factories in the USA closed.   The big factories has so much equipment space and without the brands there were left to die.  When this happened I was a real small shop but was really sad to see some of the guys I knew loose their factory.  This started a chain reaction.  With Americans that love the sport they all want to get more involved with the industry so a few hard workers started making skateboards and with that a bunch of new brands came up.  The growth of cheap imported decks came in and people found that they could buy a blank slap a graphic on it and had a brand and could sell to their buddies for less then it would cost to buy the top brand decks.  This and the blank deck flooded the market and the big brands that took their production away from the USA created a window for the growth of a new kind of movement.  Making skateboards is extremely difficult pressing glueing printing is extremely time consuming and with some of my direct competitors not even making them just buying them and slapping a graphic on it makes also hurt my soul.  When they make it look like they make them but only buy a mass produced deck and putting your graphics on it.  I would love to make boards for one of the largest brands it would change the game.  At the meeting with the owner of Flip I put it out there that if all the large brands brought their production back the USA and gave it to the existing factories a few things would happen.  American factories would no longer have time to make skateboards for all the brands that flooded the market.  Then the average skater would be left with having to go back to the skate shop and buy the decks from the top brands.   I have seen even new brands that I have made decks for switch to overseas decks then later come back because all their riders were wanting the wood from their old supplier.  We have had so many companies leave use other wood and come back.  I had a customer they other day admit it.  We hear it on a regular basis.  What we need the most is a company any brand new or old give us consistent orders at least 100 a day so that we can hire more people and grow as a manufacturer.  So feel good about where you get your decks from.  I guarantee you that when you buy from us we will actually glue and press and cut the wood with the highest quality wood and glue known to man.  The art of manufacturing skateboards has been twisted and we stay true to how they were made back before they were imported.

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