The workbench defines a skate shop.
By Roger Harrell
Being a bonafide skateboard shop involves more than just selling skateboards. Toy stores and sporting-goods stores may sell skateboards, but they lack one crucial element¿the skateboard workbench. While true skateboard shops may also carry complete setups, their primary hardgoods business is selling components chosen by customers, and then assembled to their liking. This makes the skateboard workbench a defining characteristic of any legitimate skateboard shop.
The workbench is where new skateboards come to life, and old ones come to die. Here are some tips on how to build and maintain your shop’s workbench, including essential tools, techniques, and policies your shop should have with regard to your work area.
The location of your workbench is very important. Save time and energy by having the bench located near the decks, trucks, wheels, and accessories you’ll be putting together, but keep in mind that you will not want assembly to interfere with other customers checking out your selection of products. In addition, set up your workbench away from shoes and clothes that can be stained by hands and greasy products.
Once a suitable location is found, you must decide on a bench design. There is no one correct way to build a workbench, but try to keep it simple and functional. The surface area should be large enough to fit a board laying flat, plus various accessories and tools. An area as small as two by three feet will work, but the more space, the better. The workbench should be about waist high so assembly can be done comfortably, and all necessary tools and components should be stored within reach. A good prefabricated bench can save you the time and hassle of designing and building your own, but building one from scratch can save you money and allow for a more custom and uniform appearance within the store.
At Go Big Action Sports in Manville, Louisiana, Owner Gary Bettencourtt built his workbench to look like part of the store. He says they made a four-foot by three-foot frame using two-by-fours, and covered the outside with sheet rock. They matched the height to their glass display cabinets, and covered the top with the same carpet they used on the floors. “The bench looks like part of the store, while at the same time it’s extremely functional,” Bettencourtt says.
Carpet is a common covering for the top of the bench, and darker colors hide dirt and grease better. But any nonabrasive surface will do. For Chuck Senesac, owner of Crown Skateboards in Panama City, Florida, the top of his workbench serves as a billboard for the companies whose products he carries. “I use skate banners to cover the top of our bench,” he says. “It’s great advertising, and when they get too torn up, we just replace them with new ones.”
While keeping it clean and organized, maximize the efficiency of your workbench with shelves on the backside for the necessary tools. This area can also serve as storage for your griptape and bulk skateboard hardware.
A few basic tools will allow you to put skateboards together quickly and efficiently. First and foremost, you will need a skate key. There are many brands to choose from, such as the Gullwing Six Pack, The Fix Stix, and the old-school Elephant skate tool. Whichever brand you choose, be sure to stock some to sell. The tool you use in front of your customers will likely be the one they’ll want for themselves.
A cordless drill with extra batteries is the next critical piece of equipment. Once again, there are many brands to choose from, ranging from as little as fifty dollars to about 200 dollars. Keep in mind that you will be using it several times a day, and you’re bound to encounter other uses around the shop¿it’s sure to come in handy around the store when hanging displays or constructing skate obstacles for demos.
Other items needed to properly equip your workbench include some standard hand tools,ike a Philips-head screwdriver and Allen wrenches. To handle the application of griptape to the board, you will need a file and razor blades. A cheap and inexpensive griptape roller can be made using an old wheel and truck hanger.
A bearing press can be another excellent addition to your workbench. There are essentially two types: the hand-held variety found on some skate tools, and the countertop presses. The hand-held types are relatively inexpensive, but often do not work much easier than the old truck-axle method (slide a bearing over the axle, and push the wheel onto it). The countertop presses are very easy to use, and can press bearings on both sides of a wheel with one pull. Their only drawback is the price¿some cost as much as 100 dollars.
With the proper tools, it should take ten minutes or less to assemble a complete skateboard. As time is money, quick and efficient assembly is important to your shop. Make your employees aware of the time it takes them by keeping a shop record. Whatever time it takes, customers will usually wait while the board is assembled¿use this time to build customer rapport and point out any new products that might interest them.
It’s common store policy to have all skateboards and components assembled by store employees only. There are several reasons for this, insurance being the most prominent. Some insurance policies restrict customers from using tools in the store, so protect yourself and your customers by having their new boards assembled by trained shop employees. Restricting customer access to your tools may also result in fewer skate keys walking off. Bear in mind that board assembly is a service your shop provides customers free of charge, and it adds value to their purchases. “Kids are generally stoked when we do the work for them,” says Jason Dean, manager of Active Ride Shop in Escondido, California. “And I know for some, this is where they learn to work on their skateboards themselves.”
Take pride in your skateboard workbench. Its presence alone shows that you are committed to your customers and their sport of choice. By equipping it with the right tools, you’ll be able to efficiently assemble their customized skateboards. The skateboard workbench is also a great place to converse with and get to know your customers. With a proper bench at your disposal, you’ll find that building skateboards goes a long way toward building loyal customers as well.
Most skate shops collect an array of specialty tools over time, but the following list includes the basic necessities for assembling and servicing skateboards. All but the wholesale skate tools were priced at Home Depot.
SOP bearing press (wholesale)
Twelve-volt cordless drill/driver kit
Six-piece screwdriver set
Ten-inch flat bastard file
Gullwing Six-Pac (wholesale)
Hex key set
Generic retractable utility knife
$199.34 (plus tax)
$199.34 (plus tax)