Ramps are the backbone of any backyard skate park. They provide speed, air, grindable ledges, and just look cool. Whether you are building a halfpipe, a quarterpipe or a standalone launch ramp, you'll need four basic components:
- Curved side pieces cut with a jigsaw
- Horizontal joists screwed into the curved side pieces
- A curved ramp surface made from plywood sheets screwed into the joists
- Coping -- made from PVC or metal pipe -- along the top edge of the ramp for grinding
The curved side pieces of the ramp require the most mathematical precision. Rick Dahlen recommends cutting one board and using it as the template for cutting the rest to match. The trick to creating a perfectly curved line is to use string and a thumbtack. For a three-foot high halfpipe ramp, you'll need a piece of string that is exactly 7.5 feet (2.28 meters) long.
- Secure one end of the string with a thumbtack to a piece of spare plywood lying flat on the ground.
- Tie the other end of the string around a permanent marker
- Lay a 4x8 foot (1.22 to 2.44 meter) sheet of plywood on the ground with the shorter ends on either side, then measure 3.5 (8.89 centimeters) inches up from the bottom right corner. This is the starting point for your curved line.
- Adjust the spare board with the thumbtack so that the string is taut and perfectly aligned with the right side of the 4x8 sheet of plywood.
- With the marker on the starting point, keep the string taut as you trace the curve up and to the left, all the way to the top of the plywood sheet.
- Use a jigsaw to cut the curved line, then use the finished side as a template for measuring and cutting the others.
To align the horizontal joists correctly, it's helpful to measure, mark and pre-drill the holes in the curved side pieces. That's easier than trying to hold the 2x4 foot (0.61 to 1.22 meter) joists perpendicular while measuring and screwing them in at the same time. Another essential tip is to place a double joist in the middle of the curved slope. The ramp surface is composed of two 4x8 sheets of plywood laid lengthwise. The total surface of the ramp is almost 8 feet, so there will be a seam halfway up the ramp. By installing a double joist at the seam, it will be easier to secure both sheets of plywood. See the halfpipe instructions for more detail.
Here's a helpful tip for bending the plywood sheets to form the ramp surface. Plywood has a smooth side and a rough side. The smooth side will face up, but if you thoroughly wet the rough side with water, it will cause the board to naturally warp inward and make it easier to bend.
Coping is the smooth, rounded surface on the lips of pools that skaters like to recreate on halfpipe ramps. All you need is an 8-foot (2.44-meter) piece of 2.5-inch (6.35-centimeter) diameter PVC pipe or metal pipe. Drill holes through both sides of the pipe and enlarge the top hole to allow a screwdriver to pass through. Screw the pipe to the lip of the ramp to provide a smooth, grindable surface for lip tricks.
You can treat your wooden ramps with waterproof sealant or paint them to provide added protection from the elements. If the ramp is small enough, cover it with a tarp when not in use to protect it from the rain.
Next let's talk about building grindable components like rails, fun boxes and benches.