Guide To Building A Polarizer Skateboard

By Ty Mixon | Updated: February 28, 2022 | Polarizers

This is the tricky part. To buy an official Heated Wheel Polarizer you either need to get lucky on the website, live in the areas where the product is sold, or personally know Neil Blender.

If you are like me and do not have this privilege, then you have a few options.

You may buy a complete from Moon Patrol Polarizers. This man Hand makes every board and uses years of experience to create boards that ride like none other.

You may also find a few similar boards on the market from Gorden and Smith, and Gold Cup. I expect there to be a few more options in the future due to the growing popularity of these retro-futuristic postmodern skateboards, but these would be classified as 60s inspired cruisers.

The last option is the route I chose. This is not for the faint of heart and requires a fair amount of trial and error. This method involves one looking deep within themselves and finding their purpose in life to decide whether there is a will to carry on. It involves climbing through the Himalayas barefoot with Wim Hoff, and spending hours meditating with monks on the mountainside until enlightenment is reached. Or you can just skip those steps and make it yourself. How do I make a 60s inspired skateboard (polarizer)?

To make a true 60s inspired skateboard, one must invoke a state of mind where modern skateboarding does not exist.

The early 1960s is when they must travel to. There are few steps in creating a polarizer or 60s inspired skateboard, but there are many options that pose difficulties within each step. I shall try to be your guide in the realm of polarizers, and help you refrain from the mistakes I have made. I found that there are a set of rules that define the difference between a true polarizer and a 60s inspired skateboard. I am including my methods of making both.

What are the rules that differentiate a polarizer from a 60s inspired skateboard?

According to Neil, the true origin of this subgenre, the polarizer is his product, and from my perspective, it would seem like anything that is not made by The Heated Wheel should be deemed “Polarizer Inspired,” or “60s inspired skateboard.” I am even evaluating a few different names such as “8mm board”, “postmodern shred sled”, or “medium format skateboard.” One being just cool sounding and the others inspired by film photography; however, outside of The Heated Wheel is a diverse set of individuals that take the name polarizer to describe their boards, and only deem it as such if it follows a specific set of rules.

What the polarizer community deems fit to be a “polarizer” is possibly the single most difficult question for me to answer along my journey. Luckily, I have a contact that was very insightful regarding this question. Keep in mind that these “rules” are subjective and may differ among each polarizer enthusiast.

– No risers, – only new wheels, bearings, bushings. – new trucks and wood screw mounting are debated.

“I think it was to be like a ‘rat rod’ but skateboard. Performance-based antique So the wood screw mounting and roller skate plates were the / modern crossover”

“The upside-down deck like what Neil said mimics the 60’s and 70’s down rails of a surfboard that were used on skateboards of that era even though the decks were 6” or less. I think Hewitt and others opted for cut down modern trucks/acs/suregrip trucks and actual mounting hardware as opposed to wood screw mounting.”

“So then ‘polarizer’ became lost in what it’s supposed to emulate, a hybrid performance-based antique.” “It’s skate pedantic really, but it’s got to start from somewhere. that’s why I say I don’t know the exact rules. Just like how ‘rat rods’ have rules, a dated Ethos in a modern world. Where do you draw the line? Polarizers are where Neil drew his line.”

“it’s skateboards that’s what it’s been the whole-time street skating, vert, slalom, downhill, it’s All the same -it’s our Tower of Babel.” “Neil didn’t invent anything he just found a cool fossil and said “hey remember this?”

Go give @fuckwithyourtrucks a follow. This man is a wealth of knowledge, and I look forward to the possibility of working with him in the future on an article about truck modifications.

Trucks

This is where you begin in making a polarizer. What trucks you use will determine everything else about your setup. So, grab your clipboard and micrometer, and hold on for this bumpy ride.

Sure-Grip Vintage Skateboard Trucks

These are the trucks that Moon Patrol recommended I should use when I was originally messaging him, and he was right. These trucks are not only a great start but also some of the best trucks you can use for your polarizer.

These will pose a few difficulties, but I promise that it is worth it! They ride phenomenally and are seen on The Heated Wheel Polarizer, The Gordan and Smith surf skate, as well as Moon Patrols boards.

The trucks are labeled as vintage, but they are brand new. I’m not sure if it’s overstock, or if they are still making them.

They have a 4.5in long axle with a 47.625 mm hanger, and this is the ideal truck width for polarizers. For later reference, you need to keep in mind that with an axle this narrow, it may be difficult to find a wheel that does not scrub on other parts of the truck. This will be covered in the wheels section.

The axle is 5/16 (8mm) in diameter. This may not seem important now, but the diameter of the axle on this truck makes everything a lot easier. Modern skateboards use 8mm axles, and this may not be seen in vintage trucks and roller skate gear.

With the Sure-Grip Vintage Skateboard Trucks, you may use modern skateboard bearings without issue. The baseplate is a bit of a trifle. It is significantly smaller than modern skateboard trucks, and the mounting holes are also smaller.

Modern hardware is incompatible. You could drill out the holes, but the nuts would not fit flush to the baseplate. Unless you have a drill press, this really leaves you with two options.

1: Go to a hardware store and grab some 6-32 bolts with the matching nuts and drill out some new holes.

2: Use some wood screws to hold it in place.

With these two methods, the only advantages I can seem to find are related to simplicity and durability. The wood screws are easy and quick, but they tend to not be as durable as using the smaller bolts and nuts.

When asking Neil about this he said “Both are fine. I prefer wood screws.”

Here are the dimensions I recommend using with this truck. Width: 5in-6.5in (this depends on the wheels). Wheelbase: 15in-20in (this is the smallest I have seen and the largest I have tried).

Whenever you set these trucks up, don’t mess with them. Get the bushings and tightness set how you like it and leave it. The treads easily cross-thread and gum up with use. So it’s best to set it up and leave it alone. If you do cross-thread them, don’t worry. I have a solution mentioned in the hybrid truck section.

The Sure-grip trucks are a 60-year-old design that is coveted by most polarizer enthusiasts, and they are highly recommended by practitioners of the subgenre. Although the durability is less than desired, most polarizer skateboards are found boasting these trucks. They turn very well, and they are fairly easy to attain. There is also a great selection of bushings and pivot cups online. If you are looking to make your first polarizer, grab a set of these and call it a day.

Vintage Skateboard Trucks

When I say vintage, I am referring to using trucks taken from a vintage skateboard preferably from the 60s or 70s. This is difficult because you need to find a board, to begin with.

I recommend looking at antique stores and Facebook marketplace before going to eBay. The prices seem to be better, and who know. Maybe your neighbor was a skate rat in 60s.

If you can find a set of vintage Chicago or ACS trucks those are the most sought-after and coveted trucks in the polarizer community. I found a Roller Derby skateboard and decided to use the trucks to make mine.

On the same wheelbase, they turn significantly tighter than the sure grips. The taller and more vertical geometry suits longer wheelbases; however, keep in mind that skateboard trucks from this era were primitive and experimental. They also very greatly in comparison to modern standardized truck systems. So the set of trucks you may find will come with their own difficulties that may be very different from my experience. I will be describing what I needed to do to make the Roller derby trucks work, and what I needed to do may not be the same for other trucks you may use.

Axle width, and diameter

The original axles were 7mm and were designed for ball-bearing wheels. They simply would not accommodate modern hardware. When one finds themselves in this predicament, they could accommodate the smaller axles with 7mm-8mm adapters; however, this will not give much room for washers that may be needed to combat truck bite.

I needed to replace the original axles with a substitute. I ended up using 8mm 24pi rods. I cut the rods down to 5in.

To remove the original axles, I grabbed a hammer, and a long socket. I stuck one side of the truck into the socket and hammered away until the old axle came out. This was not very difficult.

To install the new axles, I drilled out the original hangers with a 5/16-bit, and then stuck the new axles in there with a crap ton of JB-weld. When I say “a crap ton” I mean, put as much as you can on them bad boys and wipe away the excess. After that, I just let it dry.

Neil has a better method. Here is what he said to do. -NB: “Def don’t use a hammer. It’s kind of hard to explain, you need to know which side the splines are on if the axle is already totally loose mild hammering might work, otherwise, stack washers and nuts that are bigger than axle diameter till there are some threads showing on the axle, use axle nut to tighten onto your spacers, the axle will start pulling through, ad more washers as you go till axle gets past splines, do the same to put a new axle in, measure the distance of axel as you go, you don’t want to go past and pull axle back to the center.

Sometimes just flipping the axle works well, because then you have new aluminum for the splines to grab onto”

TM: “Ok, I got you. What would you use for a new axle? I have used threaded rods with jb weld. It works well, but I’m sure there is a better way.”

NB: “Sure-grip makes replacement axles JB Weld, that is great love that stuff.”

Making the bushings work was difficult. I ended up using two bushings on the bottom and one on the top so that the truck would not rub on the kingpin.

There are better bushings I could use, but it works. I used old independent bushings on the top and bottom, and old bear bushings in the middle. This bushing configuration is not ideal, but it fits and turns like no other truck I have ever ridden.

One of the major issues I encountered when using vintage skateboard trucks was the kingpin sticking out too far and scraping the ground. The geometry of the roller derby trucks made it difficult to combat, but since I used a wider axle. I was able to accommodate by using larger wheels, and dewedging with kingpin washers on the base to increase my ride height.

Recommended dimensions: Width: 5.75-6.75 (depends on axles/wheel size) Wheelbase: 18in-24in.

Roller skate trucks: I have come to learn that roller skates are a different animal altogether. I have yet to use a set of roller skate baseplates, but here is what you need to do.

Cut them in half, drill out the holes, and if the axles are too small then follow the steps mentioned in the “Vintage Skateboard Trucks” section regarding an axle swap.

I am not experienced in the use of roller skate trucks for a polarizer, and there is not much information on their use. From what I have gathered from the ones who have, they are all different. Some of them are just like sure grip trucks, others are nightmares. I would say that this would be one of the harder ways to make a polarizer.

As soon as I find a set of vintage roller skates with Chicago trucks, It’s game on!

Hybrid Skateboard Trucks

Hybrid Skateboard Truck (Vintage/roller skate hanger with modern skateboard baseplate) This is probably the most difficult way to go about making your polarizer trucks.

This is how I started, and it’s very difficult to get right. They do not turn as well as the sure-grip trucks, but they are much more durable.

I use a set of hybrid trucks on the board that I skate bowls and try dumb stuff on.

Note that the polarizer community seems to frown on using hybrid trucks, but I think it’s great, and it’s easier using a standard hole pattern. It’s also a phenomenal solution if you manage to break the original baseplates as I did. I also found that there is an advantage to using modern kingpins, as well as the ability to use literally whatever bushings you want to use. The only real drawback that I see with this, is trying to make the pivot cup work.

Bushings: You need to adjust the bushings so that the kingpin is centered in the hanger. To do this, you may need to use extra washers, bushings, or even cut down bushings to get it to be centered. So far, I have not had many issues with the bushings. Normally It just needs to be raised up a bit.

I think that the main issue comes from having a kingpin that is too short. On this baseplate, the stock kingpin was plenty long enough, but for the purpose of this article and sheer curiosity, I hammered out the original kingpin and added an inverted kingpin. This turned out to be a major upgrade. This allows me to run looser trucks without risking the kingpin scraping the ground. I would recommend doing this modification with your hybrid polarizer trucks.

The second issue is the truck angle. Modern skateboard trucks are angled at the kingpin and the pivot cup, whereas roller skate and vintage hangers were designed to be more upright. This may lead to two problems.

The first is that the kingpin may scrub on uneven terrain, and the second is quite odd. Whenever the hanger is raised so that it sits center on the kingpin, the hangers are then pushed at a dramatically forward angle. This increases the turning radius dramatically. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem. That is why this is weird. The turning radius is so tight that it becomes quite difficult to ride, and it takes away from the appeal of the polarizer.

With a turning radius being this tight, the rider is unable to lean and carve. The solution that I have come up with is to de-wedge the tuck so that the kingpin sits at the desired angle.

I used washers and can tabs to get the kingpins vertical and using washers instead of rubber risers allowed me to further experiment with the truck angle by slightly increasing or decreasing how much the truck is de-wedged.

Pivot cups: It may be difficult to make the tongue of the Vintage/Roller skate hangers fit within the pivot cups of the modern baseplate. I would recommend using sure grip pivot cups, and modifying those to fit inside the modern baseplates. If they do not fit snugly, you have a few options.

1) Sand the Vintage/roller skate Pivot cup to fit inside of the pivot cup in the modern baseplate you plan on using. (This is where I found the best results)

2) Find rubber grommets at a hardware store that fit. (this is mostly trial and error. They work great but do not last as long. If you go this route, Try using shoe goo to make it work.)

3) Wrap the pivot cup with gaff or electrical tape. (Seems Sketch, but it works surprisingly well)

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Alternative Polarizer Trucks

Cutting down a normal truck may be a solution. I have seen where people do this, but I could not replicate their results. If you have successfully used this method, email me!

Other truck options on the market:

This is a list of the narrowest trucks I could find, and most are too large for a polarizer; however this may beneficial to those who want to make a slightly larger board.

For a polarizer skateboard to work as intended, narrow trucks work best. From my understanding, anything over an 85mm hanger would not be considered when picking a truck for a polarizer; however, It is your skateboard. Make what you want! If you have an upside skateboard that’s 15 inches wide and you call it a polarizer. I wouldn’t be against it.

Make what you want to ride, call it what you want, and have fun. That is what’s most important.

Wheels

Here is what Neil said regarding wheels: -NB: “Wheels: Bones Rough Riders or Powell Peralta Skate Aids, these wheels seem to be the fastest and the softest.”

Wheels are subjective to what trucks you are using. Due to the decrease in hanger size, an offset wheel is would seem beneficial. This is because the hangers are so small that the inside of the wheel may scrub parts of the trucks or bushings creating a phenomenon known as truck bite; however, this form of wheel bite is vicious.

When the soft polyurethane hits the hard metal from the truck it results in a sharp, immediate, and unexpected stop that will send the rider flying in a way that would make anyone who has seen a fast and furious movie say “Ejecto Seato Cuz!”

To combat this a rider may use washers to increase the distance between the wheel and the hanger. One may also put the lock nuts on backward to allow for more washers to be installed. Although putting the locknut on the trucks backward is an odd way of doing this, it is very effective and does not have any adverse effects. The locknuts seem to work the same backward and forwards.

Center set wheels would be better for turning radius. The decrease in surface area would allow the truck to pivot about its axis with less resistance, but you need to make sure that the lip of the wheel does not scrub on the truck.

In relation to the shape of the wheel. A solid edge is most common because its hard to find a wheel with a lip that does not scrub the truck on the inside; however, an off center race edge wheel allows for the rider to have a bit more lean in the carves.

The wheel should be around 50- 58mm but is most commonly 54-55mm. There are many reasons that this size of wheel is preferred.

A wheel this size is historically accurate as to the size of wheels people rode in the 50s and 60s. I think that the primary reason for using a wheel this size is because it provides a good balance between rolling distance, rolling resistance, and most importantly the maximum amount of momentum generated in a pump. It is large enough to overcome most terrain with minimal effort, but it’s not too large to hinder the speed generated in a pump. This is all subjective, and if you want to use 83mm wheels on your polarizer, please do so, and send me a photo. This is just my recommendation and my logic behind it.

Hardness is simple. When a rider is making tight carves and does not want to lose traction, a soft wheel is required. The range of wheel hardness that I see most often is 78a-85a. A great correlation of this is rock crawling. Go on YouTube and watch a Rock Crawling compilation. You will find many different vehicles doing a wide variation of maneuvers to get to their desired destination. The one thing that all of them will have in common is the use of soft grippy tires. If one was to swap the tires on their rock climbing vehicle to street slicks and run the recommended tire pressure, they will find the lack of traction preventing them from getting far. Keep this in mind when looking for a set of wheels for your polarizer, but if you don’t. Be ready to slide!

The wheels I would recommend the most are the ones that I see the most. The heated wheel and Moon Patrol use 56mm Bones Rough riders. This is a fast soft grippy wheel that fits most trucks and will not disappoint.

On the Gordan and Smith 60s inspired skateboard, they use 55mm Powell cruiser wheels.

I am excited to try the Mini Logo 55mm 80a A.W.O.L. wheel. Not only does it fit all the boxes, but it’s also very inexpensive. The brand is reputable being a sister or satellite brand to Powell Peralta. After a few months of riding these wheels, I grew very accustomed to them. They were soft, grippy, and fast. Recently I put them on my street board to skate a rough spot, but they somehow managed to attain the worst chip I have ever seen. I still recommend them, but only for carving and cruising.

Another wheel is the Oj super juice 55mm. These will require a few washers, but I like the feel. These wheels are fun to carve with and last a long time. I’ve had the same set for a while now, and I just measured them out to be 44 millimeters. So I would say I got my moneys worth.

I would like to mention a wheel that I have not tried or seen anyone use, and it’s the Cadillac Wheels 56mm, 78a. I am surprised to have not seen this wheel on a polarizer. It is a recreation of the first polyurethane wheel made, so naturally, I would assume that it would be perfect for polarizers; however, I have been unable to find information regarding the feel and quality of these wheels. So, I have been very timid to try them. If you have used a set before, or have a set on your board now, please send me an email and let me know what you think about them.

The last thing I recommend is to think outside of the box and try something different. If you have an old set of longboard or cruiser wheels not listed above. Try them and see what happens. I put an old set of Hawgs fatties on the board with roller derby trucks, and they are awesome!

Bushings

With bushings and pivot cups you have 100s if not 1000s of combinations to choose from. You can go the roller skate route and use the Sure-Grip “Super Cushions,” or go the more traditional skateboarding route and use independent bushings or any street bushing for the matter. Mixing and matching different durometers and sizes will allow you to attain a personalized and unique riding experience to suit your needs.

Here is what Neil said about bushing: -NB: “Here’s some bushings that are good. Bones soft: remember to use all bottom ones 14mm, otherwise you bottom the kingpin out.”

“If you need more resistance. Power Dyne Magic cushions “Universal” the yellows work for most people.”

“Bont bushings 78a are good too which are also for roller skates, cone on top barrel on bottom.”

I was curious to try the Power Dyne Magic cushions that Neil recommended, and they are the best bushing setup I have tried so far. Remember that this is subjective to my weight, height, and riding style, but I will most likely continue using these bushings.

Deck

When selecting a deck to use when making your board, you want to keep in mind how you want the board to flex. The flex of the deck plays a major role in how the board rides, and if you are using a street board, you need to flip it upside down so the deck is stiff and has a high rebound.

The upside-down deck is surprisingly comfortable, and it will not take long to get used to. If you want a concave or flat deck, you need to find a longboard deck that is flat or has extra plys to prevent the board from breaking. Flex is only necessary when trying to mimic the Polarizer, but stiff decks are also fun.

The one pictured was made from a bent piece of wood at a hardware store that I cut out and shaped to perfection. I threw some rails on there for extra strength, and it has been awesome!

Deck shapes are normally significantly wider than the wheel width. I would recommend the width of the deck you cut out to be between 6-6.75in depending on your preference.

Polarizer shapes are influenced by Longboard surfboard shapes through different eras, but it’s your board. Break the rules and make your shape and design your own width and wheelbase. If there is one thing, I have learned from going down this rabbit hole is that an “8mm Skateboard” is whatever you make it. So, make whatever you want, and have fun doing it.

Making a Polarizer/60s Inspired Skateboard From Scratch.

After writing this article I wanted to make one from scratch using everything I have learned to make a true polarizer skateboard and include all the materials and supplies needed as well as the steps so that the reader can make their own.

Step one: Finding a set of trucks:

I decided to go with a set of sure grip trucks. The tried-and-true 60s style trucks will help me in making the most authentic polarizer-inspired 60s style skateboard That I can.

Step two: Select a set of wheels:

I was curious to try the Mini Logo AWOL 55mm, 80a wheels. The small size with the square shape should provide a versatile grippy platform for my setup. They will work very well with the sure-grip trucks.

Step three: Finding a deck:

I went to a skatepark and asked if they had any old decks. I was presented with a plethora of deck options, and I went with the one featuring the longest wheelbase. Thank you to the homies at KONA skatepark in Jax Florida. Ramos is a legend.

Step four: Creating a template:

This was a deck shape that I made using several previous templates.

To make a template, I tape a few pieces of paper together and use a ruler to mark the width and length as well as the truck holes. I keep all my templates in a folder for future use.

This shape is based on the edge profile of a shape I call “The moon rover.” This was a credit to moon patrol. His deck shapes inspired my first cuts. It features an oblong shape with the widest point being ¾ away from the tail. The tail is based on some 70s surfboards that I Googled, and the nose is rounded with a sharp taper that I use on all my polarizers.

The board that first featured this was called “Boardova” named after the man that rode 15 feet on his first go, and that’s what I call all of them. Making this Boardova 6.

Step five: Cutting and sanding the deck: I used a harbor freight jigsaw for this. Not the best tool, but it got the job done. I first sanded with 200 grit until I was happy with the shape, and then I went over it with 800 until it was as smooth as I could get it. Then I finished with 1000, 1200, and 2000 grit sandpaper because I am ridiculous.

Step six (optional):

I was not too keen on the inverted tail. On previous shapes, I either had no tail, or made the wheelbase shorter to give me more room for the kicktail, but I wanted a kicktail on this board. Skating pools and doing ollies-up stuff is difficult with a 2-inch tail. So just to see what would happen, I made a long tail and put a combination of wood glue, saw-dust, and two-part epoxy to create a flat tail. This will be interesting.

Step seven: painting, finishing, and gripping:

The original deck color was bright pink. Although I am not one to shy away from flamboyancy, I would like to make it easier not to confuse this performance-based antique with a toy. I like the rustic look. I distressed the wood first using fire, and wood stain. Dark wood stain. Then I used acrylic paint to give it a little bit more of an old piece of furniture look. Using 2 coats of clear coat, 5 coats of lacquer, and 3 coats of polyurethane, I should be able to ride around in the rain without difficulty.

Step eight: Setting up:

For the setup, I went with the tried-and-true sure grip trucks paired with the Mini logo A.W.O.L. 55mm 80a wheels. All I needed to do was drill the holes and put it together This has become my favorite and most used setup in my quiver, but it’s not done yet.

Step nine: Modification:

The first modification that needed to be done was wheelbase adjustment. The tail was too long. This is a good thing because I can just move the rear trucks further down the back of the board. This will give me a longer wheelbase and the right amount of tail. I went about ½ an inch back and this seems to have done the trick.

The next thing I did was sand the tail down to make it less inverted. This gives me more ground clearance enabling more room for kick turns and other shenanigans.

The next modification was to the rails. This deck was very stiff, and I was hoping that with use It would get flexy, but after a month it was still very stiff. My solution came to me when talking to “Moon Patrol.” When inquiring about purchasing one of his decks, he did not recommend it. He said that his boards are for riding and wouldn’t be able to withstand the impact that I would subject them to. He makes his boards with 6 plies of maple or 5 plies with fiberglass. They are made to flex perfectly in a way that the rider gets the best feel from the deck when riding. I devised that sanding the rails on a 7-ply board would allow it to flex while retaining its strength. This works well, but it’s how I broke Bordova 3, so I only sanded marginally. Just enough so that it would flex just a little more, and after that. My “Polarizer influenced 60s style skateboard” was complete.

Ty Mixon

In the rural areas of South East Georgia, I have dedicated the last 13 years of my life to skateboarding. I hope to share my knowledge & stoke with fellow riders.
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