by Mel @troubleon8wheels
I really love building roller skates. I love how individual each build is, and how people choose to express themselves through their skates. Using combinations of all the boots, plates and accessories available, you really can have a unique build. I'm so pleased to have finally found time to write this blog post about mounting roller skates, as I've had a lot of conversations with people recently, promising I would!
If you want to mount trainer skates, Gangster Mel A has written a great blog post already about the process. Find it here.
Try to enjoy the process of the build. The first time, be prepared for it to take a day and practise on an old pair of skates if you can. . Then if it takes less time, (and they roll in a straight line) you've smashed it! While you need to be as accurate as possible, skate mounting really more of an art than a science. Oh, and try not to think about how expensive the boots are that you are mounting, as you need a clear mind and a steady hand!
Not scared you off yet? Okay, read on!
Over a few years, I have found the following tools to be great.
Various screwdrivers - flathead / Phillips
Hacksaw and metal file
Bolt breaker tool
Masking tape and pencil
Drill with 3.5mm, 5mm and 6mm drill bits
Wood filler if you are filling holes.
Plate mounting kit (usually contains toe and heel bolts, washers and locking nuts.
The skate and plate
Aluminium insole - highly recommended if you are building a trainer skate for a skate park build. Please note that due to the thickness of these, it is recommended you purchase shoes one size bigger than your usual size. Put the aluminium insole in before you start drilling to see if you have enough room for your foot.
The Method - Removing the Old Plate
Remove the plate from the skate if you need to. Use the skate tool to remove the kingpin nut and take the cushions and trucks off carefully and store everything safely. Now is the ideal time to clean everything if needed. Remove the innersole so the screw heads are exposed. I usually use a screwdriver to hold the screw still and the skate tool to remove the nut. Sometimes, the end of the screw has been squashed a bit and is rather pesky, and you may need to drill out the screw, or hacksaw it off.
Protect the plate from being scratched while you remove it by using masking tape to secure small pieces of card around the screw so if your tools slip, they wont scratch the plate. Metal plates are incredibly easy to scratch and look so sad once they have a bit of damage. Nylon plates are more forgiving. Discard the old screws and nuts and make sure you use a new mounting kit every time.
So, you have the plate off. Clean the sole of the boot using liquid detergent. I would clean the plate too before you store it or sell it.
Once the boot is dry, take a look at the existing holes. You will almost never be lucky enough to be able to re-use existing holes. (The only time this may be possible, is if you are upgrading your plate that is made by the same manufacturer and keeping the same size.)
If there are any holes that are not needed, fill them with wood filler. Wood filler is suggested as it has a bit of flex to it. The sole of the boot will be held fairly rigidly as the plate will keep it still, but using a non-flexible filler may mean it works itself loose and drops out. Just push a bit into the hole, wipe the excess off the outside and the inside, so it lays as flat as possible and leave to dry overnight.
The Method - How to measure the centre line
You can mark directly onto the sole of your boot, but I put strips of masking tape across it at the toe, ball of the foot, heel. I then measure the width as accurately as possible and mark the mid-point. Do this with both boots. I join the dots to form the centre line and make sure it is visible at the heel and at the toe. The toe will end up looking off-centre - your mark should be to the outside of the stitching on the toe. The centre line should mark the point between your second and third toe. When you look at both skates after you have marked them up, make sure the marks look symmetrical. Check the view from the sole of the boot and also look from the front. It is worth measuring again and using a different colour to mark if you are unsure at all. For custom Jack boots, I measure everything three times. It slows me down, sure, but it much better in the long run than mis-drilling a hole.
Now look at the plates. Some plates are marked left and right, some are not. If there is a left and right, there will usually be instructions in the box.
Sunlite plates are unboxed, which is one reason they are so affordable. However, you do receive the whole plate - 2 x coloured plates with kingpins, 4 x trucks, cushion kits, kingpin bolts, toe stop bolts and axle nuts. Roller Girl Gang also include a mounting kit with all Sunlite plates.
Once you have identified which plate is left and right, write on a piece of masking tape which is which and stick it on the plate. I try not to have the plate overhang the boot at the back or front. Some plates are quite wide, and may overhang a tiny tiny bit one side. It's better if they don't though, so if this happens, check all your measurements again.
To mark new holes, hold the plate tightly in place and make pen marks through the holes.
Once both plates are marked, put the heel of the boots next to each other and check the holes are lined up across both boots. They should look symmetrical. If they don't, I strongly encourage you to go back and measure again and review the centre line.
Once you have been skating for a few years, you may hear people talking about 'standard mounts' or 'short forward mounts', ' dance mounts' or similar.
A short or dance mount is a plate that is one size smaller than the boot size. A shorter plate provides the skater with a shorter wheel base and therefore a tighter turning circle and greater agility - once you get used to it. A short mount will be less stable, as the heel wheels will not be directly under the heel. Therefore a short mount isn't recommended for beginner skaters, who tend to fall backwards more. On the other hand, if you get used to this set-up straight away, your learning curve will be steeper, but you will never need to re-learn how to use this set-up. A standard mount is recommended for ramps or street skating where stability is important. Of course you can ride whatever mount you want where ever you want - you do you! This is just what I've tried and prefer.
My current mount is a short/dance mount and I am used to riding this everywhere. I like to skate trails, hills, car parks, dance but don't skate a lot in skate parks. I'm used to my set up though, so a standard mount feels strange to me! I have also tested ridiculously short mounts. It definitely gets harder to skate, if the plate is too short.
If you are mounting your plate as a short mount, I'd suggest focusing on the front truck. I make sure this is under the ball of the foot, but not so far forward that you can't secure the heel of the plate to the heel of the boot. Remember, art, not science.
By now, you will have checked the hole positions all line up nicely and everything looks symmetrical. Make sure any laces have been removed prior to drilling.
The Method - Drilling.
In my opinion it is worth drilling a pilot hole. I find I can control the small drill bit better, particularly if I am re-drilling through a filled hole.
I use the 3.5mm bit, secure the boot firmly, making sure the tongue of the boot is out of the way, and then push hard. You may need to drill the same hole a few times to remove the plastic of the sole. Repeat for all holes. Some plates have four holes, some have six. You only really need four holes to secure the plate, but by all means use six if you feel better about it. (It means more hack-sawing later though.) If the hole you need to drill is close to the outer edge of the boot, angle the drill slightly inwards, so the inside hole will be away from the lining of the boot. Particularly with the Moxi Jack boot, which has a padded inside, getting the mounting screw in place can very difficult, so this is a handy tip.
When you have drilled all the pilot holes, swap to the larger drill bits. Of course you can go straight to a 5.5mm drill bit, and force the screw through, but I am in the habit of doing 5mm then 6mm. I like the screw to just drop through without any hammering or anything.
By the way, I like to mount skates on my knee. I do have a workbench, but found the clamp causes more damage to the suede than my knees, so I do it this way now.
Once you have completed the drilling, use a long screw to make sure the holes are clear of debris. Drop the screws through from the inside and pop the plate on. The moment of truth - does everything line up? I usually peel off all the masking tape before securing the plate on firmly, but check the centre line at the toe and heel again before discarding the tape. If you are struggling to find the hole to push the screw through from the inside of the boot, I sometimes push a screw from the outside, and then use that to guide me from the inside. I use another screw to push it back out.
On top of the plate goes a little washer and then the locking nut. I hand tighten these as much as possible, and then use my skate tool to tighten them further.
The Method - Removing the excess screw.
You need to remove the part of the screw that sticks out, otherwise it will 'bite' into the wheel causing you to instantly fall over as well as potentially ruining your wheels. To protect the plate, I tape cardboard or layers of masking tape across the full plate and make sure it is wrapped around the ends. This is to protect the plate from the your cutting tool, as plates are easy to scratch!
To cut, you can use a hacksaw or a rotary tool such as Dremel. Just make sure you are familiar with the chosen tool, and be prepared to tighten the bolt as needed (so you may need to do more than one cut on each screw). The bolt breaker tool has saved me so much time and effort, as once the screw has been cut into a few millimetres, you can bend and snap off the rest of the screw, tighten the nut and do it again. On the second cut, it's worth being as close to the nut as possible, as you will tighten it one last time. I want the bolt heads to be flush with the sole, as when I'm skating, I don't want to feel any lumpy bit of metal sticking into my foot, thanks very much. When you are satisfied the screw is as tight as possible, use the metal file to smooth off any sharp edges on the screw end.
I usually cut the screws on one side of the plate and finish them before turning the plate over and repeating.
Before continuing with the rest of the skate build, it is worth having a bit of a tidy up. Get rid of the rubbish and keep your work space tidy.
Build the rest of the skate
Look at your mounted plates and check everything is lined up. Look at the front, side and rear elevations and make sure you are happy everything is straight before moving on. It really is worth taking your time to appreciate your work so far.
Lay out the cushions, trucks, any grindblock that you may want to add. Some cushions are very tight while others are much easier to get on and off the kingpin.
If you are using grindtrucks, bear in mind you may need to alter pivot cups and cushions to make these fit.
Add the grindblock, swap cushions if required, put the trucks on, upper cushions and kingpin nut. Tighten the kingpin nut so you can see a few of the threads at the top. I would always suggest you ride the skates with slightly-too-tight kingpins, as you need the weight of a human to bed down the trucks and cushions properly. After the skates have been ridden for a few hours, check the kingpins again, and adjust the nuts accordingly.
(This whole skate build uses photographs with the Arius plate which has no kingpins - just in case you were looking for them! )
Add your toe stops and wheels.
Final test - do your skates roll in a straight line?
I always give skates that I build a final test, especially if I am building skates for someone else! Give them a push across a smooth surface. If you have taken your time and checked at every step the plates line up with each other, there should be no problem here. If one of the skates is not rolling in a straight line though, it could be that the trucks are not properly set into place. Push down on the inside of the skate, give the trucks a wiggle as sometimes the cushions aren't properly in place, tighten the kingpin a bit more if you need to, then give them another test.
Here are some of the skates I've built recently.
Custom Taffy Moxi Jack boots on Avanti Magnesium plates, Discoblox, Fundae wheels fitted with Better Bearings and Chaya toe stop.
Black vegan Moxi Jack boots on Powerdyne Reactor Neo plate, Discoblox, Fundae wheels and Grindstone heartstoppers.
Pineapple Moxi Lolly skates on Sunlite plates with Fundae wheels and Moxi brake petals.
Teal Moxi Jack boots on Powerdyne Reactor Pro plates, with Fundae wheels and Grindstone heartstoppers.
Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful!