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Making DIY Vans Rollerskates

Updated: Aug 25

@mjalexandrou #RGGGangster

My friend gave me a pair of white Vans Sk8 Hi's that had only been worn a few times and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try and make my own roller skates. I've seen lots of people online skating in DIY Vans roller skates, plus I was interested in the building from scratch aspect too.

You can buy everything you need from the Roller Girl Gang website to build your own skates, or you can DIY some bits even further if you already have stuff lying around like I did.

You will need:

  • Vans

  • Aluminium insoles

  • Plates and trucks

  • Wheels and bearings

  • Nuts and bolts

  • Toestops

  • Tools (I used an electric drill and jigsaw. Other useful things include clamps, metal files, allen keys and spanners)

First thing you need to do is remove the insoles out of your Vans. The whole lot, all the layers. Mine came out in one piece, it looks like several layers all glued together. One was trickier than the other for some reason, and it can take some time as they're glued to the bottom of the shoe. I used a non-serrated butter knife to get underneath the stubborn glued bits and pull it away.

I also dyed my Vans before I started to build the skates. I used Dylon Sunflower Yellow Fabric Hand Dye. You will also need 250g salt (basic table salt). Take the laces out first unless you want them dying too. It's recommended you wash items prior to dying but if your shoes are brand new or you're not too bothered by a few scuffs like me you can just put them in a washing up bowl or bucket of water and make sure they're completely wet through.

I mixed the dye powder with 500ml warm water and stirred until it was completely dissolved. Then I filled my bowl with around 4-5 litres of warm water. The Dylon packet says 6 litres but I was a bit concerned about them not dying SUPER vibrant yellow so I measured how much water I needed for both shoes to be completely submerged = 4-5 litres. In hindsight I'm sure using the full 6 litres would probably work fine! Then I poured in the salt and stirred. Next I poured in the dye solution and stirred that. Then I submerged both shoes and moved them around for 15 minutes, making sure every part was soaking in the dye bath.

After that, I left them for 45 minutes, agitating and shifting their position every 10 minutes. Wear gloves!

Once the dying process was complete I rinsed them in cold water until it (pretty much) ran clear. It's also recommended you wash them (hand wash with a bit of detergent) after rinsing, but again I wanted to keep them super vibrant and figured as I wouldn't be going out in the rain with them the likelihood of any surplus dye running was minimal. I stuffed them with crumpled up newspaper and dried them next to a radiator.

Whilst they were dying and drying I used the previously removed insoles to make my aluminium insoles. You can buy pre-cut CIB aluminium insoles if you don't have access to power tools (or just want to make things easier!). I used a 2mm thick aluminium sheet measuring 300mm x 200mm I got off of ebay. I traced around both insoles onto the aluminium sheet, making sure to note which was the right and which was the left. Then, using a sharpie, I drew a thicker line on the inside of my outline and cut on the inside of this - this was to make the aluminium insoles slightly smaller, about a quarter inch all the way round, so they'd be easier to fit into the shoes.{fig.6}

I cut them out with a jigsaw (fitted with a blade for metal cutting) and then filed the metal burrs smooth on both sides with a metal file. After test fitting them in the shoes I did end up taking off a bit more on both, from the toe and heel ends particularly. You could possibly avoid this by making a cardboard template to get the right fit before making the final cut on the aluminium.

Then I lined up the plates on the bottom of the shoes, using the centre of the back of the sole and eyeballing a centre point at the toe - I used my Moxi skates as reference.

I marked through the holes in the plates onto the soles of the shoes and then drilled holes all the way through.

I used these holes to mark through onto the aluminium insoles and drilled holes in those too, using a countersink bit to make a recess for the bolts.

I used Independent 1" allen key bolts - one pack contains 8 (they're made for skateboards) which is enough for the Sunlite plates.

All that was left was to put everything together! I put my big Moxi gummy wheels on to begin with, as I anticipated they'd take some getting used to (no heel, lower cut boot, less heel support).

Oh! I only had long stem toe stops so I cut those down, which is easy to do with an angle grinder and a clamp - or you could use a hacksaw.

I hope you found this useful! Whilst making my skates I also watched various videos on YouTube that other people have made about making DIY rollerskates. Let me know if you have any questions!

Mel @mjalexandrou

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