Made in China
There has been so much crap said about skateboards made in China from US and Canadian manufacturers, I thought I had better set the record straight once and for all and clear up the myths, that's right MYTHS of their propaganda.
Why the hype ? Why is there so much bad mouthing going on over where a skateboard is made?
The bottom line is FEAR and MONEY. Simple, all the hype coming from US and Canadian manufacturers is based on the fear of them losing money. They are all going to loose their jobs and their business from the loss of sales, due to the cheaper work force in China. So they have set about clutching at straws to debunk skateboards made anywhere else than the good ol US of A or Canada.
I too have been forced to discontinue making skateboards here in Australia due to that very fact of labour costs. The way things are going India looks to be the next low wages based country to tackle China in the manufacturing stakes. Soon the Chinese may very well be saying the same things about India, as North America is saying about China now. Years gone by, after the 2nd world war, Japan was emerging as a manufactuinrg giant... all of us old enough still remember the term Jap Crap.... now they are on the cutting edge of manufacturing. China is now starting to earm it's cudos for manufacturing as well. Manufacturing then went from Japan to Korea and Taiwan then to the cities of China... now many factoriesin China are relocating from the cites further out into the country side of China for lower wages... Like I said Indai will soon be the new cheap labour source as many of the Asian countrie's standard of living improves and wages go up, just as it has in the US and here....
So yes I do have a vested interest in this issue, but I assure you that after 20 years of building up a solid reputation for making a quality skateboard, I'm not about to throw it away. I'm not about to put my name on to anything sub standard and I have gone to great lengths to find a quality manufacturer. Of course there are many cheap decks decks made in China every day, but you get what you order. I only order imported from USA 100% Hard Maple veneer using USA made glue decks and I know I get what I ask and pay for.
I'd like to establish my credentials for you before I start, so you can be assured that what I am informing you of is based on truth, fact and substance, not based on fear and prejudices.
Firstly I have gone direct to the source and asked specific questions to USA veneer mills that supply veneer to our Chinese manufacturer about their shipping and moisture content in their veneer. The very same mills that we have sourced our veneers from over the years. I have toured my Chinese manufacturers factory and have seen first hand their veneer storage, glue and pressing production facilities. I know what I am looking at as I have personally made thousands of skateboards here in Australia for 20 years, (since 1986).
I grew up on wood, from the time I was about 5, 1965, my father worked from home making Church pipe organs and harpsichords.... fine wood working if it ever was. I could swing a hammer like a tradesman at the age of 7 or 8 making all sorts of wooden toys etc in his factory. I went through a carpentry apprenticeship after school, becoming the 50 year olds company youngest ever Leading Hand at the end of my 2nd year. I went on to being a Field Technician on hydraulically operated self climbing formwork systems for high rise construction before turning my hand at full time skateboard production in 1986. I have had a very close relationship with Australia's biggest veneer importers and suppliers for 20 years. I have toured numerous skateboard factories in the US and China and have also visited a number of veneer mills in Michigan and Wisconsin.
I have lasted in business for so long because I do care about the industry. I have endured many financial crisis setting me back, from times when the factory hummed with many staff to being back to a one man show, myself, only to start up again over 4 times in 20 years, enough for anyone, each time, to give up and move on. Our lower prices are being passed on to you with our wholesale prices now 30% less and our OEM prices 40% lower than when we made decks here.
My motives have always been pure, to supply the best possible quality skateboards at the best possible price.
So read on and you decide who you should believe. Some one telling you blatant and quiet frankly ludicrous unsubstantiated lies contrived to deceive you and trick you in to buying their more expensive products that are in reality no better, made with the very same materials and in the same manner as what I am offering you. I'm sure you are more intelligent than they obviously give you credit for.
Only skateboards made from "Canadian Rock Maple" are any good.
The problem with this basic statement is that there is no such tree species as "Canadian Rock Maple". The trees used in skateboard production are plain and simply a hardwood species of "Maple". There are 13 species of Maple native to the north American continent, only 5 are used as lumber timber and only 2 of those are HARDWOODS. "In the USA, the term "hardwood" refers to "Deciduous" trees and does not specifically mean the hardness of the wood". Balsa is a hardwood. Of the two hardwoods, only one is used for skateboard veneers the "Sugar Maple" or the "Acer Saccharum" Trees don't have borders, the species is found all over south east Canada and north east USA.
The Sugar Maple tree "Acer Saccharum" Maple hardwood
So yes, though I do agree that skateboards made with Hard Maple "Acer Saccharum" or the "Sugar Maple" are the best possible. The statement implies that only Maple trees from Canada, are the best to make skateboards from, hence skateboards made in Canada are the best, it is a false and misleading statement.
Quote from the veneer mill; "You are correct. Sugar Maple is the only species used. Canadian Hard Rock Maple means nothing."
The trees grown in Canada are best because they grow slower in a colder climate and are of a harder wood.
Tests conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory found that faster growing second growth trees are up to 15% harder than the slower old growth trees. QUOTE; "In most hardwood species, a slow growth rate also means a softer and lighter wood. The faster grown hardwood trees are usually less fine in texture and produce a stronger, heavier, and harder wood."
There you have it straight from the experts. The climate and growth rates have little or nothing to do with the "Hardness" of the wood. The veneer mill I contacted regarding this matter said , "Climate has little to do with it". "there is much more influence on the veneer through improper or proper manufacturing techniques that would influence structural integrity than anything else." The manufacturing techniques they are talking about is the actual veneer production techniques not board manufacturing. Coming from one of the biggest supplier to the worlds skateboard factories, based in Wisconsin, Funny, the other and perhaps the worlds biggest supplier of veneer is also based in Wisconsin USA, not Canada. Though trees are sourced throughout Northern America and Southern Canadian regions, none are in any way better than others due to growing in particular regions or climates. One small factor quoted which has some influence is soil, quote from US Forest Service Technical Bulletin, "It is evident that growth conditions resulting in light or heavy timber may be quiet different at points only a few miles apart, or they may be similar at points that are distant from each other"
Sugar Maple trees grow in larger areas in the USA than Canada, so how is it that Canadians claim the Sugar Maple to be their own and call it Canadian Rock Maple.
Growth distribution of the Sugar Maple
Shipping veneers by boat to China and it being exposed to the elements whilst in transit destroy the veneer.
I do agree that veneer exposed to extreme heat and dry conditions over time will dry out and crack, thus being rendered all but useless for high end skateboard production. Their statements about shipping veneer though would have you believe that the veneer is shipped on the deck of these ships out in the weather for 2 months. Duhhhhh, do they think you are stupid... we all know that modern shipping is all done in virtually air tight shipping containers stacked deep inside massive ships away from the elements. There may be a small chance of the container being on top having one or two sides on the outside, but even still they are very stable containers to ship veneer in, and keep it all very safe from the elements during the voyage.
With the integrity of the actual shipping container under no doubt, add the fact that each pallet of veneer is totally wrapped in industrial grade plastic film, sealing the pallet off to the outside air, also add the fact that all the sheets are stacked tightly on top of each other essentially sealing each others face off to the out side air, this all makes for very little chance of any of the veneer sheets being affected at all to any out side air changes. Those climate changes would have to be huge and sustained for long periods of time to have any affect on the veneer as it is very slow to uptake any changes from the ambient air. So sealed up in plastic and locked off tight in a shipping container deep inside a huge ship the veneer is very safe.
I have in fact pressed up old cracked, wrinkled and dry veneer sheets that were lying around the factory, that were well over a year old, to make up cutting templates many times. The application of the water based glues that are used wets the veneer sheets out making the veneer sheets able to flatten and bend easily without further splitting, the glue fills any small cracks inside the layers. These decks still needed 3 or so days to "cure" again before cutting, as applying the water based glues saturates the veneer sheets sending the "moisture content" in the veneer sheets through the roof, the freshly pressed blanks then need days to cure back to a reasonable moisture content before sealing the decks. Some of those cutting template decks have even been used on occasion by factory workers to skate on and they found them fine.
One last factor to mention would be the fact that when the pallets of veneer arrives in the factory we use in China, they are taken straight to a huge humidity/temperature controlled room and stored until use. The fact that these factories make so many decks a day means that the veneer does not stay there very long anyway. Many Chinese manufacturers are also shipping the logs over and peeling their own veneer on site. So you can rest assured that the veneer is looked after during transit and is never exposed to the elements and damaged as they would have you believe.
Do you think that even if each load of valuable veneer ever shipped to China over the last 20 years arrived ruined they would do something about it? Fact is, it all arrives in great condition. So this matter of veneers being inferior by the time they arrive in China is absolute nonsense.
Quote from the veneer mill; "This is simply not true with our veneer"
That the Veneer has lost it's "Freshness" in transit to China and skateboards made from it will not have the pop and strength of a USA/Canadian made deck.
Again what a load of crap. Wood is timeless, it does not have a use by date like milk.
It is true that extreme fluctuations of moisture content will affect the integrity of the wood over time to a small degree. BUT as we discussed above the veneers in transit to China will NEVER be exposed to levels that are enough to affect the veneer at all. The whole idea of curing wood is to bring it to a similar moisture content to the surrounding air so no further shrinkage will occur when left in the surrounding environment. Once it reaches this level it is considered stable to use.
There is NO case about wood aging and loosing it's freshness. In fact most old wood is sort after for many applications because of it's stability. The case against using wood that is too fresh and green is well known. Wood that is too fresh is more prone to shrinking and warping than wood that is properly cured and stable. Take a violin for example, the best are the Stradivarius, hundreds of years old yet still perfect. Sure you have to look after it, and if left out in the sun it may warp and go out of tune. You may say you don't skate a Stradivarius, sure you don't, but what it shows is that if it can hold its note for hundreds of years, it shows that the integrity of timber lasts for much longer than a few months, contrary to what these guys would have you believe. How old is the house you are living in? Are the walls older than a few months old? is it still standing? Are the council about to "Condemn" it and come in and demolish it for being unsound because the wood is old?.... NO.
But again, as discussed above the veneer sent over to china is not exposed at all to any adverse temperatures or air moisture contents to affect it at all and with the levels of manufacture it does not sit long at all in their climate controlled storage rooms. I'm not debunking decks made in Canada or the US as being too green either, I know that the veneers used are properly cured to a moisture content of between 6 to 8% before use. What I am saying is that veneer properly looked after will be good for a long time.
Our decks are then finished off with a sealer coat then a gloss coat then shrink wrapped, boxed and they only are then on the water to us for a max of 2 weeks. Those Canadian/USA made decks still have to take 6 to 8 weeks on a boat also to get here as well, so effectively our decks would be 2 weeks older than theirs. But many decks made in the US and Canada are shipped out to the Skate co where it may sit on shelves over there in stock until sold then shipped out here. So who knows???
The notion of wood being fresh and having to be used fast like milk, is an urban myth spread by US and Canadian manufacturers to try and scare you off anything not made in their factories.
Quote from the veneer mill; "I know of no specific instances where this is true." "When they use our veneer their skateboards are of high quality and without any call back problems."
Only skateboards made in the US and Canada are any good because we can make them better.
What can I say?, What an arrogant statement, and another huge load of utter rubbish. Do they think it is rocket science or something? They must really think you guys are stupid and will believe anything they tell you.
Pressing a skateboard involves applying glue onto veneer sheets through a glue spreader machine, stacking the veneers into a hydraulic press with the mould of the particular concave you want in it and pressing them together for a period of time until the glue has set.
I have simplified the process somewhat, but essentially that is all there is to it. My very first batch of decks I pressed 20 years ago came out great, sure I have refined things slightly but essentially it has been the same process since then.
What is very important is the materials used for the production. The Wood and the Glue.
We have already established that the wood for my decks and many other decks coming from China is in fact 100% "Hard Maple" the very same wood used in the US and Canada and that there is nothing wrong with it when it is used.
What about the glue then? I hear you ask. Of course I cannot speak for all manufactures over there. But I can say that there is a lot of glue shipped from the United States to China.
When I toured factories in the USA, I found that really only two major companies produced glue that was used in the manufacture of skateboards at that time. I then imported glue from one of the biggest and oldest glue manufactures in the US. I knew there was another company that was increasingly supplying more factories as well. The company I used did say that their glue was being used in China. The company that now produces my skateboards in China use glue from this other newer company, as do many others both in China and many very well know companies in North America and Canada as well. These huge multi natinal companies ahve also set-up glue production in China as well as many other coutries through out the world, suppling fresh glue.
So yes many manufacturers in China do use the best glues as well, and I know without a doubt our skateboards are made using USA made glue, as I have personally seen the drums with the manufacturers names on them.
How the decks are pressed is possibly the last factor in the quality of a skateboard. The hydraulic presses I saw used had enough power to do the job, the mould concaves are just fine with numerous ones to choose from and the shapes are what ever we want.
The factory I use have in fact been pressing skateboards for the US market since the early 80's, they were shown how to make a good deck years ago by a major US manufacturer and have been perfecting their techniques ever since. This company has been pressing decks much longer than many US and Canadian companies, So what gives these guys the right to say they can make skateboards better? I have 20 years of experience and found in my tour through the Chinese factory nothing at all in their manufacturing that was in any way suspect, in fact they passed my scrutiny with flying colours.
So the notion that only US and Canadian made skateboards are the best and no one else can make them as good, is a huge lie based on fear and arrogance, a "we are better than them" attitude. They have their heads stuck up their arses in other words.
Work in progress please come back soon for more FACTS.
I welcome any questions you may have about skateboards made in China please contact me and I'll address any issues you may have.