Posted on May 25, 2018 at 11:03 PM
How Not To Build a Mini Ramp
This spring, my roommates and I set out to build our first mini ramp. We spent some time researching different DIY plans, watching youtube videos, and talking about what we wanted for a ramp. We built it over the course of a week, working on it for a couple hours every couple of days and spent roughly $500. Consensus among the build crew is we did it cheaply and ended up with a solid product! I will be the first to admit though that some corners were definitely cut.
Here’s what we did, how we did it, and some recommendations for building your very own front-yard mini!
Step 1 – Pre-Build:
First, you’ll have to decide where you want to build it and how big you want it to be. Some factors to consider are:
- The size of the area you have to work with
- How much wood you have at your disposal
- How much you want to spend on materials
- Your ability level (is this a DIY for your kids?)
FINAL MINI RAMP SPECS
Slightly under two feet (1’10”) high, 16 feet long, 8 feet wide. Which is small. This allowed us to use one sheet of ¾” plywood for all 4 sides of the ramp, with 4 pieces of 3/8” ply topped with 4 pieces of 1/8” ply for the surface. This also made for a nice fit in our front yard.
Find a spot that’s as flat as possible and the rest is up to you. A nice size would be 3-4 feet high, 20 feet in length, and 8 feet wide. This would end up costing you a bit more, but would likely be worth it if you’ve got the space.
Step 2 – Supplies
We got to know the guys at the hardware store by our place pretty well. We weren’t sure exactly how much material we needed, so we had to go back a couple times to grab the stuff we were missing.
- 1 X 3/4" thick Plywood
- 4’x8’ 4 X 3/8” thick Plywood
- 4’x8’ 4 X 1/8” thick Plywood
- 4’x8’ 25 X 8’ long
- 2”x4” 2 X 8’ long 2” diameter PVC
- 4 X 3/4" Plywood
- 2’x4’ A lot of screws – 1 ½” is a good length
- 1 drill
- 1 jig saw
- 1 tape measure
- 1 pencil
- 1 iphone level
- 1 hammer
This is pretty much the bare minimum supplies you’re going to need. We pulled it off using this stuff and didn't waste a whole lot of material. It’d be nice to have an actual sawhorse, a square, and a real level, but this is pretty much all you'll need! We'll get to the different options for materials later.
Step 3 – The Build: Making the Transition
Super important for the way the ramp feels and what type of plywood sheeting you use to cover it. Like I said, we used 1 sheet of ¾ plywood for our transition templates because we went for a smaller, more compact mini and well, we’re cheap.
WHAT WE DID
- Start by measuring and drawing your transition. This is one of the more difficult parts of the process. To do it our way draw a line down the center of the plywood sheet and make the cut. This will make it easier to cut the rest. We gave ourselves a platform of two feet. You’ll want to mark that spot.
- Next, draw a line across the bottom to represent the base, or flat part, of the ramp. This will need to be as tall as a 2x4 so that the frame can prop the bottom. We opted to lay our 2x4’s flat, so we drew this line 2” from the edge.
- Thirdly, draw the curved line that you’ll cut to make the transition. To do this, use something long and straight to create a radius. We used our tape measure. More or less by trial and error, we found a center point for a radius that when pivoted, created a curve that joined the platform ledge with a smooth transition to flat. Using this apparatus, we were able to draw our transition. Using our jig saw and some 2x4’s as makeshift sawhorses, it was fairly easy to cut the 4 pieces. Things are starting to look like a miniramp.
- If we were to do it again, we all agreed that we would make it bigger. 3 feet in height would be a sweet size, even for our yard.
- If you're going to do it our way, make sure your radius is long enough so the transition isn't too harsh.
- We feel like ours is pretty quick. It also makes it a lot harder to bend the plywood into place, especially if you're using 3/8" plywood.
Step 4 - The Build: Framing
This is an exciting part of the process. This is when you start to see the structure coming together!
WHAT WE DID
- Starting with the three corners of the transition (so we could get the structure in place), we laid the 2x4’s flat at the bottom to give the ramp a bit of the extra height.
- We attached one every foot until we got to the curve of the transition, where we put one about every 8 inches. This was eyeballed so that we could keep it more or less consistent.
- Since we were still pretty perplexed about how we were going to put the coping on, we left out the last 2x4 – the one we would eventually fasten the coping to – so that we could adjust the position of the coping as needed.
- When framing the transition, make sure your 2x4 spacing is no more than 8 inches. The less space the better as more support will put less stress on the bent plywood and generally feel sturdier under your skate.
- Put at least two screws in each side.
- No matter what size you choose, on the transition you'll want your 2x4's vertical as opposed to flat.
- If you're making a bigger ramp, put the base 2x4's vertical as well. This will give it more structural support so the ramp wont flex as much underneath you.
- Don’t attach the 2x4 that you’re going to fasten the coping to until after the plywood is laid. We got that part right.
Step 5 – The Build: Cover the Ramp
This will require a few sets of hands. For us, it was a three man job.
WHAT WE DID
- Starting from the top, we put our first 3/8” sheet of plywood flush with our top 2x4” so that our coping could sit flat on top.
- We bent the plywood length way and had two side by side across the ramp.
- With some difficulty, you’ll have to bend the plywood sheet into place while one person screws it in from top to bottom. Mark the 2x4’s with a pencil to make it easier to screw in.
- A screw every foot should suffice, so about 4 every row. Make sure they’re in tight!
- Then, top it with a layer of 1/8” plywood the same way as before. This stuff is way easier to bend and having put the 3/8” down, you’ll be a master.
- This method gave us an excess foot or so of plywood in the flat section of the ramp on either side. We decided we'd lay down a 2x4 beneath the seam where the two sides of the flat section came together and drill them both into it.
- Since we did it like this, we'd easily be able to unscrew one side and move or store each side of the ramp if we needed to.
- If possible, soak, steam, or treat the wood beforehand so it’s easier to bend. We had a real tough time bending it and even had some of the 3x8’s crack on us.
- If you’re willing to spend a couple extra bucks, I’d recommend doing two to three layers of 1/8” plywood. It’s easier to deal with and would still make for a strong structure.
- A lot of DIY plans across the web also recommend using masonite or tempered hardboard as a final layer. This plus a couple sheets of 1/8" ply could be ideal.
- Our 1/8" plywood is starting to break down a bit, so something to top it off would be nice. We may end up putting a sheet of masonite over top.
Step 6 – The Build: Coping
We used PVC (plastic) pipe even though most plans we read advised against it. We figured it would do the trick and it does, unless you want to be able to easily slide on it. Your coping should stick out just enough that it makes tricks easier, but not so much that it impedes your flow. The best method we found to fasten the coping was to drill it into a parallel running 2x4 support directly behind it. This 2x4 is also used to support the platform (or deck) of the mini.
WHAT WE DID
- To find a spot that worked, we placed the last 2x4 just behind the coping, underneath where you’ll be placing the deck.
- You can adjust the position of the coping by moving this 2x4 backward and forwards. Just make sure it’s propped on top of the transition.
- When you’ve decided on a spot you like, you’re ready to fix it in place.
- To fasten the coping, drill a hole in your pipe that’s wide enough for the drill bit and screw head to penetrate. This hole should allow you to reach a screw all the way through to the other side.
- If done correctly, you’ll be able to screw the pipe into the 2x4 behind, tightly fastening the coping into place. Screws with a head diameter twice the size of the screw diameter are ideal.
- Our method works pretty well. But like everyone else, I'd recommend metal coping if you can find it. It's just generally way better for skating.
- If you can, make sure the coping is pressed to a 2x4 beneath and behind it. This will make it feel a lot stronger.
- If you buy 8 feet of coping, you won't actually have to make a notch in your transition template like the picture above.
Step 7 – The Build: The Deck
You’re almost there. At this point you may have already dropped in like we did. We spent a couple days skating without a deck before we decided to actually finalize it and put the deck on.
WHAT WE DID
- We found some scrap ¾ plywood in our back alley that we cut into 4 2’x4’ pieces.
- With three 2x4s running laterally beneath them, we screwed them in and were back to skating.
- Something very similar to what we did. You'll figure it out.
Step 8 – Skate it!
If it’s in your front yard like ours is, get ready for the passerby’s to comment and get stoked. You’ll make some new friends for sure. Have fun, be safe, and make sure to reluctantly give your neighbors a break from the noise every once in a while.
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