Over the summer I moved from a 10-minute e-bike ride to a 25-minute drive to go surfing.
Still very lucky, no doubt, but the change did require me to adjust my surfing habits.
When I could bike to the beach, going down for a quick surf even if the waves were bad was no big deal. Never gave it a second thought. The surf cams and reports were more of a novelty rather than a necessity.
But, once I moved I had to give a little more thought to my sessions. I couldn’t just get a quick fix whenever I had the urge.
Then I had an idea. Why not start skateboarding again?
Skateboarding was born from surfing, so it made sense that I could use it to satisfy my surfy cravings. Skating would also be a great cross-trainer for surfing too.
I bought a new skateboard and worked on getting my skate legs back. It hurts a lot more than what I remember growing up.
The good news was that it did in fact quench my urge to surf.
But, flat ground skating could only take be so far. I had to go one step further.
I’d build a backyard mini ramp in my workshop.
How to Build a Mini Ramp
Building a mini ramp, AKA a small half pipe, is not too complicated.
And, you’ve got options as to whether or not to build vs. buy.
If you go the DIY route, there are plenty of mini ramp plans and Youtube videos to get you through the process (I’ll include some of the most helpful ones below).
Aside from the repetitive nature of the cutting, drilling, screwing, and assembly, the hardest part about building your own mini ramp is deciding on the dimensions.
Luckily, since the material you’ll be using is typically sold in 8′ lengths, you do have some flexibility to adjust your plan slightly after your get started. I was initially going to go 16′ wide, but adjusted midway through (more on that below).
The basic process for building a mini ramp is as follows:
- Draw your transition radius and cut your plywood sides.
- Cut your 2×4 supports.
- Assemble the flat bottom.
- Screw the frame together.
- Attach the coping.
- Attach your plywood sublayers.
- Attach the top skating surface.
- Go skate.
Pretty simple, right?
Now, it does help to have a helping hand and some experience working with tools, taking measurements, and making cuts. But other than that, the only thing standing between you and your new mini ramp is time.
And it is possible to do this by yourself, the mini ramp featured in this article was assembled entirely by 1 person.
Design & Dimensions
The mini ramp shown here has the following dimensions & features:
- Just over 3.5′ high from ground to deck.
- 6′ 10″ transition radius.
- 12′ wide.
- ~23′ long.
- 2″ steel pipe coping (actual OD 2 3/8″).
- 1/8″ masonite skating surface layered on 45 degree diagonals. (This ramp is indoors.)
There are plenty of designs and mini ramp plans online to help you get started. As with anything found online, you’ll likely find that there are some different ways you’d prefer to do things.
If you use existing plans, but choose to alter your dimensions (different height, width, transition radius, etc.), just note that you’ll need to make some adjustments as you assemble. This could mean adding an additional 2×4, needing an extra sheet or two of plywood, or finding a specific solution for whatever situation that comes up during the build.
However you decide to design your mini ramp, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got 2x4s under each seam of plywood and surface layer.
I followed the basic guidelines from DIYSkate.com with some adjustments here and there.
Since my height, width, and radius is different from the one in those plans, I needed to buy more materials and double up the 2x4s in a few different locations where plywood seams would meet.
How to Design Your Mini Ramp
It’s a good idea to play around with the dimensions of your mini ramp before you start buying material and making cuts.
First, you’ll need to decide where the ramp is going to go. If it’s going to be indoors, you’ll need to work within the constrains of the walls and the ceiling height.
If it’s going to be outside, you’ll need to consider where you’ll be able to level and set your ramp. You’ll also need to think about the kind of wood, finish, and top surface you’ll be using to protect your ramp from the elements.
The absolute minimum you want a mini ramp to be is 8′ wide. The wider you can go, the better.
Originally I was going to build a full 16′ wide ramp in the indoor space I had available. However, after assembling the first 8 feet of the ramp I realized 16 feet may be too big for the space. 12′ felt plenty wide. 16′ would be putting any errant skateboards hurling dangerously close to my surfboard rack.
Next thing you’ll need to consider is height of the ramp. Remember, the height of your skating surface will be the overall height minus 3.5″ if you’re using 2x4s.
Use a tape measure or a reference sheet of plywood and stand on a ladder to get a feel for the height you’re thinking about. Under 4′ high will allow you to get 2 transition sides out of a single sheet of plywood.
The last big decision you’ll need to make is going to be your transition radius – this is the steepness of the curve of your ramp. A bigger radius equals a more mellow transition, while a smaller radius will be faster.
For ramps in the 2.5″ to 4′ range a radius of 6′ to 7′ seems to be the standard.
Only you can decide the right radius for yourself depending on how you like your ramps.
This ramp features a radius of 6′ 10″.
For this step, the Ramp Design Tool from XtremeSkater.com is pretty useful: https://www.xtremeskater.com/ramp-plans/ramp-tool/
Along with being able to play with the overall specs for the ramp, you can also see how to maximize a single sheet of 3/4″ plywood for cutting out 2 transitions.
Materials & Tools
The material list for a mini ramp is pretty simple, you’ll need:
- 2x4s (or 2x6s).
- 3/4″ plywood.
- 3/8″ plywood.
- 1/8″ to 1/4″ top surface (masonite, Skatelite, GatorSkins, plywood, metal, etc.).
- 2″ Steel Pipe (2 3/8″ actual).
- Lots of 1 5/8″ screws.
- 2 1/2″ screws.
- J bolts, nuts, and washers to attach coping.
- Concrete pavers or other footings if building outside.
For the 3.5′ by 12′ mini ramp featured in this article, the materials used were roughly as follows:
- 2x4s: ~90
- 3/4″ plywood: 6
- 3/8″ plywood: 18
- 1/8″ masonite: ~9
- #8 1 5/8″ deck screws: 4 boxes of ~650 screws
- #8 2 1/2″ screws: 2 boxes of ~90 screws
- 2″ Steel Pipe by 21′: 2
- J bolts, nuts, washers: 10
Tools you’ll need include:
- Tape measure.
- Chalk line.
- Impact driver.
- Circular saw.
- Jig saw.
- #8 countersink bit.
- 3/8″ cobalt drill bit.
- Spacers for laying final surface (washers or coins work).
Total cost of your mini ramp will depend on a few factors, including:
- Where you live.
- Whether or not you already have the tools you need.
- The dimensions you go with.
The ramp featured on this page was build in late 2022. Lumber prices are still high, but not as high was they were during the early pandemic.
The final cost for this ramp came in at under $2,000.
Drawing the Transitions
After you’ve settled on the dimensions for your mini ramp, the first step will be drawing and cutting out the transitions.
The transitions will be cut from 3/4″ plywood and will serve as the sides of the frame.
If your ramp is going to be under 4′, you’ll be able to get 2 sides out of a single sheet.
The most accurate way to draw your transitions is the 2×4 method.
To do this, you’ll need to lay two 4×8 sheets of plywood stacked on the 8′ side on the ground.
Next, you’ll want to measure up 3.5″ (the size of your 2×4) and mark the bottom sheet. This is were your transition curve will begin.
Drill a 3/8″ or pencil-sized hole in the 2×4 at this mark.
Then measure from your pencil hole in the 2×4 up using the radius of your transition.
Use a 2 1/2″ screw to secure the 2×4 to top piece of plywood. This will serve as a pivot point.
From here you’ll simply trace the pencil up to your ramp’s overall height and you’ll have the outline of your first transition.
Use a jig saw to carefully cut along your line.
Use this first transition as the master template for all the other sides. Just lay it down on your next sheet of ply, trace the shape, and cut it out.
You’ll also need to make your coping notch in each transition side. Check out the resource section below for more information on this.
Essentially, you’ll need to work out where your coping will need to sit so that it sticks out about 3/8″ from the deck and the ramp face. A good way to do this is to mock up a template using a small piece of 2 3/8″ pipe and a material stack that matches the width of your final surfaces (typically 1″ thick).
Once all transition sides are cut you can clean them up with a sander, if necessary.
While you have them cut and stacked, make marks at every 8″ on center starting from the top. These marks will be where your 2×4 frame will be attached.
To make installation of the plywood layers easier, you can double up the 2x4s where any plywood seams will meet. You can do this at every 2′ to account for each layer.
If you really want to make your life easier, you can pre-drill and preload your screws. (If you’re working alone, this is a must).
Cut List & Assembly
Next, you’re ready to begin cutting your 2x4s.
Your ramp’s frame will consist of the transition sides and the flat bottom.
The flat bottom is framed entirely by 2x4s. To get the length of the cross pieces, you’ll just need to subtract 3″ (1.5″ 2x4s on each side) from 8′ (or the width of the sections you’re building).
For the transition frame, you’ll need to subtract 1.5″ (3/4″ ply on each side) from 8′ or the width you’re using.
Once you have your cut lengths, set up a jig and get chopping.
You’ll need about 38 2x4s for each transition side and about 17 for the flat bottom.
Framing the Ramp
With all your lumber cut you’re ready to begin framing the ramp.
Use 1 5/8″ screws for the plywood sides and 2x4s and 2 1/2″ screws for the 2×4 flat bottom.
Start at the ends and corners so that you can square everything up.
Once each section is complete you can move everything into place and make any minor adjustments for the final location of the ramp.
Once you’ve got everything level and aligned, you can attach the flat bottom to each transition side.
Setting & Attaching the Coping
Next up, you’ll want to set the coping.
You can either drill through the front and screw it down, or you can drill through the back and secure it in placed with j-bolts.
The second method allows you to have a completely smooth coping surface.
For this, you’ll need to set the coping into place on the notch you’ve framed in.
Measure in about 3-6″ from each end and evenly across the span of your coping to mark where you need to drill.
Use clamps, a friend, or another method to secure the coping in place while you drill.
Use a 3/8″ drill bit and drill up at an angle through the rear 2×4 into the back of the coping. Make a dimple in each spot you need to drill.
Next, remove the coping from the ramp and place it on the ground.
Finish drilling holes in each spot you’ve marked.
Run the hooked end of your j-bolts through the coping so the threaded end comes out straight.
Align the coping and the bolts with the holes in the 2×4 and secure it with washers and two nuts. You can use some thread locker for extra security.
Laying the Plywood Sublayers
Now you are ready to start laying down your plywood subsurface.
This ramp uses 2 layers of 3/8″ ply.
Start by aligning a full sheet horizontally with the edge of the coping. Secure the plywood with screws into the studs below about ever 12″ or so.
Continue down the transition with another full sheet. Repeat on the other side.
Surface the flat bottom with a final full sheet or more or less depending on the exact dimensions of your ramp.
When you lay the second layer you want to make sure the seams don’t match and you don’t hit any screws below. Start the second layer with a sheet of plywood cut down to 2′ wide.
Each sheet takes quite a few screws, so this step will take a while. Have a backup battery charged for your drill just in case.
Surfacing the Ramp
Once the second layer of plywood is on you are ready for the surface layer.
Again, the final layer’s seems should be offset from the layer below.
For this ramp I decided to install the final layer of masonite diagonally.
To do that, you’ll need to pick a spot to begin and align the sheet at a 45 degree angle. Try to choose a spot that will maximize the 2x4s where corners of the sheets will meet.
The top layer’s screws must be countersunk to avoid damaging the material and to provide a flat, smooth skating surface.
Just like the layers below, you want to hit a stud with every screw. Using a chalk line is helpful.
Use coins or washers to space out a small gap between each sheet you lay.
If you though the plywood layers took you a while, just wait until you get started here.
Once you’re finished, all that stands between you and your new mii ramp is a quick sweep and vacuum.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Mini Ramps
The biggest consideration when designing your mini ramp is usually indoor vs outdoor.
If it’s going to be inside, your job is pretty easy. You just need to find a level concrete surface (e.g. garage floor or workshop) that will be big enough for the ramp.
If the ramp will be outside, additional considerations include:
- Leveling a spot for the ramp and using adequate footings.
- Using pressure treated and/or finished lumber in the construction.
- Using a weather resistant or finished top surface (masonite is not a good choice for outdoor ramps).
- Using a tarp, cover, or some other method to protect the ramp from the elements.
Mini Ramps: DIY Build vs Buy a Kit
With companies like OC Ramps and Keen Ramps, having a mini ramp of your own is very much a possibility even if you’re not so good with tools.
The benefits to a ramp kit are that all the hard work of measuring and cutting and drilling is mostly completed for you. All that’s left is assembly.
But, that will come at a cost. Looking at ramp kits of the same size as the mini ramp featured on this page, the costs range from about $4,000 to $7,000 depending on the options you go with.
Obviously, the ramp here was skinned with masonite, which kept costs down, but if you’re weighing the option of a DIY ramp or a ramp kit, you can expect to pay at least twice as much if you buy a kit.
DIY Mini Ramp Resources
Aside from a few tweaks here and there, I certainly did not reinvent the wheel when building this mini ramp. Below you can find some of the most helpful resources I used to help build this ramp.
- Basic Ramps Plans: http://diyskate.com/mini_03.html
- Mini Ramp Calculator: https://www.xtremeskater.com/ramp-plans/ramp-tool/
- Coping Video Series from GatorSkins: