Advice from a shaper

I’d really like to start shaping my own boards because it sounds like a blast and hopefully after a few dozen, I might understand how to make that elusive “magic board.” I figure that’s the only difference between me and Slater, haha. 1) The Skil 100 is way to expensive for me. The Hitachi planers are around $125 but there are other ones like the Ryobi that are only $69. On that one the depth of the cut only goes to about 1/50" which doesn’t sound like much. Should I pay the extra dough or are most planers about the same? 2) Do I even need a planer? It sounds like if you call up Clark foam and give them the exact dimensions that you need, all that’s left is a little bit of sanding around the rails, vee, tail and nose, and your done. Is this true or am I going to have to accept the fact that I’m going to need a planer? 4) What is the purpose of a hot coat? Do I really need one? I like to have potato chip boards that allow me all the performance possible. Do boards look really ugly without a gloss coat? How much extra weight do these coats add? 5) About how long would you expect a board (6’2, 2 1/4", ultra-light blank, 1 4-ounce layer of resin on 4-oz cloth, no hot coat or gloss coat) to hold up while surfing Newport Beach, CA everyday in head high conditions? 6) If Kevlar is lighter and stronger, wouldn’t it be a better fabric to use for making surfboards? Does it alter the flex patterns? 7) I have so many questions and find all of this so interesting that eventually I’ll have to just go and talk to a shaper and watch. Does anybody know of anywhere I can go around Newport to learn? Thanks to everybody who tries to answer all of these questions.

I’m sure you have at least 100 times as many questions as you’ve posted. There are lots of sources to learn about what to do and how to do it. Do you home work. Do some reading. Look at some videos. Search the archives here. Most of you answers are in those places. You need to study carefully how the pros do things. That way you’ll be able to approach this new world intellegently. Mahalo, Rich

Hi Mark, No, you don’t need a planer, especially if you’re planning on shaping chips off of close tolerance blanks. It will be more work skinning it to thickness with a surform, and the planer is great for making even passes (better for smoothing out bumps in the foam), but you can skimp on this for the first few boards. You can’t, however, skimp on the hotcoat. It’s pretty key for board strength and overall continuity of shape. You can go light on the hotcoat if you want to reduce weight. Chances are, if you’re already riding chips, you don’t have gloss coats on your boards, just a different finish to make it shiny. As Halcyon said, take your time exploring this site–all of your questions (plus many, many more)are answered in the archives. Videos are good, and if you can convince a shaper down there to let you watch, God bless you. Have fun! Jamie

Jump right in! Expect mistakes. Learn from mistakes. I wasn’t lucky enough to have someone to teach me. Just determination and a very understanding wife. 400 boards later, I woulnd’nt change a thing. With every board comes more and more confidence. Before you know it you will have 50 boards to build and two weeks to build them. Gotta go start on # 36. Enjoy!!!

THis week I got a call from a 13 year old who was trying to shape his first board. He asked if I could give him some help, when he walked into my shaping room, it was like Cleanlines and I 40 something years ago. His attempt was nothing less than hidious, his 2 pals had shaped their own boards and he wanted to give it a go also. Theirs’ were hidious too, but his was the worst. He had picked out a 6’1"R, not the blank to start with, you need more foam in the begining. The outline was something like a Channel Islands Curran bump wing on one side and ? on the 0ther. He had managed to erradicate the skin on about 20% of the blank (are you guys listening, who decline to buy a planer). I used my Pleskunas shapers sqaure about every 8" to a foot or so to determine which was the wider side and tranfer the narrower measurement to it. The tail was pulled in way too far (he was trying to get a modern “fish”), I cut off about an inch from the tail and pulled out a Bertlemann style early eighties fish template, it was close enough to the existing numbers. It was then to meld what was left of his “shape” with this template. I cleaned up his outline, shortened the tail some more, skinned the rest of the blank, added a little V to his rockerless tail. The really tough part ws the bumps and dips at the rail lne, it took running a few new bands until I had one connecting nose to tail. The Curran bump wing side had a super low place that COULDN"T be removed! In the end, the little grommet, had an acceptible shape to ride this summer, I couldn’t see him trying to get this abortion glassed as it was, a complete waste of money. Why would I do this for some kid I had never seen before. Like I said, It was me and Cleanlines before we had ever picked up a razor or kissed a girl. All we ever got at Inter-Island or Surboards Hawaii was, “go away kid, your scaring the paying customers”. Pay it forward

Jim, After your 40+ years in the business, Do you find that you still make silly mistakes? It’s been about 10 years for me, enough time to get fairly comfortable with it, but I still make dumb mistakes from just not paying attention. For the most part I do fine, but every once in a while I might forget to put the wax in a hot coat, Put a plug in backwards, leave the fan on when I’m glossing. Just wondering if you pros ever get a lot on your mind and just simply screw up.

  1. At least 50% of all surfboard design has been the result of pure serendipity. Yeah-- finding something unexpected and useful while searching for something else entirely. Pure blind luck. 2) The surfboard industrys obsession with an idealized image of flawless symmetrical form and finish, have contributed more to retail sales than all design and performance breakthroughs combined. 3) True revolution belongs to the people, not corporations. Its raw, messy, unpredictable and uncontrollable. Yet todays mainstream surfing industry is heading in the polar opposite direction. 4) Modern surfers are like that old science object lesson: frogs in a beaker of scalding water never feel the need to jump out and save themselves-- as long as the waters temperature is increased ever so slowly. Are you part of the problem, or the solution?

Good post Ricky. Sheep following the Goat with the loudest bell.

About, the answer to your question about a shaper in the newport area call Robert August in Huntington this is the only shaper that I know of that is teaching the genral public. Stay Soul, Rick

Thanks to everybody for all of your input. I’m going to call up Clark Foam next week and get started. If you have any last tips, I’d be really appreciative.

…This is what I say to myself when those tiny,little flaws grow into big nightmares in my mind. …As you ramble on thru life brother whatever be your goal…keep your eyes on the donut and not upon the hole!(from a speak easy bathroom wall in Manhattan). …And,remember All boards that are hand made have flaws…Keep Building!Herb

When you shape, be water.

The most common mistakes that plague me are, performance boards that are tri-fins designs, that have been ordered for some stupid reason with single boxes and I mark and route them for tri-fins. In second place is, when I’m banding a really rockered out nose rail and swing the planer sideways just a bit too far to fit into the rocker and let the whole rail band fall into the throat of the planer. Instantly massive amounts of the rail vanishes, the rest of the shape revolves around salvaging this screw up.

Gee,you too Jim?I thought I was the only one that did that? …Bet you were tired and in a hurry? …I lammed/freelapped the first side of a surfboard with hotcoat resin once.Took awhile to figure out how to get out of that one. …Just lately ,like this week,I shot a skateboard blank w/125#test brown paper to sub.for wood(30%approx.).The deck had a double glossy black Formica surface(s).The stupid thing I did was to use a epoxy thinner in the mix,rather than just heating THE EPOXY up.The epoxy went off fine,to the air that is,but in the lam where it counted, it stayed gummy for a loooooooong time,how long you say,it was in my press for 3 days before I aborted the still gummy project.Most blanks are ready to pull from the press in 2-4 hours, rock hard.Well,I junked the whole, half hard, delammed, sticky, mess.Bummed about the defeat,my buddy Eddy said, “You have to lose once in awhile or you’ll never really know what winning is about”.So I thought about it and in the last two years, I have made over 35 skateboard decks of various lengths and widths.Most were constructed radically different.In that 35+ boards, only 2 were trash.The one I mentioned,and a prototype Taco 10" x 35" deck, fiberglass n wood with airbrushed jungle combat tiger stripe, finished in a glitter gloss n polish.Nice looking piece of s**t!It’s hanging on my shop wall.‘’‘’‘’‘’‘’‘’''PROBLEM:shorted it, 3 plys of wood.The exrta fiberglass did little to help it as I thought it would.On it’s first ride by it’s trials rider, the board, spiral-flexed into a multi-lateral, fractured death…It’s on my wall to remind me that there are limits to everything, I’m human and I make mistakes too! Lessons learned from the epoxy thinner:1)This epoxy thinner is great for coats.Not good in airtight lams. 2)I just finished proto-deck #2 of the same construction (less the thinner) and bang!I’m back in the saddle again!Maybe this one will be a keeper…Keep Building!Herb

A block plane with a properly adjusted sharp blade will make quick work of skinning the blank. You can rough shape with one too. A rigid “longblock”, a flexible sanding block and some screen over a soft foam pad will finish it off. Light glass over a light blank will result in a disposable board. Follow conventional glassing techniques - hot coat it. It fills the weave of the lam layer and allows sanding without gumming up your sandpaper. After sanding, gloss or acrylic finish.

“…Surfing head high waves in Newport CA everyday…” ??? Care to let some of us other Newporters in on exactly where it breaks head high everyday? It’s summertime baby… pull out the fish. Off to the river jetties.