Balsa project: a little more than $14 blank

Well, this one cost me just a little more than $143. First off, huge thanks to Bert for convincing me it works to just jump right in. Also, Sabs, Oneula, CMP, …and Mr. J for starting his thread on his new project.

I posted a photo of the board in the veneer bagging thread and it drew a few questions and comments. So here we go. It came out a little heavy - about 23# - for a 10’0". But not too bad. Its incredibly stable but also nice & responsive. I surfed it Sunday in knee high glassy beachbreak and today in OH+ Pleasure Point. It cut like butter in the small stuff and held a good solid line, then responded to a hands-up cutback when asked, in the big stuff.

I think its heavy because I didn’t trust the balsa to conform to my foam shape, so I cut the balsa 3/16" thick top & bottom, assuming I’d have to true up the shape and didn’t want to sand through. But actually, I could have cut the strips 1/8" or even 3/32" because they followed the shape faithfully.

I started with a blank of 1# EPS and d-cell stringers. The stringers were probably also not necessary, but they didn’t add much weight. I added 2.5" of straight solid balsa to the sides of the rails, before the veneer, so I could egg down the rails without shaping through into foam. The whole thing got 4 pc. 3/16" balsa bent around the rails for shaping. To aviod bending into super tight curves, it also got nose & tailblocks as big as the finished rail shape so the balsa rails could butt into those instead of finishing the curve.

It’s got 4oz glass under the balsa and 6oz over. Probably could have gone with 4 oz everywhere. Finbox.

The only real hitch was with the bagging. I ordered the $8.99 vacuum pump from Harbor Freight (“no moving parts”). It needs a compressor to provide air to create the venturi for vacuum. And my compressor took a dump. So I did my “bagging” a little differently - 25 gallons of water in Ziplok bags to hold down the veneers. 24 hours later, I knocked a knuckle everywhere on the board and heard no hollow spots, so I guess it worked. You’ll see from the photos.

The photos are hosted on Ofoto, so I don’t think they’ll take any Swaylocks space. I think I can link to more than 3 per post, too, but we’ll see.

Here’s gluing up the EPS & D-cell with polyurethane glue

Skinned before templating (the first time)

Solid balsa onto the sides

Mapping out the veneer


Got a concave, no problem

Bending on the outer rail pieces

Nice dry lam after shaping rails

Setting the finbox


And, the “brochure shot”

Very Cool Benny. So many questions…Where to you think the extra weight is? Also what was your source for the balsa? What tools did you use to work with the balsa?

Friggin’ nice, Benny!!

Now spill, where did you get your balsa? I need to get some for rails, and that crap is expensive in bendable thicknesses (3/16, 1/8)… Like a buck for every 3X48 board! How did you cut your sheets? Bandsaw?

anyway, good work!

SWEET Board!!!

How many hours did you put to make this beautiful board?

I think the extra weight is in the solid balsa rails that went on parallel to the stringers and probably were unnecessarily thick - I cut enough foam off for 2 pieces of 5/4 stock, when probably 1 piece plus the bending strips would have given me enough wood to shape the rails. It was also in the thick veneers, which I cut (on a bandsaw) at a fat 3/16" in case I had to sand a lot - but then I didn’t have to. I could have gone with 1/8" or even a hair less. I probably also didn’t need 3 d-cell stringers. One would have been enough, and I probably didn’t actually need any. Those don’t weigh very much, but, along with their glue, I’m sure it all adds up. I also used 6oz glass for the outer layer when 4 oz would have been plenty, this thing is all kinds of strong. I could have glassed on a fin instead of the box if I was really concerned, but several of my longboards are in the mid 20’s, pound-wise, so I was ok with whatever it turned out to be.

I buy all my hardwoods at in Berkeley. Balsa is $5.51 per board foot right now. All the balsa for this project cost me about $230. I chose for light weight & color and didn’t have to reject many sticks.

I used a combination of tools. Bandsaw for resawing the wood to veneer & bending thickness. Tablesaw for putting 45* scarf joints on at 85* angles for the solid rail pieces to have a curve that would follow the rocker. Utility knife & straightedge to piece together the deck & bottom. Knife again to apply the bending strips at the right rocker - I laid a strip along the rail and held it bent to the curve as I ran the knife through the wood and let the deck & bottom veneer guide it. Keep changing blades and its very easy. No special tools or talent there. It also helps to have good, light balsa that won’t surprise you with hard spots or cracks. Did the rails with the power planer and then 80 grit & 150 grit wrapped around a piece of d-cell. Finbox with a router. Templated the foam with a jigsaw. Not to mention sanders…

I should certainly also say thanks to Paul & Jim P for their inspiring woodwork. Carpentry, though, is my background and that part of this project came much easier than the rocker/foil/blended curves aspect of vision-to-surfboard construction. So I had to break it down to one stick at a time and then I’d go to bed puzzling over how to approach the next part. I think I’ll really be able to cut down on unnecessary motions around the shop and needless extra steps on the next one. :slight_smile:


Like a buck for every 3X48 board!

shwuz , man thats cheap , i pay double that …

benny !!!

man i am most impressed , even a little jealous , my first balsa board didnt look that sweet …

but then i was going it alone , so i will use that excuse …

in fact my friend still has the first balsa i ever built i should get a photo of it …

benny , that board looks that good , i should send you some stickers and ask for a cut on your next board ???

super stoked to hear i could have been an influence on your creation …

that gives me a real buzz …

thanks man …

bet you love walking down the beach with it , all those comments you get …

good stuff …



Thanks Bert! Speaking of your stickers…I been wondering…is Sunova like “Son Of A…” or “Su(per)Nova” or “Sun Ova (Egg)” like something hatched out of the sun…I gotta know. :slight_smile:

Your comments on the board mean a lot to me, thanks. Its also great to paddle out someplace like PP and have the older local guys who usually make a point of no eye contact to auslanders paddle right up and say cool board who shaped it? Really? Nice. Its a good feeling.

Schwuz, $1 for a stick is fine if its 1/4 or so thick. In board feet, the 36" x 4" x 5/4" cost me about $6 at $5.51/bf. I cut that into 5 3/16" pieces, that’s $1.20 each, for 3’ long, not 4’. It does add up…

originally it was Sunova Beach , pronounced son of a beach …

but then one time i let my business registration lapse when i went to renew it these clowns in the eastern states had pinched my name , but because they also trademarked it , used it for a company name , and had it registered as a business name as well , it was gonna be to much drama to reclaim it , even tho i could use something called a common law claim and show prior use , because they now had the trade mark it meant i couldnt stop them from using it even tho i could legaly use it to ,coz of common law rights …pointless having 2 diffent businesses using the same name , considering they did boards and surf stuff as well …

in everyday use the name was always abrieviated to sunova anyway …

so i just ran with that , plus i got better coverage on my logo and signs …

pretty dam rude tho , i got a letter of complaint because my business name was still in the old phone books and one of the phone book companies was still using my original name with my phone number , these idiots were threatening court action against the phone book company …

i tell you if i was ever in a stronger position id give the clowns some of there own medicine …

anyway heres the old logo and what it changed into , it didnt bother me that much about the name change , mainly coz right from the start everyone i did business with , suppliers , retailers , and even customers just called them sunovas , it seems to be common practice to abbrieviate everything … so now its either su-nova or sun-ova …

so theres a lesson there …

cover the paper work to …

ive always been more interested in development and improving ,R&D and surfing , paperwork and legal things always got left to the last minute …

so when you see sunova beach know that it was stolen by a bunch of unoriginal vultures , trying to cash in on someone elses reputation …

but hey thats life …



Benny, I must be missing something. I was so looking forward to seeing your pictures of the process because I would also like to try this some day. I feel stupid, how does the link to ofoto work.

I didn’t know the photos weren’t working for everyone. They came up ok on both my computers (home mac & work pc).

try => . If that loads up in its own window, then you should be able to hit and see it in context as well.

Thanks, tried again, however I believe I’m being blocked from a firewall here at work. I’ll try to take a look somewhere else. I’m not connected at home.

one more question, benny… Where did you get the bitchin fin, and how much?


Great job!

Nice logo…although there’s a guy out here selling boards with the same bear paw logo

That’s alot of rocker though I hardly see any flat in the photo… does she feel like she’s pushing water?

Also can you explain your Balsa rail bend process?

I was planning on just cutting my rocker profile out of 1/4" balsa like Bert showed us with the green Divinylcell and then bending two 1/4 rocker cuts around the outline line Bert and Sabs did to get to a 1/2" balsa rail band but I don’t think it’s going to be easy bending this 1/4" around the nose and tail like you can with the green D-Cell.

Watching that 2-5 second cut of Wegener and his assistant from the Sprout DVD it looks like he cuts his pieces as components then build the rails line from various precut sizes of Palownia.

Is that what you are doing with the scarf joints… attaching straight pieces at precut angle prior to bending?

You along with Bert and Surfgear definitely more of an inspiration than I could ever be here…

Again great work…

There’s another Bear Paw? Crap. Do you have a link?

The angled scarf joints are on the straight rail pieces, 5/4" thick. Then there are 4 more pieces, all the way from nose block to tail block on each side that are only 3/16" thick each and bent. Those have plain butt joints.

The rocker curve is hard to see from the photo - I think the siding on my garage is distracting. The board is actually quite flat over the front 6.5’, the only nose rocker really from the foil - the deck is flat. Then, the curve starts up in the last 3.5’. If I’m even a couple inches too far back, it does feel like its pushing water a little, just when paddling for the catch. On flat water, it cruises fast. I also don’t have a lot of flotation in the tail despite the width, because its so thinned out. Thick tails feel dead to me, so I had to compensate with width. When I’m in the right place on the board & the wave, it gets in with just a stroke or two.

The fin is a Rainbow I got from a friend. I think he got it at Palm St SS in Santa Cruz. He wanted to try a pivot fin but didn’t like the feel. I like pivots much better on widetails than any other fin, so if he hadn’t had it, I would have bought or made one very similar anyway.

Thanks for the encouraging comments :slight_smile:

I didn't know the photos weren't working for everyone. They came up ok on both my computers (home mac & work pc).

try => . If that loads up in its own window, then you should be able to hit and see it in context as well.

how are you viewing on a mac? I tried , <alt/option>, click none of which offered a option. Would love to see the process. Could you maybe put a url link to the o-foto collection?

by the way, in a couple places you have said 5/4" thick. You mean 1.25" thick. How wide were these pieces. I presume these thick pieces were to provide more rail to work with in the center of the board where the rail is thicker and therefore requires more rail width to create the right foil? Access to the photo’s probably answer all these questions but since I could not access I figured I’d ask.

thanks (and great looking board b.t.w.)

There's another Bear Paw? Crap.

There is also Barfoot - skate, surf, snoboards from way back when and continuing today. Your logo looks different enough though, I think (but then I’m not a trademark lawyer).


There’s another Bear Paw? Crap. Do you have a link?

I’m almost sure that the bear paw is Maurice COLE’s logo, too. Not exactly the same, though… Hey, great job, Benny1!

4est, I loaded them up from the mac - so I don’t know if I would have to do anything different to see them from another Mac.

Here’s a couple which I’ll load here that should explain the rails.

After skinning & templating the blank, I cut off the sides of the thickest part:

Then I added 6 pieces of 5/4" (yes 1.25" ) thick balsa to each side. You can see on the top layer in this photo that the solid rail piece is made of 3 pieces. These were cut with the tablesaw blade at 45 degrees. Then, depending on the side of the joint I was cutting for, the miter guage slid the balsa into the blade at either 85 or 95 degrees, so that the scarf would be tight but bend like the rocker.:

Then, the balsa was planed back down to match the deck & bottom and then the whole thing retemplated:

Believe me, I strongly considered stopping right there, shaping the rails & glassing it. It would have been a nice board, just like that, but I wanted to see it through…

So then I laminated the deck & bottom with balsa strips:

Started stacking on the rail pieces (4 thin ones for each side, bent to template). This meant my earlier templates - both all foam & foam & balsa - had to be 2" smaller all around than I wanted final dimensions to be. I just laid the bending wood on piece by piece and trimmed it to thickness with a utility knife, then brushed on yellow wood glue and taped it down. The tape, by the 3 rd & 4th layer, wasn’t spanning the flat rail very well so I used tubes to apply pressure to the center of the rail for good gluing:

Then, once the nose & tail blocks were on, the rails got shaped down.

The reason for the straight pieces was evident in the shaping - at the thickest part of the board, if I’d only had the 4 thin bent pieces to shape, I would have exposed a stripe of foam between the deck wood & the rail wood. But like this, I was able to really pinch down the rails but have all wood to work with. I think the straight solid pieces also contribute a lot of strength…



There is a shaper named Steve( don’t know last name) from the east shore oahu. with that logo name and bear claw symbol. I haven’t seen him for 3 years now, but I had first seen that logo in 1992. My suspicion is it is not registered, but I don’t know for sure.

warmest aloha,

cp [/indent]


now that Surfgear’s twanged my brain…

I believe the guy’s name is Steve Wolf and his brand I believe is Lone Wolf Surfboards. I don’t know why he was using that logo or something similar to it.

I saw several of his boards at Barbers Point years back and had asked about them becuase of the logo.

The guys riding them used to surf primarily Makaha or Northshore (Alii, Chuns, Lani’s)

Maybe JTroy or Foamdust would know more about him.

Also I always thought that Maurice Cole’s logo was that little Koala Bear but I could be wrong.