Easy Rail Templates

In the spirit of Swaylock’s, I wanted my first post to be a helpful tip—so here goes.

I’ve searched and found some discussion on taking rail templates, even found a method I hadn’t seen

before(wrapping the sandpaper on the rail and grinding the profile into a piece of scrap foam), but I

didn’t see this trick…

what you need: a heat gun, leather gloves, and 3 mil sheet PVC in a 2" x 6" piece

how to: UNIFORMLY heat the PVC while holding one end and wearing leather gloves. (Insert hold

        harmless legal mumbo-jumbo here) When it becomes plastic, put the heat gun down in a safe 

        place and wrap the "noodle" around the rail and hold tight. It'll set in about 20 seconds. 

I got the idea for this about ten years ago when I saw a guy bending PVC pipe to make lawn furniture.

He heated the PVC and bent it in jigs to get curved parts. Right down the street from my shaping room

was all the scrap PVC sheet I’d ever need. It wasn’t a big conceptual leap from there.

Rail temps are very useful as references and essential when trying to hand shape replicas.

You can also check your side-to-side symmetry,etc. And these temps can be made long enough to

template well into the deck roll.

I’ve had no thermal issues, but all the EPS boards I’ve templated have had a lot of fiber on them.

You might want to be cautious on thinly glassed EPS. Test on your friend’s board. No problems at all on PU.

Hope this helps!


The easiest, most simple and reusable way I’ve tried utilized some stuff used as finger splints in the medical field. It is about 1" wide and comes in various lengths. It is flat flexible aluminum with a foam backing. It can easily be bent to shape and is stiff enough to stay in place. These come in 18" lengths…


Hi and welcome to sways :slight_smile:

If you bend the ends back around into loops then you can also use these as sanding blocks - just stick paper to the inside radius.


Greg Loehr thought of using the template that way about ten seconds after I told him about this. That’s where I got the PVC scraps(he was cutting stringers out of it)

Actually since the rail profile is constantly changing nose-to-tail the block thing doesn’t really work that well–we tried it…

At least you know you think like GL, which isn’t a bad thing

Yeah I thought about that… would help to get a few reference points along the rail tho then blend using usual techniques…

I dont do it that way but someone might… :))

lol re. GL comment. :slight_smile:


hey rif, sorry I forgot to thank you for the “welcome to sway’s”

I wish there’d been something like this when I started shaping. But PC’s were just a dream then.

And I’m still learnin’


I use A B pour foam polyurethane stuff that we all wish was white but its not I just tape off the rail in mine and a little card board and get a reverse of the rail I wanted to replicat you can even glue some sand paper to it,p,s i use 16 lb pour foam real dens dosnt move hard as wood

Hi Swayers,

An alternative method is to grab some thick gauge silver solder and wrap it round the rail… I’ve also used #12 solid copper wire etc when in a pinch.

Hi Mike -

Forgive me… I forgot to welcome you. Welcome aboard!

Welcome Mike

nice idea, but as someone said before me, the rail profile

changes constantly along the board, therefore using a tamplate for sanding isn’t that useful.

it is useful if u make various templates from several

points on the rail line and by that, u get reference points (rail profiles) that u can now sand between them.

nice idea thogh…

Even cheaper way and it takes 1 minute. Take the biggest chunk of scrap foam and a piece of 40 grit sandpaper. Lay the sandpaper on the rail of your favorite board with the grit on the outside. Grind the chunk of foam against the grit until you get what you need.

Thanks for the welcome, guys.

Lee, I’m the one who said that the rail templates weren’t very useful as sanding blocks.

I normally use them as references for customers who like a particular or unusual rail profile.

“Feely” gauges and cardboard can yield a usable template of the outer rail, but what I want is

something that goes up into the deck roll(and bottom) to record the rail volume, which as you know,

is very important.

I like the PVC because once it’s set, it won’t deform unless heated again. The finger splint stuff is a great idea

for a temporary or reusable template, but I want my permanent library in a more dimensionally stable material.


Welcome aboard Mike.I look forward to your input.I never got to thank you for the fish you shaped me.I love it!


Thanks Jeff

We’ll have to move over and start a " Freddy Hull/Fish " thread sometime, if I can get permission from Fred.

Might take a while…


If you had a big enough peice of acrylic - say 22" x 6" x 3/16" you could effectively make a curved sanding block for shaping deck domes, or for concaves, V’s etc… Mark the centre line on the block and use it to follow the stringer/s

shouldnt be hard to blend in/out with a light touch…


Rail Templates for CAD: AKU, Shape3d, BoardCad.


Paper Mache -ing the Rails


Ive been using finger splints for rail templates–okay, quick and easy, but not perfect

I put them onto the computer screen cad ‘rail outline’ and the splints have foam on the inside, so its only a rough appx. and my rails on my cad designs are similarly rough.


Have read all the hints about making rail templates and neither seemed accurate to CAD purposes.

However, the lightbulb went off lately and ‘Paper Mache’ -ing  segments of the rails and cutting to thin slices will solve the problem and be exactly precise for holding up to a life size rail design on the computer screen and getting them to synch.

Paper Mache is easy , although not exactly quick. Going to have to experiment with the paste composition and newspaper.


bought this from surf source:

This thread was my very first post on sways, haha.

I still like using the sheet plastic vs any other method, it's permanent, compact, quick, and simple. Also it's easy to use a longer strip, and get 6'' into the deck and bottom contours to get a more complete picture of rail. Using (most) profile gauges or wrapped sandpaper/foam block won't get you there.

the only affordable ‘3mm PVC sheets’ I’m finding on the internet are  PVC Sintra Sheets which are ‘foam board’ used in photography, presentation displays etc.

If this is not what you are referring to then it gets pretty pricey after that.

I was lucky that Greg Loehr was using PVC stringers and he was right down the street. I got enough scrap pieces to last awhile.

Find a sign-making company near you and ask for some scraps. Some of these materials are foamed in the center, get the solid stuff instead.