First Board Fish 5'11"

Thought I would post my first board. 5’11” fish. It was supposed to be a 6’0” but had problems with the swallowtail. Does anyone have some tips on shaping a swallowtail? I used a Micro Round Rasp to shape mine. There was no way to shape the point so I just rounded it (see image). Would appreciate any tips on the tools and technique used to shape the stringer and foam on the point.

I am pretty happy with the shape and can’t wait to have it glassed and ride it. I really think it’s neat that you guys have created this resource to share knowledge. I want to thank you guys and let you know how much it helped me with this board. I had a blast shaping this board and look forward to trying another one. I have a heightened appreciation for the work that skilled shapers do.


when I do a swallow tail I like them to look alittle pointy so I make a dove cut on the tail. I hold my hand saw at an angle and cut into the center of the board half way in to the stringer leaving about 3/8 of thickness at the profile edge. the little piece that comes off looks like a dove. You can then use rounded files to tighten up the stringer.It helps if you mask the edges of the stringer so you dont gouge the foam with the file or cordless dremell.finish with a sure form and screen. hope that helps

One of the many things I learned from the experts on this sight is to shape the swallow tail last. After shaping the rails and deck. I use the tail template from a rounded pin for the swallows. I cut into it with my hand saw. I go into it from two angles because my saw won’t make the turn into the curve. Cut slowly through the stringer or you’ll slip into the foam on the opposite side. Your board looks great, by the way. Mike

that is really awesome…if you wouldnt mind…can i have the dims and the tail width. That board is definitely something id love to shape myself.

unless your on the Great Lakes or weigh

250lbs., I’d take a bit of thickness out of where the

fish tail cut is. On a fish each fish half essentially acts like

a fin when its sunk on turns, yours is blocky.

Other than that the rest of it looks Perfecto.


Thanks for the tips. You both hit two problem areas I had. Masking the edges to keep from gouging the foam sounds like a good idea. And, cutting slowly is key. The board went from 6’0” to 5’11” because I over shot the stringer. I appreciate the input.


Dimensions: 6’0”—nose 18 : middle 22 : tail 17.5 : thickness 2 7/8”

I don’t know if you have shaped before, but I purchased the “Master Shaper Series” which was very helpful in getting the concepts and techniques down. I used a sureform rather than an electric planer following the same principles for the planer from the video. The sureform works great. Getting the skin off the blank is a real bear.

Have fun!


You know, I debated about the thickness for a while. 95% of the time I ride a pintail retro 9’10” long board so I decided to leave the tail on the thicker side. Thought it would make the transition to something shorter a little easier. What you said about each side acting as a fin makes sense. I guess I’ll see how it rides.

Just dropped it off at the glass house today. I should see it in about a week. Can’t wait!


I got my board back from the glasser a week ago. I’m so happy with it. Precision glassing in Westminster, CA did a great job. Double 4oz top with a 4oz bottom. The board floats and paddles great. I was kind of worried about dropping in size to a 5’11”. It’s working out good. I’m able to drop in and make some nice turns. It’s a really interesting ride. On edge it’s quick and tight. Then it skips around when you’re flat. I’ve loaded a picture of the final board.


The shaper for which I glass most of his boards has an odd technique for his swallow tails, he cuts them out as normal when outlining with a jig saw, when he finishes them up he uses the same jig saw holds it upside down and shapes the stringer with the inverted jigsaw {its on} he manages to keep the blade only on the stringer and shapes nice curves with it.

I know he uses these special bosch blades for his foam work, they are made specifically for foam i think they are a bit wider than traditional blades and about 2x as long, but they are stiff as hell, they dont bend or flex like normal ones. I know jigs get a bad wrap for wavey lines but hes got it down.

Your board looks great, ryoung. When’s the next one? Try some keel fins next time. I think you’ll be even more stoked. Mike

F1surf- Thanks for the technique tip. Did you mean an electric jig saw? That sounds pretty crazy!

Rooster- Thanks for the compliment. Yes. There is definitely going to be another board. As for when, probably not for another couple months. I really want to ride this one for a while to get an idea of my next shape. There is a good chance that I will do another fish with modified dimensions. If not a fish, maybe a short board.

Hahaha. I need to read up on what a keel fin is. I thought that I used those. :slight_smile: Anyway the more stoke the better. Thanks for the tips.



maybe they are. Maybe it’s the angle of the photo and my failing middle age vision. Long Base, sweeping curve? Anyway, I’d be glad to send you some keel templates. Leave me a message with address if interested. I think I’m turning into the little keel fin template pimp on this site. Mike


Looks really nice. Well done… bet your stoked.

Can you give me info on your fin placement ? (Distance from bottom, rails, turn in ?)




There’s lots of info on keel placement in the archives. Mike

To JYoung: from my experience, the best tool to shape your stringer into a swallowtail is a very acute wood chisel whose blade is half your stringer’s width wide. Use it to shape your stringer into the curve you want, then level the foam down to the stringer, using your sanding-screen wrapped around a small piece of wood. Let’s see your next board soon. Nice job, anyway!


F1surf- Thanks for the technique tip. Did you mean an electric jig saw? That sounds pretty crazy!

Yeah He uses a skil variable speed, on the lowest setting, it takes a steady hand but they come out clean as can be.


No, your eyes are still good. I really didn’t understand what a keel fin was when I got the board glassed. I asked for twin fins for a fish and got some with these dimensions. Base 5” Height 6”.

I’m curious, how would keel fins perform in comparison to these fins? Thanks for the generous offer. Shaping a board takes enough of my focus. Although, maybe by the time I shape my next fish I will be ready to take on the challenge and drop you a line. Thanks again.


Yes. I am stoked. I took it out again today and had a blast. You know, I didn’t place the fins. I left it totally up to the glasser. Here are the dimensions:

Distance between fins:

Leading edges are 13” apart.

Trailing edges are 13 ½” apart.

Distance from the swallow tail point to the trailing edge is 3 1/2 “

Trailing edge to the hard rail is 1”

Leading edge to the hard rail is 1 ¾”

I will post some pics with this message.

Hope this helps.

P.S. Here are a couple swaylocks archive discussions dealing with keel fin placement.


Thanks for the tips. I’m definitely going to take everyone’s tips to heart when I shape my next fish.


Like I said; crazy. I have enough control problems with a handsaw.



My first couple of fishes had twin fin fins. The boards were fun in waist to head high surf, but tended to spin and slide more than I like. Make one for my cousin, a big powerful surfer, and he loved his. The big keel fins on my last few boards reduced the slipping. I ride them in knee to couple feet overhead fast hollow beach break. Tons of fun. The keels are pretty easy to make. I think it’s mostly a matter of preference and how you surf. I’m pretty much a down the line soul seventies surfer. Mike