First Try HWS

A few months back I got the idea in my head to build a wood surfboard. After searching the web for an affordable balsa source I stumbled onto Mr. Jensen’s page outlining a method to make beautiful boards with readily available woods. Since I had no idea how to shape I figured I’d try this, rather than hack up an expensive block of balsa.

The practical(cheap) side of me lead me to the local home center to search through a pile of lousy sheets of 1/4 in luan for an acceptable one. I didn’t follow the PJ method, but sort of felt it out as I went, looking at what other people were doing and what I though made sense.

I used some online software to design a 7’ single fin, single to double concave(by the way, overly complex for my first try) with a convex deck and moderate rocker(don’t remember the measurements). I glued up the framework then attached the bottom skin, using a makeshift rocker table. Next I attached the first two rail strips and used them as a guide to cut the bottom to shape with my router and flushcut bit. I then attached the deck using whatever clamps I could round up and some cheapo one made from pvc pipe(i ripped that trick from someone else). That is where I am right now, after the deck is clamped for another day or so I will use the router to trim it to size as I did the bottom, then start building out the rails, which will be solid. So for under 20bucks, I should have this finished, excluding the glass. Hopefully it will hold up and not break after a few rides. I am working on the pics, but can’t figure out how to get them small enough to post.

I have to following questions:

  1. the luan has some voids and I am worried if that will be a problem when I shape the rails, if I am left with a bunch of hole, what is a suitable filler.

  2. I am planning to glass the board with poly resin(i understand it is easier that epoxy), should I seal the board prior to glassing it with spar varnish or tung oil or something else? I have never glassed before so forgive me if that’s a dumb one.

Good one TBS,

A: use wood filler, because it’s wood, try and get a water based one, oil will upset the glassing…

B: don’t use oil, you need to keep it dry, why not research epoxy for your first glass job, you can cheater coat with that but I’m not too sure about poly resin. No rush with epoxy either…

C: take your time and post piccies as you go…

D: Have fun, good luck mate…

E: ask if you need help…

here’s a shot of the framework, again made of 1/4’’ luan

Here i am attaching the frame to the bottom skin.

Try that again…

In this one you can kind of see the double concave I was going for in the tail.

The next one is a shot with the first rails attached.

The alst one is my present state, deck glued and clamped.


What is a cheater coat, related to epoxy?

Would standard wood filler(elmers water based) work to fill any voids on the rails?

Are some of those clamps pieces of PVC pipe with a slot cut in them to make them “C” clamps? Genius!

A cheater coat is a coat of epoxy done when the lamination is partly hardened (tacky) to help fill in the weave of the cloth. I use a brush, some use a squeegee, it really helps prevent pinholes and weave showing when you do your hotcoat (fillcoat). I heat the resin so it will flow better to get it into all the spaces in the weave. It really helps.

I don’t see a reason why the wood filler would be a bad idea, but wood filler can take on strange colors when it is stained/coated. Try a sample and coat it with epoxy to see if it discolors. If it does, maybe using epoxy with some sawdust from the same wood as a filler? I’ve never used epoxy with wood, but I have had wood filler discolor on me when finishing.

Good luck, and it looks like it is going well! Keep us posted on the progress.


elmers wood fill will work for a small void. I would rather use epoxy with a thickner (saw dust, silca, microbollons ). Elmers is to soft for the long haul. Funiture is one thing a surfboard is a little different. If the viods are somewhere you will never see you can use auto body filler. Like to fill a void in the end grain of the plywood.

Your board looks great!! Your gonna love that first paddle out on wood.

Hi TBS78,

Good to see your stoke with this board! One thing I’ve learned about rails: if you don’t want the board to be super heavy, go hollow or go cork. If I do another HWS style board in the future I’ll be doing my rails diferently. I think that Paul Jensen’s way of doing them for the type of board you have going saves a lot of weight. One other thing I thought of looking at your pics just now: do you have any cross ventilation between the different chambers in your board? If all of your seams are perfect, each little chamber will trap air. Perhaps you have some venting I didn’t see. This is important because if you’re going to use a vent plug, the air needs be able to equalize pressure throughout the board or you’re going to need a vent for each chamber. I’m no expert, having built only one of these boards, bit it’s something to consider. Sorry I didn’t read this thread earlier to mention all this before the top deck went on.


Thanks for all the feedback. This site is addicting, I find myself poking around it daily.

I am going to stick with the solid rails, they just seem more doable in my head. This board was really just a prototype anyway, with minimal cost. I skipped the vent holes in the frame because I was concerned about the integrity of the cheap luan I was using. My seams leave something to be desired anyway, so I think air will be able to circulate.

I know the oppinions on swaylocks seem in favor of using a vent plug, but I am going to skip it as an experiment. I’ll just keep the board out of the sun and see what happens. Hopefully it doesn’t explode, but if it does it will be a wall hanger and next time I will know for sure. I will start the rails this weekend(kids willing), but I am dreading the glass or epoxy(whatever I do to keep water out) step. I really have no idea about it at all. Much research ahead.

Hey Pat

I’m still waiting for some pics of your vent.

My boards is eventually starting to progress quickly and I need to decide what to use for a vent. Being stuck on the southern tip of Africa means we’re a little short changed on supplies. I want to use something that sits nice and flush with the deck.



hey Antman, try this on for size, the female part is called a “rivet nut” and the male part is just a normal threaded grub screw with a rubber O-ring around it, nice and small and works a treat. all stainless steel of course, about $1 each, slot head means it can be opened with a coin or anything that fits!

The vent on mine looks exactly the same, only I just glued a couple of extra blokes either side of the stringger and used a regular self threading wood screw and an extra glass patch round the hole. No female part just drilled a pilot hole though the deck and stringer.

Hi Antman,

Sorry about that, totally forgot with the last round of pics I took. Mine is almost the same as Robbo’s. It sit’s proud when screwed it. Only difference was that I used a brass threaded insert instead of a rivet nut, but don’t think it matters. I’m also using a neoprene washer instead of an o-ring, because I can get a good seal without having to torque it down so hard. I got my direction from Robbo’s project and everyone else. I was just looking for something cheap, easy, and not plastic.

My insert is just a larger version of this one, with a 1/4" inside diameter:

Have fun with it.


you guys seem very keen on the vent plugs, understandable with the super nice boards you are building. but has anyone had one burst while making a reasonable effort to keep it out of extreme heat?

Did you make holes to conect all the small chambers formed by the cross members? If not you will have several isolated chambers and I think that’s not good for expanded air flow to your vent hole. Looks nice all around.


Oh well, sorry I didn’t read the whole post before asking that. With just a small hole (lets say, about 5/16’’ diameter) it’s enough for air circulation. I built my board’s cross members with double 1/8’’ plywood (one piece with grain runing vertical and the other one horizontal). and the integrity of them comes of how perpendicular they are about the top and bottom skins. If they bend out of shape while gluing the won’t do too much structurally. Nice you build your first board with a domed deck. saves you a lot of rail material and weight. In my last board I used half the amount of plywood than the first one, thanks to a domed deck and reduced overall thickness (final measurements for this board are 7’0’’ long, about 22’’ wide and 1.75’’ thick). My advice for your next board: Don’t be afraid of building a HWS too thin. They float more than a regular surfboard, and going standard thickness is just overkill.

i hear you on the thickness issue, but i was afraid to make the framework too thin because of the cheap luan i used. i didn’t think it could handle the stress from the rocker. next time i will spring for some better wood. i really like the domed deck, it feels so tight like a drum. i think the small gaps in my joints will allow for air movement, but ai going to skip the vent. for the $20 i am into this board, if she blows, so be it. i am learning a lot building it.


The vent on mine looks exactly the same, only I just glued a couple of extra blokes either side of the stringger

 Yikes !!!     :)

I recomend you to put a vent on it. You wont spend more than $1 and make your board last longer. I spent 60 dlls in my board 4 years ago. Still solid as the first day. Even in winter, when it’s supossed temperature changes are less abrupt, If I removed the vent screw lots of air moved through the board. The lack of a vent won’t make your board explode (maybe), but will unglue your top/bottom skins from the frame, resulting in a weak structure which can collapse under your feet. btw, 1/4’’ plywood is way more strong than 1/8’’ andiroba plywood I use in my boards.