How to build a heavy HWS

About a year ago I decided it shouldn’t be hard to get a couple of pieces of plywood and throw together a quick although somewhat crude hollow wooden surfboard. Got as far as the stringer and the template and then let the project languish for about a year, while trying to figure out how this was going to be so easy. I finally just started building and this is what happened…

Bottom piece, cut out of mahogany/birch doorskin.

6’ 9" 16" - 20 5/8" - 12 3/8" more or less

I copied the rocker from a 6’8" Parmenter Stubb Vector because it seemed like a good idea. What surprised me was how wrong the rocker looked when I cut it out. I realized that I had never seen a stringer all by itself without the rest of the board attached. It looked like a banana. Ater triple checking I was satisfied that it was at least the same as the Stubb.

Then all that was necessary was to glue the bottom piece to the stringer. The reason I used such a thick piece (7/8") for the stringer was that it was taking the place of a rocker table and needed to be strong enough to resist the tendency to spring back to flat. Another reason was that I had that wood in my garage. After gluing it up I was amazed at how it suddenly looked like a surfboard…and was very light also.

Next step was to put some solid material at the nose and tail. I used some pieces of red cedar that I had lying around. Polyurethane glue and clamps will make a woodworker out of anybody.

awesome! keep the pics coming!

I agree. Keep the pic’s coming. This is what Swaylock’s is all about.

I’ll third that,

Interesting method, great to see your progress, looking forward to seeing the board finished.

The biggest obstacle for me at least, was figuring out how to fabricate the rails without building a complicated jig. A precise jig is usually the smartest way to go in the long run but it is not very appealing if you are lazy and impatient at the same time. So, first I cut some 1/8" plywood strips to match the rocker and glued them to the bottom half…

…then I ripped 40 pieces of red cedar to 1/4x1/4x approx.7’, nailed some 2x4 blocks around the perimeter and glued,stuffed,bent and clamped them down at the rails. I used Titebond glue for this because it’s less viscous than polyurethane and doesn’t start foaming up…oh yeah…got clamps?

Fantastic use of basic frame elements to put together a board.

This method looks very promising for someone with minimal woodworking experience to make a nice board.

Keep up the fine documentation for others to follow your lead.

In building this I began to appreciate more and more the complexities of the curves in a surfboard. The rocker at the center line has a top and a bottom curve and although the rails closely mimic that curve when it comes to fabricating them separately you realize that they are not really anywhere near the same. This type of board construction is more like building a boat and to some degree the curves dictate themselves. There is something really beautiful and fascinating about compound curves.

Here’s the glued up rails before trimming the top line…

…and after some trimming…

I noticed that you are using cloths pins as clamps. That is classic! Here is another low budget clamping idea:

  • Buy a thick tube of PVC pipe.

  • Cut the tube into a bunch of thin rings.

  • Cut each ring on one end

  • Spread the ring apart and you have a clamp.

Here’s a crude drawing of what I’m talking about.

that looks great. i was thinking of ordering a kit from grain, but now i’m having thoughts about making a wooden board from scratch, like you. what a dilemma…

Great idea for clamps…when the gluing frenzy starts everything seems under control until you realize you don’t have enough clamps…these could come in real handy. Thanks for the tip.


One more shot of the bundle of strips that make up the rails…

Next step was to go online and find pictures of other wooden boards so I could decide whether or not to place the ribs perpendicularly or at an angle. I saw that the Hess wooden boards were at an angle and that looked good so I went with that. I also think that considering the way the plys are oriented in the plywood, putting the ribs at an angle keeps the deflection from heel and foot pressure to a minimum.

These ribs were just cut to length then scribed while held in place to get the top curve right. after they were shaped I cut the hole and glued them in place with the poly glue.

Uh oh… this thing is starting to get heavy, I better cut some more holes. Plus I’m beginning to see the parts that I could have left out or downsized.

Plus…added some pieces of foam for the fin boxes…

what are the lighter dashes on the “stringer”?

…what are the lighter dashes on the “stringer”?

I had to join two pieces of wood together to get one that was wide enough to trace the rocker curve on. I used a biscuit joiner and those dashes are part of the biscuits that were exposed.


Finally, time to glue the top on, now it feels like it’s getting finished.

Drag out every clamp I own, pour on the polyurethane glue and clamp it…

It’s a great feeling unclamping a glue job. Plane off the excess, true up the sides and then shape the rails.

I decided to use a big 3/4" radius router bit with a ball bearing guide to do the majority of the upper rail…and had a little problem. You may want to send the children to bed before you look at this one…

…oh the humanity…

I know some of you on Swaylocks are in Australia, that’s pretty far away but you may have been able to hear me after I managed this little stunt. The good news is that I did not throw the router up against the wall, the bad news is that I did once again fail the buddhist test on excessive emotional attachment to objects. Anyway, what are you going to do, patch it and move on.

Completed the patch, shaped the rails (best part of the whole project) and just looked at it for a while. It’s funny, the surf has been so crappy here for the last couple of months, but I didn’t seem to care much while working on this board.

how much does it weigh? And wondering here, is a board like this always just flat bottom? No concave or anything? Looks GREAT BTW. Really came together well. How much glass does a board like this need, and what do you think your total cost will be?