Shaping question

hey guys just looking for a little advise as this is my first shape. Shaping a 6’0 fish 6’0 x 21 1/2 x 3. Made my template and traced it out on the blank already. Blank is a PU US blank in “blue” density. I don’t want to use a planner  and trying to avoid a surform right now and only shape the board with basic hand tools. My next attempt will be possibly with a planner, I just want to get used to the foam right now. Any advice on skinning the blank? 30 grit with hard block? Not in a big rush with it just want to take my time and enjoy the process! Thanks guys!

A coarse sanding block will eventually do the trick but I would suggest you at least consider a sharp block plane.  A used one might be found fairly inexpensively and if you take some time to get the blade good and sharp, it will definitely do the job.  If you get the blade set ‘just right’ and approach the crust/skin with the plane held at the right angle, you may find it possible to shave off long curls of skin.  I’ve shaped many boards this way - see pics.


Sounds great thanks john

John will a block plane put a gouge in the blank if not used properly 

I did a couple of PU blanks around 2007 or so without a power planer. They were early chinese blanks and I used a surform and a large homemade sanding blocks. Getting the skin off was a pain. I ended up buying a cheap Ryobi electric planer that I still use to shape boards. These days I mostly use a Clark Foam modified Hitachi and Pete Cassica’s modified Bosch planers. If there is any chance that you will be doing more boards, I strongly suggest you get a modified for surfboards electric planer and start learning how to use it.

You can get a blank shaped almost to the finish with so much less effort, and it will be much more accurate (less bumps) once you get used to using the power planer with the zero cut and on the fly depth control.

But you can make a board without power tools if that’s what you want to do. Sometimes doing things manually is fun too.

Thanks for the help John, I’m down in Point Loma. I think for my first attempt I’ll use a hard block with corse paper and just work at it until the skin is gone.

The wood bodied Japanese Kana plane, is the perfect tool.       I’ve shaped both Balsa boards, and foam boards, using a Kana and sanding blocks.       It’s work, as well as an interesting experience.        But the greatest value, is how it makes you appreciate an electric planer.

Doing so, you’re bound to make a hundred bumps in your blank. Follow John’s advice and skin with a block plane. remember: long passes from tail to nose, not a few inches on the tail then a few inches up… Your legs are supposed to do most of the work, the block plane will just follow you walking along the blank.

Keep the sanding block for what it’s supposed to do: sanding. That is, taking out all irregularities ONCE THE SHAPING PART IS DONE. And use it lightly, again it’s so easy to make bumps.

Did I say you should buy a power planer? Of course, you could shape a board with a nail clipper but you’re in for days of labor and a very bad end product.

If you are going to use any kind of block plane whether an old Stanley or an expensive Japanese Plane;  It better be “Razor” sharp.  If not,  you will gouge the $#!t out of your blank.  You could buy a cheap HarborFreight electric planer and use it to skin the blank.  Absolutely nothing wrong with skinning with a Surform and a 12” sanding block wrapped in 36 grit.  Hold the Surform at a slight angle and use only medium pressure walking from tail to nose and back.  Always take the stringer down on both sides with a Stanley mini plane first.  Don’t use foam on the block to skin and you will avoid dips in the blank.  Tough way to do it, but can be done.

We should all remember Locofranks statement;   “this is my first shape.”

With various types of foams - some worse than others - I’ve found that it is also fairly easy to tear the heck out of a blank with an electric planer by advancing too fast, having blades set too deep, etc.  I guess foams have improved since the original Clark shutdown but I’ve run across a few that tore-up pretty easily.  I remember it being publicized that Terry Martin was so thrilled when he finally found one (‘Just Foam’ - see quote below) on which he could let 'er rip without tearing.

With a sharp block plane set correctly, shaving off the crust/skin is not that big of a deal.  For a first time shaper, it is arguably one of the more direct tools and offers a fair amount of control.  Once the crust has been removed, all the other non-powered hand tools will have a much easier time of it.  Minor snags and tears can be removed readily with a surform and sanding blocks.

“Terry Martin; (hand shaped) Terry actually skipped (like a child at Christmas) through his second and third pass to see if the foam would tear and then became excited for the first time in years. “The foam is consistent from skin to interior with no pour lines, no change in consistency, very lightweight and very hard, yet very easy to shape. I pushed my planer as fast as I could with no tearing, even down to the center while doing the rails. This is the most excited I have been in years of shaping. I actually look forward to hand shaping this foam in the future. The Comp lite is comparable in hardness to the US Foam green version but at 20-30% less weight. The 9.3 blank I shaped was perfect in dimension and the natural rocker fits most rockers I use. Congratulations Just Foam!””

…hello John, regarding the tearing on the foam is due to a different type of chemistry mostly based on the better Aussie foam; like Surfblanks or Burford (not the other brands)

You can go a bit shallow and not so fast possibly but the board will be harder, no doubt.

The MDI foam tends to not tear it up but is a “dead” type of foam; and heavier.

Regarding densities: the USA foam is heavier, no matter the density or the brand and is not so “springy” like the Aussie one (bear in mind that Surfblanks S Africa is not so hot and Surfblanks Brazil have excellent chemistry but not so good quality regarding stringer/s and some moulds (concrete)

I have been using almost all the brands in the last 30 years and as you say some worse than others.


–Hey Loco, I know that this is not your question but I think that if you are focused to do it without the planer YOU NEED to focus in the template or more than one.

This is a thing that the rookies do not understand and go light. This is one of the most important factors to have it dead right on surfboard building.

You need to pursuit to have the best curve as possible (and to develop and “eye” for the lines)

I see many shapers, that never ver developed that eye and their outlines and rockers look not so natural, not flow. I am from the school of pure lines.

So you need to focus on these curves and nothing more; put the hours into your template; see in which way you can develop that curve; I mean, you will see that there are only one natural big curve that follow that desired fish outline; check why you need to go one way and not other to obtain that; with that way of thinking; your very first shape could be good enough no matter if you go without the planer (having in mind what other members say about to rasp in big parts no in a spot way)

Second important stuff is the contrast between lights and shadow; so you need darker walls and horizontal fluorescent lights at the sides.

If you do it with white walls or at a direct Sun light etc; plus without a planer; your finish work will be more and possibly not so good.

Also, you are not developing anything that way; only backyard thingy.

Then meditate about what is a fish design; the concept; you need a concept before to start to shaping something; when you elaborate that idea and then surf that idea you ll finish understanding what s going on; the other cases are only a mimic of a shape.

the outer crust / mold release of the blank is the toughest part.low grit sandpaper will work but will require a lot of scrubbing.

i have an older black and decker planer you can have.I’m in SF Bay Area or could ship it if you pay shipping


cheers tom

Hi loco. My advice is to check out John Carper’s shaping 101 video. Shows step by step how to get a decent first board. Borrow or buy a planer to skin that blank. Then go at it with your block planes and sanding blocks. There’s no reason to avoid the power planer to skin a blank. Mike