shaping surfboards by hand


im an ameatur shaper(havent legitamently done it yet) and was wondering how you shape a board without power tools. I do have a disk sander or whatever, but i cant afford a planer. Could i just use a surform instead? It would be great if any of you shapers could tell me step by step how to shape a board without a power planer, just the simple steps, no need to go into great detail. thanks,


search the archives, knowledge earned is power.…onstruction_1977.pdf

where you see power planer substitute cheese grader, block plane, 40 grit sander paper, etc…

The same way only a lot lot longer… good luck

Here’s a pic of my first effort . . . All done with a surform blade, sandpaper and block, some screen and about 10 hours.



I did my first one (this year) by hand with a surform and then block sanded it.

I think its the safer option as the foam is removed more gradually. It is hard work but if you pick the right blank and keep the ‘natural’ rocker most of the work is in the rail bands. I did a longboard so if its shorter it won’t be much of a problem. (although your name suggests the board might be long?)

Remember proper shapers use power tools because time is an issue, and they’ve got the skill.

My advice,

Spend lots of time reading and planning before you start.

Lots of resources here and elsewhere, read as much as you can. Do some googling and maybe get some DVDs. There’s a book called Surfboard which i quite liked but there’s lots of others.

All the information maybe confusing at the start because there are different methods and you will need to make some decisions. But keep reading and don’t rush in.

Make a nice clean work space, shaping racks etc. and get all your materials and tools before you start.

Work clean, it amazed me how dirty my blank got.

Keep it simple - forget the flash graphics, the shape and construction is far more important.

It may seem daunting but its worth it.

good luck and post some pics.

No, No, No…Get a planer, get one used, get one cheap. You don’t have $20.00? If you don’t have $20.00 what are you doing wasting $175.00 on a surfboard that will turn out all chunky & fat.

The planer is the most accurate tool you can use, a surform isn’t. The only place a surform is handy is getting the crust off the nose area, and making beak nose surfboards. it’s also handy in preping the laps before hot coating. But besides that it belongs in the trash can.

The only way you can properly foil a blank down is with a planer. What happens if you get a blank that is 3.5 thick and you want to make it 2.7. And you want the nose & tail to be nice and thin. It aint happening with a surform and a sanding block. You need to make full depth cut passes from tip to tail, you can’t do that scrubbing with a sanding block…your gonna get all sorts of wierd flat spots and depressions. You might be able to do it with a Stanley Door Plane if you take all the volume off the bottom. But unless you know how to sharpen a planer blade your going to rip & tear foam on each pass.

Listen, do yourself a favor buy a cheepo planer or borrow your neighbors. There has to be someone within 100 yards of your house that has one? Then take your time and count you passes on each side of the board, and take cuts about 1/8 inch. Keep the planer flat to the blank…try to be as accurate as possible. Measure your blank thickness often, and remember glassing adds about 1/8in+ to the finished shape. Leave the sanding blocks to the blending of the planer cuts, remember go slow and be as accurate as possible…speed kills, speed tears foam, speed makes you do wierd things…you can’t glue foam back on the blank.

remember technology is a good thing, welcome to the 20 century…get a planer that plugs into the wall, one thats powered by electricity!

Good luck, post the beast when your finished.

I just finished up my number 1 all using just a hand plane for skinning and cutting the stringer, sandpaper, and a surform. I thought it came out pretty good for a number 1. Its pretty simple to do, just carve away until you like what you see. However, it does take a looooooong time so be prepared. If I were you I would get a planer and go from there. It will take considerably less time to shape and it will come out a lot better. If you aren’t comfortable go for it without power tools, it will be a good experience either way! Good luck and keep us posted.

No, No, No......Get a planer, get one used, get one cheap. You don't have $20.00? If you don't have $20.00 what are you doing wasting $175.00 on a surfboard that will turn out all chunky & fat.

Agreed, except for my friends first board(which I helped with and learned a lot from before I started shaping) I have always used a power planer. Judging from everyone who I have seen use sureforms and only sureforms you might as well get a blank that is as closed to your dimensions as possible a glass it. Sureforms are a sure fire way to ruin a board.

Im an amateur myself, i’ve shaped 5 boards, 3 finished. I use sureform and block and paper for all of them. IF you dont mind chunky boards ( and i dont, foam is good!! ) you’ll be fine. I do have a planer, and i tried it on my first board, Fu^k me, what a mess, it took me hours to fix the mistake.

If you want to do this for a living, then you bascially HAVE to learn to use a planer i would think, but if not, sureform and paper is fine. Slow, but fine.

One big tip, choose your blank as close to the finished shape as possible, sounds simple, but the less foam you have to remove the better.

Good luck

I agree as well. I shaped my first with surform and sandpaper. Turned out resembling a surfboard but with lots of dips and waves, 2nd with planer turned out a lot truer. Get the planer and as resinhead said, if you cant afford a wee bit on a planer why are you building a board which will probably be far from perfect and cost $200? The planer is your friend!

Just mark your railbands out clearly before cutting and go slow like already said and the planer is far far far far better. Oh, and practicing rail bands on some junk foam with the planer first is a good idea.


Look into RENTING a planer, from a tool rental store. I did that from 1958 to 1963, when I finally bought a new Skil 100, for $ 150 dollars. You may also score a planer at a swap meet, or at a pawn shop.

Hey Logger33,

All I have to say is do it- build. I have only built 4 boards:

First was done with no power tools-, its must have taken me 15 hours to shape. That is just shaping no glassing.

2nd and 3rd power sander 50 grit to 100 grit, and a good eye. It took me about ten hours to shape.

The 4th was done with a Harbor freight planner and it took me about- two hours.

Your time is worth more buy a cheapy planner, you will love it, and always remember it is better to stoke it a 1000 times, than just once. Ask any builder. LOL

And then once your done- you will know your board has soul.

Have fun.

Assuming you want to work with a PU blank I would indeed suggest a power planer although I would suggest you practice on some scraps on your planer technique…

However, if you are planning to make a surfboard out of EPS and epoxy then a hotwire will be your only real power tool and if you can get someone to cut your blank you wouldn’t even need that. The close tolerance deck foil/rocker of the hotwire method leaves you with very little actual planer work which, with proper care and attention could be substituted with surform/sanding methods and a bit of time. Drawback to this method is you never really learn proper planer technique… but hey, you can build great boards and not have proper planer technique…

No matter which way you choose to shape your board…take you time! …take your time! …take your time!! Make your first board your best board ever… Seen a lot of first time boards coming through the swaylocks assembly line that have been rushed for the sake of finishing. Relax and enjoy every step…ever success…and learn from every failure…have fun! You’ll be on the intervention TV show soon denying your addiction to building surf crafts>>…

I tell the students in my classes this:

On your very first board, do everything… Use a planer for shaping. Use a sander for sanding. Do a gloss coat, resin tint, pinlines, and glass-on fins. Do a single to double concave bottom with chined rails and a swallow tail. Do it all on your first board and you’ll be over the mental hurdle in a hurry. The learning curve is steep. If you space out your challenges over your first 10 boards, your tenth board will only be slightly better than your first. Think of it like this… If you wait to do a gloss coat until your tenth board, it will be your first time trying it. But if you did it on every board, your tenth one will be your tenth time doing it. Chances are, you’ll start to like what you see by then.

So if you want to be like the big boys, do what the big boys do. Get your hands on a planer (literally) and go for it.

Cut down the biggest tree at your house with an axe. Carefull to have it fall without hitting anything.

Use large draw knives to clean the bark off the trunk once you cut off the branches.

Watch the Surf’s Up’s movie to see how it’s done with sharp seashells.

In a few weeks or months you be surfing your new board.

Otherwise just buy a cheap planner at Harbour Freight Tools for $39.00

It will do the job. If you like shaping then you can upgrade from there?

Very sound advise NJ - learn what you can and plan every thing out first, then run though it in you mind, imagining your self doing eash step that will help you hit the ground running.

You can shape a board by hand - but you will learn more by using a planner, and ultimatley make better boards for it. If your scared of power tools just tell yourself your only going to use it to skin the blank and take it down to the right thickness, start on a shallow pass, this will give you plenty of room to practice, by the time you’ve got it down the thickness you want then you will feel a lot more comfortable using the tool.

I currently dont own a planner I borrow one form a good friend, the planner currently resides with me and I give it back when he wants it, I’ve used it more than the owner but he knows he can get it any time and its getting a good home.

Bills idea of rent on is great you shouldn’t need it for more than a day.

LOL – you can do the outline on that tree with a chainsaw instead of seashells - goes a lot quicker…

I did my first board (EPS) with a block of 24 grit – super messy - but was fun - super time consuming though…

Second board was hotwire and Harbor Freight planer. For starting out it does the trick – and it feels so cool mowing foam - you say to yourself… “i’m actually ‘shaping’ a surfboard” it is a great feeling watching the foam fly…

Watch for a sale - their planers probably go on sale for $29 once a month.

Then if you really get into it, you can upgrade at some point…

I found nice Bosch at a pawn shop for 45.00, they are out there and they will save you from turning out a chunky blank.

Well I dont know if logger33 is from Fiji or not where

there are no

However, for the rest of you Yanks,for HarborFreight

you will find that frequently the internet prices

can be lower than the store shelf prices for an individual HarborFreight store.

Each harborfreight has some latitude on pricing and that involves price creep.

So you can print out the internet page and that price will

be automatically honored at the checkout stand.