Solid Wood Boards

I have been looking into making a wood board for some time now. Is balsa the only material you wan make a soild wood board from? if not, then which woods work best? also, is there a rank of woods based on buoyency in a previous post? (couldnt find one because of the multitude of posts involving “wood boards”) … i think what im getting at is, can i make a board using wood from home depot? I dont have a small fortune to spend on balsa, but still want to make a solid wood board.

timber for a solid board has three criterior to meet.

Weight, Strength and also the ability for resin to adhere to it (some woods are oily or contain tannin that over time will cause a delam)

you mentioned that you don’t want to spend too much on wood, my advice is…

if you do it with cheap shitty wood, when you have finished this materpiece (which will take you FAR longer than you think!), you will know just how much time, skill and patience goes into something like this and you will wish you had done it with the best timber you can get your hands on!

my advice is if you don’t have the cash now… WAIT! untill you do, otherwise you may be proud of the final product but will always know it could have been EVEN nicer with top shelf timber.

just my 2 cents worth…

I make wooden boards (mostly hollow)using just about any kind of wood I come across, including Pine, Poplar, Balsa, Redwood, Cedar, Fijiian Kauri, ‘Pacific Red Cedar’, Paulownia, and Douglas Fir. With a solid board the weight of your board will be directly related to the density of the timber and the volume of the board. . . .not so with a hollow wooden board because with denser timber thinner planks and skinnier frames can be used. Some of the timber I have used has been salvaged from scrap heaps at mills or boatbuilding shops, and I use a lot of Pine because it is cheap, strong, and available in clear lengths.

Dunno if that helps at all because you want to go solid.

PS I have built timber longboards for around US$160 in materials, and have always been pleased with the result !

I was thinking of getting regular pine 4x6’s in 12 foot lengths, cut the rocker into each piece using a jig saw, then glue them together. then cut outline and shape, but, if im going to cut the rocker pre-glueup, i might as well chamber each piece. so, I can ulitlize the strength of solid boards with the buoyency of a hollow.

edit* … also, I would obviously have to stack them after rocker cut and trac on an outline so the chambers dont go out of the outline or too close to edges.

Hi Scott,

Some things to consider:

A jigsaw or saber saw is gonna be a mite inaccurate when cutting through that thickness of wood, even pine.As you go along the blade end tends to veer out some. I say ‘a mite inaccurate’ - I’m being kinda faacetious, very inaccurate is more like it. A bandsaw tends to be a whole lot better at this sort of thing. Best of all might be a shaper with a Great Big Straight Cutter in it plus a ball-bearing guide on top and a pattern tacked on to the stick you’re pushing through, carefully.

How big your chamber cutouts are is kind of a tradeoff between wood strength and how much glass you put on the thing. While glass is heavier than wood, per unit volume and all that, you can figure it’ll be pretty much even, wood vs glass, when you get to where it’d be critical.

Now, as for pine;

There have to be at least 20 or 30 species of pine in common use in the US, from white pine that we get up this way ( 25 lbs/cu ft when as dry as you can reasonably expect ) to the old-growth longleaf yellow pine that runs in excess of 50 lbs/cu ft when dry, though it is truly beautiful wood, strong and rot resistant and all that.

Now, which species is it you’re dealing with? As you’re in Houston and getting 4x6 - if this is sawmill stock, rough sawn, chances are it’s a yellow pine or similar, probably what we’d call second growth wood- it came from a fast growing tree instead of an old tree that took a long time to grow.

It tends to be heavy ( around 30-35 lb/cu ft ) with a kinda wide grain and a light yellowish color, pronounced ring structure, kinda splintery ( like fir ) … as framing lumber ( 'cos it is 4x6 rather than something thinner ) it tends to be imperfectly dried as well. This means it can and does sometimes warp like nobody’s business. Even the kiln-dried stuff, as there’s enough resin ( sap or pitch) in the wood that it just won’t kiln dry perfectly every time. The resiny rings and resiny wood in general are kind of a nightmare for getting stuff like paint or resin to adhere well, the wood structure around knots tends to be ugly and weak, it’s perhaps not the ideal wood for a project of this kind. A board made of this might be heavy, have delamination issues and warpage issues.

Now, I’m not an expert on available woods in Texas ( Richard? ) but I think there may well be other woods available to you, inexpensively, that might do a better job.

hope that’s of use



If you have a desire and a passion to do something, I’m never one to pour water on the idea. To the contrary, I say go for it, but go into it with all eyes open, with research, and a plan for success. Of course you’ll learn plenty along the journey, but why waste the time without having some idea of the path.

Soo, I’ll agree with Robbo’s wise comments on one hand, and Tom Blokes’ go for it with any wood comments on the other. I’m also in agreement with all of Doc’s advice. Those guys have all been there and done it, and that’s what Swaylocks is all about - learning from others so we can aim for success.

So what’s my point in having said all that…If you really want to build a wood board I’d say go for it! In my opinion it’s absolutely critical that you choose properly dried wood. The few dollars you’ll save by buying construction grade lumber at a home center will likely come back to haunt you if in fact you want to end up with a board you’ll be proud of. If you don’t have access to a planer to mill the lumber flat, and a bandsaw to cut the rocker I’d consider the following method:

Go to Houston Hardwoods and buy kiln dried all heart redwood in 2" x 6" dimensions x whatever length for your board (or cedar if you’d rather). It will be expensive, but if it’s worth doing at all it’s worth doing right. At an inch and a half thick you’ll get enough boards to glue up and sandwich together in order to achieve the desired width of your board (16 boards side to side = 24" wide). You could even buy 1/4" x 6" basswood in the same lengths (also available there) to use for stringers (as many as you like). Scraps of each for nose and tail blocks (think big)?

You can manage this thickness material with a jig saw to cut the rocker outline on each board. Drill strategicaly planned holes for getting in with your jig saw to cut out the chambering. Be prepared for miles of cutting (get several blades). Use titebond or similar glue (spread evenly with an old credit card or plastic drywall trowel and don’t try to glue up more than two or three boards at a time without some jigging, as your boards will tend to ooze around and move once you bring pressure with the clamps. Beg, borrow, or buy lots of clamps. Plane, sand, rasp, drawknife, whatever your way to a final shape.

You’ll end up with a very heavy but gorgeous board you’ll be proud of. Post your pic! Enjoy the ride!



i did this thing over the summer --i used Poplar from home depot—they let me paw whrough every stick they had to get the clear wood, which varies in shade quite a bit… i got 1 x 4 's and did just like you described----burned out one jug saw and an old planer —thise were interesting events BUT allowed me to go get new one without freaking out the wife :wink:

the board is heavy and very pretty and a real ‘thrill’ to drop in with! people paddle away as fast as possible when i catch a wave —it’s like surfing a locomotive, those were iron surfers!

just do it !

Scott, I agree with everybody here. If you’re interested, maybe you should have a look at this:

Go west (-ern red cedar), young man!

For some reason, the link doesn’t print properly? It should read “

As Richard says, construction-grade home center lumber isn’t a great choice. But…to every rule there is an exception.

If you’re willing to spend the time ( and time is money, y’know? ), something like at least a day spent at all the lumberyards in the area, picking through the stuff and selecting only well-dried ( light weight) , clear, knot-free spruce 2x4s and 2x6s, you can make a nice, light, strong structure. Watch out for the Hemlock or Fir that may be mixed in with it, spruce is a very white wood, usually, and the others tend towards being a bit more reddish in standard framing lumber.

I’d get twice as many sticks as you’ll need, take them home and set up a kind of home kiln, the wood stacked well separated under plastic with plenty of space for air circulation, so that you can get it as light and as stable ( warp and twist-wise) as possible. You will have a certain number that warp to the point of being unusable ( which is why I suggest getting those extras) but you may get a few that warp in precisely the way you want 'em to, mimicking the rocker curve.

Spruce, if you get good stuff, is a pretty neat wood. Light, relatively speaking, and quite strong for its weight, so much so that it’s used for wing spars in small aircraft, boat spars and wood racing oars. It can take glue well and I’d assume resin too, I know it does well with paints and varnishes. Friend of mine made a hollow spruce mast for his sailboat out of laboriously hand picked fenceboard, which is the cheapest and usually junkiest wood found in the local construction supply yards. And I have a set of English racing oars that are really pretty and work well.

When I run across a really nice, clear, dry spruce 2x4 at work, I save it for making working oars for the small skiff - which take a lot of stress and abuse. Makes a really nice oar…

hope that’s of use


Regarding yellow pine, there is a very successful boatbuilder from Florida by the name of Reuel B Parker who uses yellow pine with epoxy, and construction grade plywood throughout his cold molded boat hulls.

The Pine which we use is Monterey Pine ( we have vast plantations of the stuff here)… . . . . most boatbuilders in New Zealand despise Monterey Pine, and import Western Red Cedar instead, but one of our most famous old time boatbuilders, Ralph Sewell, used it all the time, saying “There’s nothing wrong with a bit of good clean pine for boatbuilding” . . . . . and he was building plank on frame caulked boats without epoxy resin or any other glue.

Here is an all Poplar 8’1" under construction, it weighs about 12 pounds so far, and won’t be ‘glassed’ with cloth, just resin coated.

I took a trip down to Home Depot and Lowes today. I’m going to use boards from Lowes (actually dried properly and wider selection). I did find a bunch of boards that dried and warped in roughly the rocker cut I want, so I can save the money by buying the pre-warped boards instead of buying thicker boards and cutting out a rough rocker. this way, I can affors to buy the more expensive woods without paying a whole lot more. (I hate budgets) as far as chambers go, I was going to use a hole saw to drill chambers. and the tail block…I live near a very opulent part of town where a neighborhood is being built with multi-million dollar houses are being built. I might go look in the trash piles for nice cabinet scraps and cut them to the right sizes. o and ya, i have a planer and a band saw. I also have a rather large table saw, but I dont like to use it for fear I might chop off my hand.

p.s. I hit a realization when my parents called last night and wanted to know a rough idea on what I wanted for Christmas. I actually said I would love blanks, fiberglass and epoxy. then spent a good 30 mins trying to explain to my mom why I needed epoxy for EPS blanks. I still dont think she gets it, so I have to e-mail her pics and descriptions. I love building, but DANG its expensive, especially on a summer’s worth of work’s salary saved up.

Oh,I forgot to say…

Thank You All for your insights into wood and wood types. when I went to Lowes, the guy was trying to sell me some crap wood, and I actually could say no and explain my wood choices. As soon as I can gather enough boards with the aproximate rocker cut, I will start posting on progress of the board.

one last question… If I use alternating white pine with red cedar 2x4’s with circular chambering, how necessary would fiberglass be? is it possible to just hotcoat the wood itself? (using epoxy for obvious reasons)

Tom, I just LOVE that board.

Very nice natural curve in the outline. Great. The very right shape for our waves over here.

Hi Scott,

A few things:

I have found that Lowes has better wood than Home Despot - the latter tends to have stuff I wouldn’t burn, let alone use. Me, I like the local sawmills, but I’m prepared to deal with rough-sawn stuff in volume.

The nice thing about bent sticks is that the grain follows the curve - and that gives you more strength, lots more strength, plus toughness and more. I could go into how riven wood is Really Neat Stuff, but I’ll save it for a while. .

‘A rather large table saw’ - he read, drooling slightly. Alas, it won’t be all that useful for this project. The table saw is the king of the cabinet shop, but for any other shop, bandsaws rule! Let me strongly reccommend for bandsaw blades, with the warning that once you use a nice blade from them you’ll be totally spoiled and never want to use another one again.

On the other hand, should you have or have access to a drill press, then I would use one with a forstner bit rather than a hole saw- damned things always seem to get a plug of wood stuck in 'em. The problem with forstner bits is that they can actually drill a curved hole, so a drill press is a Very Good Thing.

Also, along those lines, if you drill several overlapping holes along the lines you want to chamber out, then give it a little work with a mallet and sharp chisel, then you can make some nice oval-shaped chambers, less weight and kinda fun anyhow. If you like, tomorrow I’ll do a couple photos of the technique. Having Woodworking Rules #1 and 2 in effect now ( never play with tools when drinking or tired) it’s not gonna happen today.

Cabinet scrap tends to be very nice wood indeed. Score all you can. Ask the guys on the job to save scrap for you ( with a sixpack up front when you ask) and you never know… Tailblocks, laminated fins and what have you. Xmas presents too - laminate up something, bandsaw it and shape it and so on, and after a long time and good teachers and much more, you can do a set of calipers like Richard made… and I’ll admit that after 35 years in the wood butchery trade they are a helluva sight better than I can produce in a month of sundays. Drat!!

Red cedar and white pine…that will be pretty, in addition to anything else. But I would throw at least a layer of 6 oz over it, as that’ll keep it from taking on moisture if it chops or bangs into something, protecting the wood and all.

hope that’s of use


i go with tom bloke on this one douglas fir is a great timber and you get real nice stuff over there according to ruel parkers books

its also called oregon

just stick to the plantation timbers i reckon

you know cutting down native timber for guitars and surfboards is a bit of a bummer really

thats why balsa and powloania are such great woods

fast growing and renewable

edit* ... also, I would obviously have to stack them after rocker cut and trac on an outline so the chambers dont go out of the outline or too close to edges.

I have not read this entire thread, but several threads have talked about chambering. You could chamber after you cut rocker, but I think it is actually more common to chamger after foiling as well.

As I understand it, the process is cut rocker, glue up, shape/foil, break strips apart, chamber, re-glue.

This enables you to control your chambering to the finish shape more closely. A short while back there was a couple good threads on this including pictures.

good luck

Here’s a how-to on solid wood paipos:

And chambered pine version:

I’ve been thinking about making one myself. I don’t want to have sharp corners on the inside of my chambers. I was thinking of drilling four 1/2 inch holes, and then cutting from hole to hole with a jigsaw. Last year John Mellor snapped a surfboard at Big Sur. It was a foam board with a thick, chambered redwood (?) stringer. The chambers were sharp-cornered rectangles, and it looked like the break started at a corner.

I remember reading a post about chambering or something to do with it… I think it was jim phillips but he said he glues his blanks up with spots of glue a few inches apart shapes the board to just about sandable then basicly drops one end on the ground until the glue brakes if it doesn’t he uses a rubber hammer. Then chambers it with a router to the limit. I could be wrong but it seems to me the best way to chamber a board.

And if you want to get away from using so much wood for rocker scarf joint where you want rocker. Any join in wood is going to be stronger than the wood anyway just takes more time.

Just some thoughts to confuse sorry.

Hey Poobah - Yes, it was a 1" chambered redwood plank sandwiched between two solid 1/8" western red cedar stringers. It broke right at the end of one of the rectangular chambers. By drilling holes instead of cutting rectangular chambers, I might very well have avoided the snap.