The Feel.....

Can anyone relate to this.

Last night I was thinning out the monster blank from 6" thick down to 3", using a variety of tools, planer, belt sander and orbital sander and something occured to me.

I wasn’t counting strokes, I wasn’t looking at the board, I was actually feeling the board through the tools. The high bits, the low bits, every lump and bump went through to my hands. It was almost like shaping blind.

I got my wife to check my work (as I always do, she’s got better eyes than me) and she couldn’t see anything wrong!!

Has anyone else felt “The Feel”, it was quite a strange experience.



This might sound strange, and I am NOT a very even shaper… I’ve never counted strokes, ever!

I always shape by feel, and sight.

I have made over 70 templates, over 30 for other shapers, and I have never used a batten, string, or other guide.

I’m the pinstriper in our old (ex, quit in '77) board making operation, having shaped about 400 there.

Never considered a tool to make pinstripes even.

OK, I’m a HACK!

But my boards work well, even when ridden by some competitive shapers.

Hicksby you’s in da zone… Lee D How did you make a template without a batton or guide ??? freehand drawing ?? DR

Yea man, I kinda get in the zone too…i jsut kinda count the strokes like you would a beat if u were a drummer or soemthing…kinda like JC said in 101…my latest board i kept worrying that I didn’t count enough however I had my friend take a look at it, hes a really artsy guy, paints alot and stuff, and hes a perfectionist, we spent a good half an hour making measurements to check the work, look at the rails, the “blunt” nose(this can be kinda tricky…). and we concluded it was pretty much dead on… i took the level out and the board was perfectly flat where I wanted it to be…I guess us shapers jsut kinda have a feel for whats right or whats wrong in our boards and what know what we want.

ALWAYS freehand drawing!

And making templates for other shapers is fun, as they give you three basic dimensions and look required, then it’s just arcs and curves.

That’s why I am sorta anti computer shapes and outlines…but of course, I don’t know how to use CAD either.

Oh, most of my shaping and templating was back in the late '60’s and mid '70’s.

There’s still a few of us foogers left, like Bill Hickey, maybe Ambrose, maybe a few more, but a dying breed for sure. We just get older…

“Last night I was thinning out the monster blank from 6” thick down to 3", using a variety of tools,"

good gwad, that’s a lot of mowing of foam. You was in the foam zone. I doubt that this could be done but after a few beers and looking at that big hunk of foam I would have taken a big freaking saw or something and cut it in half horizontally. Bam!. One 6" blank becomes two 3" blanks. :+)

seriously though, I felt “The Feel” often. Or was that, I feel the felt often?? ;~)

Hey Shipman,

The FOAM ZONE, I love it!!! Don’t worry the thought crossed my mind many times but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, especially after a few drinks…I would have needed a 6’ double ended crosscut saw… probably a good thing too.



I know about ‘the feel’

Ive been shaping Pieces of Chipboard as i buy big shelves for $1,

Whilst i know the arent surfable, they shape just like foam would,

Back on topic, Ive been perfecting my plane on rail act lately and seeing is good but feeling is so much better…

eg. like at first i randomly mow chips of the stuff off then as i go along you get a more smooth stroke, and at the end its just one smooth feel, kinda’ hard to explain,




“… I would have taken a big freaking saw or something and cut it in half horizontally. Bam!. One 6” blank becomes two 3" blanks. :+)

yep, Hicksy and I both preferred that option too…it just couldn’t be done…if you saw the blanks oops pun , you’d understand. Mine is still about 3 1/2 - 4 " thick, I reckon…and I haven’t even begun to even the bottom prior to re- templating and cutting it. I’m waiting till I’ve done the 6’9 first. Then , when I have the cloth, resin , tint , and box … hi ho hi ho it’s off to work I’ll go…slowly…carefully… ben

Sounds like you have awoken you shapers ‘third’ eye, I’d say its more about muscle memory though, and experiance that anything spiritual, you just sort of sub-consously know what need to be done to get the right shape.

Some people work with their hands, some with their heads.

To make a good board I think you need to be able to do both.

I feel that shaping a board is like talented culpture working with clay. Ruler, battens, t-squares all have their place…but it is the hands that can be the true arbiter of soul.

Might come from not shaping with flouresecent lights. If you can’t see the contours, then you better be able to feel them.


Oh, most of my shaping and templating was back in the late '60's and mid '70's.

There’s still a few of us foogers left, like Bill Hickey, maybe Ambrose, maybe a few more, but a dying breed for sure. We just get older…

Bill Hickey is moving back, in about a year, I think. He shaped his first board out of wood in 1958. He made a triplane hull concave in 1970, before the Bonzer’s had concaves. He’s the only person I know who has shaped professionally and continuously since 1958, entering his 47th year shaping. He now finishes about one board a month, charges above market rate, and has no shortage of orders.

Ambrose led the shortboard revolution in Northern California - accidentally cutting a board a foot too short, and then finishing it anyway.

I don’t have side lights, just overhead lights. My eyesight isn’t crash hot at the best of times so I have to rely on the sense of touch. I can find a bump 1mm out of whack using my hands and fingertips and fix it.

What I lack in one area is made up in others, but it’s a great feeling knowing that the job will work out…eventually.

Maintain The Feel.



Can anyone get tthe same kind of “The Feel” from vacuum bagging? Probalby quite a strange experience!

I’m right handed, but the left hand is a lot more sensitive to the high and lows when sanding. Wether it is due to sanding predominantly with the right and feeling with the left. Or, it is a unlearnt sensory thing? I’m not shore. It is a hand and eye thing with me first, then a quick check with a straight edge to confirm what I feel.platty.

when something like that happened to me, The Old Man said ‘Ah, bye’ in the Newfoundland accent he’d affect at times, ‘the tools are startin to fit yer hands’. It also meant a nice raise in my hourly pay.

It kinda marks the step from being a guy who uses tools now and then to being somebody who works with 'em. Enjoy it



Good point Mark, but I haven’t used vacuum to help shape, only glass.

When the boards not right, if the vacuum’s tight, then it’s way too late, you’ve shut the gate. (sorry, bad poetry)