The Future of Shaping is in Good Hands

I still stand by my original statement even if he does the odd scrubbing.  I’ve been to his shop and I’ve watched him shape and there was no scrubbing.  He’s learned from one of the best ever and works with two of the other San Diego iconic shapers; Hank Warner and Bob Mitzven. He has the chops and has carved out a niche. The fact that he sells the kinds of boards he likes to make and sells them for what he can get is fine by me.

He’s got a nice little business model going there and it seems to be successful enough to give him the life he wants to live.  Maybe there is something to be learned from it.  You can jump into the shark tank and try to scrub away with the big fish or you can get out of the tank and make your own market.


The guys who own machines know the truth. They know who’s getting blanks machined, and the list is interesting. The best known “hand shapers” have used a CNC machine to clean off a blank. They may not do it often, but they have done it. I think the key is that they can and will hand shape a board when they want to. Lots of big names won’t do that anymore. It’s not an efficient use of time. Using the machine is not a bad thing, relying on it is not a good thing.

I know a well known highly respected shaper and he was telling me stories of using the machines and getting scans. The machined blank is not a finished board. They don’t just scrub a blank, they finish it and that oftens means changing small things that go well beyond scrubbing it smooth.

I think a lot of the pissing on machines is from people who aren’t in position to use them, either because of location or costs, or don’t have original designs to load. Bob Taylor makes really nice guitars that sell for thousands of dollars. He starts with CNC machined wood components, but the guitar is then hand built.

The future of shaping is in good hands. I think the guys getting rediculous amounts for thier boards are very lucky. When I see that, I’m thankful that I can make myself a board from scratch, including making a core if needed, and do it all ending with a complete finished product.

…anyone who can’t grab a blank , go in his shaping bay , and emerge with a finished shape ready for the laminator , just isn’t a surfboard shaper…I think the difference lies between “can’t” and “won’t”…there’s too many these days who just “can’t” , but they don’t hesitate to claim , and self-promote…(lol)

…so, may be we should change the title to: The future of shaping is in God´s hands…

good glassing cost $$$

Ok, that’s fair.

But I’m still confused what you would call what is shown in the following pic. If we assume that the templates are computer generated and maybe even cut by a CNC laser. Is the board hand shaped or machine shaped?

IMHO this is more machine shaped than just cutting the outline with a robot.

What you are seeing in the photo is a router jig for cutting the rocker and deck crown.    A different set of guides would be used for the bottom.    Velzy&Jacobs were using a similar setup, on balsa blanks, in the mid 1950’s.  It’s not something new, in  the surfboard business. While it speeds up the shaping process, in the above example, there is still a considerable amount of hand work to be done, to complete the finished board.    Significantly more skill involved, than just being a ‘‘ruffle scrubber.’’      Sanding the ridges down on a modern machine cut blank, is not shaping, in my opinion.   Taking a raw blank, trueing it up, doing the layout, cut out, and shaping, is a far more involved skill set, than what you need to sand down ridges.

Perhaps there is another way to look at this.

There are shapers who no matter what they are currently using for business reasons (Arakawa comes to mind), if they choose to can pull that blank off the rack, step into the shaping room, and create a quality hand shaped board.

And then there are ‘shapers’ who if denied access to their computers, shaping machines, etc, and instead were shown the blank rack and shaping room and asked to create a quality hand shaped board, would have a sudden need to find the nearest bathroom.

…hello Icc, I said something regarding that on couple other threads.

The problem that machine create and instant shaper or designer who in most cases never built his way on this labor. Not only paying his dues but learning everything to achieve a decent grade of credibility on what he s offering.

Most long time shapers use the machine but most know how to shape and many know the Why s of the surfboard design; however, is not any good for the industry and for the surfboards (to keep them in “our” hands) to sell that something that the shaper is the machine like a handshaping; and that ridiculous argument about that the machine is another tool; no way; even they have an operator to fit the blanks in it…no work from the shaper; only lobby, but some even sign the shapes!

I do not say that one is better than the other, I say that is pertinent that all know the true behind it.

Reverb,  fully get your point.  

The whole business has shifted, however.  In the ‘old’ days, a young apprentice could find work in one of the large surfboard shops, hopefully get mentored by one of the several journeymen shapers mowing foam 5 and 6 days a week, learn the craft from skinning a blank to final gloss coat. Like Josh, who LeeV started this thread about, who apparently had the increasingly rare opportunity to work with a master shaper to learn the craft.

And without that opportunity to apprentice alongside a master or journeyman shaper, what does a wannabe shaper see?  The big box shops, pulling their boards off the machine, finishing them off and sending them off to the contract glassers.  Monkey see, monkey do.

Without those apprenticeship opportunities ‘shaping for a living’ hand shapers will become rarer and rarer, and the surfboard market will continue to be machine driven, increasing in sophistication to the point that ‘scrubbers’ will no doubt become relics.

Those custom hand shapers that do manage to emerge will need to occupy local niche markets, and the few who market well and become trendy will make a good living.

There will always remain, however, the backyard shapers, building boards for themselves and a small group of friends.  Their boards will be easy to spot.  There the ones that won’t be crumpled in half, stuffed in the garbage cans after every swell, discarded as disposables typically are.