The machine caused all this.

The machine caused all this.

You can whinge about, “oh no, boards out of china are going to destroy me, they’re taking my business”.

My approach to shaping and my business is KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid.

Rent a room for your shaping bay $30 to $50 per week. Mine is free. There are many glass shops out there that give free rent of a shaping room for exchange for your work (if shaping is your profession). I’ve got two in my small town to choose from, for free. No overheads!

Get away from the soulless crap everyone is f@$king winging about. If you’re a shaper worth his salt, and hurting financially, try getting back to basics, Hand Shaping however many you want, when you want, how you want, for who you want. Doing less boards for more reward, not needing to make x amount of boards to make ends meet and not flooding the market along the way. Also not having to deal with the crap from your computer/machinist (quite often, but not always), blank deliveries, pre-shape pick ups, late pre cuts, the extra monthly bill, incorrect or damaged cuts etc, etc.  No mindless finishing of those pre-shapes that a monkey could probably do (not calling anyone a monkey now) but it is mind-numbing work finishing those pre cut blanks (That’s my opinion anyway).

I've tried the get your own factory way, I was a slave to the $. I even broke my golden rule "I'm to proud to use a machine to cut my boards".

Hard economic times we say. F#$K, well stop whinging, pull your finger out, pick up the planer and embrace the hand shaped surfboard.

In my personal experience, my customers are so proud of owning a Hand Shaped Surfboard and we all know they go better (HaHa, No just stirring the masses, but there is magic in each and every Hand Shaped Surfboard). Even those ones we see on sways from newbie shapers, with bumps and stuff all over them... Hey, what’s a hip anyway.. it’s a bump. That last statement may be a bit over the top, but if you get a good hand shaped surfboard from a crafts man, like my mentor (Brian Ingham), magic happens.

I’ve cut all expenses, taken things back to basics, and things just feel right for me since doing so. I’ve had three Bali trips in 12 months and a working trip to Japan (Low/No overheads=freedom).

Shapers got so excited when the machine first came out, they saw it as a way to make extra money quickly, and they did, at first.

An older successful shaper from my home town said a few months back that, "Its Fucked it, the machine has ruined it, there’s no prestige in being a shaper anymore. People used to really look up to us".

I don't have a problem with anyone and don't know why I wrote this. I actually started a short reply on another thread and got a bit carried away. I think the point of my rambling is; surfboard building/shaping is an "art" that can offer a beautiful life style, don't let the Beast get you, drown you in a dust storm. Very few get rich from making surfboards and if they do so, they often loose that life style that was so alluring.

This year will be my 20th year being devoted and passionate about being a shaper. I am proud to say I am a "Hand shaper". I'm not financially rich, but I’m blessed to spend lots of time with my beautiful young family. No amount of money can buy back this precious time... I'm Free.

Shaping is alive and well. Help keep the ART!


“Time-honoured techniques, hand crafted from the blank.

Progressive designs, shaped for the individual”


Good stuff Yorky.


Pity a lot of the newer shaper designers don't actually know how to do it by hand, or don't want to.

Yorky, you get my vote for POST OF THE YEAR.

Keep the ART going, pass it to the next generation.

Wish you all the best!

The really sad and sorry part of this equation is, back in my youth it was very prestigious and important to find a willing victim to mentor you in how to design and shape surfboards properly.

I already had been “shaping” for a little over 4 years, earning a living for 2 of those 4 years when i was introduced my my sensei, a 9th degree planer wielding black belt of foam and wood.

I spent the next 2 years with him scrutinizing EVERY shape I did for him and correcting even the tiniest of flaws and it all done with a Skil 100 and a block plane, no surforms, no fred tools, but in the end, it led me to become the shaper I am today.

Today I am amazed at the lack to tool knowledge and skills to use them by what could be called “professional” board builders ( you that know me, know I do NOT bag on the amateur board builder ), but when someone decides to hang out the sign they are in the business of selling their surfboards, they better be up to par or they become fair game.

There is a rampant scourge of  " shapers" with a variable speed sander, fred tool  and an across the counter electric planer touting the benefits of 3 years of board building as the next comming.

It is the next wave of the blind leading the blind, yes, as in any situation, there are the miracle upstarts that do master tool use and does become the next heir apparent.

I have found that by waiting in line for blanks to get batched and cut, that I am doing myself a disservice by not keeping my skills honed and allowing my customers to make the smallest or biggest of changes to the “custom” that they have paid hard earned money for in the worst of economic times.

The machine cutting fees account for nearly all of the shaping cost, increasing that portion of labor at the bottom line, sure, if you are the “big 3” and need to move hundreds of blanks a week and need all of the models to look exactly the same, you need the machine. But for the small shaper/builder, save costs and get back to using the planer again, it is money in your pocket and will keep you in touch with how it all began.

In years past you could read the magazines and see the shapers results in contests and their pedigrees of who and where they started, that is all long past.

On there is a screen name that says it all,“in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king”

Hey Jim,

I was just driving home from a morning at my shaping room. Stopped by the ''drive-thru'' surf check spot behind Balsa Bill's shop. I saw Bill out on the back porch and stopped for a visit. He was telling me about seeing you on his recent party tour of SoCal (the G&S and Duke Boyd events).

I always tell Bill about how much I value the time I spent learning from you - and how the older I get, the more I appreciate that Simmons-to-Tinker-to-you-to-me connection. Thanks...

In the future, will guys talk about the lineage of their CAD skills?

ALL the top shelf shapers of today mowed thousands by hand before they ever thought about using machines. Their masters for CNC cuts are scans of handshapes, or based on scans of same. Skipping the ''learning how to shape'' part and going straight to CAD/CAM is a relatively new phenomena, and one that makes me a little queasy as well.

But I have mixed emotions about this. I've used, and will probably again use CNC for large batches of like boards. There's a lot of truth in the ''it's just another tool'' argument. And lots of design work in all kinds of industries is now purely CAD. There's a feeling of inevitability about it. Then again, one would hope that surfing was somehow ''different''....

It's no secret that Gordon Clark doesn't like the machines. He always said it would lead to standardization, which would lead to molded boards and the commoditization of surfboards. Recent years have seen that revealed as truth.


I was interrupted mid-post here by a knock at the door. It was a 12 yr old neighbor kid who wants ''to learn how to shape''. I have made he and my 11 yr old little kits of sanding blocks, etc., and brought home some off-cuts for them to practice with. I just showed him the basics of rail bands and how to make a mini-template so he can get started.

He never asked if a machine could do it for him.



I was interrupted mid-post here by a knock at the door. It was a 12 yr old neighbor kid who wants ''to learn how to shape''. I have made he and my 11 yr old little kits of sanding blocks, etc., and brought home some off-cuts for them to practice with. I just showed him the basics of rail bands and how to make a mini-template so he can get started.

nice Mike

Since I’m not too worried about having to make a living doing this my perspective may be a bit off.

I see all these posts about the threat of the shaping machines and how it’s hurting the industry. Seems like there will always be a need for good glassers, and board repairs.

Maybe the future of board building lies in the glassers hands, or the complete builders hands.

I enjoy the whole process, and have found it a lot more fun to ride boards that I shape and glass myself. Add to that mix building boards out of styrofoam blocks covered with wood and there’s another dimension to the complexity of making a good board.

I think that’s one of the positive things about Swaylocks. There’s a pretty large group of people working outside the norm to create incredible surfboards.

In the world I live in, we have been forced to learn and adapt to the changes forced upon us by outsiders to survive. The more we learn and the quicker we adapt, the better our survival.




If you want me to give your PM the respect you and I both deserve, post it where it belongs.

In the Forum!

I'm not financially rich, but I’m blessed to spend lots of time with my beautiful young family. No amount of money can buy back this precious time... I'm Free.

Too many mistake money for happiness, regardless of what they do for a living. I'd rather have no money but be happy with just me and my family. I couldn't care less about flash cars or big T.V's, why do people think they need all that crap?? I feel embarrassed when i meet people who are trying to keep up with the jones'.


On ya yorky, great post!

 I quit my hand shaping job to go shape for a “big prestigious label” . Ended up cleaning up cad shapes and being a machine operator… That was so freaking boring, i cant even call that shaping. cleaning boards that are allready shaped?? its not shaping. the only good thing in the experience was that i felt thousand of rails, decks, different tails…really gave me direction on what other shapers were doing.

my relationship with the job got so f@#K up that my only trill about it was how fascinating the machine was, i kinda forgot about surfboards and i almost started a machine business…???

i quit, came back to square one, polished my skils “Bing/Brewer style” , really cleaned them up, trying to find some soul back in my tools, my shaping bay,  the whole experience of hand shaping now everything is about to be fired back up and let me tell you i never been happier.

i just saw a youtube video of a couple guru shapers at “Sacred Art”… cleaning up cad shapes… go figure…

is it really a sacred art ? even them dont give a shit… what a joke!!

Awesome post, I'm a pretty new shaper to the business, at 22yrs old and 2yrs experience, with bout 8 yrs fixing dings and snaps, I purely do it for mates and giving the odd board away to locals on my surf trips to the islands or indos. I still dont know enough so thats why Im spending this summer honing my skills with my hands and hard work, not sitting behind the computer dreaming.

I'd like to see the boards being made by someone passionate about what they do, not for the money (is there even money in this line of job...rhetorical q). The one thing that would be good to see as well in the business is glassers who understand resin chemistry, not just like the smell, it takes at least 2days for the moisture to evaporate out of polyester resin at 25 celcius then you'll get your hard shell, not this 30mins hard enough to sand flip and do the otherside crap. Seen to many boards here downunder that have sunk completely in and dinged way to fast because the glasser didn't know what he was doing.

Bring back the passion.

Thank You for your replys.


I’d like to add -

I’m not here bagging out the use of shaping machines. They are here to stay and I’m comfortable with that.

However I am enjoying the fact that I have the choice! To use a machine or Shape off the Raw Blank.

We all know these two disciplines are different. When it all boils down to it, weather you’re a professional Hand Shaper or a professional Designer/finish shaper, they are chalk and cheese!. Us humans are amazing. Our brain and muscle memory are so complex and beautiful. To be a Good professional hand shaper calls upon every physical and mental attribute we have. To be a Good Designer/finish shaper the mental out ways the physical quite substantially (hey, smart is good).

We are not computers and the human mind/body is not a perfect machine. 

It’s the acquired knowledge from years and years of studying curves (by eye), customer feedback, personal feedback, learning from mistakes and importantly, mind body coordination that create a true traditional surfboard crafts man. Surfboards are permanently blueprinted in their mind. They know before they even think about it, an instant snap shot of a board on the right angle and bang they feel it, its just part of who they are. This is common between the two disciplines I can guarantee it.

A short story to add.

An old customer of mine who watched me shape countless boards over many years. He was a roof tiler by trade and has 10 % vision in one eye. He was good at his chosen trade. Over the years I watched him shape a few boards at my factory and lets just say being so heavy handed and the lack of vision didn’t make for a pretty board.

Due to the current economic crisis his roofing work dried up so he decided to become a surfboard shaper, hey too easy. Got a board scanned (from another guy who I taught to Hand Shape, who now owns and operates a shaping machine) and bingo, he’s a shaper… with a team and everything. Cheap boards cash-money, easy money. But what’s a bloke to do when he down, I don’t blame him, but it hasn’t done my business any favours!.. HaHa, oh yeah, he still owes me money for boards I made for him.

Cheers and thanks for listening, I’m off to have breakfast with my family and watch the Bathurst Race (V8 super cars, for all you seppos), Yeeewwwwww!

Keep it simple.

I still enjoy the noisy dusty sculpting part. For me each board has led to the next. With that comes a continueing  on going refinement of both technique and end result. Thats what has kept it interesting.

Great post yorky go holden.

I make furniture and i have dealt with the china thing for years i was close to having my designs produced by a company that makes furniture in china. I did not go any further with that. I enjoy being custom and giving option. But people say i can get something kind of the same as you make down at big name furniture store for half the price. I say go get it save the money and take your lovely wife out for dinner with the money you save. But when you want a table that can be passed down to the kids and last several life times come se me.

just as a side note i was just down the south coast NSW found a little protected spot the SSE was blowing hard. there were 10 out in the morn 3 of those boards were CI i had a chat they were locals. F88k me dont you know you have at least 4 world class shappers within a stones through away. I would love to have those sort of options close by. Any way i hopped out of the surf took off my wety made in Taiwan, dryed my self off with my ausie made towel, put on my clothes that were all made in china, i think my undies were made in Aus, checked my phone made in china and drove off in my german van that was made in south africa. So what can i realy say about suporting local. I try to buy local but it is hard to find with a flooded market.

keep up the good work Yorky






If you want me to give your PM the respect you and I both deserve, post it where it belongs.

In the Forum!

For one - please take this as humor: (All in fun!)

I have my own machine so I guess I'm soulless! I consider myself a shaper and not a mere finisher. However according to you I'm soulless so I must be? It's not worth it. Sorry your 100% correct. My PM was a private opinion. Since you are well supported by the experts on this tread I guess your statement has been validated. So I stand corrected.

Machines are for KOOKs and hand shapers are the true and living Gods!

Swaylocks and the Jerry Springer show have now become one in the same. (LOL)

I will now set my electrical panel on fire and load a virus into my computers.

My  Large Hitachi and my smaller one will need to be crushed and disposed of as well as my cordless planner.

Burn the Fred and my router for cutting outlines. Throw away the rail jigs because thats cheating too.

No more close tolerance blanks with custom rockers. It's time to mow them in. Hot wires and variacs are no longer allowed. Take a billet of EPS if your a REAL shaper and mow it in to the perfect magic stick. Throw away the jig saw. Sell the Band Saw, Joiner and Surface Planner. Break out the Draw Knifes. That's a true swaylocian. Strip it down to the basics and shape it wearing a fig leaf!

Yorky your a great shaper and craftsman this is not a personal attach only tongue and cheek humor!

I'm all about family and good values like the ones you have. Your a good bloke please don't take me the wrong way.




…Im talking about this in other thread that came out about 10 days ago or so…

Im with you in the difference between a shaper and a finisher

I beg for the future to come this out

whatever fella like your old customer can be a shaper

and that is not good for this small business but also for the craft itself

that all know that is a labor of love.


so for me its ok the machine

but cosidering that the finisher wouldn t sign the shape (he s not really the shaper the machine is the shaper; there are not sweat there+ other stuff)

and they selves see like finishers designers/finishers etc but not shapers

even less boardbuilders (that will be no respect for the crew! or for the complete boarbuilders)


also the machine (and those businessmen only) contribute to kill one of the last pure things on earth

so then all we be fu–ed with corps

as with cloth, wetsuits (that are almost all crap) etc

control and power of decision we need to keep it

love / hate relationship with the machine, production shape then YES the machine is great.

backyard shaper, not needed. if you own the machine it can be fun and very precise. you can understand exactly where the foam is in the board, measurement that you would really never take by hand.

my problem with working and shaping with his (my friend) machine is that i was scared to fuck up all his blanks, specially with crappy DsD and surfcad… so hard to see on the screen what the board really look like…

maybe shape 3d took it to the next level?

if you shape 1 board a day… whats the point? my friend own a machine and he his freaking good with the program and the shapes come out sick, all custom for the most part. he shapes… on the computer!..the only problem is that i was the one having to clean the shapes, not that fun of a job.

for me i like the planer… simple. i could never justified having a machine for the volume that i do.


same debate for the last 15 years now…i say do whatever works best for you… its all good but you can definitly do great custom board one by one with the machine, it doesnt take that long to do and its more precise than hand shaping thats for sure.


why nobody is complaining about profiling?


the real debate is that ART or production…

when Mike Eaton or big production shaper was producing 20 board/ day… what is the difference?

its faster than the machine.


**Analogic Thinking In The Age of the Programmable Hand **

Andrew Smith interviews San Diego shaper Josh Hall:

I had a chat with a guy in the water today… he asked me if I shaped the board I was riding. When I said yes, he asked me if I hand shaped it or had it done on a shaping machine. I said, “I got your shaping machine right here… (flex).” 

We both laughed.