As an introduction, I am a garage shaper and have shaped (and sold!!) about 35 boards. As any new shaper, I tried to copy the best boards I owned. I am lucky to own 3 custom-made Bill Barnfields from the early 1990s.
6’6 x 20 x 2 3/4 , 6’9 x 19 3/4 x 2 3/4 , 7’0 x 20 x 3.
All of the boards ride fast down the line and have a loose, but positive feel. As I examined the fin angles that Barnfield used, I was surprised and confused by the numbers. All three boards had the exact measurements for fin placement. Rear fin was 3 1/4 " from the tail. Forward fins were 11 1/4 " from tail and 12" apart ( measured from trailing edge on deck). Those measurements made sense as Bill supposedly likes to place fins closer to tail than the standard 3 1/2 & 11 1/2.
The Toe-in angle was the mysterious number. Bill has a well deserved reputation as an exacting shaper and typically measures down to the 1/16 of an inch. However, when I drew a line with a long straight edge from the inside of the forward fins, the line intersects the exact tip of the board. ALL three boards, shaped years apart, of lengths from 6’6 to 7’0 use the same measurement. All the Toe-in measurements go straight to the nose. Exactly!
My mind has been bugging out on this point. How can such a seemingly simple Toe-in measurement be the most correct one? The boards are the best boards I have ever ridden, so Bill is right, but why this measurement?
I have come up with some theories. If you have others or if Bill Barnfield wants to explain, please do so.
Theory #1 - Barnfield once posted in Swaylocks that he had a board that he expermented with 12 different fin angles. (by exhaustingly glassing and cutting off the fins. Maybe a toe-in angle to the nose is the best for that size board.
Theory #2 - Barnfield needed a reproducable toe-in angle that he could communicate to his glassers. It is very easy to double-check this toe-in angle with a long straight edge. Bill maintains quality control be eliminating a potential error.
Theory #3 - In shaping hundreds and hundreds of boards, Bill prefers absolute fin angles that he ‘shapes around’. Meaning, he adjusts the template, rocker, bottom contours, etc. to modify the handling of the board, instead of changing fin angles.
I would like to add that Bill Barnfield is a legendary North Shore shaper and a upstanding individual. I hope he and his wife Wendy are doing fine.