Welcome to the 21st century Buck

There’s a bit of a maker countermovement going on at the moment. Plenty of new stuff that’s interesting. In general… not much stuff to really turn shaping upside down is what I found in my experiments… but plenty of things to augment and push things forward.

I want to share what I’ve learnt and give back a bit after reading so many helpful posts here, some dating back nearly 20 years. Many broken images, I often had to figure things out from text alone.



Augmented reality semi manual CNC router:





Jigs and templates for routers have been discussed before. This thing has a ~1/2" steady hand and almost to the point of draw-it-on-your-wood, scan and then cut. Uses? Probably more interesting for the wooden board guys.

I really like this project because it still has an element of manual work that alloows for scaling up… but at the saem time has the geek aspect. It’s nice that they go with .svg, seems to be a great company attitude.

I have a feeling that in reality it will turn out to be a bit liike 3D Printing - a massive wow factor but then we find it’s not actually a game changer.


I build a board out of lasercut foam. Use dowels if you try that and bear in mind melting and scorch can be a problem. You need the right lens. I made a tail out of sliced wood and that was cool but it was a bore working on the computer. 123D Make is a nice progeram for this, as is **slic3r. **It can also be programmed with OpenSCAD.

The lasercutter was one of my favourite tools to play with. Burn on a logo into wood, have some fun. You can apply the principles you learn to watercutting and outsource to a contractor.

So much can be done with cutting and slicing, there’s no need for any other tool… in theory. As long as you don’t mind jigsaws…

My first project was the cardboard surfboard project from Sheldrake. I stopped once cut all the parts… it was far too heavy to make sense IMHO - seemed to wiegh more than wood.

3D Printing:

This has had more coverage than other methods. Generally the hassle is that no 3D printer is big enough to do a whole board AFAIK so you’re limited to gluing bits together and this sucks. You have to work around this and so instead of working with your hands you’re fighting a computer… which is a learning curve. However, you can make interlocking parts and there are programs to help you make parts for you. In particular you can generate a lattice automatically - I used Meshmix to generate a hex pattern.

Always the problem I found in this method was that when you print big parts there’s a tendancy for them to warp slightly… you have to let them cool properly. Then you have to think how you’re gonna glue them together.

For my board I simply did the nose sides… this slipped overnight when gluing. If you mix foam and plastic build in some spikes to hold them in place.

Bear in mind there are resin 3D printers too. And there are pricey printers out there doing metal.

Computer stuff in general:

AKU Shaper kicks out .stl and .obj. Both of these formats are not proper 3D. They are a bit like a .pdf instead of a word document or a raster image file rather than a proper vector image file. If you want to convert to solid 3D for use in solidworks then you’ll need to convert. But trying to get a computer to do this is a bit like trying to scan in a text document and getting the computer to do OCR digitisation - it’s a bit rubbish. Better to draw it again. It took me months to truely figure this out - just want to help anyone avoid going down that rabbit hole.

Here’s the million dollar tip: forget trying to go direct to full 3D straight away. Thing in 2D and convert to 3D when you’re ready, liker a traditional shaper approach. This was my mistake. It’s just easier to get your head around - it breaks down your workflow into simpler sections of work. Think profile/rocker/bottom skin and channels / rails, outline as normal first.

BoardCAD is also java based. It can run on more platforms but I found it to be a bit wierd sometimes on windows with thej file selector. If you have that problem hit f5 to refresh. Another problem I found is that I could only get it to put out a polyline DXF for import into a solid 3D program. The spline (a true curve) is really what’s needed. If you know how to do this please let me know as it sounds a lot better than tracing.

In general shaping on the computer is a skill. It’s difficult compared to tactile touch of a real thing. Feel free to print off a scale model. But taking the time to adjust the light angle and generally taking as much time as you would to shape a real board, taking it seriously, is the way. It’s possible but yes, it’s nearly as difficult as the real thing if you’ve never shaped a real board by hand before.

If you don’t have a decent computer like me, check out OnShape.com. And if you can figure out how to get a curve from BoardCAD or AKU into that please let me know. Beware that Onshape will appear to import mesh files such as .STL but in reality you can’t do much with them - that’s why spline is the next step.

Where I view it now:

3D Print is useful for small parts or areas. Fin box, fins, detail sections. Clips for wooden boards?

Lasercutting is useful for templates. Can make templates from foam and use with a hotwire if you cover with foil :slight_smile:

The Augmented reality CNC Router thing… not sure yet.

Alot of the computer stuff I had to learn means I’m almost getting to the point where stuff can be commercially made for me. That has been a big plus to this experimentation.


Hope some of the tips here help.

And now, your thoughts on how to use this stuff?

It is my belief that eventually 3D printing will take over surfboard manufacture. With more advanced computing power it should be possible to design the optimum structure of a surfboard for strength, lightness and durability. It’s still a few years away though!




you can already do this in solidworks with strength and honeycomb analysis type stuff. CAM. forget the exact name. expensive though of course. they’ve also got flow analysis to model the flow of water over the fins.

It’s an exciting technology. That’s undeniable. I still think the day when 3D printed boards take over is still a fair way off. Even when 3D printing becomes standard I think there will still be a place for traditional techniques. Much like how photography didn’t completely destroy painting as an art form.