Board Building for Dummies – Part II

Shaping is a breeze, right?

Actually shaping is a lot of work and one part of in the board building process that can make or break a board. One of the best decisions I’d made so far was admitting that my shaping abilities were close to zero before starting and getting the help of a professional surfboard shaper. In this case I asked a Southern Cape shaper, Karel van Staden, who shapes Sun Fish Surfboards. It is advisable to try find someone who likes to try new things and more importantly, someone who’ll let you into his shaping bay (shapers are often reluctant to share their secrets).

Firstly you should get ready to spend quite a bit of time measuring and marking out finishing lines, rocker and thickness as marking accurately makes shaping accurately much easier. We cut out the basic templates using a hand saw and then started marking using a few interesting

… this tool takes strips of foam off the blank and turns them into dust that will find its way into your eyes, nose throat and any crack left uncovered, never to be part of a blank ever again.

techniques and some custom-made tools. After finishing the marking it was time for the planer to make its first appearance and for a novice, like me, it was an intimidating piece of equipment with some serious consequences. Not even mentioning the potential loss of a finger or two, this tool takes strips of foam 6cm wide and 2mm thick off the blank and turns them into dust that will find its way into your eyes, nose throat and any crack left uncovered, never to be part of a blank ever again. So focus at this stage is absolutely critical and it’s always better to take off too little rather than too much.

Next step of the process is using a surform(surface-forming tool) to smooth out the hard lines left by the planer. We also used it to shape the blank in places that needed finer detail like the nose, tail and rocker. As with the previous step, taking off too little is better than taking off too much. I was so glad to have the help of a pro; he taught me techniques that made life so much easier. The rails were shaped using another home-made tool based on the concept of the surform, using this tool also required a special technique that helped to ensure smooth rails without large chunks of foam being ripped out of them.

At this stage the shape and thickness of the blanks were pretty close to perfect but the surface and rails still had a very rough texture and didn’t look very nice, so sanding was up next. Using sandpaper with a rough grit at first and a sanding block, I worked my way around the board, smoothing out the texture and eventually progressed to a finer grit to ensure a smooth texture and look. Although sandpaper can be used on the rails, the best would be to use sand screen with the appropriate grit, it just makes a tough job so much easier.

Finally after some sweat, a few nervous moments and large quantities of dust, I had two sparkling white blanks ready for colour and glassing. Have a look at some of the pictures below.

In Part III we’ll have a look at painting / spraying and what to get in preparation for Part IV: Glassing.

If you have not already, make sure to check out “Board Building for Dummies – Part I“.