Board Building for Dummies – Part IV

Home stretch, let’s glass.

So, it’s taken a great deal of time and effort to get to this stage and now it’s time to add some strength to this board. At this crucial stage it is again important to know what foam you’re dealing with or if you don’t, testing the foam would be the best idea!

In my case, as with the colour stage, it turned out that the normal and easy route would not be the route that I would take. I used a small piece of foam to test the resin and after about 15 minutes the blotch of resin had proceeded to melt a hole halfway through the foam, which meant that I would have to use epoxy resin instead of the more commonly used polyester resin. I had used PR on many occasions when repairing dings in my surfboards but epoxy resin was completely new to me. I learned that it is more expensive, allows more time to work with before it hardens, it takes a long time to dry and it has a sweeter smell than polyester resin but it will give you a headache all the same!

The glassing process can be divided into two main parts; the actual glassing, with fibreglass cloth and resin and sanding, with sandpaper and elbow grease. When glassing you need to decide on the weight and weave of cloth that you’re going to use and even though we all would love a super light board, you need it to be strong enough to handle your local break. The second crucial element would be the resin and whether you’re using epoxy or polyester resin, without the hardener it will simply remain a sticky liquid. Something to think of before glassing is the time that you will need as every layer will need to dry and harden properly before starting on the next layer. The process starts with the cloth on the bottom of the board, it is laid out on the board and the basic shape is then cut out with approximately 5cm excess to fold over the rails and to the top side of the board. After the cutting you need to spread the resin over the entire bottom surface of the board and cloth, making sure that the cloth is saturated and in position. Although it seems simple enough, the overlapping process can be quite tough, with air bubbles forming and the cloth not sticking to the foam. The top would be done in a similar way except for the cloth which should have no excess because it isn’t going to be overlapped. YouTube has a myriad of videos that will show you exactly how to glass skimboards and surfboards so it would be a good idea to have a look and catch some tips.
After checking YouTube, asking the pro’s and finally finishing the glassing, comes the sanding and this takes time and quite a bit of effort. It’s quite a straightforward process, start with coarse sandpaper and gradually proceed to a fine grit until your board has the desired finish. Sanding allows a good opportunity to inspect the quality of your glassing and find spots that might need a bit of attention. Air bubbles are the biggest thing to look out for; they often occur on the rails, nose and tail and if you don’t fix them, it will leave the foam exposed which is, in a word, bad. If you find any bubbles, open them by breaking away the surrounding resin and fibres and then filling it with more resin and, when dry, sand it until smooth. Basically the only thing that can go wrong during this step is sanding through too much of the resin and exposing the cloth which doesn’t mean the end of the world but it’s not ideal, so be careful of doing this.

So there you go, shaping, painting, glassing and sanding; 4 basics of board building. With limited skill and resources I was able to make two boards in 4 weeks which means that just about anybody can give it a try and even if it’s not perfect it will give you a bit of insight into how a board is made.

Keep an eye out for a video of the first time the boards get wet!