Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Building a Hollow Wooden Surfboard - 6'2" Fish School Project Part 1

Namaste Wiley Wood Workers and welcome to this installment of building a 6'2" Fish hollow wooden surfboard. I was recently contacted by Wally, a manual arts teacher at a High School in Sydney. Wally was interested in introducing a wooden surfboard building module for students in his year 12 Industrial Technology course which would contribute towards their HSC (Higher School Certificate). Being new to wooden surfboard construction but an old hand at woodworking, Wally was looking at doing a couple of wood surfboard builds for his two sons first and then using this experience to refine the process for his students in the school workshop. Lucky Lads. He has access to a state of the art workshop with all the tools including a CNC machine and a laser cutter. The school kids were totally stoked about building wood surfboards for themselves in school time, I was totally stoked to be involved and Wally was just generally stoked that it was all starting to come together.

Multicam M1 CNC router with 950 mm x 1150 mm bed. A nice addition to any workshop and a  permanent fixture in Wally's.

Epilog Laser 45W with 610 mm x 457 mm bed. This is an awesome machine also in Wally's workshop. It not only cuts but it can also burn artwork into your wood surfboard.


The first step was to gather some design requirements. They were as follows: a Fish style board, and 6'2" in length. A little light on but a good start. So we did a little research and put together a summary of Fish design attributes. This is by no means definitive but helpful in putting together a Fish design.

A wide nose with a slight point which is stable and maneuverable.

A wide thick board for buoyancy and stability making the board easy to paddle and stable to ride. A little like me.

A flatter rocker for speed and ease of catching waves.

A wide tail (with swallow tail) – a couple of reasons for this. Easy to turn but also a higher aspect ratio (tail width to board length) to assist the board in getting up on the plane.

Thick rails through the middle, sharp at the tail.

Fin setups – twin, quad and thruster. Why not go for all three and install 5 sets of fin plugs and interchange the fin setups as required.

Fish plan shapes can vary from classic shapes to modern hybrids.

Volume. Now this is a personal preference and dependent on how much buoyancy is preferred and how much paddle power is on tap. Some guys like less, some more. I approach this from a couple of angles.

1. If someone has a favourite surfboard that they enjoy surfing, I assume the volume of that particular board is okay and I measure it using AKU Shaper. I photograph the outline and side profile and use the images to do a rough design of the board in software. Once the design is complete, AKU calculates the board volume (in beers or litres). I've never really understood the metric system so I work in beers.

2. I use a rough formula of 0.6 x body weight of the surfer (The Cater Formula). This seems to work well for the average surfer. My coefficient is a bit higher (about 0.7) because I am a fat, lazy, paddle-phobic chimp.

In this case we used the formula and settled on a volume of 45 litres.

So after a few iterations in AKU we went with a 6'2" x 22 ¾” x 2 ¾” and 45 litres in volume with a flat bottom contour and slightly sharp rails towards the back. The rails up the side are quite full (60/40). 45 litres is probably a good volume for a 70+ kg person. The ribs have been spaced at 150 mm with the deck and hull fibre glassed internally to give the board added strength and longevity.

Here's a screen shot of the wooden surfboard outline in AKU Shaper. AKU Shaper doesn't seem to like designing swallow tails so I've had to go with a square tail in the design. The swallow tail can be drawn manually on templates in the work shop or added in CAD software. The outside centre point for the swallow tail is 110 mm from the tail end.

The view of the rocker/profile.

The first slice near the nose. Slices spaced at 150 mm.

The centre slice.

The tail slice at 170 mm from the board rear.

The final set of templates produced by Hollow Board Template Maker. This PDF file was converted to a DXF file, cleaned up and imported into the CNC software as machine code. 

The next section will be of interest to those of you wanting to use a CNC machine to cut out your wooden board templates.

Converting PDF File to DXF Files.

Wally's first challenge was to convert the PDF file produced by the Hollow Board Template Maker software into a form that he could use on his CNC Router and Laser Technologies. After a number of phone calls and trials of PDF to DXF converters online he succeeded with Aide DXF PDF Converter. This software was easy to use and produced DXF files with curves which were polylines and relatively simple to edit.

The DXF file opened in Autocad 2013.

 Many hours late at night were spent working out how to best edit the DXF drawing in Auto CAD. The DXF file was 19,529KB (almost 20 Meg) and when saved as a DWG file it was much smaller at 1,616KB. It was much quicker to edit as a DWG file.

One of the first issues Wally had to deal with was mulitple lines under lines which is a problem with CNC machines. The skin lines on the rails needed to be deleted. The best way to overcome this was to select each entity by clicking each polyline and not clicking and dragging the mouse. This ensures that only the top layer of entities are selected. Select the smaller lines first, as they are much easier to see. 

Use the zoom function to to make sure all entities are selected. Don’t select the shaded areas of the spline. Once selected use the "Move" command to move entities to the right of the existing lines. Duplicate lines will be left and can be deleted.

Use the Trim Command to select lines 1-5 shown above then right click and select the parts of line to Trim. Remove the lines near the center spline first to avoid problems with the others.

A continuous loop is more difficult to Trim. Zoom in and draw a line close to the intersection and then use the Trim command. Then use the Chamfer command to clean up any corners. If at any stage the entities don’t Trim properly use the Extend Command to ensure the entities are in contact to enable Trimming.


PEDIT is used to combine entities into a continuous loop needed for the CNC machine. To join lines to form polylines in a continuous loop, type PEDIT, Enter,  Press down arrow, then click Multiple, select all the entities, Enter, Join, fuzz Distance 2.

Move the mouse cursor over the joined entities and ensure that they have joined correctly. If the line doesn't form a complete loop, zoom in and search for the reason why.
The drawing needs to be scaled to size. Measure a known entity and scale to correct size.
When all entities have been cleaned up and the PEDIT Command used to close polylines Save file as a R12 DXF. Import file into the CNC software in Wally's case Multicam Toolpath and look for open shapes.

The green shapes are open shapes and need to be checked to determine why they haven’t joined properly. Wally found that main problem was that the corners were not trimmed. Also some curved shapes had a small gap near the spline. He used the Trim, Extend and Chamfer commands as a means of editing the entities.

At this stage he found it helpful to check for duplicated entities. He clicked on each entity and moved it aside to determine if multiple entities existed. He found a few which were deleted. The PEDIT and JOIN Commands were used extensively to join entities.

There is a problem in the Multicam Toolpath software. Wally could not reverse (for the mortice) the machining parameters from outside (blue) to inside (red). This stumped him for a few days until he Exploded one of the rectangles and found a duplicate shape underneath.

The next step was to do a trial run on the CNC machine using MDF board.

The detail of the dovetail joint for the spine and rails. The spine and rails have been cut in two sections so that they fit within the bed dimensions of the CNC machine.

 Heavy duty rocker table also designed by Wally.

The rocker table fresh from the CNC machine. Still warm!

The rocker tables getting glued up. One for the Fish and another for a 9'1" longboard.

The Fish frame cut in MDF to make sure it all fits together. The production frame will be cut out of 6 mm paulownia.

 Another photo of the MDF frame.

And from above.

More to come in Part 2 (Due sometime in 2017/2018)

Here's a link to the template file for this board if you are interested in building it.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Wooden Boards - Hermosa Beach California 1947

A blast from the past. Some classic footage from Hermosa Beach California circa 1947. Surfing wooden paipos, shaping a 12' redwood plank with a draw knife and hand plane, surfing kook boxes and steering using your feet. No sound on this video just some great surfing history.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Surfrider Eco Challenge - Wooden Surfboard Event

Namaste and attention Waggish Woodies. The Surfrider Foundation is hosting their annual Surfrider Eco Challenge Wooden Surfboard Event and Golden Days Festival on Sunday the 10th of November at Tickle Park, Coolum. It kicks off at 8 am with a wooden surfboard event. So bring your own woody or borrow one of theirs. There are prizes for your stoke. Tom Wegener will be there as will the guys from Surfing Green. Should be a great day for wooden surfboard builders and enthusiasts alike.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Build Surfboard Shaping Stands for under $90

Surfboard shaping stands
Namaste Shonky Shapers and welcome to this installment of building a set of surfboard shaping stands for under $90. A good set of shaping stands are a must when you're building any kind of surfboard but they can be expensive and they can set you back as much as $350 - $400. Most of the stands on the market are of the welded steel type and are pretty schmick but the price tag can be a bit of a deterrent. 

"So why not make a set, Wood Buddha?" I thought to myself.

What an excellent idea!

Now I can't weld my way out of a wet paper bag so I decided to look at using wood as a material instead of steel. Ply is cheap, strong and easy to work with so that's what I ended up going with. The other requirement was that I wanted the stands to pack away easily when I wasn't using them so they had to be easily disassembled.

So the result was a set of stands that are easy to build, relatively inexpensive, can be disassembled when not being used and very sexy. I bet you didn't think it was possible to build a set of stands that look this sexy for so little coin. I mean, take a look at them. Aren't they the duck's plums? The Jennifer Hawkins of shaping stands? I think so, but then again I've been spending a little too much time in the shed lately. I really need to get out.

"So how do you do it for so little money Wood Buddha?" I hear you asking. Easy Peesy Japaneesy. Read on Oh wise and noble reader. 

By the way, the cost can work out even cheaper because one sheet of ply will actually make two sets of stands. So if you go halves with a mate you can save some more dosh. Alternatively you could build yourself one set of stands for shaping and a second taller set for glassing.

Firstly, let's run through the material list. You'll need

1 x 1200 mm x 2400 mm x 17 mm sheet of CD ply ($65). CD ply is used in the construction industry for flooring. It is strong and waterproof.

2 x pool noodles ($6)

1 x tube of Selley's Shoe Glue ($6)

20 x 50 mm x 8 gauge screws

4 x 12 mm x 50 mm bolt and wing nuts ($10)

I've drawn up some very rough plans of the stand ends and the middle brace with some measurements. You can adjust the measurements to suit your height and the type of boards you would typically shape. I'm a tall bloke and I mainly build long boards so the measurements suit me fine. The height of 1050 mm is good for my height and the middle brace length of 1200 mm is good for shaping long boards. If you're not sure, build the stands as per the measurements below, screw the stands together without gluing up the pieces and give them a try. You can always unscrew the pieces, cut them shorter, and then screw and glue it once you're happy with the height and length of the stands.

The shaping stand ends. You'll need two of these.

The middle brace. You'll need one of these to join the ends together.

Firstly, let's start with the CD ply. I buy this from Bunnings where they also have a cutting service. It usually costs a couple of bucks to get the ply sheet cut but I've found that if the cuts are simple and I'm nice to the bloke operating the machine I usually won't get charged for the cutting. I got the sheet cut for two sets of stands.

The Stand Ends

4 x 1050 mm x 300 mm
4 x 500 mm x 100 mm

The Stand Middle Braces

2 x 1200 mm x 200 mm
2 x 1200 mm x 100 mm
4 x 300 mm x 100 mm

I get the sheet cut length ways to minimise waste.

2 x 300 mm wide x 2400 mm long
1 x 200 mm wide x 2400 mm long
3 x 100 mm wide x 2400 mm long

Getting the CD ply cut on the machine.

 12 mm bolts and wing nuts. The wing nuts were lying around in my shed. A gift from Mr. Wood Buddha Senior who was a Fitter and Turner.

 8 gauge phillips head screws.

 Selleys Shoe Glue for gluing the pool noodles. This stuff can stick teflon to ice.

 A pool noodle form Crazy Clarks. Used for padding.

 The stand end with board slot cut out using a jigsaw or bandsaw. The bottom corners of the slot are rounded using a holesaw or Forstener bit. I also chamfer the top corners.

 The base is fixed to the stand end using three 8 gauge screws.

The middle brace fixed together using 8 gauge screws. 13 mm holes are drilled in the end plates for the 12 mm bolts which fix the middle brace to the stand ends.

 Another view of the middle brace showing the top plate.

8 gauge screws fixing the top plate to the middle brace.

 The stand assembled.

Side view with the pool noodle padding. I use the Shoe Glue to glue the pool noodle foam together. I cut the foam down one side length ways and slide it into the slot.  

A view of the middle brace connected to the end.

A close up of the middle brace end plate bolted to the stand end.

Finished and ready to go. A coat of varnish and it'll be as flash as a rat with a gold tooth.

One in the slot.

...and one on the top.