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The Wooden Surfboard

Once upon a time, on a flat Summer day in Santa Barbara, John decided to build a surfboard. An Alaia, to be exact. The Alaia is an ancient Hawaiian design made of wood. It is completely flat. Look ma, no fins.

Off we went to the hardware store to purchase some wood. Heh, heh, she said wood. Well, it turned out that they didn’t make wood wide enough. So we bought two pieces of wood (6’x 1’x 1″) and some very very strong glue. We also bought a saw, because we didn’t have one. A planer, because we also didn’t have one of those. Some sandpaper. And some string.

Those are all the ingredients, right there.

Chapter 1: The Planks
The boards, they needed sanding. John planed the inside edges so they’d fit together all nicelike. Then, they needed gluing. Newspaper might have been a good idea right about now. Shhh, don’t tell the landlord.

The planks had to dry. This part was sorta boring. Like watching, er, glue dry. The strings kept the wood all close together and tightlike without squishing it. Squishing is bad.

Chapter 2: The Measuring
The template came from the internet. Is there anything that isn’t on the internet? I’m going to say… no. The laser printer rallied to the cause and belched out all the pages. Then, we taped it together. Be vewy vewy kwiet, we’re measuring surfboards.

And then, measuring it again.

Chapter 3: The Saw
Now it was time for the cutting and shaping parts. The cutting part would be much easier with a better saw. Like, maybe one of those fancy ones that you plug in and stuff. Sweaty business, the sawing.

With the outline cut out, the planks were starting to look something like a surfboard. Something, being the key word.

Now it needed rails and some curves. John planed the rails down to a rounded edge.

Then, he put a wee bit of upward curve on the nose. (Okay, I lied, the Alaia isn’t totally flat, just mostly.) He also put a concave in the back. Just a wee one. I tried to take a picture of the concave, but it didn’t work out. You can barely see the concave curve on the bottom.

There followed lots and lots of sanding. Then, the Alaia received several coats of linseed oil to seal it for freshness. And a Milo brand for cuteness. Voilà.

Finally, we took it to the beach, and put it in the water. It actually floats! There weren’t really any waves, but John made it surf. I don’t have any pictures of this phenomenon, because I was surfing too. Maybe next time.

Final measurements: 5’11”, 3/4″ thick, 16″ wide (at the center).

The End.

  1. The Fred Marx #

    Oh the things we could do with that using the toys I keep in the truck… Saws that plug in are vastly superior to the reciprocating elbow saw. Cool though that you guys did the way the “ancients” would have done it.

    13 August 2009
  2. EDr #

    Nice handiwork. Surprised the glue held up, with just the two flat surfaces put together and no pegs.

    14 August 2009
  3. jen #

    LOL, yeah, you could have whipped one of these out in like an hour Freddy. Maybe you should start a side business ;-)

    Amazing, this modern glue, eh? Pegs would have been the more elegant and superior way to go about it, but so far, it’s actually holding just mashed together.

    Fun times. Now, if there would just be more surf. Sigh.

    Also, realized I never took a pic of the whole thing. I’ll do that up lates.

    14 August 2009
  4. rwsee #

    really like the history of this… cool stuff…

    14 August 2009
  5. jen #

    Isn’t it fun? I’d thought you’d enjoy it. I’ll try to get some pics of it actually in the water :-)

    14 August 2009
  6. The Fred Marx #

    Pine was an interesting choice for wood… kinda soft and all. A mahogany stringer would be cool though. THe ancients wold have used something like Koa, but don’t even loook at pricing it on the mainland…. Sticker shock can we say? I’m actually not all that surprised that it’s holding together with out “pegs” (note wood workers call ’em dowels..). Modern glue is great stuff. If you wan to be really sure, try Polyurethane glue next time. Goes as Gorilla Glue commercially. Stronger than the wood you’ll bond together.

    And yes action photos are required.. I’m available.. < g >

    14 August 2009
  7. jen #

    Pine was all we could get easily and cheaply – it’s just shelving. Koa is the wood of choice for authenticity, but yeah, let’s not talk about the pricing on that. I’ve heard of redwood, too. Mohogany would be beautiful. It would be cool to make a longer one, too.

    This glue is polyurethane, I believe – a variation on Gorilla. Worked awesome, never mind the bits we left behind on the patio. D’oh.

    15 August 2009
  8. The Fred Marx #

    makes me wonder if I ought to shape the 6 foot slab of burl Redwood I have in the house.. Oh maybe not it’s worth as much as a couple of VW’s…. It would be very pretty though. MAybe for next yeas Arts Fest. Yeah sell it to some rich &%$# who oh never mind. I’ll just keep it for a really pretty table.

    15 August 2009
  9. jen #

    I’d go with the table option, myself.

    But I bet you could make a pretty sweet looking alaia. I’ve seen a couple with stringers, and it looks pretty sweet. I’ve also seen photos of ones made from several narrow slats of wood, rather than two wide pieces. Looks awesome. Um, anyway, yeah, you should make one. In your spare time ;-)

    16 August 2009
  10. John #

    I guess no one uses dowels since the bottom of the board usually has a significant amount of concave in it.

    I really thought the board would just break in two, but it hasn’t yet.

    I got confused choosing glue. I bought Gorilla Glue first. Then found out there is a “water resistant” rating and a “water proof” rating by ANSI. Gorilla glue wasn’t clear on this. I went with Tightbond III. Anyone who can shed light on this, please do.

    There’s been a guy here surifng these boards all last winter. I found out he was just making them out of pine shelving. Otherwise, I would never have tried it if I didn’t see it first.

    16 August 2009
  11. marscat #

    that’s post.

    but i think one must never saw toward the shins…but what do i know.

    17 August 2009
  12. The Fred Marx #

    For John… a concave and dowels would pose a problem I can see. Besides those old Balsa wood planks probably never had dowels. As to waterproofness of Gorilla Glue and polyurethane glue in general, it is used regularly in boat building. We use it regularly for anything that needs to be strong and will be exposed to weather. I am pretty sure it passes the waterproof standard. Titebond III is solid stuff too. If you used enough, the wood will split before the glue bound breaks. Should you go the Gorilla GLue route, know that it’s just an expensive label for Polyurethane glue. Generic works the same way, just cheaper.

    17 August 2009
  13. Anonymous #

    so what wood did you use??

    12 September 2009
  14. jen #

    We used pine shelving. Readily available and super cheap at the hardware strore.

    6 October 2009
  15. Anonymous #

    pics dude of the finished and in action? also link for the plans. def going to make one, somehow someway… thx!

    12 October 2009

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