Welcome to Howitzer

BL # 16

BL # 16

By nox

The final design

Starting to surf is like opening a can of worms.
You want to (read ‘need to’) spend money on things that have never before spiked your interest.

I started off buying a secondhand 7′ 6″ Dean Gerathy mini mal. It is a beaut of a board that has seen little use and was only around 5 or 6 months old when I bought it.
A beginner I am, and so I did not need a good board, but the deal was really good; bag, fins and leash included in the transaction and so I could not be stopped. Since this purchace I have not really picked up talent, but at least the board have paid for itself – as I have taken it out many many times and enjoyed it most of those.

My talent as I just mentioned have not increased in leaps and bounds as I had foolishly hoped, but in baby steps… My surfboard alert-ness have increased dramatically, my surf lingo is expanding, and clothing brands turning more ocean branded. I did not mean for this to happen, but it did, and it is so.
It may have something to do with my girlfriend being a (die-hard, saltwater-in-her-veins, could spend every day in the ocean) surfer girl, and staying 5minutes from the beach or maybe not – who knows…

The problem with this though, starting to think about shaping my own surfboards – and seeing some of my friends do it, just reinforces the idea that it is deffo worth doing and not going to be all that difficult.

Anyways I was planning on writing more, but my creativity just went blunt for some ob reason… – point is, I decided to shape my own board.

I hit the go button and purchased a 6’11″ blank and had it standing in my living room for almost a month before I had all my ideas in order and combined into one shape-able board. I grabbed a free demo board design package of the websternet and played with the shapes until I had my board drawn up as I imagined it. a 6’8″ x 21″ x 3″ Diamond tail mid sized design.

The final design

I did a hardware store run in lunch break, and got a couple of shaping essentials, a saw, 2 surforms (a small rasp and big rasp), 2 x face masks and a 6 pack of Windhoek light.

I plotted out the design 1:1 and drew the shape onto the blank.

Anne was at my place so she jumped in and got her hands dirty. We set up a basic (read: two plastic stools) shaping bay in my backyard and proceded to jump right in, sawing the shape out the blank and roughly cleaing up the edges with some of the offcut foam.

15 minutes – Day 1 – done.

Chris has a massive cache of tools – both power and hand tools and when I said I was looking for a planer, he came through with both a planer and a belt sander that I could borrow…great stuffs!

On a severely toasty Paarl summer afternoon, I grabbed an ice cold beer and a dust mask and I jumped right in without much consideration for what I was going to be doing, but at least I had a good idea of where I wanted to go with the shape.

Most of my shaping happened with a surform, as it goes remarkably quick – even though you eventually lose feeling in your arms. This just felt good – contrary to having both the planer and the belt sander right there.

End of day 1

The belt sander though, works wonders for taking the stringer down – if you don’t have a spokeshave or mini hand plane.

I work in pretty close proximity to my neighbour’s house, and even though I make sure to clean up as much dust as possible, I make a massive amount of noise, and so I limited the work hours to between 5 and 7pm, as to not get them upset or spoil their soapies.

As I reached 7pm, I took a step back and a sip from a now lukewarm Windhoek light and was pleasantly surprised at the progress in just a couple of hours.

2 hours Day 2 – sorted.

Just finished sanding

After this it was basically a process of taking mm’s off – first with the rasp, then 80 grit sandpaper and on to 160, 250 and finally 600 grit.

The problem with shaping a board is stopping when it is done – not before and not after. I know this sounds obvious, but it makes a massive difference to the outcome of the final product.

Just under 2 hours for day 3 – all done!

final blank

diamond tail detail

The next and quite an important step is laminating or glassing a board – meaning putting the fibreglass layers on the foam core. Having been witness to what a mess this is, and how much work goes into getting the sanding etc perfect, I phoned around and got quotes for someone else to handle this for me.

Board signed and spec'd

I found a company in CT that was great to deal with and competitively priced, and it was so, the glassing was outsourced.

I designed the decals and sent it through to be printed on rice aper so that it could be glassed onto the board. I dropped the blank off and it was out of my hands.

Decal layout

Collecting something like a board that you’ve spent a fair bit of money on, without an idea of the outcome, is daunting, so when I got the call I was a wee bit anxious (must be similar to a mail order bride – you’ve seen the photos, but it could still go pear shaped). The girl at the board place phoned me and told me that my board was done and looked awesome, and so the nerves turned to excitement nerves – which is different but similar.

I made a plan to collect my board from the shop and on arrival there my board was propped up in the board rack and looking amazing.
After a bit of staring, flipping it over and pretending to know a lot about freshly glassed boards I hauled it off.board at shopA and I went to Builders warehouse to get paint (you can paint pre or post glassing, and even though pre is a better bet, I did’nt want to screw up my first board with paint on raw polyurethane – even though it would have been fine).Taped up the board at A’s place and sprayed the board letting it dry semi properly before doing a matt clear varnish over the stone-ish colour I selected. After waiting for that to dry prpoerly the masking was pulled off to reveal my board all done. I finn’d it and took some photos. Waxed it and sped off to the beach for a quick last light mini sesh.Spray doneFinito front and backThe board works. Well! It looks good and I’m super stoked.So that’s the queue for a couple more to be shaped.DSC_0142

BL # 16: Shape your own surfable surfboard. Tick. Big smiles all round.