Don't ever shape your first board...

June 18, 2015

Here's my take on attempting to shape your first board...

Jumping straight to a fresh blank, even with all the right tools, will still end up leaving you with a dented wallet and a whittled little piece of foam that you're too ashamed to take to a glass shop. Start with an old board that's been overlooked as trash, bigger than what you want, but has the right curves to it (rocker, outline, concave etc.) By doing this, you let the previous shaper do the heavy lifting. In doing so, you honor their work by valuing their craftsmanship. 

You'll need:

  • Old board
  • New board to copy (unless you just want to re-new the old one)
  • 2 saw horses
  • 2 weighted plates (garage sale round plates for a home gym)
  • hand saw
  • dremmel
  • sand paper (multiple grit)
  • sanding block (fancy name for a slat of wood that you'll wrap with sand paper)
  • dry wall sanding screens (shapes the rails)
  • gloves (your hands hate fiberglass)
  • disposable mask (your lungs don't like foam dust or fiberglass)
  • clear glasses (neither do your eyes)
  • 1ft X1ft thick, soft foam piece for blending center to rails
  • thin sheet of foam to pad sanding block
  • stringer planer


1. Place your old board on the saw horses. Using a cheap dremmel (harbor freight) cut through the old board's fiberglass along the center line of the entire rail, tail to nose. Protect your hands with cheap garden gloves, wedge a spackle spatula in between the foam and fiberglass. Pull the fiberglass off of both deck and bottom. You'll lose some foam chunks along the way, but that's what makes it fun to reshape. Turning junk into awesomeness.

2. Find another board you'd like to try copying, even if it's renting it for a 1 day for $10 as a demo or borrowing a buddy's. Lay the new board over the old one (newly exposed blank) using weights to align their center lines (stringers.) Outline the new board on to the old stripped blank with a pencil or marker. Cut out the new shape from the old blank with a cheap hand saw (You can also clean up the old shape if you want to do less work.)

3. Make a padded sanding block anywhere from 12-16 inches long, maybe a 1/2 to 1 inch thick, 4+- inches wide, easy to use with one or two hands. You'll need 60, 120, 200 grit sand paper to wrap the block. Use the sanding block with course grit to true up the edges and make the rail line(board outline) a smooth curve with a flat edge (Completely flat rail). Or, skip rail truing and rail banding if you're just cleaning up the old shape.

4. Next, use the sanding block to make graduated bevels along the rail from nose to tail (we call them rail bands) to form the curve of your rails ( roundness, hardness/softness of the rail curve), finish with the drywall screens (we call it dragon skin) which will blend the bevels into one clean curve from bottom around the rail to the deck. Finish rails with sand paper and a light touch.

5. Use the sanding block to clean up the deck and bottom, rough to smooth grit. Use the broad sanding pad to blend the deck/bottom into the curve of the rail and to clean up the bottom contours.

6. Finally, use a $5 2-3 inch stringer planer to bring the stringer down to the flatness of the foam (set the blade height to cut as little as possible, sharpen often). Boom, you're ready to paint, and/or glass!

7. If you plan of perfecting this outline in the future, home depot has 1/8 inch fiberboard. You can stencil the surfboard outline onto the fiberboard, aligning the flat edge along the stringer. Next, cut out the outline and true the edges with the sanding block. You now have a board stencil, a shaper's prized possession.

If you're brave enough to glass it, we'll get to that workshop soon. This should keep you busy for a couple of weeks, yes, weeks.


Here's Bill making it look all too easy. He's using a fresh blank. His steps are slightly different because shaping from scratch vs. re-shaping a glassed board requires a few of their own extra steps.

If your first couple of attempts help you determine that shaping should be left up to the best of the best. Bill is ready for your order! So are we :) However, you don't know until you try....


Bill Minard Shapes an Ultimate - Degree33 Surfboards from Degree33 on Vimeo.

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