How I Built a Sturdy Roof-rack for a Windsurfer/surfboard





Introduction: How I Built a Sturdy Roof-rack for a Windsurfer/surfboard

Ok so here I am with a 200 lb windsurfer, and a lake 15mins down the road, but hardly any money. But Im not one to jump at making my own if I can buy it for $50, so I looked at roof racks and was totally gob-smacked at the price $400.00. Some-ones bound to have done this before I thought, but most were add-ons to existing bars or for guttered cars or no-way strong enough for the job I had in mind.

When it was finished, this was the business. Wood and steel, cant go wrong. Ive used it loads of times, solid as rock.

[Added]In use: It takes 5 mins to load the windsurfer and is stable at 60mph, which is the fastest Ive gone.

Step 1: List of Materials/Cost/Tools/Time

Tools: Jigsaw, saw, sandpaper, drill, grinder, glue gun, nothing special just the usual stuff.

Total construction time : 1.5 days. It took me about 8hrs actual work time, but I needed to let glue and paint dry

Step 2: Cutting Wood

Maybe its just me, but my steps start simple, and lots of pictures and then its like Im too engrossed to take a picture, oh well. Cut the timber to equal lengths to fit the approximate length on the car.

I made sure that the length of the wood allowed it to sit in the back of the car when not in use. Although you could leave it on the roof when windsurfing.

Step 3: Getting the Curves

There is one mildly technical piece to this, car roofs are not flat anymore, gone are the days a 2 x 4 sits on flat. On my Honda Civic it was pretty curved.

So using a bit of scrap wood and a marker, get the shape of the roof - see the picture. Suggest you mark the front, it can get confusing otherwise.

Next you need to curve the ends, I used my coffee cup that just happened to match the curve I needed. Draw round your mug (the cup, not your face!)

You only have to do this once, the second wooden runner is cut from the first.

Step 4: Cut the Curve

A well organized bench makes everything so much easier. Ha !!.

Using your trusty jigsaw cut out the curves. And then sand to shape.

Check it on the roof, from time to time, make sure its accurate.

It doesnt have to fit to the millimeter, a layer of plastic foam is going to provide an extra layer of comfort. I was in a hurry to get to the lake, but it was a pretty good fit.

Step 5: Cut the Holes for the Pipe

So now you need to put the steel pipe thru, I made mine a snug-ish fit. I originally thought Id screw them in place, but it is a bit unweildy, so I settled for gluing them in place with construction glue and then fortify with fiberglass.

Anyway, using a three quarter inch drill spade (to match the pipe width) cut the holes half-way thru the wood.

Step 6: Cut the Pipe to Length

Set the wood on the roof and measure the length for the pipe. Because we only drilled half-way thru the wood, make sure you allow for this when cutting the pipe.

I used a grinder to cut the pipe.

Step 7: Assemble It All

I am almost amazed I actually took a picture at this stage. Lucky really it shows a lot;

You put the pipes into the holes, test it on the car, ok, looks good, then using construction glue fix it in place.

The glue takes a while to set, overnight worked fine for me.

Step 8: Fibreglass the Pipe Joints

Although the pipes are held in place with the construction glue, I decided to add an extra level of strength by applying fibreglass around the pipe joints.

This only took about 30 mins, the nature of working with fibreglass is that it sets quickly, and Im sure a smoother job could have been done if you spend a bit more time and effort on it.

Anyway the proof-is-in-the-pudding and its worked great for 4 months.

Step 9: Paint to Match the Car

Ok, Im not sure how this happened, I had the exact match of paint, but I managed to pick the wrong can up and sprayed it the wrong color. But I was too eager to get it done and get on the lake - and the fashion police were on vacation...

Step 10: Put on the Rubberized Pipe

This stuff is great, cut to size and put it on the pipe, then you pull off the tape from the 2 edges and it sticks together. And its permanent, its been thru a lot of soaking and has never shown any hint of ungluing

Step 11: Put on a Protective Plastic Foam

I thought that the wood straight on the car roof was probably going to scratch it eventually, so I put on a plastic foam runner inches wide and glued it on with a glue gun.

I thought gluing foam onto wood would not prove resiliant to the weather, pressures and movement, but Ive been proved wrong - luckily.

Step 12: Setup on the Car

OK, we are done now.
- Place the rack on the car
- Put the windsurfer on it
- Strap the whole thing down attaching the hooks of the web straps inside the car to the roof handles.
- Jump in the car, get to the lake and windsurf
Note: I made it so that the rack fits in the back of the car

Ive been using it for 4 months now, shame its the wrong color. You will probably notice that I have a sun roof which is another problem with standard roof racks. Also, I tend to move the back strap up a bit so it goes over the wood (like the front one). This picture was taken at dawn waiting for the sun to come up so I could nip down to the lake.

Other cars? OK so this is a Honda Civic, the roof is incredibly curved and its not rectangular, and very wide, so I reckon any other car should be easier. Enjoy



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You could get more clearance by using 2" X 6" lumber instead of the 2" X 4". Then your sunroof wouldn't have to be open at all. Put your pipes through holes drilled about 1-1/2" below the top of the wood (center the holes at 1-1/2" down that is). To make it cheaper, use a few coats of marine varnish instead of the fiberglass. So what if you have to re-varnish it every few years?

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the 2x6 with marine varnish is a good idea. I guess the 2x4 was cheaper cos I actually had it without buying anything. Nowadays, wood is very cheap, so your suggestion - with hindsight, would be the way to go.

I'd be tempted to put tape on the car paintwork where the straps touch it otherwise it might wear it away in time. A clear weatherproof tape won't show up like duct tape and so won't be too unsightly. Thinking about it, you could also put it on where the rack sits for extra insurance against fretting.

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Interestingly enuf, I never actually had that problem, still dont. maybe the paint is tuff around the door seals. Now I do have an issue with the trunk lid where i slide the surfer (its 12 foot long) up the back of the car, unfortunately I dont think tape would do it. But back in England ... I did apply several coats of laquer to the paint job which gave it a tougher finish - that might be an alternative.

Trying to figure out how you have this attached to the top of the car. Can you show whats going on with the straps? It appears they are going inside the car somewhere. But how do you close the doors without ripping up the seals around the doors?

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mr jumpfroggy was right. I put the rack on, put the windsurfer on the rack, then I open the doors on the left side looking at the car, and put each hook around the grab handle and close the door on them. Then I do the same on the right side of the car, ratchet the straps down, and chuck the ends into the car and close the door on them as well.

I used this system, twice a week for 2 years and had no seal issue at all. the pressure to keep the surfer on the top of the car was pretty hard (dont want the thing shifting in high wind - which of course was always there because that was when I did the best windsurfing!). But the pressure wasnt sliding on the door seal but in one location.

The only one problem I had was with rain, it would seep thru the straps, and when it was torrential outside, it would eventually drip thru the straps... mind you compared with the water on the windsurfer sail it was nothing.

I'm just guessing here, but I imagine you open the doors, then string the straps through. You can close the doors on the straps, they're thin enough not to interfere (for the most part). It may eventually damage the rubber weatherseal on the car body (where the doors meet the car), but then again it may take a long time for that to happen, and you can always replace weatherseal rubber.

Again, this is just a guess.

Hey, I put together a rack for my Corolla using your method.  Mine isn't as polished as yours, but it will do the job.  As you can probably see, I extended the pipes through the wood so I wouldn't have to cut them.  Those ends can be used to attach straps (I've added some pipe caps from the hardware store since this picture was taken, that way the straps won't come off the ends).  I had a bit of a disaster with the construction adhesive, I couldn't get it to cure.  I think my holes were so close in diameter to my pipe that when I slid them on, no adhesive actually made it into the gap.  I drilled a hole through each pipe and ran a long screw through to lock the pipes in place instead.

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putting the pipes thru is a good "add-on", if I make another I'll do the same thing. My rack is still used about twice a week and cos its made of steel and wood, its never needed any maintenance. Thanks.

I haven't yet had a chance to use mine, I just made it last week and it's still too cold for watersports here, but it's ready for a canoe or kayaks when the weather turns nice.  I'm impressed by how sturdy the design is.  With steel+wood design and the straps (900 lb test), I'd put it up against any yakima or thule rack for strength. 

I'm actually building a second one soon, using what I learned from this one.  We have two corollas and it would be great to have a rack on each to do river shuttles (another reason I didn't want to go the thule/yakima route, who wants to buy two $400 racks?!).  I think I'll put the pipes higher in the 2x4, perhaps even on top of the 2x4 in a half-circle groove.  Then I'll drill a hole through the pipes and run a 2 or 3 inch screw through it down into the wood.  That will give me more clearance above the roof of the car, and since all the force on the bars is down, it shouldn't affect the strength.  

Thanks for the great idea!

Actually, you bring up one thing that I noticed with my rack. The pipes should be higher in the 2x4. When I crank the straps down, it gets dang close to the top of the car - especially if the windsurfer has fittings. Your suggestion is a good one, and good reminder to me. I just bought another windsurfer and I have to open the sunroof cos of the fittings - OK when its not raining! So I guess its time to build a Mark II, hopefully you wont want royalties on your improvements!

If you were to simply use a 2x6 or 2x8 for a starting point instead of a 2x4 it would solve the height problem without sacrificing the strength of the thru hole for the pipe to run through. All in all you have designed a great piece of equipment that anyone can make and it should be adaptable to any vehicle. GREAT JOB!!

 No worries on royalties, I've already saved a bunch off buying a rack!

My only concern with mounting the bars on top of the wood is strength.  Running the bars through hole in the 2x4 is impressively strong, so I'll have to make up for that with 1 or 2 screws through each pipe down into the wood, and perhaps a piece of pipe strap on top of all that for insurance.  

My Mark II might get made as early as this weekend.  I'll post pictures as soon as I have some.  

I don't know about Lowes but if you buy your pipe at Home Depot you they will cut it and re-thread the ends for free at the time of purchase. This will allow you to have the exact length you need.

Thanks for the instructable... I have a kayak I have been squishing into my bus... your instructable has encouraged me to come up with a roof-rack solution... thanks again!

years ago i invested in two diameters of pipe insulation. half inch and 2 inch if memory serves, the smaller shoved inside the larger, with the larger as a finer foam. some soft nylon rope (to not scratch the car) threaded through the smaller diameter with a big knot just outside the foam to keep it from pulling through. the ropes are tied through the interior of the car, or to the door column and i use two or three when i need to move larger items. (one in the middle when things are heavier to prevent the load from hitting the higher middle of the roof) for routine use i'd swap out the rope for some friction webbing straps or webbign with stiched on velcro to make a speedier attachement the rope is to hold the foam in place, proper load securing is a different set of ropes/straps.

I made some similar car top carriers for general use, including bringing a sheet of plywood home from a lumberyard. I did not cut the frame to fit the contour of my roof. Instead, I placed a 2 x 4 x 4 block under each corner. I angled each so it made a better fit for its area of the roof. Then I cut four pieces of old rubber hose about 4 inches long and ran a piece of ordinary steel wire through the hole in each. The wire pieces were about 8 inches long each. I drove nails into the frame and wrapped the ends of the wires around a nail. The rubber hose pieces act as cushions between the roof and the carrier. The wires merely hold the hose pieces in place. I think it is an easier way to fit the contours of the roof to the carrier.

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I should add that there was a nail on each of two sides of each block. The wire could go through the inside of the hose and each end of the wire would be wrapped on its own nail.