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Learn to shape a surfboard from the famous Johhny "V" Voxlund in Haiku Maui.

Other episodes of this project:
Build A Surfboard Episode 2: Sanding and
Episode 3: Laminating and Vacuum Bagging

Johnny starts with a urethane foam "blank" he gets at a local supplier "Fiberglass Hawaii".
The blank is made by "US Blanks". He asked for the 9'5" blank with the maximum "rocker".
Rocker is the curve of the bottom that makes a board look like a banana from the side.

The workbench or "rack" supporting the board in this photo is padded with carpet scraps. It allows him to support the board on its edge or flat like a table while shaping. The fluorescent sidelights lining the room at elbow height let him see the smallest irregularity or bump on the board's bottom.

Johnny shaped surfboards and windsurfing boards fulltime for many years and has worked as "shadow shaper" for other famous shapers. Now he only makes a few boards a year. He charges a couple of thousand dollars for a board. He specializes in high end custom boards for discerning amateur surfers. He says "people pretty often think they're bad surfers. Usually it's the board that's bad. There's been a revolution in board design in the past few years."

Words music and photos by Star & Tim.

Step 1: Blanks

A "blank" is a block of foam shaped like a surfboard. Usually a blank contains one or more "stringers" which are lengthwise strips of wood that give the middle of the board extra strength.

Here's Fiberglass Hawaii's stock of blanks at their store in Kahului Maui.
These are mostly made by "US Blanks", which is a new company.
Until a few years ago a company "Clark Foam" made 90% of the blanks in the world. They molded a huge variety of blanks so you could order one very close to any shape you wanted. The molds are made of two large pieces of concrete with a hollow cavity between. Two-part urethane is mixed and poured into the mold which is clamped shut. The urethane expands and puts huge pressure on the mold. The amount of urethane put into the mold determines the density of the blank. The concrete mold prevents it from expanding too much and being soft. After the blank is taken out of the mold, it's sawed down the middle and a thin wooden "stringer" is glued in place.

In 2005 "Grubby" Clark, the founder of Clark Foam unexpectedly closed his business and smashed his hundreds of molds with an earth-moving machine. That caused a shortage of blanks in the industry. Many shapers couldn't make boards. Some shapers started experimenting with styrofoam and natural materials for their surfboards. Several new urethane blank manufacturers have started up, but it's still not possible to get the range of blanks Clark used to carry.

Johnny now has to order a much larger blank and cut off a lot more foam than he used to.
Many shapers use computer-controlled milling machines to make their boards. They don't care how thick the blank is to start out. A rectangular block would be fine for them.
OMG I LOVE THIS!!! I don't get to surf too often but I'm going to try to do it more. Ever since i went surfing in Hawaii a few weeks ago and came back to the Coast I haven't stopped thinking about surfing. It makes me feel so happy and free :D
Thanks for the awesome surfboard guide. Shapers rock!<br> <br> <a href="http://surfboardsale.com.au">The Great Australian Surfboard Sale</a>
where can you get blanks at?
Freakin' Awesome 'ible. Thanks!
That is excellent, and I love the workshop, it's just awesome!
Excellent job, thanks!<br/><br/>The rise, dominance and self-imposed fall of &quot;Grubby&quot; Clark is fascinating. Here's a <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.getoutdoors.com/goblog/index.php?/archives/203-Endless-Summer-On-Hold-Surfboard-Makers-Shooting-Blanks.html">copy of his 'I'm-quiting-the-biz' fax</a> and a link with <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.surfline.com/surfnews/article.cfm?id=1624">many opinions about the man and his motives...</a><br/>
Sweet! I get told I should make surf boards... I can't wait for the rest of the series! :D
I can't wait for the next steps. This is really neat. :D
Wow! Now if only i lived near some water...

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Bio: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output ... More »
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