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Balin Surf Gear

Balin Surf Gear


FCS Fin Systems


Shaping Your Own Surfboard.
By Alan Colk

A Step by step guide to shaping your own surfboard




For me it started with the intrigue of the design revolution in the late 60’s and 70’s. I had started surfing on a 9’6” Malibu. My friends and I had heard about some shorter boards in the states and we started cutting the noses and tails off our old boards and reshaping and reglassing them. We added concaves and different tail shapes and fin sizes, deeper with flex. Our minds were running wild with design ideas as we experimented.
One morning I was on my way to work. I was walking though the back streets of Melbourne. And I came upon a shop, Marine fiberglass and in the window was an 8’ surfboard blank. I bought that blank and took it home. My dad had let me set up some stands in his garage. I had made a template of the new design I wanted. I made some measurements on the blank and drew the shape around the template. Using a wood panel saw I cut the outline and profiled the thickness. Then I surformed the shape and used sanding blocks to smooth out the foam. It was a 7’9” x 24” pod pin. With a blunt 20” nose. Deep V bottom and a deep flexi fin. I glassed it in 2x 10 0unce layers of fiberglass cloth and sanded it by hand. It weighed 22 pounds. I did my first re entry on that board.
I had the shaping bug and kept buying blanks , experimenting with different designs and improving my technique. I became more and more involved in the industry and learnt from many different shapers and manufacturers. And here I am still shaping and innervating.



1 SHAPING ROOM with side lights. See room description
2 X SIDE LIGHTS Fluro lights either side off the stands at a height approximately just above the board so as to cast a light across the board and highlight the defects to be removed
1 x Pencil,
1x Tape measure
1x Set square
1x Long straight edge
1x TemplateDIY Shaping Workshops
1x Thickness gauge .
1x Hand saw or jig saw.
1x Hand electric planner. 4” Hitachi or Makita.
1x Surform .
1x flat hard sanding blocks.60 grit
1x rubber. Sanding block. 60 grit
1 xsoft pad 120 grit
1x soft gauze pad
1x shaping gauze sheet
1x sponge pad.
1x dusting brush
1x Eye safety goggles
1 set of Ear plugs or Ear muffs
1x Shapers dust mask or resperator
Protective clothing.
Safe foot wear
These tools can be all purchased from SHAPERS AUSTRALIA.

Working with electric hand tools and sharp hand tools can cause injury be careful and use safe work practices.
Remember that surfboard materials are highly flammable. Keep your workplace tidy, no bare flames or smoking in the area. Check all electrical fittings for faults. Electrical work such as fitting the fluro lights should be performed by a qualified electrician. A chemical fire extinguisher is a good idea for safety.

TEMPLATES. Material. Three ply, card board or acrylic sheet.


The blank supplier will sell you a blank. You can tell them what length and shape you are intending of making and they will sell you the closest blank they have to that shape. They will also fit custom stringers or set the blanks to your curve.


A room approximately 15’x 8’ is a standard size shaping bay. It allows the lights to be
mounted at a good distance from the board to maximize the lighting.
If possible make some stands as in my drawing and fix them to the floor or use heavy weights so they don’t move. The stand must be padded with sponge rubber or foam to protect the foam blank during shaping.
Side lights ( Fluros) are fitted along the walls at the stand height. The lights are set at the correct height to cast across the blank showing up imperfections and where it needs to be sanded. Good lighting is essential for accurate shaping. Shelves or a work bench is essential for keeping your tool in good condition. It is also a safe place to put your planer, rest it on a pad so the blade doesn’t touch the bench.


Templates are used to make the outline. They are usually created from curves made up from previous boards, or a number of curves. The templates can be made from 3ply timber, cardboard, or acrylic sheet. If I am making a template for say a 6’ short board.
I would place the old board on top of the acrylic sheet. Hold the sheet securely at the stringer nose and tail and mark these positions on sheet for datum points.. Using a pen I hold it at 90 degrees to sheet and draw around the board making an accurate outline.
If the sheet is thin enough you can cut around the line with scissors or snips. Otherwise a jig saw can be used as on ply wood. When cut out I hand plane and sand to the line. Sight down the template curve and straighten any bumps.



Mark the length and the width you want your board. The widest point is usually around centre of the length. Mark widths for nose and tail 12” back from tip of nose and 12 “ up from tail. If the board you are shaping is the same widths as the board you took the template from, hold the template at the datum points nose and tail at the stringer. Draw your outline onto the foam blank. Check back over all your measurements before you cut out the blank. MEASURE TWICE CUT ONCE.
If the dimensions are to be different. You will need to run the outline through your widths nose centre and tail. Adjust the curves to make a smooth curve through the outline.
Repeat for the other side of the stringer to complete the whole outline.


Cut around the outline close, but allow enough to clean up with a sanding block so you don’t leave saw marks in the rail. When cutting through the stringer, hold the saw and blank firmly and cut slowly, so the saw doesn’t jump and break the stringer. Keep the saw vertical so as to make an accurate cut. The more accurate and finer you work at each step, the easier the next step will be and the more accurate the finished shape will be. When the outline is cut out, use your coarse flat sanding block to straighten and smooth the outline of the board. Site down the rail and take out any bumps, making a nice clean outline.


Using the electric hand plane you will shape the curve, thickness , foil and rails. You may want to measure the rocker in the blank and the rocker in the board you are copying, to compare and see where foam needs to be removed. Place a straight edge along the stringer and take measurements at nose and tail. And a few other regular positions. Compare measurements on board and blank and calculate the cuts needed to remove foam. I like to take only one full cut off the deck first. Slowly move your planer from nose to tail holding it on a slight angle across the line of the cut. This cuts the foam smoother to reduce tearing, cleans of the skin and keeps the harder foam near the deck. You want the harder foam near the deck of the board to reduce the likelihood of depressions from your feet.


I then flip the blank over to plane the bottom. Measure the thickness and see where the foam needs to come off next. If your blank was matched up close to your new shape when you bought it, there won’t be to many cuts to take. When you have calculated how many cuts to take. You can usually run one full cut off the whole bottom. Measure again adjust you plane depth of cut to a finer setting. If you need to cut more rocker or tail lift take shorter cuts from the apex of the curves . Like one cut from say 12”s one from 6” one from 3”. If you are getting close adjust planer finer and go again. Planing in the concaves and vees you keep the paner on a fairly fine cut. For concave take more cut toward the centre of the concave and run the cuts to flow smoothly into the bottom rocker.
For vee, start towards the centre of the length of the board, nearer the rail and take one cut to tail. Then, say half that distance another cut and half that again. Blend the cuts across so they apex at the stringer. For single double concaves, you can sand the double concaves between the fins in with a rubber sanding block.
Remember the more accurate you plane the blank the easier it will be to hand finish. Take your time work fine.


When the top and bottom are finished planed , mark a line around the rail to give you a point to cut to. Hold the board you are copying and feel the rail shape. See where the deck rolls into the rail and where the centre of the rail line is as it rolls around to the bottom edge. You will want to simulate this , so a series of cuts on different angles and depths are required to make these curves. My first cut is at 45 deg. The full length of the rail. Then a second shorter cut and then a 3rd shorter again. I blend those into one smooth flat at 45 deg. Then commence a series of cuts working my way up the rail onto the deck You can do this methodically with a number of flats. DO NOT PLANE THE BOTTOM EDGE OF THE RAIL. This is your last accurate datum point and will be removed last. If you are nervous with the planer, don’t go to deep. You can use a surform and a coarse sanding block to bring the foam down.


You will probably want to clean up a bit after planning . Clean away the foam shavings and have a good look at what you have done so far. Use your surform and stringer plane to straighten the stringer curve of bumps. site down the stringer and plane out the bumps. If you have planed the bottom nicely you may get away with using a sanding block to smooth out you bottom shape. Otherwise you may need to use the surform first. With your flexi rubber sanding block , sand in and smooth your concaves. Count your strokes and repeat on both sides of stringer. With your finer sanding block take out the scratches from the coarse sand paper. When the bottom looks good flip the blank over and repeat the shaping to the deck.

Now with the deck you will be forming a convex not a concave. Work long ways then diagonally across the board, then long ways going over your sanding action to form the rolled deck First with your hard flat block then use the rubber block. Use the stringer plane to plane the stringer to the same height as the foam as you go. Set the board on its’ edge in the u section of stands. With one rail facing up site down to see how smooth or bumpy the rail is. With the flat block gently sand the rail to straighten bumps and bring the curves closer to your desired rail shape. Long strokes make for smooth lines. With the finer block sand out the scratches from the coarse paper. Repeat for the other rail. Place the board back on the stands bottom down and check out you curves . Hold each rail at corresponding positions and check if you have got them the same. You will probably have to make some adjustment, a bit off here or there. If the top of the rail and deck are looking good you can now shape the bottom edge of the rail. You can do this with the board flat on the stands or on it’s rail as previous.
Using you flat hard block start in the centre. At a 45 deg angle sand from centre out towards nose and tail. Now you will want a nice hard edge in the tail . Be care full and sculpt the rail from a larger radius in the centre to a sharp edge say one third up from tail.


Check your copy board and copy it. Blend the bottom radius along and into the nose. You should be getting pretty close and be using you finer grades of sand paper. Some shapers like to finish with a 150 grit others with a gauze and sponge. Gauzing the rail to finished shape. Hold the gauze between 2 hands and wrap it over the rail. With an even pressure, lighter at the nose and tail firmer in the centre. Run the gauze the full length of the rail. Repeat around the radius of the rail blending out any flats and forming the final rail shape. Keep checking the feel and look compared to the board you are copying. Finish sanding the whole board allowing your side lights to show up scratches or marks. With a sharp blade plane stringer flat to foam with a fine cut so not to tear the foam beside the stringer.


When you are happy with your shape, mark the fin position and sign your work. To mark fin positions use a square and line up along the stringer. For a short board thruster, measure up from the tail 11”to back of the side fin. and 3”to the back of the centre back fin and make a mark on the stringer. Place the square on the 11” mark and along the stringer. Measure from the outside rail in 1 1/8” to 1 ¼” depending on how far in from the rail you want to set your fins. Make a mark with the tip of your pencil. Repeat for the other fin. Lay a straight edge along the bottom . Hold it on the mark for the side fin and approximately 2-3” out from the stringer at the tip of the nose. This measurement depends on the tow in of the fin you require. Draw a line for the base of the side fin to line up with. A 3-4” long line is good. Your back fin mark is there at 3 ¼” and is set along the stringer. Sign your work and write the dimensions.


If you aren’t interested in the finer art of hand shaping or prefer to let the computer shaper do the hard work for you. You may be able to find a computer shaping business that have a generic shape they sell. This means the design belongs to them and is free to be sold without infringing another shapers personal model. Or you can take a sample of your own model and have it copied. DIY Surfboard Shaping Workshops

The pre shape off the computer is very close to the finished shape. At this stage hand tools such as sanding blocks and stringer plane and maybe a tail template is all that is required. You will still need somewhere to do it. There is the possibility of renting a shaping room from a manufacturer and pay them to glass the board for you. Or you can come along to my shaping workshop and even learn the whole manufacturing process including airbrushing artwork. Please contact me for schedule and prices.

Thanks for reading and good shaping