Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Uke progress

The uke is progressing. Got the body and skins all glued up. Here a couple of progress pics. Next will be a fretboard in maybe ebony or some nice walnut if I can find some.
I always put little notes inside of my projects.

New Supertanker Fin

After a horrifying fin-loss on my 9-8 super old school board, I decided to give the board a new fin instead of just repairing it. I figured it was a good opportunity of experiment a little. So I decided to replace the big D-fin with a more modern hatchet fin.
Scientific analysis yielded the optimum placement of the fin. Yeah right....this looks about right

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I thought I'd try something different. My son is a guitar player he and wanted me to build him a guitar, so I thought i'd try something smaller first.

Of course, all the wood here is scrap from other project. I'll pop for some ebony or walnut for the fret board.

Those scrap looking pieces are braces for the lining while the glue dries.

Belly with a different sound hole with a floating triangle in it.
Neck getting roughed out.

Friday, February 6, 2009


For the shaper, I think fins are the most rewarding component to make. There are lots of shapes and styles, and if you like multiple fins, lots of different setups. This is the fin on my 8-3 rounded pintail. The first week out, surfing at low tide and I tagged the reef! Bummer. The beauty of wood is just glue it back together, re-glass and its good as new! I figured this was bound to happen sooner or later, given the deep swoop of the fin and the big moment arm. To date, I've reglassed the fin back on 3 times...I hope that is the last time.

Here are some keel fins for a 6-7 cedar fish. I originally milled the wood at 3/8-inch thick and then thought that that was too thin to foil a 9-inch long fin. So I added a second 3/8 layer for final thickness of 3/4-inch. This was a good thickness as it allowed me to foil the entire fin.

Fins getting roughed out by hand. Given the depth of the fin, the max thickness was placed about 40 percent back from the nose base and angled back at something like a 30 degree angle.

Here are the shaped fins on the lamainated board, ready to be glued on. I glued them on and then glassed them with 4 oz. cloth on the board.

This a big D fin in a basic sunburst patternThe red is redwood and the other is cedar.

All finished and glassed on. Talk about old school! This is the fin for doing those graceful drop-knee cutbacks. I can' do them to well, but they do look nice!

These are a set of quads of a 6-4 fish. I copied a set of fins from Rain*** and the setup from a friends board. Great setup. They are small but were a lot of work in that there are four, and the two sets need to be identical in their foil for it to work properly. I really like this set up.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I used to be a finish carpenter and sometime cabinet maker. For those of you who have done this kind of work you know there are lots of tools needed for finish stuff. When I was doing that for a living I probably spent and hour and a half each day just unloading, setting up and then putting all the tools away again into the old work van. Got kinda old after a while. After I quite carpentry for money and went back to consulting in geology (very few hand tools!) and finished building our house on Whidbey Island, I pretty much put my tools away and did not touch them for about 7 years.

When I got back into surfing and wanted to build a wood board, I got out my old hand (non-power) tools and used them. I used my chop saw for my first board, but then the saw got stolen out of the garage and I did not replace it. I also used my table saw, thickness planer, router and belt sander. All great tools and all very noisy and messy. I work in my garage and the laundry machines are in there too....so my wife was not really happy with the fine wood dust everywhere! So, I gradually stopped using the power tools and now, about the only power tool is use is the table saw for all the rough milling, the drill press and a little with a jig saw. I learned that I did not need to thickness plane the wood for the skins...milling on the table saw and a bit of planing by hand with a #5 works really well. Pre-glass sanding can be done by hand, although it is still messy. It takes a little more time, but you don't have to worry about power sanding through the thin skins. Once the glass goes on, the sanding can be done wet, so there is absolutely no dust. Nice!

So my collection of had tools for surboards include a #5 hand plane, a short sureform plane, a Stanley mini-plane, a Stanley spoke shave, a Japanese-style pull saw, short western-style saw and assorted chisels. Its a lot more enjoyable sweeping up wood shavings rather than wood dust, and probably a lot better for the lungs. The quiet tools allow my to work in the early morning or late at night and not disturb the family or neighbors. Nothing like the whine of a router at 6 am on a Sunday!

Fins are fun to build. After ripping the wood pieces on the table say and glueing them up, all the shaping is done with the spokeshave and a coupel of chisels for the tightly curved areas. Then its just a matter of sanding to get the foil smooth.

I'd really like a bandsaw...that would make resawing wood much easier than my table saw. I like to use old recyceled wood for my projects, so resawing is a necessary evil. Maybe some day I'll get one. But until then, I'll just use what I have and be content with it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Favorite Board

This is a pretty special board. Its made of cedar that is probably 40 years old, and has been drying on a house in Encinitas, just waiting for me to come along! This wood was given to me from a builder doing a remodel on the house. I took as much wood as I could strap on the top of my car and it saved him from having to take it to the dump. It was originally milled as 1x6 tongue and groove siding. I remilled it as 3/16x2 boards, glued up as a skin. Using old wood is great...the wood lives on with a new use and its history is imprinted into it. This wood is full of nail holes, when bookmatched, gives it a really cool pattern.

I tried to keep the rails fairly round, pretty much 50-50 for the nose and mid section going to probably a 60-40 at the tail. This has worked out really well. There is plenty of speed and enough suction on the rails to make it a pretty good nose rider. The bottom has two channels which I think gives it good speed.

I copied a pretty famous fin and am really pleased and surprised at how well it works. I made the fin from cedar with pine accent strips. The pine came from pallett I found at the office. It's full foiled and is a maximum of about 3/4-inch thick, with the max thickness at about 1/3 of the chord length. Surprisingly, this fin makes the board super loose, and not surprisingly, gives lots of bite, even when up on the nose. It only seems to lose its bite just after takeoff, if I turn to early and am high on the wave, then it kind of shimmys around and quickly bites in as I pick up speed. I did not add any reinforcing to the bottom skin only because I did not even think about it! The skin on the bottom is only 3/16". So, with the fin glassed on, the whole thing flexes a little from side to side. I don't know if this has any effect on anything, but there are some people who believe that flexy fins give lots of drive off the bottom turn.