How to Build Your First Surfboard
by Stephen Pirsch

Stands and Blocks
Hot coat
Art Work
Gloss Coat
Leash Plug
Material Lists
Resin Amounts
Equipment List
Sm Wave Design
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Respirator with dust and vapor cartridges (3M brand with separate 100% dust cartridge).
Tape measure
Magnetic torpedo level
Drill preferably with two handles, variable speed and, 2000 to 3000 rpm.
Hand saw (wood)
Sharpie fine marker pen
Block plane (smallest)
Surform pocket plane
5" rubber/plastic back-up pad with 1/4" shank (for sanding disks on drill)
Hacksaw blade (coarse)
Optional 1" paddle bit to match optional 1" leash cup


Tool Research From - A Compromise For Those Wishing To Replicate Production Surfboard Building Methods

Although the book, How to Build Your First Surfboard, strives to steer builders from the possible wreckage of production building, it is clear most builders would prefer the look of a mass produced surfboard. The following tools and tips will make this more likely, although the first surfboard will, no doubt, still have many imperfections. Hundreds of dollars can be saved by using the following tools compared to industry standard tools. The following has been extensively tested (on 6 boards in 2012) by the author, the expense and labor solely for the benefit of you, the reader (The author already owned the industry standard tools). Be aware these tools are not designed for heavy duty, continuous production use, but will work well for the occasional garage built board.

TOOL #26973834 Drill Master Planer $27.99 with coupon in 2011. Heavy Duty model (similar) is $36. with coupon in 2011. Industry standard Hitachi is $379.


1. This planer has a 1/16" maximum cutting depth. The depth can be doubled to 1/8" by loosening the cutting blades and extending them 1/16"(the tools for this are included). The depth can be tripled to 3/16" by grinding the front plate (the plate on the bottom which adjusts up and down). Put a 3" abrasive cutting wheel on your drill, or a 6" abrasive cutting blade on your sander/polisher (this tool mentioned below) and slowly grind the plate with the wheel almost parrallel to the plate - this will take one to two hours. If you over grind or grind unevenly, it can be filled with 5 minute epoxy. After modification this planer works very similar to the industry standard Hitachi

2. In contrast to surfboard foam planing shown in youtube videos, a planer is designed to be used parrallel to the direction of work (not 45 degrees), Holding at 45 degrees reduces the cutting area by 1/2 which doubles your labor, and increases the possibility of an error.

Note 1: Keep the right side air intake port clear of foam dust which will quickly clog the opening and could cause overheating, although overheating did not occur with the author.

Note 2: The comment above, in Tip #2, caused a 6 page argument in Swaylocks Forum, with the vast majority of production builders arguing for holding the planer at 45 degrees - they state it is faster and more accurate. After extensively testing both methods, the posted results showed negligible differences in time and accuracy, with the parallel method being slightly faster and leaving slightly less planing lines to sand. The author tried to plane as fast as possible without tearing chunks of foam, so...when planing a smaller cut with the angle method he was able to push at a faster rate, thereby achieving comparable totals.
Despite the fact that many on Swaylocks who insist 45 degree planing is correct have much more experience planing than the author, consider the following: With parallel planing it is much easier to get good results with no experience - my friends agree it is much like mowing your yard - you simply line up the front edge of the planer with the last cutting line. With 45 degree planing, it is difficult to know where the edge of the cutters are, and where the cutters are will change if your hand turns slightly. Also; a 45 degree planing cut is slightly concave (due to the cutters being at an angle - imagine the cutters held at 90 degrees and pushed sideways, resulting in a circular depression). The lack of visual cue and concave tend to cause an increase in planing lines (excess foam material left after connecting passes). This excess is negligible after a few hours of practice, but why make a new job harder? So... parallel planing is still recommended.
If a planer was designed to plane at 45 degrees the blades would be at 45 degrees to the planer body, not at 90 degrees.
If a planer was designed to accurately follow curvature it would have a curved surface in front of, and behind the blades, not two flat plates. Testing shows to follow rocker curvature accurately with a planer, it is better to plane crosswise (across the width, at 90 degrees to the stringer). This revelation was the really interesting result of this argument, but no one even commented on the test results for curvature accuracy.
Planers are not designed for surfboard shaping but they save a lot of time on the rough shape.

TOOL #33586157 Polisher/Sander $39.99 with coupon in 2011 - includes assorted 6" hook and loop sandpaper, foam backed hook and loop type sanding pad, and polishing bonnet. Industry standard Milwaukee is $245. - not including the accessories.


1. Buy assorted 6" hook and loop sanding disks at (the sellers of these assorted disks change with availability) If you buy from industrial suppliers you will have to buy an absurd amount of each grit.

2. Initially run sander at lowest speed, and practice on a scrap piece of foam that has been laminated and hot coated. Very slowly sand into the cloth and through the cloth, so you can see what to avoid.

NOTE 1: This purchase is worth it for the accessories alone.

NOTE 2: Hook and loop sandpaper is the best type because it is the easiest, and fastest to change and can be re - used. Hook and loop usually costs more initially (although not with this purchase), but costs less in the end, especially in cost of time.

TOOL #33027418 Trim Router $19.99 with coupon in 2011. The industry standard Ryobi is $99.99.


1. You will need a router bit with 1" long cutter for Fins Unlimited Boxes - 1" bits are rare.

2. A 12"x 6"x 3/16" template can be made out of 3/16" panel board (get 4'x 4' piece at Lowe's. To achieve 5 degree lean on twin or tri fins, an additional 1"x 12" piece of 3/16" panel board can be duct taped to the bottom edge of the template. The entire template can be held in place with Gorilla brand duct tape.

NOTE: By the time you adjust the router and bit, and make a template, you could cut out about 5 boxes by hand. After making template (and practicing) it is faster and more precise with a router. The harborfreight cut out tool can also be used as a router.


2003 by Stephen Pirsch, All Rights Reserved.

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