Home shaping a balsa blank

stunet's picture
stunet started the topic in Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 10:38am

About a month ago I bought a balsa blank from Riley Balsa Wood Surfboards. I scoped it on eBay, placed a bid, and picked it up the following weekend. Also managed to squeeze an interview out of him at the same time.

Here are a few shots of the blank so far:

As purchased. The blank has a recycled polystyrene core with 20mm veneer on top and 15mm veneer on the bottom, it also has a cedar stringer and tail block. Aside from the stringer the strength comes from the solid balsa rails that are made of layered balsa, each strip about 10mm wide with about ten strips in total.

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The blank cut to planshape. I got the template from Blending Curves.com (great website), it's a 7'6" gun, good for big days at the point.

First hitch in the process: it's fucken hard to cut curves into wood! Unlike soft foam you can't just slice a saw around the planshape, you've gotta hack and chop...well, I had to hack and chop. Because of this I chose not to cut directly to the outline but about half an inch to an inch off it. It meant way more sanding and planing but at least there'd be no stray hacks into the outline.

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What I've been working on: a cheap saw horse from Bunnings with $15 of pine attached to it and fashioned into a shaping stand. You'll notice the hired help hard at work sanding.

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His photography skills are on par with his sanding skills.

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After about 4 or 5 session in the shed one side of the board is now finished. Doesn't look too bad either, though you're gonna have to trust me on that as I don't have photos to prove it.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 10:55am

Will upload some more photos over the weekend.

udo's picture
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udo commented Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 11:10am

No surfboards in the roof space ............but ....do I spy some eps blanks up there ?
and a wafer in 2 pieces on the bench

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 11:14am

Nah Udo, that's a door. One of those folding concertina numbers. And the portable board is/was a 6'4" Channel Island that's gonna get turned into a couple of handplanes.

Took your advice and moved all my guns from the rafters to a stand under the house. 

wildenstein8's picture
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wildenstein8 commented Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 12:24pm

"Nah Udo, that's a door."

Looks like you're shaping a door. Jokes. Good on you for shaping your own board, I've done a few myself recently but never out of wood. What tools are you using?

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 12:38pm

Bog standard saw for the cut to planshape, a small $20 block plane, plus sanding block and sandpaper. Also used a sanding disc fitted to an electric drill to sand the tail block and the hollow at the front of board where the rocker won't allow the block plane to grab.

That's all really.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 12:45pm

Is that the first board you've shaped Stu ?

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 12:53pm

Third actually. But it's the first one in a bloody long time. First balsa one, too.

Why?

trippergreenfeet's picture
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trippergreenfeet commented Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 1:04pm

Having the rails attached first before the outline is sorted really makes a lot more work for sure.

Best way doing balsa laminate is to get the top and bottom skins on, then cut the outline, accounting for how much extra will be added when the rails are placed on. Then put the rails on, if ya cut the outline accurate, the rail will only need sanding to shape without having any wobbles.

If ya have wobbles in the rail, get a length of 4x2, stick sandpaper to it and run it back and forth over the rail, sorts it out real quick.

These are things I picked up from spending many an hour in Bert Burger's Sunova factory watching and lending a helping hand....always pays to pay attention to the masters.

I'm keen to see how this finishes up Stu, shaping a balsa has been high on my list of things to do for a while now. Maybe you might just give me the inspiration I need to get my arse into gear.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 1:11pm

I was just thinking it was keen of you to make your first board out of balsa. Adds another dimension of difficulty I imagine.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Friday, 13 Jun 2014 at 1:27pm

I was gonna make one out of foam, even organised to pick up a blank at Brookvale, but then I thought about the foam dust. Don't really care about myself, I can wear a mask, but there's all sorts of kid stuff laying around the shed. I don't want a layer of carcinogenic dust settling on it. 

So I had the idea of making a balsa board, which is harder no doubt, but achievable with a few tools. I'm gonna get it glassed down at The Glass Hut at North Wollongong, which used to be Dylan Longbottom's factory but now been given a makeover.

While I was chatting to the fellas at The Glass Hut they said they had a shaping bay for hire so after this board is done I'm gonna knock out a short, flat fish from more conventional material.

@TGF, go for it. Aside from the end goal I've been enjoying the process; a few beers in a well-lit shed on a cool dark night is good for the soul. Oh yeah...

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 commented Wednesday, 23 Jul 2014 at 9:55am

How's this project progressing Stu?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Wednesday, 23 Jul 2014 at 10:03am

Will likely finish it this week Wingnut. I'll post photos when it's done.

groundswell's picture
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groundswell commented Monday, 28 Jul 2014 at 11:26pm

Any updates?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 at 8:15am

Finished the shaping, no photos but. Next stage coming up.

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming commented Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 at 4:21pm

Nice, always wanted a balsa board.

There is actually balsa trees in the jungles of Mentawai's, would love to have a grown and shaped in the Mentawai's balsa board.

For further reference and common sense.

General Social issues: Rita Panahi & Lauren Southern
Indigenous issues: Jacinta Price and Anthony Dillion
Gender: Debra Soh.
Islam: Armin Navabi & Brigitte Gabriel
Population: Dick Smith

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 commented Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014 at 9:37am

So, how's it progressing stu?

Photo's ... c'mon, show us some more pickies ... ;-)

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 at 8:25am

Kinda ground to a halt at the moment Wingy. I took a week off recently expecting to find time to finish it but the kids took up all free time. Soon...hopefully.

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 commented Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 at 4:53pm

How ya go Stu, u get it finished?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

wingnut's picture
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wingnut commented Wednesday, 19 Nov 2014 at 11:22am

The title is a bit deceiving...it's not really a "balsa"...its a compassed, veneer, composite etc...

Credit due to Mark Riley for pushing balsa...they way he sourced info on how to shape them from other shapers was deceitful...

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Thursday, 1 Jan 2015 at 2:36pm

Updates ?

udo's picture
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udo commented Wednesday, 25 Mar 2015 at 6:41pm

Mr Nettle ,is this board finished yet ?

bigtreeman's picture
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bigtreeman commented Monday, 13 Apr 2015 at 8:33am

Hi Stunet, for the next woody, get a spokeshave. It's like a two handed wood plane, you drag it towards you. Just the best thing for doing curves in wood ( better than sex ;) I got 2 for about $40.
Haven't tried it yet but if really well sharpened would probably make quick work of a foam blank without the dangerous dust, just shavings.
I haven't got foam, could someone try this and tell the good folks if it works, could make the industry safer.

Go well,
Colin

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 8 Sep 2015 at 7:23pm

Mr Nettle......Outer island instagram some nice balsa guns......whats happening with yours ?

wellymon's picture
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wellymon commented Tuesday, 8 Sep 2015 at 7:37pm

haha ground to a halt Udo in august 2014 apparently!
One year ago.?
The cobwebs are growing, the kids are growing and SN editorials are growing;)

Great things take time IMO

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

Roy Stuart's picture
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Roy Stuart commented Wednesday, 9 Sep 2015 at 5:37am

Blades have to be ultra sharp to cut balsa without tearing, abrasion is safer.

udo's picture
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udo commented Wednesday, 9 Sep 2015 at 6:24am

Roy,what do you think of using a Barrell planer on balsa ?

Roy Stuart's picture
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Roy Stuart commented Wednesday, 9 Sep 2015 at 6:44am

I've never used one on a surfboard, I'm not fond of them so not the best person to ask. Probably with small cuts and high speed it's ok. I used to use a handsaw, a rasp and a sanding block, but the deck and bottom curves were all bent and laminated in so only needed fine tuning rather than shaping.

wingnut2443's picture
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wingnut2443 commented Thursday, 23 Jun 2016 at 10:01am

Wet weekend and no surf, you were in the shed looking for pics of steph, but, the real question remains - did this board get finished?

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Tuesday, 3 Apr 2018 at 7:42am

Updates .....shaped and glassed Yet ?
Could be some new inspiration in the Swellnet camp to finish this 4 yr project.

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Tuesday, 3 Apr 2018 at 9:59am

Ha ha...sitting in the shed, up above my old mags and books. However, I just shaped a fish and I'm gonna glass it this week. All on vid with and edit to come.