Dale Wilson Revisits the Channel Cutter
These days machine cutters can produce an array of curves and contours out of a crude foam blank. Every popular design feature can be sculpted with ease, except for one - channels.
Five years ago, upon the release of a router that could cut inlays for carbon wraps and fin systems, and also approximate a channel bottom, Swellnet spoke to three leading channel shapers to get their opinion, one of whom was Dale Wilson from Byrning Spears.
Dale was curious about the technology but still hesitant about its application. “I can see how the tool can work,” said Dale, suggesting they’d be ideal for shallow tail channels. Yet the channels he usually shapes - think deep, sharp, and long - lay beyond the router’s capabilities. He was, however, open-minded about the possibilities.
Fast forward five years, and Dale has again been playing with a router on a machine cutter, this time at Elite Cutting in Tweed Heads. “The program is better,” says Dale, who’s working with Shape3D now, “and I really like what the Elite Cutting crew are doing.”
“We’re just trying different things out,” continues Dale, “We’re getting close. In fact, they can do what I want, the only problem right now is the time.”
The issue at this point is that the bulk of Dale’s orders are customs, with each board slightly different to the one before and after. “The set up time is what slows it,” explains Dale.
As the router is a different cutting head to what’s used on the rest of the board, it takes time to switch out and set it up, and that time has to be billed for.
“Right now,” says Dale, “the set up just ties up the machine too much, and I can do it by hand in half the time. I can’t justify that money for something that’s not yet going to save me time.”
“It may be worthwhile for the guys that don’t have my technique,” admits Dale, who has been shaping channel bottoms for a quarter of a century and has the skill down pat.
“It may also be worthwhile for the production guys who are doing the exact same board 100 times over,” says Dale who, up until a month ago, relied on individual custom orders.
What happened a month ago, you may be wondering?
“I put a photo up [on Instagram] of a twinny with glass on fins and channels,” explains Dale, “and I got 20 orders of exactly the same board!”
“I know the exact photo you’re talking about,” I replied. “And you almost got 21 orders.”
“It’s the best worst thing I’ve done in my life,” sighed an exasperated Dale. “I could’ve just gone print, print, print.”
Yet that experience was an outlier to his bread and butter custom work, which involves individual set up work for each board. Dale’s recent experience with Elite Cutting shows the technology is there, the only obstacle is introducing it into the workflow.
Readers at home may be wondering why shapers who specialise in channels, who’ve built their name around the feature, may advance technology that’ll eventually make their unique handiwork obsolete. To that question, Dale has a simple answer.
“There’s no thrill in mowing foam. Ultimately, it’s the board that matters.”