Coloured foam makes blanks that aren't
“New? Bloody hell no, I’ve been making them for years!”
“Really? How long have you been making them?”
“Aww, maate, thirty years at least.”
I’m speaking to Graham King about his new - to my eyes - foam swirl blanks. A simple premise, a small squirt of colour is added to the polyurethane mix just before the foam goes off, with the end result an abstract flourish of colour set against white foam.
You've seen resin tint swirls before; a complex procedure done during the glassing process. Well, Graham's new/old foam swirl blanks achieve a similar result, except the colour is in the foam not the lamination.
The thought strikes me that perhaps I have seen them before and not known the difference..? Anyway, I'm too far into this story to stop.
The blanks caught my eye, firstly because they’re, erm, eye-catching, and secondly because with the current squeeze on laminating and finishing - some shapers have been waiting six months to get work done - the blanks give the same finish as resin swirls, except without the complexity. They take two, perhaps three, steps out of the laminating process, meaning less time in the bottleneck.
I asked Graham about the process that led to his discovery of foam swirl blanks and his answer was, unsurprisingly, matter-of-fact.
“No big story. I don’t know why I did it,” says Graham. “I just thought, ‘I’ll try this’, so I got some colour and squirted it in, and that’s what happened.”
When I put it to Graham that if it was so easy everyone would be doing it, he expands on it slightly.
“Yeah well, quite a few people have copied it but they can’t get the same result,” explains Graham. “They look bloody horrible. And one of those US manufacturers tried it and they fucked it up - made it look hideous.”
Timing, as it turns out, is everything when making foam swirl blanks. If the colour goes in too early it gets mixed right through the blank and the end result is a solid colour. The colour has to be added very late in the process. Which is a dangerous proposition when a toxic cocktail is getting mixed into a new chemical state.
“If you see me with one hand you’ll know what’s happened,” laughs Graham.
Graham King has been working in the surf industry since the late 1950s, shaping and finishing boards, and since the 1960s he’s run South Shore Foam, supplying blanks for other manufacturers. In 2018, he moved from the Sutherland Shire, where he’d been located since the early-70s, to the Tweed Coast.
Since the move, he’s used Sanded Australia to distribute some of his blanks, including the foam swirl numbers. John Dowse from Sanded says that the blanks have proven very popular.
“Every order we sell through,” says John. “We keep upping the order. We’re waiting for our next delivery and we’ve upped the amount again.”
And the typical customer? “Not always, but we’re mainly selling them to the backyarders,” explains John. “They might be learning how to cut lap and resin swirl, and those things are a lot more difficult than a basic glass job, but with these blanks it’s all there in the foam.”
“And,” adds John, “every single blank is individual. They’re like pieces of art.”
I ask John about changes to the blank from adding colour but he defers to Graham: “He’s the guy with his hands in the mold.”
“So many people say that the swirl blanks go better,” says Graham when I enquire.
“In fact, I’ve had one manufacturer even ask me to put white colour into the blanks. Like, the colour is there but it’s not visible against the white foam. He preferred them that way.”