How Surfboards Are Made
Quadri Abdur June 7th, 2022 Posted In: Articles Tags: Surfing
How Surfboards Are Made
Have you ever thought about how surfboards are made? Even the making of a surfboard involves a lot of science. This post gives you an insight into how surfboards are made.
Having fun in the sun and sand while riding the waves with your friends is hard to beat. However, what most people don’t know, is what goes into making the perfect board in the first place. Foam is first shaped and then coated with fiberglass and resin, before being sanded and ready for use. Then it’s the fins, the leash plug, and a final coat and polish, and your new board is ready to hit the waves!
How Do Surfboards Get Made?
It is possible to make a surfboard in a factory in just a few minutes, or it can take days for a skilled shaper to create one from scratch. However, the process of creating a board is a beautiful union between art and science.
A polyurethane foam core and a fiberglass and polyester resin outer shell make up the typical surfboard. A redwood, basswood, or spruce stringer is typically used in the design if it calls for one. If you prefer, you can use colored fiberglass stringers instead. Depending on the model, wood or fiberglass/resin laminates are used to construct the fin.
Surfboard designers have a long history of experimenting with new ideas and designs. Although there was an attempt in the 1960s to mass-produce surfboards, the vast majority of boards have been handcrafted by skilled surfboard builders. Boards have gotten shorter, longer, and then shorter over the last four decades.
It began with one fin, then two, then three. Builders experimented with different designs to improve the board’s maneuverability. Channels cut lengthwise across the bottom of the board have been used by some board builders to improve stability.
Surfboard Making Process
The majority of surfboards are handcrafted in small surfboard shops, one at a time. Surfboard builders use various methods and materials, but here is a typical process of how surfboards are made:
Creating the foam core
The foam core is constructed with big molds in the surfboard shape. To prevent the foam from sticking to the mold, the mold is constructed of two halves, with the inner halves lined with special paper. Thereafter the mold is heated, and the two halves are welded together.
To begin the process of creating a dense white foam, the polyurethane chemicals must be heated before they can be added to the mold. Surfboard makers refer to this step as blowing blanks. Later the mold is kept for 25 mins, and the foam core is removed and opened to harden.
Adding the stringer
After the core hardens, it is then cut in half vertically from the nose to the tail. The two pieces of the core are reassembled and glued using a thin stringer. To protect the board from splitting in two, stringers are a crucial component.
Shaping the core
A wooden template is used to trace the shape of the final board onto the raw core. Then, the saber saw cuts away the outline. Starting at the bottom of the blank, a power planer smoothes and contours the surface to its final form. No templates or automated equipment are used here; just a surfboard builder’s professionalism and skilled touch are needed.
Once done with the bottom, the builder then flips the board over and shapes the top of the bottom. A power sander is used to eliminate any ridges left by the planer, and a hand plane is used to shape the stringer. Coarse sandpaper is used to sand the rails or the sides of the board. After a final sanding with fine paper, the location of the fin is marked and the builder’s signature is added, and the blank is ready for lamination.
Laminating and Glassing the Exterior Shell
To make the surfboard’s hard outer shell, the shaped blank will be coated with fiberglass and resin. Using compressed air, the blank is first thoroughly cleaned. If the board is meant to be colored or decorated, acrylic paint is sprayed or airbrushed directly onto the foam. It is then trimmed to fit the blank using a fiberglass cloth that has been put on top of the paint.
Decks are first laminated using urethane resin. To create a laminating resin, a polyester resin is combined with another chemical known as a catalyst. It begins a chemical process that will harden the resin within 15 minutes of being applied. Using a rubber squeegee, the resin is poured over the fiberglass and distributed uniformly.
All of the fiberglasses must be encased in resin, and no place must be left bare; this is known as Glassing. The board is turned over and the procedure is repeated on the other side after the deck is complete. Second layers of fiberglass and resin are applied to both sides to increase the board’s rigidity and wear-resistant qualities. When dried, the laminating resin has an adhesive and rubbery feel.
Putting the Filler Coat and the Fin
The next step is to apply a filler coat or sanding resin, which is the second layer of resin. Surface defects in the laminating resin are filled with the filler coat. The wax in this resin is sometimes referred to as a hot coat resin. To harden entirely, these resins utilize a slightly different chemical combination.
First, a layer of varnish is applied to the deck, and then the board is turned over. Laminating resin and fiberglass tape are used to attach the fin. The bottom of the board and the fin are then given a filler coat once the fin resin has dried. Once it has dried on both sides, a tiny hole is drilled through it for the leg leash to be attached to it. The leg leash is an elastic cable, sometimes made of medical tubing that the surfer connects to one ankle. When the surfer falls, the leg leash prevents the board from drifting away.
Sand and finish the new board
A little sanding is required to remove any excess resin. To prevent gouging the fiberglass, the rails and other strongly curved surfaces are sanded by hand, rather than using a power sander.
Any remaining sanding dust on the board is removed by blowing it with compressed air. Decal or color graphics may be applied to certain boards at this stage, depending on the design. This is followed by one last layer of glossy resin, which is brushed over the surface of the wood. This final gloss coat, like the previous two coats of resin, is mixed with a catalyst and hardens in 15 minutes. At least 12 hours are required to allow the shine layer to solidify on the board. The final steps include sanding with sandpaper, buffing, and polishing the board.
In the course of its creation, a surfboard is subjected to many rounds of visual inspection. Upon removal from the mold, the blank is examined for flaws such as voids and other flaw-like features. Shaping takes place in a well-lit environment so the builder can see any irregularities, which is essential for the board’s aesthetic and function. After sanding and polishing, the board is given a final examination to verify that it satisfies the specifications of the builder.
Material Safety and Environmental Concerns
Some of the materials and procedures used in constructing a surfboard are harmful. Surfboard makers need to be aware of the hazards and utilize suitable safety equipment while making their boards. There are poisonous and combustible polyurethane compounds utilized to produce the foam core of the mattress.
This procedure necessitates the use of explosion-proof fume extraction equipment and close monitoring of the temperature and humidity in the workspace. So, it is best to avoid inhaling the fine foam dust that forms during the shaping process. Wearing a dust mask is mandatory for this work. Ultimately, using a respirator during glassing is crucial while working with laminating resin because of the harmful gases it emits.
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