I use all of may favorite hand tools to shape my first surfboard.
These late summer evenings I’ve been enjoying dropping into a state of loose focus as I shape my first surfboard from a slab of air-dried cottonwood. An aroma reminiscent of farm animals wafts up as my plane curls ribbons of excelsior. I tested this wood’s properties many years ago when I carved the seat of my prototype Captain’s Chair, a send-off on the traditional Windsor. The grain tears easily and has a fibrous, papery quality, but it is very stable, dense and tough to split. Plus it has a low ‘specific gravity’ (0.38) which means it floats well. I’m especially enjoying returning to the simple hand tools that got me started experimenting with furniture making in my twenties- a jigsaw, an assortment of spokeshaves and drawknives, various hand planes, scoops and gouges.
When shaping, I’m thinking about wave dynamics and the performance of a hull when static and when under rapid acceleration and how water will propel forces upon the board from all directions. I’m mindful to leave enough material for adequate buoyancy, but am carving concavities to mimic the way I round my shoulders when body-surfing, my arms pinned to my sides like steering rails, my feet digging in for balance. I hope to have my first surfboard ready to launch when the south swell returns to Doran.
The south swell returns to Doran after the first storms of autumn