We understand that making surfboards can be very intimidating for the first-timer. Truth is, with a little bit of patience, some good tools, and some proven technique tips, it isn't that hard to turn out a good board on your first try. Our goal at Greenlight has always been to break down the intimidation factor and make board building attainable to those of us who aren't "master craftspeople." (Yet)
Greenlight's Board-Building A to Z gathers the most effective, proven techniques from veteran boardbuilders and organizes them in an easy-to-follow, easy-to-search format. While there is a substantial amount of information here, we have broken the boardbuilding process down to 8 basic components, 3 of which are optional.
All of the information is presented in the order that it typically occurs when building a surfboard. If you are about to embark on building your first board, we strongly recommend that you read the entire guide start to finish, then re-read each section just prior to performing that step. You may want to copy sections of this guide into a word processing program and print them out. They make great bathroom reading, and you can keep it close by in your shaping space for quick reference on the fly. Also consider getting Greenlight's instructional videos which were created with the first time shaper in mind and demonstrate the board building process in a fool-proof manner.
Part 1: Preparation
Making surfboards requires a modest but fairly specialized set of tools. Some of these tools are easy to find at home centers or your local hardware store, but some are trickier to find and only available at specialty board-building suppliers like Greenlight.
It is possible to build a surfboard from start to finish without power tools. If you are only going to build one board (yeah right…), than perhaps it is not worth investing in a full set of power tools. But if you think you are going to build more than one board, we strongly recommend you invest in and learn to use power tools (planer/jig saw/variable speed sander/trim router/power drill) in the board-building process.
There is no one "perfect" list of tools, just like there is no one "perfect" way to build a surfboard. That being said, the following is a list of tools that you need to maximize your chances of getting a good end result.
These shaping tools can be used for both EPS and Polyurethane foam:
- Power Planer (optional, not recommended for your first shape)
- Shaping Weight (a small brick with a clean towel or foam wrapped/taped around it will do fine)
- Jig saw with 4"inch blade OR handsaw (to cut outline)
- G-rasp or Shaping Rasp
- Hard Sanding Block (or wood cut approximately 4"x8"x½"; use with lower grits)
- Soft Sanding Pad (use with higher grits)
- Small Trim plane (planes stringer in flat areas)
- Spoke shave (planes stringer in curved areas)
- Tigershark Shaping Paper (for rough sanding)
- Medium Grit Sandpaper (60-80 grit for smoothing)
- Sandshark Rail Screen (for smoothing rails)
- Versasquare (clear plastic width measuring and fin placement)
- Tape Measure
- Rocker Stick (long, straight piece of wood/metal to measure rocker)
- Combination Square (for measuring board thickness and rail squareness)
- Yard-stick or 2'+ straight edge (for measuring bottom flatness and/or concaves)
- Shaper's Pencil (for marking measurements on blank)
- Drywall Hand Saw (optional, if you are cutting a swallow tail)
- Round Rasp (optional, for shaping the "butt-crack" of a swallow tail)
- Dust Mask
- Protective Glasses
- Resin Spreader (epoxy) or Rubber Squeegee (polyester)
- Clear plastic 1-quart mixing buckets with volume markings
- Mixing sticks (to mix resin and hardener)
- Clear plastic 8oz mixing cups with volume markings (for fin installs)
- Clear plastic 1oz mixing cup with volume markings (for leash plug)
- Sharp, big scissors for cutting fiberglass
- Ink Jet Logo Paper (optional, for printing logos from your computer)
- High-Temp ¾" and 1&½"Masking Tape (for cut laps, hot coats, and covering fin boxes)
- 4" chip brushes (for hotcoating)
- Masking Paper (optional, if you are doing cutlaps)
- Razor blade or Exacto Knife (optional, if you are doing cutlaps)
Fin/Leash Plug Install Tools
- Trim Router
- Power Drill
- Forstner or Holesaw Bit
- Resin Thickening Additive (Cab-O-sil)
- White and/or black resin pigment (optional but looks slick)
- Fin Install Kit (Each fin system manufacturer offers its own specialized install kit)
- Variable Speed Sander/Polisher
- Hard or Medium Sanding Pad (for grinding fin boxes/leash plugs)
- Soft Sanding Pad (for sanding hot coat)
- 80 Grit Adhesive Sanding Disc or sandpaper for hard disc
- Cloth Backed Sandpaper (120, 150, 220, 400)
- Spray Adhesive (optional, if cutting/sticking sandpaper on disc)
- Foam Sanding Pad
- Variable Speed Sander/Polisher (same as used for sanding boards)
- Wool Compounding Bonnet w/backing disc
- Foam Polishing Pad or Polishing Bonnet w/backing disc
- Cutting Compound Surfboard Polish
- Foam Sanding Pad
- Very High Grit Wet/Dry Sandpaper (600, 800, 1000, 1,500, 2,000)
- Micro-Fiber Cloth
Greenlight's prices are competitive with hardware stores/home centers, plus we also have many of the specialized tools (sanding pads, spoke shave, Versasquare, etc.) that you WON'T find at local hardware stores or home centers.
Bottom line, you can find most of this stuff if you hunt around the internet or drive around to hardware stores all day. This is what we did before starting Greenlight. It is much easier and cheaper just to get everything you need from one place. You save on shipping, gas, hassle and time, and you are assured that all of this stuff is tested and proven for surfboard building.
Part 2: Design
Once you have your tool situation sorted, it is time to determine what type of surfboard you are going to make, including several key dimensions and design attributes that will act as guide points for you as you shape.
We could write a book (actually we are sometime soon) on surfboard design principles, but for the purposes of this guide, we are going to assume that you have a basic idea of what type of board you are going to make. If not, we suggest you peruse the websites of various surfboard manufacturers (Rusty, Channel Islands, Lost) and online surf magazine buyers guides (Surfer, TransWorld Surf, ESM) to get a feel for what some basic designs and dimensions are state-of-the-art.
Another no-brainer is to go to a good surf shop and take a good hard look at the boards on the rack. Check out the rockers, rail shapes, bottom contours, and measurements (usually written on the bottom stringer). Focus on boards that are right-sized for your height/weight and the wave conditions you will use the board in. Really good surf shops will have calipers and measuring tapes so you can get more important measurements like thickness at various stages of the board and width in the nose and tail. Before you know it, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what type of board you’d like to make and a pretty good feel for ballpark dimensions.
For more detailed descriptions on the key elements of surfboard design, we highly recommend you sign up for Greenlight’s design newsletters. These are pretty meaty, but they will definitely give you a better understanding of the basic design elements of surfboards and hopefully help refine your thoughts on your final design.
Before you get overwhelmed with design theory, it’s probably a good idea to mention that you should KEEP IT SIMPLE for your first few boards. Don’t go for a triple-wing swallow Bonzer on your first shot. We suggest a shape with clean lines, simple (flat or subtle vee/concave) bottom contours, and no extreme curves in rocker or outline for your first shape. Most beginner shapers choose a small-wave type design for their first board, because they are relatively simple shapes (flat and wide), and the physical consequences of an ill-designed small wave board are certainly less substantial than those of a funky Mavericks Gun.
Once you’ve chosen a certain type of shape, there are several ways to refine your idea into a concrete set of dimensions and final design:
If you want to skip the design process entirely (no shame in this), choose one of Greenlight’s pre-made board templates and print the template out on your home printer. Greenlight has a pretty broad selection of shortboard, fish, hybrid, and longboard templates in popular sizes. All you need to do is select the shape you want, print out the template sheets on your home printer, and cut/tape the sheets together to form a full sized template.
Once you have taped/cut out the full sized template on paper, you can trace this onto Masonite, cardboard, (or a similar thin, flexible board) to make a permanent template, or you can just layout your paper template carefully on the bottom of your surfboard blank to trace the board outline directly from paper to blank.
Tracing an Existing Board
If you want to try to copy an existing “magic” board or other board that you like, you can create a template of this board by tracing its outline on a piece of Masonite or other thin, flexible board. Details on this procedure are outlined in the Making a Template section.
Custom Templates from Free Computer Software
If you want to go the more creative route and design your own shape, there are several free board design CAD programs available on the internet. The two most popular can be downloaded from boardcad.org and akushaper.com. These programs are pretty easy to figure out after about a half-hour of playing with them. Tips and directions on using this software are available on the websites.
These programs allow you to shape the outline, rocker, and even rails and bottom contours of your board and view the board in 3D. Another great feature of these programs is that they calculate the volume of your surfboard, which is very important to determine how well the board will float and paddle.
Once you design a shape that you like in Boardcad or Akushaper, both programs allow you to print out the board outline templates in full size (at a copy center if you feel like spending the $).
On these programs, you can also print out the rocker profile in full size. This can be helpful when you are choosing blanks to make sure your desired rocker can be carved from the blank that you choose. You can even trace this rocker on the side of your blank (if it’s a rectangular blank) to give you exact guidelines when planing/sanding down the black to the proper thickness and rocker profile.
The full-sized paper templates can be used to make a permanent template on Masonite or another hard, flexible material. More details on this process are described in the Making a Template section.
Custom Templates the "Old School" Way
Before computer CAD programs, most shapers made templates using thin, flexible, long battens which were temporarily secured along a Masonite board to create a guideline to cut a suitable curve. Many shapers still use this method, as it is simple and effective.
For more details on making templates with battens, proceed to the Template section.
Part 3: Making a Template
A good template is critical to making a good surfboard. A template is simply a full-sized piece of 1/8” thick Masonite or other thin, flexible material that is used to trace the outline of the surfboard on a raw surfboard blank. If you plan to make a board 8’ or shorter, you can do the entire template in full length. If your board will be longer than 8’, you need to make a “spin” or “flip” template, which has half the outline on one side, and half on the other. This section will give you more detailed instructions on how to create your outline template.
Choose Your Method
In our Design section, we outlined 4 basic ways to make an outline template:
- Greenlight pre-made templates
- Tracing an existing board
- Boardcad/Akushaper CAD templates
- Batten “old school” templates
The first thing you need to do is determine which method you will use to make a template. If you are satisfied with any one of Greenlight’s pre-designed shapes (53 available at last count), then you get to skip the design-stage and go straight into making your template.
If you have an existing board that you want to try to copy, simply trace the outline of an existing board that you want to try to copy.
If you want to create your own design from scratch, you have two basic choices: Free CAD Software or the “old school” batten method. For the CAD method, you need internet access, a computer, and a printer. For the batten method, you need a long, thin flexible “batten” to define your curve, and some small nails/hammer to temporarily secure the batten on the Masonite to define the outline curve you want.
Both methods work well and are pretty easy. The CAD method allows you to “fiddle” with the shape more easily on the computer screen to arrive at your final design. CAD also has the added benefit of calculating volume, allowing you to design the rocker and rails, and allowing you to view the board in 3D.
The biggest benefit of the batten method is that it allows you to visualize the shape in full size as you are creating it. With the batten method, you should be sure of your nose, tail, and wide-point widths before you start, because these points will be defined when you start, and it is a bit of a pain to change these dimensions/locations as you go.
If we had to choose, we would choose the CAD method due to the increased flexibility in design and the ability to determine rocker, thickness, and volume.
All of the four template making techniques will get you to the same point: a curved line drawn on a piece of Masonite. You can get 8’x4’x1/8” sheets of Masonite for under $10 from any home center. You should also get the home center to cut the Masonite in 4 1’x8’ slices, which gives you four straight-edge pieces to make 4 templates. They usually do this for free.
If your board is over 8’ long and you need to make a two-sided “spin” or “flip” template, you simply draw the nose half of the board on one side of the template, and the tail half of the board on the other side. Just make sure that you mark “stringer” points on both ends and top/bottom of the template to mark the point where you will place the template down on the stringer when you trace your outline on the surfboard blank.
If you are making a swallow tail, you do not need to include the swallow tail on the template. Just carry your template out to the end of the rail line and square off the tail of the template. You add the swallow tail later in the shaping process when the board is almost completely shaped.
Once you get that curve drawn on the Masonite, the directions to cut and smooth out your template are all the same. But first, we will outline the various methods of getting curve drawn on the Masonite:
1. Greenlight Templates
Once you have chosen your design, print out all of the template components and cut the sections out. Tape them together using the markings that are printed on each sheet for proper alignment. Once the curve pieces are taped together, you can tape down the paper template (or use 3M Super 77 spray adhesive if you want), making sure the endpoints of the nose and tail are flush with the flat-side of the Masonite. Once the paper template is securely fastened to the Masonite, trace the outline curve with a Sharpie Marker, being careful not to let the paper move or distort as you trace.
2. Tracing an Existing Board
If you are going to make a template from an existing board, the fastest, most accurate method is to clamp your Masonite template board directly to the bottom of the board you are copying. Make sure the flat edge of the Masonite is centered on the stringer, and make sure your clamps are padded enough so that they don’t put pressure dings in the board. Once the Masonite is secure, trace the outline with a Sharpie onto the masonite. Be extra careful to hold the marker vertical as you trace to that you get an accurate transfer of the outline.
3. CAD Templates
Transferring your CAD-designed template to Masonite is exactly the same as making them with the Greenlight Templates. From the software, you print the template in full size on multiple sheets of 8 ½” x 11”paper. Set your printer margins as small as possible so that you use the least amount of paper as you can. Then you tape all of the sections together and cut out the curve on the full sized paper template. It is better to cut OUTSIDE the line than INSIDE. Try to get as close to the line as possible. Once the curve is cut out, you can tape down the paper template (or use 3M Super 77 spray adhesive if you want), making sure the endpoints of the nose and tail are flush with the flat-side of the Masonite. Once the paper template is securely fastened to the Masonite, trace the outline curve with a Sharpie Marker, being careful not to let the paper move or distort as you trace.
4. Batten Templates
To make a template using a batten (long, flexible, thin piece of wood or other hard material), you first need to mark 5 points along the straight edge of your Masonite:
- 12" from Nose
- 12” from Tail
Once you have marked these points, you need to measure and mark the proper widths of your design at each of these points. Use a Versa-square to mark each point and hammer a nail into the Masonite slightly inside each of these points. Hammer two nails at the nose/tail marks to hold the batten in place. The nails act as guide-points for the batten. When you place the batten around the nails (secured by the double nails at the nose/tail), you now have a curve as a starting point. From here, you can place additional nails wherever you want to nudge the batten around and modify the curve to your liking. Once the batten is curved the way you like it, trace the outline with a Sharpie (or pencil) and remove the batten and nails to prepare for cutting the outline.
Cutting and Finishing your Template
Once you have your template traced out on Masonite, you need to cut it out with a Jig Saw and preferably carbide-tipped jigsaw blade. Don’t forget the eye protection and dusk mask, and once again, STAY OUTSIDE THE LINE when you cut. Give yourself a 1/8" or so buffer as you cut out the template. It’s best to have a friend holding the Masonite as you cut, or at least clamp the Masonite securely to a table/work-bench to keep it stable as you cut. You may have to move/relocate the clamps as you go to complete the cut.
With the template rough-cut, now it’s time to smooth it out to final shape. First you must clamp down the template onto a table or workbench securely. Now, take your Shaping Rasp or G-rasp and use it to take down all of the high-spots on your cut. Make sure you don’t shave below the line. Try to get to the line but no further with the rasp. In this Rasping stage, you are trying to take out any dips or lumps in the curve. Don’t let the Sharpie/Pencil line distract you, it is better just to look at the curve itself to try to discover any dips/bumps that need to be smoothed out with the Shaping Rasp. Let your eyes be the judge of the curve, not the line. Flip the template over to hide the line if it helps.
Once you have Rasped the template down to the line and have a nice, smooth curve, switch to a hard sanding block with medium grit sandpaper (60-80 grit) and run this along the curve to sand away any burrs and roughness created by the rasp. You should also slightly bevel the edges of the Masonite with the sanding block to smooth it out and prevent fraying of the edges. Again, the goal here is to have a nice, smooth curve without dips. The smoother your template, the better chances you have of building a good surfboard.
Once your template is complete, take a minute to measure the nose (12" from nose), wide-point, and tail (12" from tail) widths and write these down with a Sharpie on the template (along with the date and any other pertinent info). You may also want to drill a ½" hole somewhere near the top/bottom of the template (not too close to the edge), so you can hang up the template on a peg/hook in your workshop when it’s not in use.
Part 4: Shaping Racks and Glassing Stands
It is possible to shape a surfboard on a pair of saw horses in a pinch. However, your results will be better and you'll have an easier time if you take the time to build some functional shaping and glassing racks. Material costs are low, and decent racks will greatly improve your chances of getting good results.
Greenlight has developed simple, free plans for both shaping racks and glassing stands that allow you to make functional, simple racks with 2x4s, basic fasteners, plastic buckets, sand or Quickcrete, and masking tape. We understand that most of you don’t have a permanent shaping space, so our racks are designed to be portable and move into storage when not in use. We strongly suggest you print out our free shaping rack and glassing stand plans and build your own. Feel free to improvise on these designs if you think you can do a better job, just make sure you cover the basic requirements for both type of racks:
The key points to remember for building shaping racks:
- Rail Saddle
For stability, you need to make sure the racks do not wobble or tip over while you are working the blank. If your floor is not perfectly flat, just make sure you have the ability to shim or adjust the feet of the racks to stabilize them.
The perfect height for shaping racks depends on the shaper’s height. As you see in Greenlight’s shaping rack plans, typical height to the top of the rack ranges from 36”-40”, or about waist-high.
Padding is also critical to the shaping rack, both to protect the board, and to keep it from slipping on the rack while you shape. Greenlight offers inexpensive, pre-cut shaping rack padding to eliminate the guesswork/sourcing. It is important to tape the padding onto your racks with clean masking tape. Use the minimal amount of masking tape to keep the foam on, and try to avoid wrinkles in the tape. This is because you want as much exposed foam as possible for “traction”, and wrinkles in the tape can leave dents in your foam blank when you press the blank down hard while shaping.
The width of the top of your rack is also important for stability of the blank as you are shaping. The “wings” on the top of the rack should be about 12” across, from end to end. This provides a nice stable platform for the blank to rest on, but not so wide that you are bumping into the rack as you move around it.
All shaping racks also have a “saddle” in the center that allows you to put the blank at an angle into the rack to shape the rails. This “saddle” should be 4”-6” wide and 6”-8” deep and fully padded to allow the blank to sit comfortably and safely in the saddle.
The key points in good glassing stands include:
Just like shaping racks, your glassing stands need to be wobble-free and stable as you’re glassing a board. Concrete or sand-filled buckets acting as bases for the stands accomplish this task. If you go the concrete route, use the quick-drying mix that is used for securing posts in the ground.
Glassing stands are typically higher than shaping racks, because when you are glassing, you are tucking laps on the underside of the board, and it is more comfortable to have the board higher to see and work on the laps. Most glassing stands are about 40” high.
For the same reason, the top contact points of glassing stands must be narrower than shaping stands. We recommend that the contact points be no more than 10” from end-to-end, because you do not want these points to get in the way when you are folding the wet laps around the bottom side of the blank. These narrower racks reduce stability of the blank, so you need to be a bit more careful that the blank is centered properly on the stands to keep it stable while glassing.
Finally, you want to do your best to make sure that the blank is as level as possible when resting on top of the glassing stands, especially from side to side. Since resin is applied in liquid form, it will tend to flow down any significant inclines on your blank before it cures. You can adjust the level of the racks by using 1.5” wide masking tape and rolling it around and around each of the four contact points on the glassing stands. Place the blank on the stand and put a level on top to make sure the blank is flat from side to side. Adjust the level by simply rolling more masking tape around the contact point that needs increased height.
In a perfect world, you would have access to a real shaping and glassing room (along with all of the tools and a private tutor telling you everything you need to do along the way). We are going to make the assumption that you do not have such luck, and you will be shaping in a temporary space such as a garage or basement. You can also shape outside in the backyard if you wish.
You can make great boards in your garage or basement; the following things help make the process easier with better results. They are not mandatory:
- Lighting (Great to have but not essential until you start making money shaping for your friends)
- Adequate Space
- Dust Protection
- Tool Space
Experienced shapers use what is called “side lighting,” which are fluorescent tube lights running on each side of the board lengthwise, parallel to the board at a few inches above the height of the board. These side lights have been proven to cast helpful shadows along the rail of the board, making it easy to see imperfections or high/low spots that need to be worked on.
It is possible to make side-lighting without having to invest in a permanent shaping room. You can buy 8-foot fluorescent tube light fixtures and hang them on temporary supports. We suggest you do a web- search (particularly on swaylocks.com) and you will find some ingenious/affordable methods of creating temporary side lights.
If you don’t want to spend the time/money on side lights, the next best thing is to get a hand-held fluorescent work light. You can carry this light and shine it around the rails of the board (with the rest of the room lights off) to identify what areas of the board need additional work.
To shape and glass a board, you need to figure at least 2 feet of open space around the circumference of the blank you are shaping. So for a six foot blank, try to have a space at least 10 feet long and 6 feet wide. The space also needs to have electrical outlets nearby, and should be reasonably flat, so that your racks can stand stable and level.
Professional shaping rooms typically have all the walls painted a dark color (royal blue) which contrasts well with white surfboard blanks. If you don’t have a dedicated room, you can hang blue tarps from the ceiling to create this contrast, and just as importantly, help contain the dust that you will make.
You can shape surfboards and sand glass-jobs in cold weather (a garage). Epoxy resin will take longer to cure in colder temperatures but who's in a rush anyway? Epoxy doesn’t smell bad or emit meaningful toxic vapors, so we recommend you glass your board inside during cold weather if you don’t have a temperature controlled glassing room. If you put a plastic tarp below your glassing stands, your floors will be protected and glassing inside is a low-impact exercise. It is not recommended to glass inside if you are using polyester resin. Your house will never smell the same again. If you must glass with polyester resin in cold temperatures, we recommend you use UV-Cure resin as it will cure when exposed to sunlight regardless of outside temperature.
You are going to make a little mess when you are shaping a surfboard. Dust and foam will be flying when you are planing and sanding your blank. If you are shaping in a garage or basement with other stuff in the immediate vicinity, youshould cover all of these things with tarps, or better yet, hang four tarps from the ceiling to create a temporary shaping room that contains all of the blank debris.
Get a shop-vac and suck up all of the debris at the end of each shaping or sanding session. This will minimize the amount of dust floating around the room. This becomes very important when you are glassing, because you don’t want airborne dust/foam particles fouling up your glass job.
You also need to consider what you are wearing while shaping and glassing. We suggest using the same ratty old t-shirt/jeans/sneakers over and over again because they will get covered in dust. Another tip is to take off your dusty shaping clothes in your shaping space and leave them there when you are done shaping. If you wear them inside, you will get dust EVERYWHERE. This has led to tensions in many a relationship and should be avoided at all costs.
Do yourself a favor and make sure there is a workbench, shelf, or table very close to your shaping rack where you can keep all of the required tools handy for the task at hand. It can be very frustrating and time consuming to hunt around for tools as you are shaping or glassing. Plan this in advance, before you start. This can be particularly important when you are glassing, as curing resin means time is of the essence.
Pro Shapers typically have shelves right above their side-lights. The shelves serve to direct the light toward the rails of the board being shaped, and also to hold all of the necessary tools within arm’s-length.
Planning Your Time
The amount of time it takes to build a surfboard varies from surfer to surfer and is dependent on your skillset and personality. Some people shape their first board in as little as3 hours, other may takea full day (5-8 hours) just to carvetheir first shape ifbeing super careful and takingtheir time.Your second board will probably be completed in ½ to 1/3rd of the time. The learning curve in shaping surfboards is very steep. By your third or fourth board, you will be able to complete the shaping stage in about 2-4 hours. Pros typically shape a shortboard in under an hour.
Glassing a board requires fewer labor hours, but you will spend more time waiting for your resin to cure than actually glassing the board. With Resin Research pH2000 Epoxy resin, it takes about 2-3 hours for resin to cure enough to flip the board and glass the other side. As a rule, epoxy cures slower in colder temperatures and faster in warmer temperatures. Plan on more than one day to laminate and hot-coat both sides of a board. You can alse use a heated space and crank the temperature up to cure the epoxy even faster.
Resin Research recently released a new Kwick Kick epoxy, which has “flip times” as fast as 30 minutes in warm temps (90F) and under two hours in cooler temps (70F). With Kwick Kick, you can pretty easily laminate and hot-coat both sides of a board in a single day (3 flips). As a beginner, you may want to use regularResin Research pH2000, especially in warmer temperatures, as it gives you longer working time.
Fin box installs take amateurs about ½ hour (for a quad), plus the time it takes for the resin to cure. Leash plug installs only take about 10-15 minutes, plus the time it takes the resin to cure.
Sanding your glass job will take 1-2 hours, depending on how much you do with a power sander and how much you do by hand. It is almost guaranteed that you will “burn-through” the hotcoat and expose glass weave during your first few sand jobs. Exposed weave will suck water, so you need to re-coat those burn- through areas or even add a second entire hot coat if you have multiple burn-throughs.
Adding a gloss coat to your board is pretty quick: only 20 minutes or so to apply each side, plus the time it takes for each side to cure. Final sanding and polishing of your board should take 1-2 hours on your first shot.
So to plan your time for making a surfboard, consider the following:
Day 1: Shaping Blank, installing fin boxes [FCS fusion or Futures] (3-8 total hours)
Day 2: Laminate bottom and top, hot coat top (1-2 hours labor; 9-12 hours cure time)*
Day 3: Hot coat bottom, install fin boxes [ProBox, FCS X-2 plugs, Longboard centerfin box] (1 hours labor; 6-8 hours cure time)*
Day 4: Install leash plug, sand top and bottom (1-2 hours labor; 3-4 hours cure time)*
Day 5: 2nd hot coat or gloss coat, final sanding/polishing (1-2 hours labor; 3-8 hours cure time)*
* Cure times assume regular PH2000 Resin Research in cool (70F) temps. Using RR Kwick Kick Epoxy will reduce your cure time by AT LEAST 50%.
Part 5: Choosing Your Blank
Here we go. Now you’ve got the tools, the design, the template, and the workspace. It is time to choose a blank and get busy mowing foam. The first step in the process is choosing the correct blank. Most surfboards are made with either Polyurethane (PU) or Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam blanks. Greenlight carries both EPS and PU Blanks in a variety of shapes and sizes. Your first task is to choose PU or EPS as a blank material.
PU blanks have been the go-to core for the surfboard industry since the 60s. You can laminate them with epoxy or polyester resin, and they are generally considered “easier” to shape because of smaller, more crystalline cell structure planes/sands off the board in a fine powder. PU blanks are typically more dense and heavier than EPS blanks. Typical PU blanks have a density of 3lbs per cubic foot, while Greenlight EPS blanks are available a special engineered 2# per cubic foot density. Due to this increased density, it is said that boards made with PU blanks provide a damp ride, absorbing chop and vibration more effectively than EPS blanks (until you learn higher end EPS/epoxy design and construction techniques)
Another unique characteristic of PU blanks is that they are denser in the “outer skin” than the “inner core.” When shaping PU, most shapers use “close tolerance” blanks, where they don’t have to shape deeper than the outer skin to preserve the most durable component of the blank. If you shape too far into a PU blank, your board is more likely to get pressure dings and delaminations in these areas. For this reason, EPS blanks are usually a safer, and stronger bet for beginner shapers.
EPS blanks have also been used in surfboards for decades, but not nearly as often as PU blanks. EPS has become much more popular and improved significantly in quality since Clark Foam closed up shop in 2005. EPS is gaining popularity because boards shaped with EPS and glassed with Epoxy Resin have proven to have superior strength/weight ratios to PU/Polyester boards. EPS boards have been particularly popular for small-wave boards, where light-weight is important, and also are gaining popularity in big-wave guns, where strength/weight ratio is important.
EPS blanks have a consistent density throughout the blank, so there is no worry of over-shaping the blank and exposing a weaker inner core. Experienced shapers say that EPS is a bit harder to shape than PU, because EPS is more durable has a bead-cell structure which doesn’t plane/sand as smooth as PU blanks. (We think they're just lazy and resistant to change) Regardless, beginner shapers don’t really have much to compare to, so shaping EPS will not seem particularly difficult or different unless you have shaped PU blanks in the past. EPS blanks are typically available in densities from 1-2.5 lbs per cubic foot. Most beginner shapers choose EPS blanks in the 2lb range, as they are easiest to shape and produce a durable but still lightweight board.
One last comment of EPS foam, it MUST be glassed with epoxy resin! Polyester resin will melt the foam! Please do not make this mistake.
Choosing the Right Size Blank
Once you have decided on PU or EPS, you need to choose the appropriately sized blank for your planned design. The three things you need to consider are:
- Rocker Profile
When choosing a blank length, the blank should be at least 1 inch longer, but not more than 6 inches longer than your intended final shape. Too short and you won’t be able to fit your shape on the blank, too long and you will have trouble getting the correct rocker shaped. So if you are going to shape a 6’0” fish, make sure you start with a blank that is at least 6’1” and not longer than 6’6”. Although you can shape a 6'0" board from a 6'0" blank with no room for rocker adjustment, or a 6'0" from a 9'2" blank and cut a few feet off either (or both ends). Remember your surfboard is sitting somewhere inside the blank, it's your job to bring it out.
When choosing a blank width, you need to primarily make sure that your blank is wide enough in all key dimensions: 12” from the nose, in the wide point, and 12” from the tail. Greenlight EPS blanks come in rectangular outlines, so width isn’t an issue, but other EPS blanks usually come in more compact “shortboard” profiles where the nose and tail are relatively narrow, or “fish/hybrid/longboard” profiles, where the nose and tail are wider and more suitable for these shapes. So if you’re making a short fish, make sure the blank is wide enough in the nose/tail area. Many “shortboard” blanks won’t work for fish shapes.
Finally, you need to make sure you can carve out the appropriate rocker from your blank. While some blank manufacturers offer custom rockers, as a beginner, you will most likely be choosing a “stock” rocker profile for your first board. Stock rockers usually fall in two categories: more curvy, shortboard rockers, or flatter fish rockers. The shortboard rockers usually have higher, thinner nose and tail curve, while the fish rockers have lower, thicker nose and tail curves.
If you have designed your board on a CAD program, you will have all of the measurements needed to determine if a blank is suitable for your design: thickness in the center, nose, and tail; plus rocker in the nose and tail area. Every blank maker has a spec sheet for each blank which identifies the key measurements of the blank. If you have not designed with a CAD program, you just need to make sure you choose a “shortboard” rocker for making a shortboard or a “fish rocker” for making any type of low-rocker board. When in doubt, the folks at Greenlight can always steer you toward the most appropriate blank for your intended design.
Part 6: Tracing the Outline and Foil
Tracing the outline on the blank is where all of your hard work making a template gets put to use. Too bad this step is over in an instant. You always trace the outline of your board on the bottom of the surfboard blank. Line up the straight edge (or stringer points if you are using a spin template) of your template along the center of the stringer, and adjust the exact location of the template fore-aft on the blank to line up with the intended rocker that you want. Remember that the blank is longer than your template, so sliding the template forward on the blank will give you more nose rocker, and sliding it backward toward the tail will give you less nose rocker and more tail rocker.
Once your template is lined up in the right place, simply hold it down flat on the blank and trace the outline onto the foam using a Shaper's Pencil. Then you flip over the template, center it on the stringer and fore/aft, and trace the other side of the board. Make sure you have the same fore/aft location on both sides to insure symmetry of your outline.
Cutting the Outline
Once your outline is traced on the bottom of your blank, you need to cut it out. For EPS blanks, you can use a jig saw with a long blade or a simple hand saw. Most shapers just use hand saws to cut the outline on PU blanks.
Cutting the outline on your blank is similar to cutting out your template: STAY OUTSIDE THE LINE by at least 1/8” inch to give yourself some room for error. Cutting inside the line gives you a dip in the outline that cannot be fixed unless you change (narrow) the dimensions of your shape. Try to avoid this.
One final tip in cutting your outline is to keep the sawblade as square as possible (90 degrees). You can clean this up later in the process, but the more vertical your outline cut, the easier it will be to get a good, clean shape.
Squaring Up and Smoothing the Outline Cut
Once your outline is cut, you need to perform one of the most important, yet underappreciated tasks of shaping: squaring the outline cut. If you can have a nice 90 degree vertical rail for the full length of the outline, your rails and board will turn out much better.
Experienced shapers usually use a power planer to square and smooth up the outline cut. We don’t recommend this for beginners unless you have significant experience with power planers. Instead, square up your outline rails using a Rail Runner Tool to clean up and remove material from the rail, or you can aslo use a G-rasp or a hard sanding block and sandpaper.
You can place the blank either flat on the shaping racks (with your shapers weight holding it down) or sideways in the saddle with the rail facing up. Start with the Rail Runner Tool to shave away all of the high spots from your cut. Now is the time to carefully hone in on the line you traced on the blank. The Rail Runner will automatically shape that flat, 90 degree rail outline.
The goal here is simply to clean up and smooth out the outline as much as possible, getting rid of hills and valleys in the outline, and honing in (but not yet touching) on the traced line. You want to end up with a nice, smooth outline curve, so take some time to step back and look down the full length of the rail to identify if there are any unwanted dips in the outline. This is a good time to use your sidelights or handheld flourescent light. Another trick to ensuring your outine is bump-free, use the hard handing block without sandpaper and run it along the rail. You'll feel any wobbles through the block that your eyes can't see.
Once you have gotten close to the line and smoothed out the hills/valleys in the outline cut, it is time to breakout the combination square and hard sanding block. This final step in “truing” the outline is where you want to make sure the outline rail is as close to 90 degrees vertical as possible. Run your combination square along the rail of the board and you can quickly see where the outline needs to be squared up. Work slowly here, using the hard sanding block with medium grit sandpaper (60 grit) to flatten and square up the rail areas that that aren’t straight and flat. Keep checking with the combination square as you make adjustments.
Once you are satisfied that the outline cut is “true” and square, do some final sanding with a hard sanding block and 80 grit sandpaper, making sure you have sanded away the outline mark and that the outline cut is smooth, bump-free, and square. Again, don’t be a slave to the outline mark. It is better to trust your eyes and look at the entire curve to ensure it is smooth. If you do a good job in this step, you stand a much better chance of turning out a good looking surfboard. We can’t stress this enough.
Foiling the Blank
Once you have squared up and smoothed out the outline, it is time to mow some foam and define the thickness and rocker profile on your blank. To get your blank to the proper thickness, you should be removing at least 1/8” of material on both the top and bottom of the blank. For example, if you want your board to be 2.5 inches thick, your blank should be at least 2 ¾” thick, giving you some room to remove some material and make sure the deck and bottom of the board are finished flat and square to the outline cut. When you finish foiling, the cross-section of the blank at any point along its length should look like a rectangle. Nice and square.
Most shapers begin foiling their blank on the bottom, which allows them to define the rocker of the board and hone in on the thickness in the nose, center, and tail area. Once the bottom is finished, the task of foiling the deck of the board becomes much simpler, as the goal is just to make sure the deck is flat and enough material is removed to arrive at your desired final thickness throughout the board.
Marking the Blank
Before you put blade to foam, you need to have all of your rocker and thickness measurements handy. Specifically, you should know:
- Nose Rocker (at the tip)
- Nose Rocker (12" from the nose)
- Tail Rocker (at the back)
- Tail Rocker (12" from the tail)
- Board thickness 12" from nose
- Board thickness at center of board
- Board thickness 12" from tail
If you designed your board on a CAD program, you should also have access to intermediary thickness and rocker points such as 24” from nose and tail. With these thickness and rocker measurements handy, your first task is to make some pencil/Sharpie marks on your blank to act as guide points as you are removing material and shaping your rocker and thickness.
You will need a Versasquare, Tape Measure, and “Rocker Stick” to identify and mark the key points on the blank. A Rocker Stick is simply a long, straight stick placed along the stringer of the board to measure the depth of the rocker. Shapers typically use angle iron or square aluminum sticks that are cheap and easy to find at home centers. Find one that is at least as long as the board you plan to make. You can use any long stick to measure rocker, as long as it is straight and not too heavy so that it will bend the blank when placed on the stringer.
Use your Versasquare to mark the rails (Shaper's Pencil) at the points 12" from the nose, 12" from the tail, and at the center of the board. To find the center point, use the tape measure to find the center on the stringer, then use the Versasquare to extend that stringer center-point out to the rails. Make your marks on the rails extending down far enough so that when you sand/plane the bottom, the marks don’t disappear. You may also want to mark the intermediary points on the rails as well, particularly 24" from the nose and tail. Conveniently, the Versasquare is exactly 12" long, so when you set it flush to the nose and tail, the other end of the Versasquare is exactly where you want to make your marks.
Once these rail-marks are placed, you can measure the rocker of your blank at key points. Place your rocker stick on the stringer and find the level point with a bubble level by sliding the rocker stick back and forth. You can now measure the distance between the bottom of the stick and the stringer at key points along the board. Remember that the low-point of the blank has a rocker of zero, so if the nose rocker measures 5" and you want your nose rocker to be 4 ¾", than you will be removing more material from the middle of the board to effectively "lower" the rocker to your desired 4 ¾". Typically, the tail of blanks is thicker with less rocker than most boards have, giving you more flexibility in defining your tail rocker. So if your rocker stick shows 1.5" of tail rocker and you want to have 2" of tail rocker in your board, you will be shaping more material off the tail of the blank than the middle, in order to increase your tail rocker to the desired 2".
Once you know what type of adjustments need to be made to your nose and tail rocker, you can make marks on the rail (at the same 12", 24", and center points you already marked) to define how much material you need to remove in each area to get the desired rocker. Use your combination square to make these marks on each side of the board. At the same time, you must be mindful of the final thickness you want to make your board in each of these areas. Remember to have at least 1/8” thickness “leftover” to remove from the deck of the board once you have marked and foiled your bottom rocker.
A final note on marking your blank: don’t get overly caught up in the numbers! Water flow doesn't care about numbers, only curves. It’s OK if the blank does not allow you to get your exact rocker and thickness profile. It is more important to have smooth, continuous curves in your rocker than to try to “manipulate” the blank into fitting your exact thickness and rocker numbers.
Foiling the Bottom
Now that your blank is marked, and you have a game plan and guide points for shaping the rocker, it is time to have at it. We recommend using the 'Rasputin' Foiling Rasp Tool or G-Rasp on your first boardbut you can also use a power planer to foil your blank. It is by far the most efficient means of removing material quickly and cleanly, especially in the stringer area. If you are a beginner with a planer, it is safer to set the cutting depth low (less than 1/16”) so you can get comfortable using the planer without removing too much material at a time. We also recommend doing some YouTube searches on “shaping surfboards” so you become familiar with what planing a blank actually looks like.
Your blank should be set on the shaping stand bottom-up. Don’t forget the eye protection and dusk mask, as foam/stringer debris will be flying out of the planer’s dust chute. Plane one side of the blank at a time, from rail to stringer, keeping the passes parallel to the stringer. To start, it helps to draw guidelines on the blank with a shaper's pencil that are parallel to the stringer and spaced about 3" apart. You'll see the lines are long near the stringer and short near the rail due to the outline curve of your blank. This is a critical visual to help you plane the foam evenly and flat. Start with the planer resting flat on the board, at about a 45 degree angle to the stringer, near the outermost line you drew at the rail. Turn on the planer, and work your way along the line at a slow and steady pace, letting the tool do the work. When at the end of the planer pass it is best to "follow through" and not stop abruptly or just turn off the planer. Follow through like an airplane taking off a runway, smooth and upwards. Do not turn the planer downwards at the end of the pass or you'll take a chuck out of the rail. After the first pass is complete, go back to the 2nd line and start planing again. Basically planing your blank is like mowing a lawn: try to make parallel passes that are slightly overlapping. Make sure the planer stays at a 45 degree angle each pass for a smoother cut and the baseplate of the planer (not to be confused with the front 'shoe' that is adjustable) runs on the area you just planed. This will ensure you are planing flat. If you have big gouges in the foam after your first few passes, you're either not running your planer at a 45 degree angle to the stringer or the planer base is not flat on the previous cut...
If you have to remove more material in a certain area (like to increase your tail rocker), make extra passes in the tail and either slowly lift the planer off the blank where you want to feather the cut back to the existing rocker, or reduce the cutting depth to zero as you are approaching this feathering area. Good shapers become very adept at adjusting the depth of the planer blade as they are planing. This is a somewhat advanced skill to master, but certainly worthwhile to practice as soon as possible.
Once you have made a few passes with the planer, you should smooth out the lines and flatten the deck with the 'Rasputin' Foiling Rasp Tool ,G-Rasp , or hard sanding block and Tigershark sandpaper. Take long, smooth strokes with medium pressure , and keep at least part of the sanding block touching the stringer so you are not removing too much material and leaving the stringer “high”. Remember that foam will sand away much faster/easier than the wood stringer, so it is a good idea to take a few passes with your trim plane along the stringer during this foiling process to keep it level with the foam.
Remember to keep moving around the blank with your sanding block. Don’t focus too long in one area or you will create a dip in that area. Try to give the entire surface area of the blank “equal time” so that you can retain a symmetrical, flat bottom. Once you’ve smoothed things out with the sanding block, take your combination square and measure board thickness at the marked points on both sides of the rails. You want to make sure the thickness is the same on both sides at each of the marked points. If you find the thickness is off by more than 1/16”, try to even it off with a few strokes of your hard sanding block.
You can repeat the above planing/sanding process until you achieve the desired flatness, thickness, and rocker profile. The planer removes material, the sanding block smoothes it out. Take your time and measure thickness CONSTANTLY with your combination square during this process. Also take your yardstick and place it across the bottom to make sure you are keeping the bottom flat. Make any necessary adjustments with your trim plane (on the stringer) and G-Rasp.
Flattening and Foiling the Deck
With your bottom rocker shaped and smoothed, the final step in foiling your blank is flattening and foiling the deck. This process is similar to foiling the bottom, but now you are trying to flatten and foil the deck of the board to its final thickness in the nose, center, and tail of the board. Flip your board deck-side up on the shaping stand and place the shapers weight on the deck. Use your combination square to mark both rails at the final thickness points at 12” from the nose/tail; 24” from the nose/tail, and at the thickest point of the blank (near the center) to give you your final guidelines for foiling the deck.
Once your final thickness points are marked, you follow the same procedure as the bottom with the planer and hard sanding block to remove material and flatten the deck down to your desired thickness. However, you will find it is very difficult to effectively plane material in the nose area of the deck because of the upward curve of the blank. In this area, you need to reduce the stringer thickness using a spokeshave and remove foam with a G-Rasp. Once again, use your yard stick to make sure you are keeping the deck flat, and use your trim plane, spoke shave, and G-Rasp to make any necessary adjustments.
Keep checking your thicknesses with the combination square as you work on the deck, and stop when you have reached your desired thickness measurements in all marked areas of the board. At this stage in the game your blank should have a smooth, flat bottom with the correct rocker, smooth vertical rails, and a smooth, flat deck. Everything should be sanded to a medium grit (60) finish. You will come back and re-sand everything with higher grit sandpaper (80) and a foam sanding pad once the rails are shaped.
Part 6: Concaves and Vee
Most shapers shape in their bottom contours after they have foiled/flattened the bottom, and before they foil/flatten the top of the blank. As a beginner shaper, we cannot emphasize enough that you should keep your bottom contour very simple. Some of the best performing boards have flat bottoms. Go for a flat bottom, perhaps a slight vee in the tail, or a light single concave if you must. Improper placement, depth, or shape of a concave can screw up an otherwise perfectly performing surfboard.
The science and theory behind various bottom contours are not entirely black and white. If you are interested in learning more, we suggest you read Greenlight’s Surfboard Design Newsletters.
We are not going to get into the specifics of shaping complex bottom contours at this point, other than to say that concaves are rough-shaped with Greenlight's Concave Rasp Tool (to achieve the proper maximum depth) than smoothed out using a foam sanding pad and medium grit (60 grit) sandpaper. Vees are cut into the last 18"-22" of the tail with Greenlight's G-rasp. Creating Vee is simple. Start with the G-rasp 18" -22" up from the tail on one side of the the stringer. Place the rasp edge on the stinger with the far end handinf over the outline of the tail. While pulling the G-rasp toward you, extert gradual downward pressure on the outside edge of the rasp to shape a "ramp" with the lowest part being the outer tip of the tail. Repeat the process 10 times per each side of the stringer and take a bubble level on the stringer and "teeter-totter" it side to side to measure if the Vee is even on each side of the stringer. For more detailed info on the various techniques for shaping concaves and vees, we suggest you do a search on swaylocks.com to see a variety of effective methods used by the shaping community.
Part 7: Shaping the Rails
Shaping the rails can appear to be the most confusing step for a beginner shaper, but if you’ve done a good job smoothing and truing your outline, shaping nice rails is actually relatively easy. Rails are shaped with multiple angular cuts called “rail bands.” Before you start making these cuts, you need to determine what type of rail profile you want in your board. Like bottom contours, rail shapes are a mix of art and science subject to debate, but fortunately Greenlight has simplified this area of shaping by offering guideline rail-band measurements for the two basic kinds of rails: higher volume “boxy” rails and lower volume “knifey” rails.
Basically, boxy rails have more volume and therefore more buoyancy/resistance when engaged into a wave face. Knifey rails have less volume and therefore penetrate the wave face easier. Knifey rails are used for higher performance shortboards where rail-penetration is desired, and boxy rails are used for longboards and less performance-oriented boards where flotation and stability are the desired characteristics. If you want to learn more about rail design, sign up for Greenlight's Design Newsletters.
Marking Rail Band Guide Points
Once you’ve determined the rail profiles you want, print out Greenlight’s Rail Band Measurement Sheet for Boxy or Knifey Rails and bring this sheet to your shaping space. Keep in mind that you are free to improvise on Greenlight’s recommendations, just avoid any extreme differences from point-to-point, as you want the rails to flow smoothly and not change shape/volume suddenly.
Use a combination square to mark the appropriate rail band points on the rails (for both top and bottom rail bands) and use your Versasquare to mark your deck and bottom rail band points. Some people draw lines to connect these dots to create guidelines, but we prefer not to do this, as the lines are very difficult to draw accurately, and they will end up throwing you off. As in many other steps of shaping, it is better to trust your eyes, step back from what you are doing, and try to get your rail bands cut as smoothly as possible by eye. The rail band marks on the deck and rails at a few key points along the length of the board should be enough to guide you through the process.
Shaping the Bottom Rail Band
Most shapers begin with the smaller rail band on the bottom of the board. Besides old-school longboards, most boards have a sharp bottom edge running from the tail to about 16-20 inches up from the tail. This sharp edge then slowly tapers into a rounded bottom rail through the nose area. Some shapers shape the bottom rail band with a Greenlight's Rail Runner Tool or even a planer, but it’s pretty easy to shape this band by hand with a G-Rasp and then a hard sanding block.
To begin shaping your bottom band, place the blank bottom-up on your shaping racks with your shaping weight near the center of the board. Start shaving with the Surform with light pressure where you want the hard edge to begin tapering, and work your toward the nose. Use the Surform to remove most of the foam down to your bottom rail band marks, then smooth and clean up this band with your hard sanding block. When completed, this bottom band should get wider toward the center of the board, then taper slightly towards the nose of the board. Once again, as you’re shaping this band, step back and take a good look with your eye. This is another good time to utilize your sidelights or fluorescent handheld light. Ideally, the band has a nice smooth curve to it, with no sudden changes in width or angle.
Shaping the Top Rail Bands
The top rail bands are substantially larger than the bottom. You can do them by hand with a G-rasp, or power planer. Just like with foiling your board, you can always adjust your planer to a low-depth to minimize potential mistakes while planing your rail bands. There are typically two main deck railbands that you cut before you begin smoothing and rounding the rails. The first cut is the steeper band which is closer to the rail on the deckside, the second band cuts further toward the stringer, but not as deep as the first rail band.
You need to be very careful with the planer as you approach the nose area, as you don’t want to take out a big chunk of nose by accident. It is safer just to plane your railbands with the planer up to about a foot or so away from the nose. You can finish the rail bands in the nose area by hand with a G-rasp and hard sanding block.
Since top rail bands reach their maximum depth toward the center of the board, you will also want to try to adjust the planer depth “on the fly,” keeping it lower in the tail and nose area, and higher in the center. Like everything else in shaping, the key is just to try to have nice, smooth bands with no sudden changes in width or angle. Once you remove the majority of material with the planer, finish off the first rail band with your hard sanding block, trying to have the band meet up with your first rail-band markings. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just try to have the band come out as smooth as possible.
Once the first rail band is cut and smoothed, you plane the second band, using the marks on the deck as your guideline, and intersecting the first rail band at about its mid point. Use the planer to remove most of the material for the second band (except in the nose area), and finish up with the hard sanding block. Use the sanding block to smooth out the second band and get it close to your second band marks on the deck. Don’t worry if you still have pencil/Sharpie marks all over your blank at this point. You will sand them out in the final sanding step.
At this stage you should have two distinct rail bands carved into your deck, and one on the bottom of your blank. Now you need to use your hard sanding block to “break down” the distinct lines connecting each rail band. Use your hard sanding block with medium grit (60) sandpaper to flatten the hard edge between the two top rail bands. You will create two new edges by doing this, but the angles on these new edges are lower and not as sharp. Blending the bands is the continuation of this process until you have a series of very small bands with low-angles, forming a rough curve which represents your final rail shape. The very top rail band should almost invisibly blend into the deck.
You also should continue to have your vertical rail, which represents the original outline of your board. Since you’ve carved out your rail bands, this vertical section is much smaller than it used to be. As you continue breaking down the rail bands with your sanding block, try to make sure you maintain that small vertical band down to about ¼” width or so. If you sand into this band, you are changing your outline.
You must also blend your bottom rail band into the bottom of the board and the vertical band on the side of the rail. The process is the same as the top, albeit you will only need to take a few passes smoothing out the distinct lines on the bottom as it is a much smaller radius curve than the top. Try to leave a nice, smooth distinct line where your bottom rail curve meets the bottom of the board. This is done by making smooth, long strokes with your sanding block without changing the angle of the block as you are blending the underside rail band into the bottom of the blank. Remember to be careful toward the tail of the board, where you want to maintain that 90 degree sharp edge.
Once you have broken down all of your rail bands, it’s time to smooth the remaining small bands into a nice, round final rail shape. For this step, most shapers use drywall sanding screen (100-120 grit), pulling the screen back and forth over the rails to smooth out the remaining bands into a nice clean curve. Take your time with the sanding screen and don’t pull/push too hard. The screen can remove a lot of material quickly if you are putting too much pressure on it. Start by screening the top side rail, then the bottom side rail. Finally, quickly smooth out the top and bottom at the same time by wrapping the entire rail with the screen to radius the entire rail smoothly. Remember to use a light touch here, as removing material from the former vertical band will change the outline of your board. Another tool you can use to smooth your rails is a soft, padded sandpaper (100-150 grit). These have been gaining in popularity lately, especially on EPS blanks, because they conform very smoothly to the rail shape.
Part 8: Final Sanding
At this stage, you are in the home stretch of the shaping your board. All that is left to do is do a quick smoothing of the entire shape with a soft sanding pad and medium grit sandpaper (80 grit) or sanding screen (120 grit). You can spray some adhesive spray on the sanding pad and sandpaper to keep the sandpaper from sliding around while you sand. Keep the pressure light, as you don’t want to remove much foam at this stage. You just want to smooth everything out and get rid of any rough spots.
This is also a good time to sand away any pencil/Sharpie marks that are still on the blank. Just be sure to sand lightly to avoid making dents in the blank. Now is also a good time to check your stringer one more time and plane high spots flush to the foam with a trim plane and spoke shave (nose area).
Sealing the Blank (Optional)
If you are shaping an EPS blank, you have the option of spreading a light coat of diluted spackle on the completed shape. This smoothes out any holes, provides a nice white surface for artwork, and seals up the pores of the blank so it doesn’t absorb too much resin when you are glassing. Usually blanks with 2lb per cubic foot or higher don’t need to be sealed, but if you want to do it, here’s how:
Buy a small bucket of Dap “Fast n’ Final” lightweight spackle from your local home center or hardware store. It is white and light, so is the preferred spackle for sealing EPS blanks. Scoop a hunk of spackle into a mixing cup, and add a little bit of water (preferably filtered, not tap) to the mix to turn the spackle into a syrupy consistency.
Pour this water/spackle mixture over your blank and spread it around smoothly and thinly over the surface of your blank with an epoxy spreader. Scrape off the excess spackle back into your mixing bucket, as you can re-use it for the other side of your board. If you have any small dings or chunks missing from the blank (common in the stringer area), you can fill these holes with the spackle.
Allow the spackle to dry, flip the blank over, and repeat the process on the other side. Just add a bit more water to your old spackle mix and it should be ready to go again. Once the spackle is dry, you can lightly sand the entire blank with a soft sanding pad and 220 grit sanding screen or sandpaper.
Part 9: Pre-Glass Artwork (Optional)
Before you glass your board, you have the option of preparing a few cosmetic touches to your blank. This is the stage where you would airbrush or paint the foam blank and it is also the stage you would design and print any logos that you want to laminate under the fiberglass.
Airbrushing or Spray Painting the Blank
We are not going to give detailed advice on airbrushing or painting your blank, since it is primarily a creative process. However, there are a few things you need to know if you are going to airbrush or paint your blank. For airbrushing, you should use water-based tempera surfboard paint. You will also need an airbrush and compressor. If you plan on spray-painting your blank with a rattle-can, you must also use water-based spray-paint, especially on EPS blanks. Regular spray-paint contains styrene, which will literally melt your EPS blank. Water-based poster paint has proven to be the best for surfboards for durability and to ensure a good bond between the blank and the fiberglass/resin.
There are some great airbrushing videos on YouTube and also a great airbrushing DVD in JC’s 101 DVD Series if you want to get a detailed look on ideas and details for airbrushing your blank.
Printing Logo Laminates
If you would like to put some logos under your laminate, you can design them on your computer and print them out using Greenlight’s Logo Printer Paper. Once you have designed your logo, set your ink-jet printer to print on medium resolution. You need to tape the Logo Printer Paper to a regular sheet of paper, and manually feed this paper into your printer. Make sure the logo paper is facing the proper direction to receive the ink jet ink.
Once the logos are printed, remove the logo paper from the backing paper and cut the artwork/logo out leaving a small margin around the design. You should print as many logos as you can on each piece of logo paper, since you can only send it through the printer once. Details on laminating the logo into your glass-job will come up in the Glassing section of this guide.
Part 10: Glassing your Surfboard
Like shaping, glassing your surfboard becomes much less intimidating once you break it down into clear steps, use the right tools, and do some simple preparation prior to each step. At Greenlight, we like to focus on the more environmentally friendly methods of construction, which is one reason why we prefer glassing with Epoxy resin. Epoxy is less toxic to work with, but just as importantly, we feel it makes a stronger, longer-lasting, better flexing surfboard.
Greenlight pioneered a Bamboo Cloth/Epoxy stretch-glassing method, which uses the most environmentally friendly materials we could find to produce a high-quality glass job. If you want to go this route, click here for more details on our bamboo cloth stretch glassing method.
This guide will focus on glassing your surfboard with the more traditional fiberglass layup method, both “freelap” and “cutlap” techniques, using state-of-the-art Resin Research Epoxy resin. Don’t expect your first glass job to go perfectly. Like anything, it takes some practice to perfect the art of glassing. Nonetheless, we are confident you’ll get a good result if you prepare and follow these directions.
Choosing a Glass Schedule
The first step in glassing is to determine how much fiberglass you are going to put on your board. This is called the “glass schedule” and it dictates the final strength and weight of your board. The more glass you use, the heavier, but stronger your board will be. Surfboard fiberglass comes in rolls which are 27” to 38” wide and meant to be cut to the correct length and width once the glass is rolled out over your blank. Fiberglass is measured by weight per square yard. The most common weights for surfboards are 4 oz and 6 oz per square yard.
The lightest glass schedule that you would want to use is one layer of 4 oz on the bottom and two layers of 4 oz on the top. The extra glass on the top gives you some protection from pressure dings from your feet and other bodily contact. For this super-light glass schedule, you may also want to add a small patch of 4 oz glass under the main layer in the fin box area. This gives you additional strength in the fin area without adding too much weight. If you want to increase the strength/weight of your shortboard, you can simply go up from there. The next step might be two layers of 4 oz on the bottom and a layer of 6/4 on the top. Another way to add additional strength is a “deck patch” under the main layers to reinforce the tail area of the board, which takes a lot of abuse from your feet.
When you are layering 4 oz and 6 oz together, it is best to put the heavier cloth on first, and the lighter cloth on the outer layer. This setup will use less resin in the hotcoat stage of glassing. For most shortboards, it is not recommended to have much more than 10-12 oz total on the bottom and 12 oz of glass on the top.
Most longboards typically have at least a single 6oz bottom and double 6 oz top glass schedule. This would be for a pretty light longboard. Go up from there if you want to increase the durability (and weight) of your longboard. The max glass schedule you would want on a longboard is about 16 oz on the bottom and 18 oz on the top.
Part 11: Freelapping versus Cutlapping
A final decision you need to make before you begin glassing is whether you are going to use the “freelap” technique or the “cutlap” technique. This is a pretty cut-and-dried decision (no pun intended). If you are going to do a clear glass-job with no tint or pigments in the resin, then you can just do the simpler freelap. You can skip to the Cutting and Laying Down Fiberglass section if you are doing a freelap. If you plan to tint or pigment the resin, then you should go with the cutlap.
The cutlap requires s few more tools/materials and a bit more preparation. While we wouldn’t recommend doing this on your first glass job, we wouldn’t talk you out of it either. You can do a pretty good cutlap on your first try if you have good tape and good technique. More details on cutlap techniques are presented in the Cutlap Preparation section.
If you choose to do a cutlap, you need to tape off and mask the top of the blank before you lay your fiberglass down on the bottom of the blank. You always laminate the bottom of the blank first. To prepare your board for cutlapping, you need masking tape . The tape provides a clean line to act as a border for your lamination and guide to cut the cured fiberglass.
Start by laying your blank top-up on your glassing stands. Using ¾” high-temp masking tape, run the tape around the perimeter of the deck, about 1 ½"- 2 inches from the outline of the board. You can taper this distance from the outline near the nose and tail down to 1 ½ inches or so if you like. Make sure the tape matches up cleanly at the nose and tail where both sides meet. This boarder you created with the tape will be where the fiberglass wraps around from the bottom and will eventually be cut with a razor blade. Once the glass is cut on the tape line, you are left with a straight, clean lap-line.
Once you have laid down this initial “border” of tape, do another round of wider masking tape just inside the first one (toward the middle of the board). The second round of tape should slightly overlap the first one, making sure there is no exposed foam between the two strips of tape. Repeat as many layers of tape as you feel you need to ensure no resin will get onto the deck when you push the fiberglass around the rail to the deck. If you're using tints or pigments it is very important to keep the deck foam clean and free from color. Use a few rows of tape or include masking paper to cover the entire deck area.
Cutting/Laying Down Glass
Most glassers begin the process by laminating the bottom of the board. Lay your blank bottom up on your glassing stands, double checking that the board is level on the racks from rail to rail. If you are going to laminate the bottom with more than one layer of fiberglass, roll out the first layer of fiberglass along the bottom of the board from nose to tail (or tail to nose, doesn’t matter) and cut the fiberglass with sharp scissors leaving about an inch overlap in the nose and tail area. Make sure the fiberglass is relatively centered from rail to rail as you roll it out.
Once the fiberglass is laying flat on your board, the first layer needs to be trimmed so the glass is hanging down about halfway down the rail around the entire board. If you are doing three layers of fiberglass, the second layer is put on and trimmed the same way as the first, with perhaps a slightly longer overlap around the rail area. Your top layer of fiberglass must have longer “laps” which will be wrapped around the underside of the board when you spread the epoxy on the fiberglass. When cutting the top layer of fiberglass, make sure you cut the glass about 2 inches below the bottom of the rail. The glass needs to wrap completely around the rail to the deck-side. The wet resin will hold it in place as it cures. If you have a tape-border on the deck for a cutlap, make sure your laps are cut low enough to extend beyond that tape border.
Once you have cut the top layer of fiberglass, try to trim away any hanging threads of fiberglass or uneven sections. You want the edge of the glass to be as clean as possible, as loose-hanging threads become a nuisance while laminating. A final step you need to take is to cut a “v” notch in the top layer of fiberglass in the nose area of the board and the tail of the board. If you have a swallow tail, you should also cut a v-notch at the “points” of each swallow. This will allow you to fold the laps under the board without forming wrinkles or overlaps in the glass. Cured wrinkles/overlaps require you to do additional sanding which is nice to avoid.
If you have printed out any logos or artwork that you’d like to place under the fiberglass, this should be done right before you are ready to laminate. To do this, carefully roll up all of your fiberglass layers to a point just beyond where you want to place your artwork. Try not to shift the placement of the fiberglass as you roll it up, as you will eventually be rolling it back down, and you want it in the same place. If the artwork is closer to the tail, roll up the glass from the tail. Vice-versa if the artwork is closer to the nose. You will be basting the logo to the foam with a thin layer of epoxy once your resin is mixed and ready to be spread on the fiberglass.
Part 12: Mixing Epoxy Resin
We are assuming you are using Resin Research Epoxy, which is the best surfboard laminating epoxy available at this time. Epoxy resin is considered to be more durable, more flexible, and even a bit lighter than polyester resin, which has dominated surfboard construction for nearly 50 years. Epoxy is a bit more expensive than polyester, but typically you need to use less epoxy when laminating a surfboard than polyester, so the cost nearly evens itself out, while the benefits of epoxy are substantial. Another big benefit to epoxy is its low toxicity and lack of bad smell. This allows you to glass your board indoors, which we recommend if it’s cold in your garage (<60 degrees).
You don’t really need to use a respirator with epoxy, but you should use disposable vinyl or rubber gloves at all times when handling epoxy. Another precaution you should take is to put a plastic tarp down below your glassing stands to catch the resin that will drip on the floor. When the epoxy cures on the tarp, it will flake right off.
Resin Research comes in two components: resin and hardener. There are two primary hardener speeds: fast and slow. Epoxy mixed with fast hardener gives you a flip time in 3-4 hours (the warmer the air temp, the faster the cure), epoxy mixed with slow hardener gives you a flip time in 5-6 hours. Even beginner glassers shouldn’t have a problem using the fast hardener. You should, however, consider using slow hardener or Kwick Kick when you are installing fin boxes or leash plugs. The fast hardener can get pretty hot while it is curing, and it has been known to melt EPS foam, even with 2lb foam, in fin installs. Resin Research recently released an even faster curing resin, called Kwick Kick, which promises flip times in less than an hour in warm temps, and about 1.5 hours at 70 degrees F. Another nice thing about Kwick Kick is it doesn’t exotherm (produce heat) as much as fast hardener, so it can safely be used for fin-installs and leash plugs. Kwick Kick is OK for beginners, as long as you aren’t going to be glassing in very warm temps (over 80F).
Regardless of which Resin Research Epoxy you choose, the resin/hardener need to be mixed in a 2:1 ratio by volume. There are 3 methods of measuring epoxy ratios. We highly recommend using a digital scale for the most accurate measurements and 100% cure strengths. You can also use metered resin pumps or transparent/marked measuring buckets. As a rule of thumb, for the laminating stage, you want to use at least 2oz of mixed resin per foot of surfboard length. So for a 6-foot surfboard, you should use AT LEAST 12oz of mixed epoxy/hardener, or 8 oz of epoxy mixed with 4 oz of hardener. Beginners should plan to use a little more, like 10 oz of epoxy with 5 oz of hardener, or 15 oz total mixed material for a six-foot board. We also strongly advise that you add a cap-full of Additive F in to your epoxy mix, as this additive improves the wet-out and sanding qualities of the resin. You don’t have to be precise with the Additive F, just fill up the cap that is used on the bottle and pour it in the mixing bucket.
You should mix your epoxy/hardener/F thoroughly for at least two minutes to make sure it is completely blended. Use clean, strong mixing sticks and make sure you scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bucket to get all of the material blended.
Tints and Pigments
If you plan on using any tint or pigment in your resin, you should mix it in right after you put in your additive F and before you mix the whole thing together. Tints give your glass-job a translucent color, while pigments give an opaque color. You will be surprised that a very small amount of pigment or tint (less than a teaspoon) will give you a very rich color. Be careful, though, because the color will look darker in the mixing bucket than it will look on your board. If you want to make sure you have the right color, spread a little bit of the mixed material on a piece of scrap white surfboard foam (from your off-cuts) and adjust accordingly.
Part 13: Bottom Laminating
Saturating and Wrapping the Laps
As you work your way with the spreader toward the rails, your next step is to saturate the laps (the fiberglass that is hanging over the rails) and wrap then around the underside of the board. To saturate the laps, use your spreader to “waterfall” the epoxy over the side of the rails. Try to catch the resin in your bucket so you can re-use it to complete the rail-saturation. Hopefully you are wearing your latex gloves, because this is where things start to get messy. You need to saturate all of the glass on the laps, so use your hand on the underside of the glass as support, and use the spreader to spread and saturate the resin on the lap glass. If you find yourself running short on resin, use your spreader to work from the stringer (but no further than the stringer) toward the rail with harder pressure and a vertical angle with the resin spreader. There will probably be excess resin pooling in the center of the board that you can plow over toward the rails to help saturate the laps. This resin will collect on your spreader, and you can just rub it off your spreader on to the dry areas of the laps.
Once the laps are substantially saturated, it’s time to tuck them under the board so they adhere to the deck-side rail. Always start in the middle of the board when you are tucking laps. Work your way toward the nose and when you finish, go back to the middle and work your way toward the tail, being careful not to create wrinkles as you are tucking the laps under. If you cut your v-notches in the nose and tail, you shouldn’t have a problem with wrinkles.
Another thing to watch for while tucking the laps is hanging “strings” of saturated fiberglass. If there are any hanging strings, take your resin spreader and gently pull them off the foam and let them hang. Be careful not to pull the strings too hard and pull a section of glass off the board. If this happens just squeegee it back down. When the resin cures you can snap the strings right off. Small strings can be pushed sideways in line with the lap line to make sanding the lap easier and less change of hitting the foam chasing a single string laying on the deck.
If you did a good job saturating the laps, they should stick well to the deck-side rail. Get down low and double check that the adhesion is good, and that there are no unsaturated areas of glass. You should spend 10 minutes or so making sure the laps are well saturated, adhered to the foam, and free of wrinkles. You also need to try to eliminate any air bubbles that may form in the lap area. This is prone to happen along the sharp edge along the tail, so take extra care to squeeze out these bubbles with your spreader.
Finally, take a good look at the entire lamination and check for any pooling of resin on the flats and air bubbles on the flats and especially the rails and nose/tail areas. The nice thing about epoxy is that it hardens gradually and can be moved around even as it cures. Polyester resin will “kick” and then be very difficult/impossible to move around. (unless it's UV cure polyester resin)
Once you are satisfied with the lamination, leave the board alone, and do some clean up. While it is still wet, Epoxy can be cleaned off of most things (skin, mixing sticks, spreaders, and scissors) with citrus-based soap (Gojo) and water. Polyester resin is cleaned up with Acetone Solvent.
It takes 1-2 hours for the fast-cure epoxy to be ready to flip. Epoxy really likes to cure without a large fluctuation in temperature, so if you are glassing in a garage, it’s a good idea to time your lamination for a period where the outside temperatures won’t change much during the 1-2 hour cure period. If this isn’t possible, you can carefully carry your board inside and allow it to cure in a controlled environment, or just leave it overnight and glass the deck the next day...
Cleaning up the Laps
Your board is ready to flip over once the bottom lamination is no longer sticky to the touch. If you are using Kwick Kick epoxy, this could be as quick as a half-hour if you are working in warm (90F) temps. If you are using regular fast hardener, this could be as long as 4-5 hours if you are working in cooler temperatures (50-60F). Once the bottom is no longer tacky, you will need to clean up and flatten the cured laps before you begin laminating the top of the board.
If you are doing a cut-lap, you first need to cut your lap with a razor blade along the tape line and remove all of the masking tape from the deck. This is done by carefully holding a sharp razor blade and cutting right along the tape line on the deck. Try to hold the razor blade as vertically as possible as you cut to avoid making a gouge in the foam. If you hold it vertical while you cut, the cut will be much cleaner. It is best if you can do this “cut lap” before the epoxy fully hardens. It should be cured enough that it is not tacky or gummy, but not so hard that it becomes difficult to cut with the razor blade. Make sure you remove all of the tape while you are cutting with the razor blade, or else it will show up under the top lamination.
Once you are done cutting the lap, you should be left with a nice, clean lap-line along the deck rail. Don’t worry if you aren’t perfect the first time. Like many techniques in surfboard building, cut laps require repetition and practice to perfect.
Flattening the Laps
One of the keys to a good glass-job is making sure your laps are as clean and flat as possible. To do this, you need to carefully sand away any bumps or wrinkles along the lap line using a hard sanding block or hard FlexPad with medium grit sandpaper (60-80 grit). Try to feather the edge of the lap as flush to the foam as possible, being careful not to sand into the exposed foam. Now is the time to sand away any of those hanging-strands of fiberglass, wrinkles, or bubbles that may have formed during your lamination. The flatter you can make the laps, the better your chance of minimizing “burn throughs” when you are doing your final sanding of the hot coat.
If you are using Kwick Kick resin, another technique to flatten the laps is using a hard roller (drywall seam roller or wallpaper roller) or popsicle stick to carefully “mush” the laps into the foam along the lap line. This forms that nice flush seam between lap and foam. This is best done right after you cut the laps while the epoxy is dry, but still pliable. Just make sure you don’t press so hard that you deform the foam along the seam and change the intended shape of the board.
Part 14: Laminating the Deck
Laminating the deck of the board is essentially the same as laminating the bottom. It is standard to use 2 layers of fiberglass cloth on the deck to strengthen the board from your feet and knees constantly pounding on the deck while surfing. For high performance shortboards it is typical to use 2 layers of 4 oz. E-cloth to save weight. Fish, eggs, and hybrid boards usually get 1 layer 6 oz E-cloth and 1 layer 4 oz. E-cloth on the deck. Longboards normally use 2 layers 6 oz. E-cloth or 7.5 oz. Volan cloth... Extra deck patches can be added to prevent pressure dings for heavier footed surfers.
The first layer of fiberglass layed on the foam is trimmed to the outline shape of the surfboard along the mid-point of the rail line. It does not need to lap around to the bottom, only the 2nd layer needs to have laps extending at least 2 inches below the rail line. Also don’t forget to cut your v-notches at the nose and tail areas. We recommend if using a 6 oz. / 4 oz. glass schedule on the deck to lay the 6 oz. down first and the 4 oz. on top. It is easier to lap the 4 oz. around the rails and uses a bit less resin to fill the weave when hotcoating, making the board just a little lighter...
If you are doing a cutlap, you now need to lay your tape perimeter and mask over the bottom of the board, leaving a similar 1.5-2 inch lap area around the perimeter of the bottom of the board. You are now placing the tape over a cured lamination, which is a bit bumpy, so make sure you push the tape down well to avoid bleeding of resin under the tapeline. This is one reason why it is critical to use high-quality masking tape for your cutlaps. You want to use ¾” wide tape or less, as it conforms to curves better than wider tape. Don’t take a shortcut with cheap masking tape on your lap-line tape, it’s not worth it. You can use cheaper masking tape and masking paper to cover the area inside the lapline.
Once your bottom lap-line is taped and masked off, you follow the exact same procedure for laminating the deck as you did for laminating the bottom.
SInce your top lamination has more fiberglass you need to make sure to mix a little bit extra resin for the top, as the thicker layers of fiberglass will absorb more resin. Use 2-4 ounces (depending on how much glass, long or shortboard) more than what you used on the bottom lamination.
Flattening Bottom Laps
Once your deck lamination has cured enough to flip, you’ll want to clean up the lap left on the bottom of the board. The key here is to try to smooth out this seam as much as possible using a hard sanding block or sanding disc with medium (60-80) grit sandpaper. If you have a tinted/pigmented cutlap, you need to be careful not to sand too aggressively as you will be sanding away at the color. Really just try to stay on the high-side of the lap and smooth away any big bumps or dried strings of fiberglass that are out of place.
Once you have sufficiently flattened the bottom laps, you will want to wipe down the entire board with some denatured alcohol and a clean rag. This cleans up and prepares the surface of the board for the hot-coat stage.
Part 15: Hot-coating the Deck
Hot-coating, or fill-coating, is the second layer of resin applied to the board which fills in and smoothes out all of the bumps from the saturated weave of the fiberglass. A good hot-coat is really all about good preparation, clean/warm working conditions, and using the right tools for the job. Typically you will hot coat the deck of the board first.
The first thing you need to do, if you haven’t already, is try to make sure the board and air are completely free of dust, debris, fingerprints, and any other potential contaminants. Wiping down the board with a clean rag and denatured alcohol will do a good job of prepping the deck prior to the hot coat. As far as the air, you want to apply and cure the hot-coat in a controlled space without wind or bugs. You don’t want dust or bugs landing on your sticky hot-coat as it cures. You also want to have decent lighting for your hot-coat, so you are able to see any dry spots or areas of uneven coverage while you apply the resin.
Taping the Rails
Once the board is cleaned off, you need to tape off the rails with high quality masking tape, preferably 1 ½ inches wide or more, leaving the bottom edge of the tape hanging vertically to guide any excess resin toward the floor. The top edge of the tape should be stuck to the mid-point of the rail around the nose and middle of the rail, and then as it heads toward the tail, the tape should taper down toward the very bottom of the rail. You want to get your hot-coat to cover the entire tail-rail on this deck-side hot coat, because you will be covering up this area completely when hot-coating the bottom of the board in order to create sharp tail-rails.
Once the board is dust free and taped, it’s time to get everything prepared for your hot coat. You need to make sure you have everything handy, because hot-coating needs to happen rapidly. Most people hot-coat with a disposable 4” chip brush. Before you mix your resin, you should take some cheap masking tape, sticky side up, and mash your chip brush into the tape. This pulls out any loose bristles in the brush. When you are hotcoating, you want to avoid getting loose bristles (or any other junk) floating around in the resin as you brush it on.
Mixing the Resin
Once your board is clean and taped and your brush is plucked, it’s time to mix your hot coat Epoxy. First step is to put on a clean pair of vinyl gloves. Since you are not putting any more fiberglass on the board, and the goal is to apply a thin, flat coat of resin, you use significantly less epoxy for your hot-coat than you do in the lamination stage. The rule of thumb for hot-coat resin quantity is a little more than 1 oz of mixed material per foot of board length. So for a six foot board, mix 5oz epoxy with 2.5oz of hardener, for a total of 7.5 oz of mixed material. It is also recommended that you use 2 capfulls of Additive F for the hot-coat mix. Additive F helps the epoxy flow evenly on the surface, and makes your final sanding job easier. It is not advised to put any pigments or tints in the hot-coat mix, because you will be sanding this coat and the colors will get unevenly distorted by sanding. Hot-coats should just be clear. As always, mix the resin slowly but thoroughly for 1-2 minutes with a clean mixing stick before applying it to the board, taking care to scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bucket.
Brushing on the Hot-Coat
The key to a good hot-coat is to do it QUICKLY and then LEAVE IT ALONE. You have a relatively short window for the epoxy to flow freely and self-level on the board. If you push the epoxy around for too long, it will cure with brush strokes and other uneven bumps that make sanding more difficult. Watch some videos of good hot-coating techniques to get a feel for the pace and the process.
To get started pour about half of your hot-coat mix down the stringer line of the board, and split the other half a few inches in from the perimeter of the rails. Immediately take your 4” chip brush and “plow” the resin down the stringer line with medium pressure, leaving a thin coat of resin in its wake. Work your way nose-to tail on either side of the stringer with this snowplow method. You are pushing a pile of resin in front of the brush, and leaving a thin, smooth layer behind the brush. Keep working nose to tail outward, until you reach the tape-line on the rails.
Without delay, your next step is to do quick, light/medium pressure strokes from side to side across the board, from rail to rail. This step makes sure you have an even layer of resin covering the entire deck, evening out thin spots or covering dry spots. Try to catch some of the drips off the rail in your bucket, as you may need some of this for touch up on dry spots.
Once you are done with the cross-strokes, do one final nose-tail pass, with lighter pressure, starting at the center and working your way toward the rails. When this is done, double-check all around the deck and rails to make sure you didn’t miss any spots. The hot-coated area should have a shiny, wet, flat surface. Check for any brush bristles, body hair, dirt, or other contaminants and pull them off with tweezers, or the edge of your wet brush now (or never). Lightly brush over the area that you removed contaminants to smooth it out.
If you have any areas on the board where the epoxy doesn’t want to stick, this usually means you have hand-oil there. Rub that area with your gloved finger to dissipate the oil, and then lightly brush the area with your brush to smooth it out.
A final area to double check is the rails. Make sure there are no drips forming that will become a nuisance to sand when they harden. Work the rails lightly with your brush to remove any thick or drip areas that form on the rails.
Finally, try to do all of the double-checking/fixing QUICKLY. The entire hot-coat process should take 10 minutes or less. Once you are done, turn out the lights in your room and WALK AWAY. Wash or toss out your gloves and go have a beer. With fast hardener, your board will be ready to flip in 3-4 hours, with Kwick Kick, it should be ready to flip in between 30-90 minutes, depending on the temperature.
Hot-Coating the Bottom
Before you hot-coat the bottom, you need to pull the tape off the rail from your deck hot-coat. Peel it off and make sure you remove any remaining tape pieces carefully with a razor blade. It is easier to do this before the hot coat becomes completely hard, but make sure it isn’t tacky or gummy when you pull the tape. This is also a good time to use a razor blade to scrape off any lumps/drips on the top hot-coat that you didn’t catch earlier. When this area is cleaned up, do a final pass with a clean cloth and denatured alcohol to clean off any dust/debris/oil that may have collected on the area you are about to hot-coat.
Taping Rail and Tail Dam
Preparing for your bottom hot-coat requires a new tape barrier along the perimeter of the rail to protect the deck from getting unwanted drips. This tape step also gives you the ability to make a “dam” in the tail area to collect resin and help you form the sharp edges that most boards have. Start in the nose area and lay down your tape on the rail just below the old hot-coat line. You want to make sure you don’t leave any spots on the rail untouched by a hot-coat. If you did your taping correctly on the previous step, your rail along the tail area should already be completely hot-coated, so taper your tape up toward the tail, and actually have the top of the tape a few millimeters above the level of the tail area. This will act as the dam to catch and collect resin in this critical area. Finally, make sure your board is as level as possible to promote an evenly distributed flow of the resin when it settles on your board.
Laying Down the Hot-Coat
Once the rail is taped and board prepped, the process to hot-coat the bottom is identical to the top. All of the same rules and techniques apply. Pull off loose bristles on the 4” chip brush, put on clean vinyl gloves, and mix approximately the same amount of resin/hardener/Additive F as you did for the top. If you find that you made too much, or too little resin on the top hot-coat, adjust your quantities accordingly.
The only difference when hot-coating the bottom of the board is you have the dam in the tail that is catching, collecting resin as you hot-coat. You want to make sure that there is an even bead of resin settled in around the entire elevated tape area, but not so much resin collecting in this area that it is pooling or overflowing the dam.
Just as in hot-coating the deck, double check all of your work for a smooth even coat, brush away any drips, pull out any bristles/hairs, cover any dry spots, and rub-out and refill any separations. Remember to perform this clean-up work quickly and once again, WALK AWAY. Let the resin settle, flatten, and cure on its own.
Part 16: Fin Box and Leash Plug Install
Fin Box Installation
Some fin systems, such as FCS X2, single-fin boxes, and ProBox, are installed after your hot-coat has cured. There are also a few quality fin systems, such as FCS Fusion, FCS II, and Futures, which are installed directly into the foam prior to the lamination step. We are not going to go into specifics of the installation for each of these systems. Greenlight provides an installation video and complete installation instructionsof each of these fin-system on our website .
Regardless of which system you use, you will need some specific jigs and tools for the installation. Greenlight sells the installation kits for all the fin systems.
Another thing you need to consider when installing fin boxes into EPS foam is to use either Kwick Kick resin or a Finbox Install Resin Kit. The heat from fast-curing epoxy has been known to melt EPS foam in fin-box installs. If using UV cure polyester resin, you must add catalyst to the resin for finbox and leash plug installs because the sun will not penetrate the fin boxes to cure the resin.
Leash Plug Installation
Installing leash plugs is a fairly simple affair, but you can screw it up if you are not careful. Most leash plugs are installed after the hot-coat has cured. For EPS cores, Greenlight has invented a Vented Leash Plug, which helps to equalize pressure inside/outside the surfboard core due to hot temperatures or pressure changes (airplane holds). If you are making an EPS/Epoxy Board, we highly recommend you install a vented leash plug. It costs a few bucks more than a regular leash plug, but you get some peace of mind that you won’t have overheating/delaminating issues caused by big swings in temperature or pressure.
The Vented Leash Plugs need to be installed with a fairly specific (but still simple) process, so if you go this route, follow the instructions that come with each plug. For any leash-plug installation, there are a few tools you need to do the job right:
- Power drill
- Forstner Bit or Holesaw Bit
* Vented leash plugs and FCS leash plugs require a 1" or 1 1/8" diameter bit
You can make a drill jig by using your bit to drill through a thin scrap piece of masonite or plywood. Then tape the jig to the board to ensure the bit does not run across the hotcoat before penetrating the lamination and foam.
Drilling the Hole
Put tape around the bit as a visual depth guide so that the bit cuts about 1/16” shallower than your leash plug depth. This will give you something to sand off into a flush, leak-free edge. Tape the drill jig to the board with masking tape at the desired location. You can pulse the trigger of the drill to slowly bore through the fiberglass, making sure to keep it at a 90 degree angle so you don’t distort the hole. Keep a light touch on the drill, because once you get through the fiberglass, the bit is going to cut much faster in the soft foam. Drill with light pressure until the tape depth guide gets near the drill jig. Check the depth with the plug and drill a bit more if needed. Blow any excess junk out of the drilled hole, and now you should have a nice clean hole for the plug install.
Installing the Plug
The first thing you should do before mixing your resin for the leash plug is to tape off a little area around the hole on the deck of the board using high-temp masking tape. This masks the board from drips and overflow, so you don’t have to sand them off later. Also, put a strip of high-temp masking tape over the top surface of the leash plug itself. Trim the tape around the circumference of the top of the leash plug, and make sure you have a good seal between the tape and plug to prevent resin from dripping down into the plug.
You only need about an ounce of mixed epoxy for a leash plug install, so we recommend mixing it in very small graduated mixing cups that have small enough increments to make sure you can accurately gauge your 2:1 resin/hardener ratio. After you’ve added the hardener to the resin, a nice touch (but not totally necessary) is to add some opaque pigment to the mix, along with a teaspoon of thickening agent which helps reduce air bubbles. Additive F is not needed for your leash-plug install.
Make sure everything is mixed in thoroughly, then pour the mixed blend into the hole you drilled in the board. Pour enough resin in to fill about 1/3rd of the depth of the hole. Then take your leash plug and carefully press it into the hole. The resin should rise up around the sides of the hole. You want the resin to rise just above the surface of the board, so pour some extra resin in around the sides of the plug until it reaches that level. There may be some settling of the resin, so double check after a few minutes and top off the fill to make sure the resin cures slightly above the surface. You will sand everything flush and remove the tape once you do your final sanding of the glass job.
Part 18: Sanding your Glass Job
In our opinion, sanding is the most underappreciated and also the most difficult step of board building to master. Once again, you can go a long way to shorten your learning curve in sanding with good tools and technique, but there is no substitute for practice. Like shaping, you could do an entire sand job by hand, but you will get better, faster and more consistent results if you use a variable-speed power sander. Your sander should have speeds from about 0-3,000 RPM and accept 5/8” course thread sanding disc pads, such as the Power Pads that are very popular with experienced surfboard sanders. For a proper sanding job, you will need to have a hard or medium pad and a soft pad. As for sandpaper grits, you will want some medium grit (60-80) sandpaper or adhesive-backed sanding discs for your hard/medium pad and a progressive range of higher grit sandpaper or adhesive backed discs (120, 150, 220, 320, 400) for your soft-pad. You will also be doing some hand-sanding in the sensitive areas (rails) so you’ll want to have some soft sanding blocks with paper in the 120-400 grit range. If you are just using regular cloth backed sandpaper on your sanding discs, you need to cut the paper in the circular shape with scissors, and some temporary adhesive spray (3M Super 77) so stick the paper to the sanding pad. Finally, you want stability when sanding, so use your shaping rack (not glassing stands) for your sanding job.
The purpose of sanding your glass job is to flatten and smooth out the entire board by sanding off the shiny gloss finish, then to slowly build back the shine by sanding with progressively higher grits. Typically you start sanding by flattening out your fin boxes with your medium/hard sanding pad and 60-80 grit sandpaper. Before you even do this, however, it is a good idea to put some 120 grit sandpaper on your soft pad, and do a quick pass on the deck of your board in the areas where the board will be contacting your shaping rack. This helps keep the board from slipping on the rack while you are sanding the bottom.
Power sanding effectively is all about technique. As a beginner, you can always reduce your RPM. The slower your RPM, the less material the sander will remove. On a six-speed (common) sander, you really don’t want to be sanding much higher than level 3 (1,500 RPM) to be safe. Try to hold the sanding disc as flat as possible as you are moving it around the board. If the pad is on too much of an angle, it will dig (especially hard/medium pads) and create a rut. Keep it flat, and keep it moving. If you stay in one place with the sander, you will create a dip or “burn” through the weave in the fiberglass. Another trouble spot is the curved areas, especially the nose and rail areas. You really want to reduce your RPMs in these areas and keep your pressure lighter. If you are uncomfortable with the sander, the rails and nose areas are good places to hand sand with a soft sanding block. Better safe than sorry.
Flattening the Fin Boxes and Leash Plug
You want to use your hard/medium sanding pad and medium grit (60-80) sandpaper to sand your fin boxes flush with the bottom of the board. Use low-medium RPMs and don’t continually press down with the sander in one place. Keep the sander moving back and forth on the fin box, and remove the sander entirely every 20 seconds or so. If you have constant pressure, you run the risk of over-heating and distorting the fin box. Try to remove material as evenly as possible by keeping the disc moving from front to back, and holding the disc as flat as possible while you are sanding. Keep grinding the boxes down with your hard/medium pad until they are only about 1/16” above the surface of the board. You will get them totally flat when you move on to your soft pad and higher grits.
While you still have your hard/medium pad in hand, you may as will flip over the board and grind down your leash plug. Again, take it down until it’s just above the surface of the board. You will flatten and smooth it down later with your soft pad and higher grits. Keep the sander moving and flat, just like with the fin boxes.
Sanding the Flats
Once your boxes are sanded flush, its time you load up your 8” soft sanding pad with 120 grit sandpaper and start sanding the flats of your board. The goal is to remove the entire “shiny” surface with your 120 grit. The better your glass job, the easier this job will be. If you have a lumpy glass job, sanding will be more difficult and time consuming.
Start on the bottom of your board along the stringer line with your sander on a medium speed (setting 3 is good). Hold the sanding pad as flat as possible with medium pressure and work your way nose-tail to remove the shine. You will get a feel for the most effective pressure and sander speed as you go. Just make sure you never stay in one place and keep the sander moving. You should also remove the final bit of fin box material sticking up from the surface during this phase, getting the boxes perfectly flush with the surface of the board.
Once you have sanded away most of the shine from the bottom, flip the board over and start sanding the deck. Again, be careful in the nose and rail areas. There is no shame in sanding these areas by hand.
Sanding the Curves
Novice sanders are better off sanding the nose and rail areas by hand, especially with the rougher (120-150) grits, which remove material more quickly and can make gouges in the board if not handled with care. We recommend a soft sanding pad with 120 grit sandpaper to conform to the curved areas. The goal is the same: flatten the surface and remove the shine. The first grit (120) is the toughest of all stages in the sanding process, as you are using the most muscle and removing the most material. If you have any minor dips in the flats that are still shiny, you can try to sand them with the soft sanding pad by hand.
You may have a thin line along your rail formed from your tape barrier during the hot coat stage. You can smooth this out by scraping it with a razor blade working nose-tail along the rail. Another really nice aid for smoothing out the rails is soft-backed sanding sponge, which wraps the rails smoothly and leaves a nice finish. We suggest you play around with all of these soft-sanding hand-tools to see which ones you like better. Stick with 120 grit until you have removed all of the shine from the board.
If you plan to do a final Gloss Coat on your board, you should skip the Burn Through and Fine Sanding sections and go right to Pinlining and Glosscoating. If you don’t plan to do a gloss coat, then your next step is to deal with any Burn Throughs and then Fine Sand your hot-coat.
Dealing with Burn Throughs
Once you’ve sanded the entire board with 120 grit, there is a very high likelihood (99.9%) that you have some areas of “burn through” where the weave from the fiberglass is exposed. If left exposed, this weave will suck water into your blank, so it needs to be dealt with before you go further. If your board is completely pocked with burn throughs, your best bet is probably just to do another complete hot-coat. This hot coat should come out better and flatter since you’ve already sanded the board pretty smooth. If you are fortunate enough to only have a few burn throughs, you can probably just “spot” hot coat those areas by painting on a thin layer of epoxy to re-seal those spots. Mix up a small quantity of epoxy (don’t forget the Additive F) and use a smaller chip brush to paint a thin layer of epoxy over the burn throughs. Just like a hot coat, cover all of the burn-throughs, then just let the epoxy sit, settle, and cure flat.
Once these areas cure, you can hand sand them flush by hand with a soft block and 120 grit. Take your time and be careful not to burn through again, and try to feather the edges of these patches smoothly into the existing glass job.
Fine Grit Sanding
Once you have re-sealed any burn throughs, it’s time to go back to the sander with progressively higher grits of paper to restore the shine back to your glass job. The next grit is typically 150. Sanding with these higher grits should be much easier than the original 120, because at this point you are not trying to remove material. Grits 150 and higher essentially just smooth out the scratch marks from the grits immediately before them. You will be creating a lot of dust while sanding, so it is a good idea to wipe down your board with a rag and denatured alcohol between grits to see if you have done a sufficient job of smoothing out the surface. Again, it’s OK to use soft sanding pads to smooth out the curved areas, just make sure you use the same grit sanding pad as you are using with your power sander.
You should run your fine grit sander through a progression of finer grits: 150, 220, 320, and finally, 400. Wet sanding with 320 and 400 is also a good idea, since the water keeps the paper cleaner and gives you a more consistent cut. Once you are finished sanding with 400, your board will have a finish comparable to most matte-finish boards you see in surf shops. It is perfectly fine to stop at this point and consider your board FINISHED!
Part 19: Post Glass Artwork (Optional)
Once your board is fine-sanded to 400, you have the option of adding some artwork using Posca Water-Based Paint Pens, or even Water-based spray paint. The sky is the limit on what you want to do at this stage, just make the board is nice and clean (wipe down with acetone or DNA) and don’t spray anything on too thick. If you are doing any taping to mask or create lines, make sure you use high-temp masking tape to avoid bleeding though the tape lines. Any artwork you add at this stage should be protected with one or two coats of clear spray-on water-based acrylic. This will ensure the artwork doesn’t get rubbed off when you are removing or putting on wax.
If you did a cut-lap glass-job and plan to gloss-coat your board, you may want to consider adding pinlines. The pinlines can cover up any sloppy areas of the cut-lap, and also add an additional element of style to the board. If you only sanded your board to 120 grit and plan on adding a gloss coat, then you should take the time now to sand the pinline area down to 220 or 320 grit before you begin laying tape for the pinlines. There are several options available that work effectively for pinlines and epoxy glass jobs:
This is probably one of the easier methods of putting pinlines on your board. The first step is to use high quality pinline tape to create the borders of your pinline. Basically, you want to make sure the pinlines cover any jagged areas around the cut-lap line, so make your borders wide enough to cover these areas. Laying your tape in a nice, clean curve can be tricky. It might take you a few tries to get it right, so make sure your tape has a strong adhesive that can handle a few “redos”.
Once you have laid down your tape boarders, use an opaque Posca Paint Pen in your color and width of choice to fill in the area between the tape lines. This creates your pinline with a nice, sharp border. When the marker is dry, pull the tape, and VERY LIGHTLY sand the pinlines with 400 grit sandpaper. Slightly roughing it up will prevent your gloss coat from running over that area.
This “old school” method requires the same border-tape preparation as the Posca method, but instead of using a paint pen, you use opaque acrylic paste from a squeeze tube and lay a thin layer of this paste in your pinline area and smooth it over with a gloved-finger. This is probably the most difficult method to master, but will get you good results if you have the patience to practice.
Another common method of creating pinlines is to use pigmented epoxy. The same taping method applies to tape your border, then mix up a batch of pigmented epoxy and brush it into the tape-border with a thin paint brush. Make sure it isn’t brushed on too thick so you don’t create a bump in the pinline area. You want to pull the tape when the resin pinline is no longer tacky, but not so hard that it makes pulling the tape more difficult. Add a little X-55 epoxy cure accelerator to the mix so the resin sets up quickly and doesn't run over the tape.
Once your pinlines are applied and dry, it’s time for the final step in boardmaking: Gloss Coating and Polishing your board to a showroom shine.
Part 20: Gloss Coat/Polish (Optional)
Gloss coats are essentially a second hot coat that is fine sanded, compounded, and polished to a shine. Typically, gloss coats are found on longboards and retro-style boards, where weight isn’t a factor. Adding a gloss coat increases the weight of your board, so typically high-performance shortboards skip a gloss coat and are considered done after fine sanding the hot coat to 400 grit or so.
If you are making a longboard, tinted board, or opaque pigmented board, the colors will really pop when they are glossed and polished. The process requires some specialized materials and tools (all borrowed from the automotive finishing industry), all of which you can get in Greenlight’s Gloss/Polish Kit. Glossing/polishing epoxy has always been considered more difficult than doing it on polyester resin, but the truth is, you can get a really nice shine on epoxy by using a few higher grits of sandpaper before switching to your compounding bonnet.
Brushing on your Gloss Coat
The process for applying your gloss coat is nearly identical to applying a hot coat. Since you already have a smooth, sanded hot coat, you need a little bit less resin for your gloss coat. Still, plan on about 1oz of mixed material per foot of surfboard length, and don’t forget about your 2 capfuls of Additive F to help the resin flow evenly on the board. Just like hot-coating, you want to tape off your rails with high-temp masking tape to keep drips from running down the rail. Also, if you aren’t satisfied with the sharpness of your tail edge, you can use the gloss coat as a second chance to square it up with a small tape-dam in that area.
A little trick while glossing is to use a razor blade to scrape away the bump of epoxy left along the tape border once the epoxy has set up and is no longer tacky. It is easier to scrape away this small line of epoxy when it is soft (but not sticky). Do this twice (after you have glossed each side of the board), as it will make your final sanding/polishing step easier.
Fine Sanding the Gloss Coat
Once your gloss coat has cured, you should have a nice, shiny flat finish that is ready to sand. Since you did a lot of the rough sanding on your hot-coat, you start sanding your gloss coat with higher grits. Most glossers start with 320 grit and remove the shiny surface first (don’t worry, it will come back). Make sure to keep your sandpaper as clean as possible, brushing the buildup off with a wire brush. Once you have sanded away the shine, you need to work your way up with progressively higher grits of sandpaper. Each grit removes the scratches left by the previous grit.
After 320 grit, move to 400, still using your power sander. You may also want to start wet-sanding at this stage. From 400 grit, you may want to switch to hand-sanding with a soft or medium sanding pad. The progression of grits should be: 600, 800, 1000, 1,500, and finally 2,000. You should wet sand all of these grits, as it helps keep the sandpaper clean and cutting evenly. Run your sanding pad nose to tail and tail to nose during these stages. You want to avoid going rail to rail or in circles, as you are just trying to remove the fine scratches from the previous grit.
Once you have wet-sanded to 2,000, it’s time to break out your wool compounding bonnet and compounding liquid. You need to use your variable speed sander/polisher for these final steps. The goal with the compound is to squirt it on the board and spread it around while it’s still in liquid form. Typically you work in sections with the compound, spreading it around and buffing the board until the compound dries in a haze. Once that section is dry, move on to the next section. Finally, when all of the sections are dry, you basically buff off the compound with your polisher/sander. Don’t forget the rails. You should be covering the entire board with the compound. You can do the whole thing with the power polisher. No need to hand-compound at this stage. Once the compound is buffed off, hand-wipe the entire board with a microfiber cloth to remove any compound residue before you start the polishing stage.
The final step in the process, polishing requires use of a polishing compound (finer grit) and polishing bonnet (typically foam). Besides these two components, the polishing step is essentially the same as the compounding step. Work section by section, and don’t forget the rails. Once the polish has dried to a haze, you buff it off with your polisher and you won’t believe your eyes. The board should be back to it’s original post-gloss shine. At this stage, take one final pass with your microfiber cloth, and you are DONE.