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Wanna Shape Your Own Board? Here’s What You Need

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DIY board-building is one of the most time-honored and creative aspects of surf culture. For a lot of salts, going deep into the garage and emerging with something that may or may not resemble a surfboard is a bucket lister of the surf experience. Imagine doing a stylish mid-faced turn or making an impossibly fast section on a sled with your own signature on the stringer.
If you’ve been harboring the romantic notion of riding your own boards and are interested in dipping your toe into the realm of shaping, you’d be wise to start by gathering some tools. We recently tracked down shaper Jon Pyzel to get an idea of the essential instruments one would need in order to turn a blank into a board.
“Most people aren’t making high-performance shortboards right out of the gate,” says shaper Jon Pyzel, “They’re getting into shaping by making fun, funky things, and for the most part, they all work. Shaping a fat fish or something that gets waves, you really can’t screw it up.”
Pyzel moved from Santa Barbara to the North Shore in the early 90s and began working in board factories, eventually starting his own label and having the good business sense in 1998 to make boards for a skinny six-year-old kid who would one day morph into a World Champ. Today, he’s among the world’s most noted shapers.
We didn’t get into glassing because, well that gets complicated, but it turns out you don’t need a whole hell of a lot to simply shape up some foam. There are some suppliers that sell board building tools and materials, but according to Pyzel, you can get most everything you need from your local hardware store. Some of these gadgets, you can make yourself.
“A lot of guys use 25 different tools. I guess I’m a more rugged shaper because I only use about five,” Pyzel laughs.
Here’s where he says you should start.

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It’s durable and won’t break the bank for setting up a first-time shaping bay.nnMetalux 8-foot White Fluorescent Strip Light $38.97″,”url”:”https://i1.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/METALUX-8-FOOT-WHITE-FLORESCENT-STRIP-LIGHT.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:21-08:00″,”caption”:”There are certain templates you can buy for whatever board you want to make, but if you’re looking to do your own design or recreate an old stick, you can make a template. Masonite is pretty standard for DIY-ers.nnMasonite is the smooth, top layer used on skate ramps generally sold at the hardware store. The 1/8-inch is easier to cut. They come in 4-foot x 8-foot sheets. Lay it out and trace away.nnHardboard Tempered Panel 1/8 in. 4 ft. x 8 ft.”,”url”:”https://i2.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/HARDBOARD-TEMPERED-PANEL-MASONITE-SHEET.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:20-08:00″,”caption”:”Measure twice, cut once.nnA shaper, like any craftsman, needs a good measuring tape and this is a solid choice–Light and sturdy. Pyzel prefers this self-locking tape. Super simple.nnStanley Leverlock $4.84″,”url”:”https://i0.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/STANLEY-LEVERLOCK.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:20-08:00″,”caption”:”If you plan on crafting a board from polyurethane foam, know that it’s still a somewhat toxic (though not gaseous) petroleum product. From a veteran like Pyzel to a garage hobbyist, anyone mowing foam needs the proper safety gear.nnThe Moldex 2200 has a collapse-resistant shell and contour molded nose bridge. A soft foam cushion eliminates pressure points.nnMoldex 220 N95 $3″,”url”:”https://i1.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/MOLDEX-220.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:21-08:00″,”caption”:”“You need a handsaw to cut the outline from the blank after the template has been drawn,” says Pyzel. “You can literally get almost any old handsaw. You just don’t want it to be super coarse or super fine.”nnIf you can’t snake one from the neighbor’s shed, this 12-inch-long tapered saw will certainly do the job. Use the tapered end for nose and tail and the fat middle part to keep the rails straight up and down.nnGreenlight Surfboard Shaping Handsaw $9.98″,”url”:”https://i2.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/HAND-SAW.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:20-08:00″,”caption”:”OK. Here’s your power tool and one of your biggest investments as a fledgling shaper. We went with a less-expensive planer for folks just getting the bug in the garage. This is Wen’s basic 120 volt, 6 AMP workhorse. But it’s been specifically modified for board shaping.nnIt now has a 20-foot cord for mobility around the shaping bay and a vacuum exhaust attachment. The front shoe is rounded so that it doesn’t gouge the blank. Depth control on the top knob goes from zero to 1/8-inch. nn“This tool cuts really efficiently. You want to get as close as possible to your final shape with the plane,” says Pyzel, “A lot of first-timers get really scared when they use the plane. They think they’re going to start messing up, so they ease off and think they can do all that shaping with the surform. But that’s not the way to do it.”nnModified Wen Planer $215″,”url”:”https://i1.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/WEN-ELECTRIC-PLANER.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:20-08:00″,”caption”:”A surform is among the most basic and universal tools of shaping. It’s essentially the tuning step between the plane and the sandpaper.nnPyzel suggests a larger surform to use on the bigger, flatter surfaces and a smaller, single-headed surform for the intricacies. The Stanley 10-inch is a good first tool, known for its durable-but-lightweight alloy body. Mostly used sideways on the deck, it removes material rapidly. New blades are an easy swap.nnStanley Surform 10-inch Plane $17.80nnStanley Surform Pocket Plane $7.85 “,”url”:”https://i0.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/STANLEY-SURFORM.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:21-08:00″,”caption”:”The Artu is a slightly narrow-body plane and uses standard razor blades found at your local hardware store. This hobby plane is multi-purpose, working as several different tools in one. It uses high-quality industrial blades that shouldn’t really need sharpening. Clean cuts. nnArtu Hobby Plane $19″,”url”:”https://i2.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/ARTU-HOBBY-PLANE.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:21-08:00″,”caption”:”The caliper is used for measuring thickness. Shaper Supply has a basic caliper for $29 and a more complicated scissor caliper for $75, but Pyzel insists that you can save money here and build your own.nn“You can use the cut offs from the Masonite and cut two basic shapes, then attach them with a bolt and wingnut,” he explains. “You hold the caliper to the rail, hold it still as you pull it back and lay it on a tape measure to gauge the thickness.”nnBasic Calipers $29″,”url”:”https://i0.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/CALIPERS.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:21-08:00″,”caption”:”You may know this from basic DIY projects as a sanding pad. It’s as basic as a tool can get. The block doesn’t do the actual sanding, but the sandpaper around it does. Rigid blocks are used for flat parts of the board and the soft flex is best for contour sanding.nnPyzel feels that a shaping pad is something you can probably make yourself, like many other tools.nn“You can probably find a piece of 2×4 and some carpet in a dumpster,” he says, “I’ve shaped all over the world in places that don’t have supplies. I just found something that works.”nnFlexpad Foam Shaping Pad $20.50″,”url”:”https://i0.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/FLEXPAD-FOAM-SHAPING-PADS.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:21-08:00″,”caption”:”“These are made for drywall but have been adapted for shaping,” Pyzel explains. “Screens come in different grits. but lower grits are more effective at cutting cleanly.” nnScreens are used primarily for the rails. Available in 120, 180 and 240 grit.nnSanding Screen 120 grit $3nn “,”url”:”https://i0.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/SANDING-SCREEN.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:20-08:00″,”caption”:”“The stringer is hard and the foam is soft,” says Pyzel. “A lot of novice, and even some good shapers, make a mistake when they’re sanding by bringing down the foam but the stringer stays high. When you run your hands across the deck you can feel that the stringer creates a ridge. I don’t leave it high. I have this weird obsession where I never want to feel that bump.”nnHe explains that you can customize a plane to fit into the curves of the nose of the board but most shapers will use a spokeshave, a tiny plane with handles on the side used to shape and smooth wood projects, to bring down the stringer. This is very basic to help with the rocker.nnSpokeshave $8.95″,”url”:”https://i1.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/SPOKESHAVE.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″},{“@type”:”ImageObject”,”datePublished”:”2019-11-26T13:39:21-08:00″,”caption”:”It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with sandpaper, the different kinds and the grit. Rough paper is lower grit; fine paper is higher grit.nn“There’s so many different variations of sandpaper,” says Pyzel, “Some guys go all the way down to 220. I only shape with 40 grit. It’s worth investing in good sandpaper. I’ll use one sheet for 100 boards.”nnShaper Supply carries Indasa sandpaper for its high quality cutting power and efficiency. nnIndasa Whiteline Sandpaper $1.20/single sheet”,”url”:”https://i2.wp.com/www.surfer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/INDASA-WHITELINE-SANDPAPER.jpg?resize=1200%2C1200&ssl=1″,”width”:”1200″,”height”:”1200″}]}
Photo Credit: Home DepotMETALUX 8-FOOT WHITE FLORESCENT STRIP LIGHT“One of the most basic, but very important tools for a shaper to have is good lighting,” says Pyzel. “The worst thing placing a light directly above you. You want the light coming from the side. Install fluorescent lights on your shelves at about chest-high. You’re looking for all the subtleties in the shadows when you shape and this will allow you to see them.”The Metalux has a unique flip-up socket design for quick installation. It’s durable and won’t break the bank for setting up a first-time shaping bay.Metalux 8-foot White Fluorescent Strip Light $38.97HARDBOARD TEMPERED PANEL MASONITE SHEETThere are certain templates you can buy for whatever board you want to make, but if you’re looking to do your own design or recreate an old stick, you can make a template. Masonite is pretty standard for DIY-ers.Masonite is the smooth, top layer used on skate ramps generally sold at the hardware store. The 1/8-inch is easier to cut. They come in 4-foot x 8-foot sheets. Lay it out and trace away.Hardboard Tempered Panel 1/8 in. 4 ft. x 8 ft.STANLEY LEVERLOCKMeasure twice, cut once.A shaper, like any craftsman, needs a good measuring tape and this is a solid choice–Light and sturdy. Pyzel prefers this self-locking tape. Super simple.Stanley Leverlock $4.84
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MOLDEX 220 N95 DUST MASKIf you plan on crafting a board from polyurethane foam, know that it’s still a somewhat toxic (though not gaseous) petroleum product. From a veteran like Pyzel to a garage hobbyist, anyone mowing foam needs the proper safety gear.The Moldex 2200 has a collapse-resistant shell and contour molded nose bridge. A soft foam cushion eliminates pressure points.Moldex 220 N95 $3HAND SAW“You need a handsaw to cut the outline from the blank after the template has been drawn,” says Pyzel. “You can literally get almost any old handsaw. You just don’t want it to be super coarse or super fine.”If you can’t snake one from the neighbor’s shed, this 12-inch-long tapered saw will certainly do the job. Use the tapered end for nose and tail and the fat middle part to keep the rails straight up and down.Greenlight Surfboard Shaping Handsaw $9.98WEN ELECTRIC PLANEROK. Here’s your power tool and one of your biggest investments as a fledgling shaper. We went with a less-expensive planer for folks just getting the bug in the garage. This is Wen’s basic 120 volt, 6 AMP workhorse. But it’s been specifically modified for board shaping.It now has a 20-foot cord for mobility around the shaping bay and a vacuum exhaust attachment. The front shoe is rounded so that it doesn’t gouge the blank. Depth control on the top knob goes from zero to 1/8-inch. “This tool cuts really efficiently. You want to get as close as possible to your final shape with the plane,” says Pyzel, “A lot of first-timers get really scared when they use the plane. They think they’re going to start messing up, so they ease off and think they can do all that shaping with the surform. But that’s not the way to do it.”Modified Wen Planer $215
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STANLEY SURFORMA surform is among the most basic and universal tools of shaping. It’s essentially the tuning step between the plane and the sandpaper.Pyzel suggests a larger surform to use on the bigger, flatter surfaces and a smaller, single-headed surform for the intricacies. The Stanley 10-inch is a good first tool, known for its durable-but-lightweight alloy body. Mostly used sideways on the deck, it removes material rapidly. New blades are an easy swap.Stanley Surform 10-inch Plane $17.80Stanley Surform Pocket Plane $7.85 ARTU HOBBY PLANEThe Artu is a slightly narrow-body plane and uses standard razor blades found at your local hardware store. This hobby plane is multi-purpose, working as several different tools in one. It uses high-quality industrial blades that shouldn’t really need sharpening. Clean cuts. Artu Hobby Plane $19CALIPERSThe caliper is used for measuring thickness. Shaper Supply has a basic caliper for $29 and a more complicated scissor caliper for $75, but Pyzel insists that you can save money here and build your own.“You can use the cut offs from the Masonite and cut two basic shapes, then attach them with a bolt and wingnut,” he explains. “You hold the caliper to the rail, hold it still as you pull it back and lay it on a tape measure to gauge the thickness.”Basic Calipers $29
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FLEXPAD FOAM SHAPING PADSYou may know this from basic DIY projects as a sanding pad. It’s as basic as a tool can get. The block doesn’t do the actual sanding, but the sandpaper around it does. Rigid blocks are used for flat parts of the board and the soft flex is best for contour sanding.Pyzel feels that a shaping pad is something you can probably make yourself, like many other tools.“You can probably find a piece of 2×4 and some carpet in a dumpster,” he says, “I’ve shaped all over the world in places that don’t have supplies. I just found something that works.”Flexpad Foam Shaping Pad $20.50SANDING SCREEN“These are made for drywall but have been adapted for shaping,” Pyzel explains. “Screens come in different grits. but lower grits are more effective at cutting cleanly.” Screens are used primarily for the rails. Available in 120, 180 and 240 grit.Sanding Screen 120 grit $3 SPOKESHAVE“The stringer is hard and the foam is soft,” says Pyzel. “A lot of novice, and even some good shapers, make a mistake when they’re sanding by bringing down the foam but the stringer stays high. When you run your hands across the deck you can feel that the stringer creates a ridge. I don’t leave it high. I have this weird obsession where I never want to feel that bump.”He explains that you can customize a plane to fit into the curves of the nose of the board but most shapers will use a spokeshave, a tiny plane with handles on the side used to shape and smooth wood projects, to bring down the stringer. This is very basic to help with the rocker.Spokeshave $8.95
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INDASA WHITELINE SANDPAPERIt’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with sandpaper, the different kinds and the grit. Rough paper is lower grit; fine paper is higher grit.“There’s so many different variations of sandpaper,” says Pyzel, “Some guys go all the way down to 220. I only shape with 40 grit. It’s worth investing in good sandpaper. I’ll use one sheet for 100 boards.”Shaper Supply carries Indasa sandpaper for its high quality cutting power and efficiency. Indasa Whiteline Sandpaper $1.20/single sheet

board shapingJon Pyzel

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