Monday, June 29, 2009

Josh Dowling on composite surfboards

Composite construction or the process of vacuum bagging or laminating wooden skins over a foam core is the very high tech end of wooden surfboards. The purists may not view it as a wooden board in the way a solid or chambered board is to them. But technology is there to be used and move us forward and expand the possibilities . Here is Josh's story...

Shaping since the age of 13, and working professionally in every aspect of board production, I always had an interest in alternative construction. I had consistently tried to break from the repetitive 6’2 squashtail formula in both shape and materials. Initially I was after durability and performance rather than the beauty of wood for its own sake, though that is a bonus I very much enjoy now.

The path which took me to the boards I currently make has a bit of a story...

Up to the minute design and wood skin composite construction
Beautiful and functional Paulownia skins
Detail of high density foam plug reinforcement
Tailblock detail prior to laminating...
The finished job.
Paulownia has some beautiful grain
Monsta Jacko's shortboard is 7' 4" x 21 1/2"
In Byron in the late 90’s I also did a stint with Bamboo surfboards Australia. It was here that I was first exposed to vacuum bagging, but their methods were prone to problems, hence I was wary, but the road led to EPS as the lighter bouncier option, and of course it can only be lammed in epoxy.

I’d returned to Torquay and been producing my own label in “normal” construction for a while when a longtime customer traded my shapes for surftech! Thats not an uncommon experience amongst shapers, but it was my stimulus to attempt to make custom boards with similar durability...

So I got experimental...not for the first time!
I scored a panel of 2mm timber, from a pressed-ply chair manufacturer, and sandbag pressed it onto EPS. I also used carbon around the rails...This board was too small for me, but was ridden successfully by my mate steak, It looked butt-ugly because I’d lammed it with qcell in the resin to save weight.

Around this time, 2004, a friend pointed me towards “Swaylocks” where a number of guys around the world were experimenting with composite boards. With “Pinhead” paying for the materials and myself doing the work, I took to vacuum bagging in the garage, and six months later the first Balsa railed EPS/Corecell composite boards emerged.

I was sceptical...the process seemed convoluted compared to conventional boards. These boards were yellow, expensive and time-consuming, but on my first surf I was convinced they were a step forward. The “twang” from the timber rail was tangible in bottom turns, becoming forward projection which saw me making sections from way behind at Winkipop. I was in love!

Balsa / Corcell / EPS / Epoxy prototype for Pinhead - 5' 11" x 19 1/4"

This is "Offcutter" The first flat to bend board produced by me under Firewire lable and still a regular ride at 7" x 18 3/4"

Immediately I began to devise ways to make the construction simpler, and the next board was built from a flat slab of foam and wood sticks bent to a rocker rather than cut to profile. This allowed a saving on materials which was greatly encouraging.

I began to correspond with Bert Burger and Nev Hyman and soon became Research and Development technician for the fledgling Firewire company. I was paid to play around with the composite technology and to this day I have a quiver of my own shapes in variations on the balsa railed composite tech. It was here that I was able to fully develop the techniques I had initiated in the garage in Torquay and my inventions became the basis for the mass-production of Firewire boards.

This one is the original flat-to-bend construction prototype which became Firewire...Made in a garage in Torquay for fellow shaper Mark Phipps. The skins and rails are spliced together from offcuts of the first two boards. Note the Balsa/Corecell combo deck.

My involvement with Firewire and Sunova dissolved with my becoming disillusioned in the shadow of more famous names. I returned to Victoria to take off where I had left off, and now I proudly put my name to my shapes and construction.

I’ve exchanged the use of Balsa for Pawlonia, a timber which is less water-absorbent if dinged. My supply is Australian grown, and I make each board by hand, absolutely custom.

Pawlonia also gives what are more interesting grain patterns than balsa, and I love to play
‘spot-the-hidden pictures” with the whirls and knots in the timber. With all-timber boards I find the stiffness factor means I have to compensate with added tail rocker rather than relying on the flex which High - Density foam skins allow. My orders are evenly split between wood, foam skins or a combination of both. I’m still most interested in cutting-edge design rather than retro...Having said that I intend to build myself some old-school single fin showpieces.

I can build a shortboard under 2kg on request, but I find that my customers are very pleased with a typical high-performance weight with the added durability of the composite construction.

Full-circle from corporate involvement in surfboard manufacturing back to my roots, I’m happy to be making my own thing and I relish having some stoked customers.

Josh <>

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bobby Crisp's working on a couple of boards for August

Bobby Crisp from Wellington , New Zealand id finishing off a couple of boards to bring over in August to The Wooden Surfboard Day. He does a nice job , with a lot of detail in his inlays and wood work. Looking forward to meeting him and checking out his boards.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

All great wooden boards need a great fin

When you build a great looking wooden board , don't forget to finish it off with a great wooden fin. There are not many better at it than John Cherry. Beautiful woods and a great craftsmanship to create this art.

No excuses now with this sort of inspiration.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Still chipping away

Roger Hall , profiling one of 4 boards he is building for August. He is loving working with wood again. He includes some beautiful wooden nose and tail block detail on a lot of his foam boards. Check his web site for some great examples.

Monday, June 22, 2009

14 footer for Brett

Brett Layton a local Gold Coaster normally rides a short board , but decided he wanted a cruiser for small days. He had a mate design a 14 foot board in Aku Shaper and I put the file through template maker for him. Then he had the frames cnc routed out of ply.
Cable ties hold it all together prior to gluing
All glued up , one big frame.
6mm Paulownia sheets and Cedar pin lines

Lots of clamps and a lot of running around a 14 foot board to glue the skins on by yourself.

Yes she will be a cruiser.
All ready to trim the skins to the rail band and then add the rails in strips of Paulownia. Brett wants to not glass the whole board and just oil the wood . Paulownia won't take in salt water and with oiling like you do with an Alaia it should be fine.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Roger Hall hard at work building wooden boards for August

There are a hell of a lot of sticks of wood there for one board
Four boards all glued up and ready to be turned into things of beauty by the craftsman

Looks like a speed dialer to me
One under way and 3 to go. No small job.

Ready for glassing

Tony Crimmins , has been working away on this beauty and it is now ready for glassing. Paulownia over a plywood frame with Cedar and Paulownia nose and tail blocks. He has done a great job and I look forward to seeing it in the flesh in August.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chamber that wood

Roger Hall over in New Zealand has been a busy beaver chambering 4 boards to bring to the wooden board day in August. Mate a hell of a lot of work. Look forward to the outcome. Roger owns and runs Surfline Surfboards in the North of the North Island and is busy hand shaping foam all day , so fitting in these four very time consuming wooden beauties is a big job. I appreciate your support and effort.Check out Rogers boards and skills :

Comfy chair

If you have some time and some scrap bits of wood here is a great little project for you. Chip away at one of these guys to bring along to the park in August.
Remember Sunday 9th August is Wooden Surfboard gathering at Currumbin Alley on the Gold Coast.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

From foam to wood - Frank Kaczmarek

This is what you can do when you break your foam board and you want a project to keep you busy.This is Franks story...

" Hi my name's Frank Kaczmarek and I live on the Gold Coast at Labrador. Earlier this year I broke my 9' "Evolve" longboard in a nasty head-high barrel that closed out on me at Burleigh. The board was custom made only a year earlier by Darren Dobbie. I ended up with two halves and no justification to spend another $1000 for a board, so decided to build my own. I'm quite handy with wood so I thought I'd give it a try. After looking on the web I put together a few Ideas and worked out my way to do it. I cut the remains of the old board into sections and made templates for the new board. I built a folding workbench from leftovers in the garage to work on, and to keep everything straight I've screwed right angle brackets to the bench and then clamp the centre stringer to that.
The board I'm building has a 4mm marine ply frame with a laminated 8mm centre stringer. The deck & bottom will be a combination of the marine ply strips, western red cedar strips from a local blind & shutter manufacturer and paulownia strips from John White. John is the one who passed on your Blog and email address to me.
As I work full time I am working on the board whenever I can, which is not as often and as much as I would like to.
I am now trying to finish the board by August so I can bring it along to the Alley on the 9th.
When finished it should be 9' X 23"X 3" approx.
Hope to see you at the alley in August."

Thanks Frank for sharing your project and we look forward to progress reports and a ride review in August at The Alley.