Shaper and Surfer Q&A at Boardmasters

02 . 08 . 13

This weekend the annual Boardmasters Festival returns to Newquay (7th-11th).  The Boardmasters has been running in one guise or another since 1981, and over the years this event has morphed from the UK’s flagship surf contest, with a line-up of international competitors vying for WQS points, into a large music festival on the cliffs overlooking Watergate Bay, with a small surf competition on the side held at Fistral Beach.  Whilst we’re not completely submerged in the world of competitive surfing here at Otter Surfboards, it’s nice to see some of our sport’s top athletes performing on our beaches.  And this year, one of our boards will be present.  Yup, if you’re at Fistral Beach on Friday 9th August then you can stop by the Surfers Against Sewage stand and check out progress so far on the big wave gun that we’re building for Ben Skinner.  The board is part of a project aimed at highlighting the alternatives to the petro-chemical derived materials currently used to manufacture most surfboards, and will culminate in Ben surfing one of our hollow, skin and frame, wooden surfboards on the first significant “swell of consequence” this coming Autumn/Winter.  Ben has worked with us to design the board to his specifications so that he can confidently paddle into big surf on it, and we are currently in the process of building it.  This week the deck and bottom skins have been laid up and the internal framework cut out, and by the time the board goes on display on the SAS stand at the end of next week it should have the rails built up and be ready for the deck to go on, so will be “open” to show the internal framework.

There will be a “Shaping and Surfer” Q&A session on Friday, with Ben and James both answering questions about the project and this unique surfboard.  Keep an eye on our twitter feed to find out exactly when on Friday as it’s yet to be confirmed. So, if you’re planning on heading down to Newquay next weekend, whether for the surfing or the music, and you happen to pass by the Surfers Against Sewage tent then be sure to stop by and say hello, whether we’re there or not they do great things and are worth checking out.

(Images from top to bottom:  James unclamping the bottom skin, working on the designs for the internal framework of the surfboard, and watching the CNC router cut out the internal framework from the computer files)

Down The Line:  Part 2 Shavings

26 . 07 . 13

​This is the second blog post that we are publishing in our short "Down The Line" series, which aims to share with you (our friends, customers and followers) exactly what we do with the waste that we produce as a by-product of building hollow wooden surfboards.  As we mentioned in Part 1, there is no getting away from the production of waste in any industry; in our small industry wood goes from a round shape (the tree) to rectangular planks and then back to a rounded, surfboard, shape and each time a noticeable amount of sawdust, shavings and offcuts are generated.  Unfortunately we can't avoid this, but what we can do is consider how we can minimise waste in our production processes and how we can best use the waste material that we do generate and find another use for it.  Part 1 of this short series looked at what we do with our sawdust and now it is the turn of the shavings that end up on the workshop floor.

Shavings are generated when we start to shape the surfboard's rails using a hand plane, and they are the characteristic thin, curly, piece of wood that is shaved off and which falls onto the floor.  Making the most out of these wood shavings doesn't even involve them leaving the workshop as we can use them, as they are, right here.  We sweep them all up and collect them in a box over by the handplane workbench.  When somebody places an order for a bodysurfing handplane a small cardboard box is folded together and filled with these wood shavings as an alternative protective packaging material to horrible foam pellets or plastic bubblewrap.  The shavings hold the handplane in place and protect it from being rattled around inside the box, whilst their stiff and curly nature means that they have a lot of air gaps in-between them so the protective packaging material weighs barely anything and doesn't affect our postage rates.  Once the postie has delivered the handplane to the customer they can then either compost the wood shavings, or use them as kindling on their fire so they can keep on being of use. 

Sometimes we have such a run on handplanes that the box of wood shavings gets pretty low.  We often have small offcuts though that are too short to use for anything else and so these are planed down into shavings for packaging too.  It's quite a pleasant, almost meditative, job standing there with a small block plane slowly whittling a small offcut down into nothing but a pile of curly shavings at the end of a long day.  It's like a warm down from the focused, exacting, nature of the making that goes on here and it's nice to know that we're trying our best to make the most of every little piece of material that passes through the workshop.

Eddy’s Sunny Sanding Spot

The awning was already here when we moved in to the workshop here at Krowji; a few lengths of 2"x4" with some clear plastic tarpaulin pinned to it that the previous occupant had built out over the back door as a sort of lean-to.  So far it's just been keeping bags of sawdust dry before they get sent off to be turned into briquettes, however this afternoon Eddy was able to enjoy a bit of fresh air as he finished sanding his new Island Hopper.  Eddy has come over from Leerdam in the Netherlands, about an hours drive from the North Sea Coast, to build his own surfboard with us.  Whilst the surf has been absent this week, the weather has been wonderful and so this afternoon ,with all of the shaping work done, Eddy was able to move the trestles out underneath the dappled shade of the awning and work his way through the grades of abrasive paper finish-sanding his new surfboard.  

Back home in the Netherlands Eddy works in IT, and until Monday morning his deepest forays into making something out of wood had been assembling flat-pack furniture.  He was very honest about his concerns at being able to work on such a big project without losing sight of the end result, however he stepped up to the challenge and showed an incredible commitment to each task set and had a perfectionist's eye for detail.  He signed off his 7'4" Island Hopper this afternoon, and is going to pick up his family from the airport and check the surf forecast before deciding where in Europe to head off to on holiday for the next couple of weeks.  He'll then be back in early September once his surfboard's been laminated to collect it and catch some late summer swells.

If the sun continues to shine down as it has the past few weeks then the fresh air "finishing" trestles may just become a more permanent outdoor feature for the summer months.  To check out availability for our summer workshops then click here.