How to Make a Balsa Wood Surfboard

Written by keith vaughn
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How to Make a Balsa Wood Surfboard
Surfing on a homemade board (men on surfboard silhouette image by Slobodan Djajic from Fotolia.com)

Making your own balsa wood surfboard can be a personally rewarding endeavour and a way to engage with surfing as a traditional cultural practice. Surfers seeking a more ambitious project may choose to order long blocks of balsa wood, glue them together and make their own blanks. A balsa wood blank is a long piece of balsa wood from which a surfboard is cut and shaped. Blanks are available with the general dimensions and curvature, known as the rocker, of a finished surfboard. Coating the board with fibreglass and attaching the fins with fibreglass resin are highly specialised work and projects in themselves. Some surfers may choose to have this work done by a professional.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Balsa wood surfboard blank
  • Template
  • Tape measure
  • Planer or power planer
  • Sanding block or power sander
  • 40-, 100- and 350-grit sandpaper

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Instructions

    Balsa Wood Surfboard

  1. 1

    Plan the final dimensions and shape of your surfboard. Draw a template based on your plan. The template should be the size and shape of your finished board divided lengthwise.

  2. 2

    Obtain a balsa wood surfboard blank that is closest to the size and shape of your surfboard idea. Place the blank bottom side up. Determine the precise centre of the blank and mark a line in the centre from end to end. Place the straight edge of the template on the centre line and trace what will be one edge of your surfboard. Flip the template over and trace the other side. This method will help you maintain symmetry in your design.

  3. 3

    Cut excess wood from the outline you traced. Use a reciprocating saw or hand saw to cut your surfboard from the blank. Make your cuts at least 1/8 inch to outside of your outline.

  4. 4

    Smooth the edges of the board. Start with a planer and work with the grain of the wood. Finish the edges with a sanding block or power sander and very coarse sandpaper. Work carefully to maintain symmetry. Use the planer and sander to enhance or modify the rocker, if you choose.

  5. 5

    Sand the entire board with very coarse sandpaper, approximately 40 grit. Round off any rough or sharp edges. Sand with the grain of the wood. Sand the entire board again with finer, approximately 100 grit, sandpaper. Finish the board using approximately 350-grit sandpaper.

Tips and warnings

  • Step back frequently while shaping the board to help ensure that the side edges of the board, known as the rails, match.
  • Wear a dust mask and eye protection when cutting and sanding.

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