How to build a wooden surfboard

I believe the best gift one can give another is one that comes from your hands, a gift that you created or built. A couple of years ago I made stand-up mirrors for my daughter-in-law Amy, Betsy my daughter and Sue my wife.  Each one is made from a different species of wood.

Brazilian cherry mirror I made for Susan

Several years ago I made jewelery boxes for Sue and Betsy.

This is Sue’s jewelery box which is identical to Betsy’s.

This is one of four schoolhouse clocks I built for the kids and Susan.
The Brazilian Cherry dresser I just completed for Susan

When my daughter Betsy decided to get married, I thought long and hard about what I could make for Thomas, her fiancé. I came up with the idea of a wooden surfboard, and this is where the story begins.

I found a site that sold the basic instructions and materials for building a wooden surfboard and then confided with Thomas’ surf bum-buddy (Cody) who helped me pick out a design that Thomas would like.

The materials came and construction began.

The main thing that came in the box was the internal structure for the board which was made from 1/4 inch Mahogany plywood, pre-cut by an automated cutter. There were several pieces of balsa wood and two 1.5 inch by 6 inch by 8 ft. paulownia wood planks which are an an exotic hard, light wood that is extremely expensive. Also included were the fiber-glassing materials, brushes, plastic gloves, bamboo cloth, a thumb drive with a large book of instructions and a video of a guy doing the fiber-glassing on a styrofoam board, which is a little different from a wooden board. All said and done, I would have to say the materials and instructions were quite good. The first thing I had to do was build a dedicated table that fit the requirements of the board.

Putting the puzzle together on its dedicated table
Slow steady progress

If you look at the photo above, you can see that the main structure is being hot glued down to the table. Of course, I always overuse glue so that later on it was a struggle getting the frame off the table. With the help of a hair dryer and a lot of patience, I was able to get the frame free.

Gluing down the bottom of the surfboard, a piece at a time!

At this point everything is glued to the table so that it will maintain its proper curve while being assembled. Each piece had to be glued down individually and left to dry before adding another piece. So I would glue down a piece then go to find something else to work on. The dark strip down the middle is mahogany donated by my neighbor, Andy.

This picture is several weeks and tears later. The bottom and top have been attached and I am preparing to glue the sides on.  This part, just like to first is, is about gluing one piece and waiting until it dries.

Preparing to glue on sides
The board before fins and glassing with sides glued on
Showing off her curves

This picture shows one of the most important aspects of a surfboard, the curve of the deck.  Since this surfboard has not been surfed on yet, we still await the final verdict on its performance. I will let you know how it does once Thomas has taken it to the ocean for its first voyage.

Above, you see the board prior to glassing.  I had to tear apart the first table to build a new glassing stand that would enable me to apply the fiberglass.  When I look at this thing, I wonder who the crazy person is who initially designed a wooden surfboard. He must have been a man with a lot of time to burn.  I know I spent well over 100 hours building. glassing and sanding this board.  If you are a person with lots of time on your hands and a table saw, wood clamps, sanding tools and a hot-glue-gun, you too can be the owner of a wooden surfboard. Here is the site that I bought my kit from.  They are great people and answer any question, no matter how stupid it may sound.

A picture is worth a thousand words!

Flash, Thomas just called and the maiden voyage of my surfboard was a major success–For the both of us!

Here is the board and Thomas in action!!!!

If you look carefully, you can see the WV on the bottom of the board.

Later dudes.

My String Theory

As I become older and a little wiser, I have striven to see the world in a more simplistic manner.  I have observed that we tend to over complicate everything we do.  Just recently I passed through Mexican and American customs and do not have words to describe this insanity other than it was extremely complex. Another example is our education system. Teaching people is at its core a very simple process.  With a little bit of thought, one realizes that the amount of information needed to survive could be put in one hand which would include finding food and shelter along with reproduction, which usually comes easily.  One could add to this a number of activities that humans practice like co-habitation and war.  So, if you were a prehistoric parent you would need to ensure that your offspring were versed in these necessities.  Their survival would be based on how well the parent passes this information to them. So the point of all of  this is that we have over complicated the world as well as education.
I believe I have a way to look at this tendency to over-complicate matters which might help us deal with this problem.  As I made my way through 35 years of educating children, I was involved in several programs for which I was one of the major creators.  During these programs our team of teachers was able to raise the proverbial achievement bar and better educate our students.  Test scores and student feedback supported the contention of improved results. Typically, these programs, over time, became increasingly cumbersome and difficult to manage as guidelines and bureaucracy increased.  But during their inception and growth, there was little doubt that good was being done.
At this point you may be wondering what in the world this article is about, so I will explain in greater detail.  My String Theory, which I will begin to explain with a concrete analogy, is as follows.  If you have ever plucked a guitar string, or for that matter any kind of stretched string, you know that it produces a sound that over time fades until it returns to its normal resting state.  My theory applies to all human endeavors.  Take for example, a new educational program about to be introduced into a school.  If it is a good program, so someone has soundly plucked the proverbial education string, good things may emanate from the program.  Over time, the program, much like the guitar string, will return to its original lower or zero energy state.  The process which had so much energy in the beginning, no longer powered by the initial enthusiasm, gradually fades away.
I believe that the amount of energy and commitment will always determine how long the string resonates.  Consider the beginning of a country, say the USA.  Thousands of courageous men and women gave their lives to create a country which developed into one of the greatest in the history of our world.  The enthusiasm  (oftentimes referred to patriotism)  was infectious and deeply ingrained in every part of our country’s makeup.  The string had been plucked very hard.  The vibrations of this historical event are still resonating around the world 200 years later.  But, like all vibration, the energy is beginning to dissipate.  Our great country, like all great countries in the past, is losing its passion.  A few wars have somewhat rekindled our patriotism and allowed us to function for an additional piece of history, but the hand-writing is on the wall.  The plucked string is returning to its original state of rest.
My String Theory can be applied to almost any physical or emotional action in the known universe. Everything has a beginning and an end; this includes people, countries, worlds, suns, galaxies and universes. I once asked my physics instructor if atomic particles, such as electrons, had a beginning and an end and he laughed at me.  I still think this may be a possibility though not yet excepted as possible, given the current views in physics and cosmology. Stated quite simply, if the electron were to lose energy over time, which would be unobservable to us since we are a function of its energy, eventually it would fall into the nucleus of the atom resulting in its fiery death. In other words, do electrons have a life expectancy?  Don’t take this to the bank but all of this is from the mind of an under-educated physics teacher. If you have some science background, you may associate this with the word entropy, which is not a bad analogy.  The concept of entropy simply says that all things return to the lowest possible state of energy.

If you can think of any other examples related to my string theory and its relevance to human nature and behavior, please write it in as a comment so that the other two readers of my blog can enjoy it.

Go pluck a string!