We currently in the process of switching over to the new Boardseeker site, please bear with us it will be ready soon!
Remember a while back when we got Werner Gnigler to talk us through the making of a JP board out in Cape Town? Well, following that groundbreaking feature, a whole new generation of windsurfers have dabbled in polystyrene foam, epoxy and a large sander in order to produce their very own custom board. It isn’t easy, in fact we hadn’t heard about any boards actually making it onto the water. But then the Bentley Brothers came along and through true grit (in their eyes from the sander), true determination (to stay awake whilst waiting for the board to ‘go off’), these boys produced a modern freestyle board and then went and busted some moves on it in Dahab. Impressed? We were. Here is their story.
Bentley Brothers: In this article we are going to explain the top secret, innovative technique we used and the special items required. This is only a basic guide and you will need to know a bit about laminating and have some common sense. We feel that anyone with board repair experience should be able to handle it.
Before you decide on embarking on such a lengthy mission you will need the following:
1 x massive block of polystyrene foam (EPS), or lots of smaller blocks...
25 m roll of 1 m wide glass fibre (total 600 gsm on each side)
Lots of epoxy (at least 2 litres)
Mast track, fin box and inserts (can be taken off old board)
Footpads, paint and lots of castor sugar
All the usual tools – big radial sander, squeegee, dremel etc
High quality 120 grade sand paper
Lots of safety gear – masks, gloves and googles
Well ventilated space indoors (e.g. garage)
500 man hours – no joke
We were lucky enough to get most of the materials free so the board only cost us £60 and most of this was on a new sander as the old one blew due to extreme loads. We reckon if you search hard, the whole thing could be done for under £250.
WE TAKE NO RESPONSIBILTY FOR ANYONE TRYING TO COPY OUR SECRET TECHNIQUE - PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Making the hotwire
A hotwire is a key tool in shaping foam; we spent three weeks cutting open toasters and kettles only to find the easiest way is just an old computer power supply with a 17 gauge guitar string. You will need to make the bow yourself out of bits of wood. There is lots of info on the internet about this.
Cutting the massive block
In our top secret sectional technique the block is cut into equal sections, with all the sides parallel and perpendicular. This requires a highly accurate jig (see photos).
Board shape and templates
Shaping a foam blank from scratch is seriously hard even with good templates and practice. We had neither, so devised our patented cross section technique. We constructed a 3D model in an easy to use CAD program (in our case Rhino, could be any). This was then split into cross sections and printed out at full scale. You will need an A3 printer for this or be damn good with pritt stick. Make sure each template has two central reference points to make it a straight board!
We wanted to make a small, high wind freestyle board. So we based the design on current freestyle wave boards, but kept the width (63 cm) while lowering the volume and added the following features: domed deck, spock tail and double concave (early planing yeah)!
Cutting out sections
You need a mate to help you with this part. Essentially each block of foam has a template attached to each side. You and your mate stand each side and follow the contour of the template with the hotwire. This requires a lot of practice and steady hands especially on the higher curvature sections. Make sure you wear a mask, best done outside! You will also need to make some kind of jig clamp to hold the block steady. We generally cut about 5mm outside the template line to give us a tolerance for any mistakes which can be easily faired off later.
Not a lot to say, here you can see the shape of the board coming together as well as the rocker line. Notice the central line of foam along the board to which the templates are referenced. This is faired off before glueing. While the board was in this state we used the hotwire to router out the mast track and fin box. This can be done with a router later if you have one.
Joining the sections
The board is now joined together, don’t attempt to do it in one go – it will collapse. Note the nose and tail are not present in order to give us a surface to apply pressure. We used epoxy to join the sections. If your sections aren’t 100% flat on each face you will need a massive sanding block to try and fix this. We found this was a bit of a problem and used a bit of filler in some of the gaps. It’s possible to alter the rocker line of the board slightly at this stage by changing the face angles.
To clamp the board together a variety of complex pulley systems and high tech weights were used, but you can make do with duct tape and bricks.
Note that due to our cowboy style we initially cut the fin box out of the top instead of the bottom of the board by mistake and had to glue some foam back in!
This must be done by hand and is the first part of a long relationship between you and your sanding block. Since the foam is uber soft, beware of dings and watch out when sanding the rails.
This is the stage where the nose and tail are attached and faired and where the true meaning of custom comes in as you can define the board’s features.
Laminating mask track and fin box
Most of the loads experience by the board are transferred through the mast track and fin box so you need a load of reinforcement in these areas. We placed woodies (thin strips of wood) either side of the boxes for added strength, however this isn’t the case with modern boards and we are highly dubious if they are required. Your choice...
Before the boxes were inserted we put a layer of glass down. The whole thing was epoxied in and we laminated a couple of layers on top. Make sure both are aligned along the centreline of the board! Remember that from now on whenever you laminate over the boxes you need to manufacture a plug out of foam so that no epoxy enters the track which can be dremeled out later.
Before you laminate cut out all the glass you need. This includes extra bits for reinforcement under the foot pads and maybe more in front of the mast track (for hardcore tacking action). Each side of the board has 4 layers of glass (total 600 gsm weight) and each successive layer should wrap further round the rail until the final layer wraps a full 180deg.
Hope you like squeegeeing!!! This literally takes 4 times as long as planned, especially if you are like us and have had no practice. We used simple hand layup – you could vacuum bag at this stage but it’s not worth it with glass. Make sure you’re doing this in a dry warm environment (at least 15 degC). This is the stage which determines if your board is a success. Try to keep the epoxy weight down but ensure every layer is saturated.
We laminated the bottom in one night and then the top the following day - get prepared to be working until 3 am.
Once each side is laminated the endless sanding begins. Ideally a hot coat is put down to give the board a base to sand down to a smooth finish. A hot coat is just a thin layer of epoxy to seal the board, sometimes more than one coat is needed to get a good finish. We have heard of people using filler at this stage as it’s easier to sand but doesn’t add any strength.
The footstrap inserts are done at this point. Simply use a dremel to create a hole then epoxy in the insert. Hammers may be required.
Painting is pretty self explanatory – we used car paint from a local auto store. It’s really important to have a dust free environment when painting (and masks are essential). Lots of thin coats are better than one thick one.
Sick Graphics and Non-slip
Graphics can be hand painted on but we reckon this would look mega budget unless you are Picasso. Instead you can get this thin glass paper onto which you can print from a household inkjet printer. We decided to go with the whole Japanese theme and added some kick ass ninja and samurai dudes. Also found the characters for wind and waves and added these.
Final touches include adding your newly founded custom board company logo along with dimensions and signatures.
Non-slip is pretty interesting. We used a thin layer of epoxy sprinkled with castor sugar through an old sock for added flavour. This ensures an even distribution of not too harsh non-slip. There are commercial powders available which would probably do the job better. Watch out however as some of these aren’t transparent and you can’t see all those sexy graphics
The board was flown out to a secret NASA testing ground, also known as Area 51/Dahab. We were in such a rush to finish the board that the footpads had to be applied on the beach.
Find a bunch of choppers to act as weights when gluing the pads down. We used kitesurf pads for the front and a surfboard pad for the back. Use contact adhesive to bond and leave for a good 24 hours with pressure.
Testing the final product!!
All in all the board turned out way better than our highest expectations, considering the cowboy techniques used and our inexperience with board shaping. For an 83 litre board it is super easy to do freestyle moves on, and slides like a beast. On the first run out it boshed out Flakas and Spocks straight up. Due to the volume and width in the tail it’s not the best for wave riding. Weight- wise we went light on the glass and epoxy- hence it only weighs 5.7 kg. We thought it might be too weak for waves but it has survived a good Avon session in force 8.
In the end it’s a hell of a lot of work. We managed it in 5 weeks of long evenings and weekends. However it’s an awesome accomplishment and sense of achievement. Plus you get a brand new custom board for cheap. Check out the video of it in action out in Dahab.
About the Bentleys
Name: Al Bentley Age: 24 Live: Blandford Forum, Dorset Job: Fourth year Ship Science student at University of Southampton Future plans: Work as super yacht designer in Taranaki Local Spots: Avon, Hayling, Poole, Netley 'Chav Capital of the World'
Name: Nick Bentley Age: 22 Live: Blandford Town of Dreams! Job: Fourth year Ship Science student at University of Southampton Future plans: Get a sweet job out in Perth - WA Local Spots: Avon, Hayling, Poole, Eastleigh Lakes baby