Prototyping With Poplar

01 . 03 . 15

This winter we’ve been investing some time in materials research and development.  With our backgrounds in design it’s important to all of us here to be constantly evaluating and looking to improve what we do and how we do it.  It’s how progress is made.

We’re currently working on two new prototype shapes that are being built entirely from poplar – well, all apart from the thin contrasting dark wood stringers.  We’ve been using poplar plywood for the internal frames of our wooden surfboards for a long time now because of both how light it is in comparison to birch ply and because it is more traceable and doesn’t travel so far to get to us.  Our poplar plywood comes from sustainably managed forests in Spain so we know exactly where it grew and how far it has travelled, something that is often difficult to ascertain with a lot of birch plywood from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.  Last year we were able to source some poplar planks grown and harvested in the south west of the UK following around two and a half years of searching for a good source.  The sawmill that supplied the poplar planks kiln dry it in a kiln that is fuelled using the sawmill’s offcuts and waste, something that sits nicely with our desire to work with suppliers who consider the environment in their work.

The reason for using poplar for the deck, bottom and rails of these two new prototypes is that, as well as being almost as lightweight as the western red cedar, it forms to a curve nicely and finishes incredibly well.  Where western red cedar can be prone to “tearing” a little when planed, poplar gives a really nice clean finish that requires little further sanding.  Also, it looks great; as a much paler timber it contrasts really nicely with the dark hardwoods that we use as contrast strips on the deck and bottom panels.  We’re really looking forward to seeing how they finish up when laminated, and then comparing their weight to our equivalent western red cedar surfboards (that also have a poplar plywood frame) before getting them into some decent waves for some test rides.

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