Seeing With Your Hands

31 . 01 . 16

​Our first “Make Your Own” workshop week of 2016 has just finished up, and it was a great way to kick off this year’s series of courses. We were joined by Chris, who put some of the free time afforded him by recent retirement to good use and spent the week making himself a 6’10” Jetty.

On Thursday morning, having spent the previous three days constructing his surfboard’s hollow wooden blank, the clamps came off and Chris began shaping his surfboard. This is the first moment that it’s possible to really see what the finished board will look like. Chris began removing the excess material from the deck and bottom skins, using Japanese block planes and a saw rasp to find the lines where the deck and bottom panels blend into the rails. Intuitively, Chris paused every minute or so and ran his hand along the section that he was working on; this is normally something that we have to teach, but it’s also something that you see experienced surfboard shapers doing an awful lot. The reason is that our eyes can sometimes play tricks with us, particularly when trying to find and follow a curve with the lines of wood grain competing for our attention. By running our hands over the rails of a surfboard though, it’s possible to pick out any lumps, bumps or flat-spots that need to be blended in. The same goes for achieving symmetry in the rails on either side; simultaneously running one’s hands down either side of a surfboard allow you to compare each side of the surfboard far more accurately than your eyes can.

By the time he signed the bottom of his surfboard on Friday, Chris had spent a great deal of time running his hands over his new surfboard, getting to know it in minute detail. In a few weeks time he’ll have his hands on the rails again, as he pushes himself to his feet when he catches his first wave on the beautiful wooden surfboard that he crafted, by hand, himself.

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