“Surprise Me”18 . 10 . 19
“Surprise me” is a great challenge to receive from a customer ordering a custom surfboard, and it’s also brave! But that’s exactly what Tom asked us to try and do when he ordered a wooden surfboard earlier this year. He specified the dimensions but when asked if there was anything else that we could do to make the surfboard extra special for him – a bespoke wood lay-up on the bottom for example – his response was “surprise me” and he gave us free reign to do so. Through the course of the commissioning process we’d got to know a little bit about Tom and learned that this board was to be a gift for his wife, so we set to thinking.
We decided on the concept of inlaying a map of a place important to Tom and his wife, the Philippines (the place where she was born and raised and where they first met and surfed together), onto the bottom of the surfboard, using a laser cutter to create the marquetry elements of the map. We’re no strangers to using laser cutters; the internal ribs of our wooden surfboards are cut using a laser for absolute accuracy, and we have often etched detailed designs onto special handplanes and bellyboards. Cutting and inlaying a map into the bottom of a 9’1” wooden surfboard was the largest and most high-stakes application of a laser cutter for us yet, though, because there’s a lot of hours and hard work involved to get to the stage before we even start using the laser cutter. We were excited to rise to the challenge.
The first stage of the process was to create the vector map of the Philippine archipelago, and prepare a panel of contrasting wood to the deck skin. The panel and then the entire bottom skin of the surfboard were then taken down to the talented Jen Shipley at Cut By Beam to be carefully fitted into one of her machines to be cut. James then had to painstakingly pick out and place pieces from each panel into the other, so that the bottom skin of the surfboard had a map in a contrasting timber, and vice-versa for the map panel. The panel used to create the pieces for the map could have been scrap, but by placing the pieces from the surfboard skin into their corresponding places on the panel we created a separate wooden map panel that we trimmed and varnished as an additional gift to send with the surfboard. With the bottom skin with the inlaid map prepared, it was time to build and shape the surfboard!
As usual, once shaped the surfboard was taken up to Paul and Bro at Diplock Phoenix just outside Wadebridge to be laminated and finished with a polished gloss coat; they’re the best in the business and it’s well worth driving up the road to have them finish our surfboards for us. As soon as it was finished we picked it up and promptly delivered it to the holiday home on the south coast of Cornwall where Tom and his wife were arriving the following day - just in time to be gifted to her as a surprise present.
We are fortunate to get to flex our creative muscles daily in the work that we do here in the day-to-day job of making wooden surfboards. We love it though, when we’re asked to go that one step further to create something really special and unique. Thank you, Tom, for asking us to surprise you and for trusting us with the free reign to do so. We hope that you were indeed surprised when you opened the crate!