Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Foam E-Z Hand-Plane Guide for Taking Down Your Stringer


When it comes to shaping surfboards, one often finds out quickly that foam is a relatively simple material to work with. It is soft, easy to manipulate, and can be worked in a whole array of different ways using different tools to achieve varying shapes and designs.  The hitch in this user-friendly quality is, more often than not, a surfboard is not constructed from foam materials alone, but with a wooden stringer down the center which must also be carefully considered during the shaping process. Typically handled as one of the last steps in the shaping process with some variation of a hand-plane tool, taking down the stringer is a necessity as any stringer areas that are left too high (typically you want the stringer to sit just a hair below the finish sanded foam) can cause the resin to build up during the glassing processes and create a unwanted ridge in those areas.

            When you reach the stage where you have nearly completed fine sanding your shape and need to take down the stringer to its finished depth, you have to make sure of the following three important details: 1) Insure that the blade on your selected hand-plane is as sharp as possible.  2) Make sure the blade remains completely flat against the stringer.  3) Maintain the cut at a proper angle (typically around 45°).  These guidelines will help to guarantee that your tool maintains an even cut and doesn’t tear the foam on either side of the stringer along the way. Of course this again can become complicated when you consider the fact that, in general, surfboards are completely flat throughout- this is where it comes in handy to have multiple tools handy to use on different areas of the board. Here we have compiled a list (in no particular order) of the pros and cons of the various different hand-tools we have available for you to consider and use to decide which tools might be the best fit in your shaping arsenal!

David Combi Plane

David Combi Plane: Perhaps the standard when it comes to hand planes, this tool is an excellent reasonably priced and versatile tool that most shapers of any skill would find comfortable to use. If you were only going to have one hand plane in your kit, this would be the one to choose!

            Pros: Inexpensive, two blade placement options (for curved and flat surfaces), replaceable blades, light and comfortable in the hand.

            Cons: Blades, though cheap to replace, require replacement relatively often.

Block Plane

Block Plane: A tried and true industry standard, this planer has been around for a long time and can be found in any serious shapers bay!

            Pros: Design of planer fits comfortably into your hand, made of heavy sturdy materials that make it easy to maintain a steady even cut, easily adjustable blade depth, great for longer boards with long flatter sections.

            Cons: Heavy materials make it more work to travel with, if blade is set too deep it can gouge the  foam on either side of stringer.

Japanese Ebony Curved Plane

Kakuri Ebony Japanese CurvedPlane: This is a beautifully crafted tool well worth its investment. It is made from an extremely hard and durable ebony wood for the body, a hardened steel blade, and brass hardware to tie it all together. This tool definitely performs as good as it looks!

            Pros:  Razor sharp blade which can be removed and sharpened, curved body allows ease of use in curvy areas of stringer, solid weight and feel so it’s comfortable in the hand.

            Cons: On the pricier end of the spectrum, requires you to also have sharpening tools.

Hobby Multi Plane

Hobby Multi Plane: Another industry standard from the Clark Foam days. This tool has finally found its way back into the American market, after disappearing for a few years, as another reliable and hugely versatile tool.

            Pros: Razor sharp blades that are easy to replace and inexpensive, blades can be set in multiple positions in plane for different usage, lightweight/durable materials.

            Cons: Does not conform to the hand as comfortably as some other planes but this is only a minor flaw, this is a great tool!

Spokeshave: The spokeshave is a funny little tool, it is small and easy to use and definitely a necessity if you like your rockers a little more extreme than most!

            Pros: Incredibly inexpensive, great for working in deep curves on board, easy to                               replace blades, comfortable to hold/handle.

            Cons: Has a tendency to ‘roll’ in your hands if used over long flat surfaces, easier to                          dig into foam if not careful, blades dull quicker than other planes but are cheap to replace.  Easy to lose in the foam dust pile.

Trim plane

Trim plane: The trim plane is perhaps the most basic handplane on this list. It’s simple design ensures ease of use and no learning curve to feel out.

            Pros:  Inexpensive, durable and resilient metal body construction, blade can be sharpened as needed, lightweight and portable.

            Cons: Difficult to use in curved areas of board to flat construction.

Brass Plane

E-Z Brass Plane: A cute little plane to cut the stringer on flat surfaces. This tool is another beautiful and well constructed tool that will last you a lifetime!

            Pros: Great weight to it that help achieve steady cuts, narrow body prevents tearing foam on either side of stringer, has a blade that can be removed and sharpened, inexpensive.

            Cons: Flat design can be tricky in extreme curves of boards.


What are some of your go-to tools to use??