Surfboard Planer: How to Shape a Blank

The passes your make with your planer over your foam blank provide you with the foundation of your surfboard.

Mastering the technique takes time and practice, so we’ve compiled some tips and advice to get you started right.

How to Use a Power Planer on a Surfboard

If you’ve never shaped a surfboard before, taking an electric planer to your foam blank for the first time can be a little intimidating.

It’s not going to be perfect. It’s probably going to be weird. But, by the time you’re finished, it’ll probably come out better than you expected.

Use your first few time to get a good feel for the tool and the process. Pretty soon you’ll work out some technique and tricks that’ll have you mowing through foam like…foam, but intentionally.

As scary as it may seem, the power planer is the most efficient and effective tool for shaping a surfboard. You’ll be able to shave thickness consistently from nose to tail and for the the rail bands.

The fist passes with your planer is all about getting the blanks towards the desired thickness. Then any rocker adjustments. Then the rail bands.

To use a power planer to shape a surfboard:

  • Make full, straight passes from nose to tail and tail to nose.
  • Angle the planer about 30 degrees to the stringer as you push it along.
  • Use your last cut pass as a reference for the base of the planer during your current pass.
  • Start from the outside until your get to the stringer and then repeat the process on the opposite side.

How to Modify a Planer for Shaping Surfboards

What sort of planer and shaping set up or technique that works best for you is really going to come down to personal preference.

That said, there are some modifications you can make to your power planers that make them a little better for shaping surfboards.

Depending on your engineering and fabrication skills and the model of planer you’ve got, some of these modifications are going to be more difficult than others.

Note that making any home-modifications to your planer is probably going to void any warranties on it. Proceed at your own risk and at the risk of your wallet.

Here are some things you can do to modify a planer for surfboard shaping:

  1. Round off the corners and edges of the base plate to prevent it from catching edges while you shape.
  2. Fill any divots/channels on the base plate with quick-set epoxy and sand it smooth for the same reason as above.
  3. Add a port to the exhaust fitting to either hook it up to your vacuum hose or direct it in front of the planer so it blows away some of the foam in front of you as you move.
  4. Remove any unnecessary attachments or features that will get in the way.
  5. Adjust the angle of the handle and the trigger to a more back/upright position. This is typically more comfortable than the top-down position of many stock planers. This can be achieved by making a brace or bushing that extends the handle or by modifying the trigger positioning/adding a trigger lock.
  6. Modify the depth adjustment to allow you to make smooth and quick adjustments on the fly as you move from one area to the next. This can typically be achieved by changing the bushing inside the adjustment knob. Extending the knob itself can help make it easier to use as well.
  7. Depending on the make, some power planers can benefit from upgraded bearings for the motor and blade mechanism.
  8. If you have a corded planer, replacing the stock cord with something longer can help. This is where a cordless planer is pretty convenient.

If you plan on using a planer that you already own, but have used on wood, it’s a good idea to start with fresh blades before you start shaping a surfboard.

Some planers also allow for a drum attachment, which works by grinding/sanding away the foam rather than cutting it.

Planers for Shaping Surfboards

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If you’re just getting started and have yet to master the fundamentals of surfboard shaping or refined your own techniques, you can really get away with most electric planers. Some will be more clunky than others, but you’ll be able to get the job done and figure out some of the basics.

That said, it’ll definitely help to use a quality tool and/or one that can be modified and optimized for shaping surfboards.

If you’re just getting started shaping your own surfboards, the Makita XPK01Z is a good quality, lightweight, and cordless electric planer that will get the job done for you right out of the box.

And with a little modification, this planer can make a really decent staple in the backyard shaper’s toolkit.

So go ahead, get to shaping!

Makita XPK01Z Surfboard Planer Features

A quality little planer right out of the box.

With freedom from cords in a light-weight package, the Makita cordless electric planer is a pretty forgiving choice to start with.

This power planer features:

  • Cordless, 18V lithium-ion battery powered (battery and charger sold separately).
  • 3-1/4″ wide cutting width.
  • Depth adjustment from 0″ to 5/64.”
  • 2 cutting blades with quick change-out system.
  • 14,000 RPM motor.
  • Weighs about 7.4 pounds.
  • Rubberized grip to reduce vibration discomfort.

While the angle of the handle, lack of a trigger lock, and on-the-fly depth adjustment leave something to be desired, it’s still a good planer that should work for most new shapers.

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