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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:
Round off the corners and edges of the base plate to prevent it from catching edges while you shape.
Fill any divots/channels on the base plate with quick-set epoxy and sand it smooth for the same reason as above.
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.
Remove any unnecessary attachments or features that will get in the way.
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.
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.
Depending on the make, some power planers can benefit from upgraded bearings for the motor and blade mechanism.
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.
Best Planers for Shaping Surfboards: More Good Choices
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.
A step up from the XPK01Z in terms of features, this cordless planer with a brushless motor is another good option.
If you’re not ready to start mowing foam, you can always sweep.
The power planers recommended here are great places to start. But if these don’t work for you, another good option would be to check Ebay for some previously modified planers for shaping surfboards or picking up an old Skil 100 and making some modifications yourself.
However, if you’re just getting started or are interest in shaping boards for yourself, these planers are going to help you make some good boards.
Whatever you go with, you’re sure to learn something in the process. Shaping your own surfboards can be an extremely enlightening experience. Happy sanding!