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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

what is shaping


With the increase of digital technologies such as CNC cutting in the realm of surfboard shaping or any other hand craft for that matter certainly raises the question of what it means to be a 'shaper' or a 'craftsman'.
I recently 'shaped' a few surfboards on my CNC router at work, having never hand planed foam myself I was able to produce a board with incredible accuracy, incredibly quickly, with very limited practical skill needed in the production process. So to be a shaper or craftsman, does this only relate to the physical communication of the imagined concept in our head and the hand driven tools we have honed a particular skill with. The ability to communicate 3 dimensional ideas using our hands. Hand - Eye co-ordination.
After having a brief conversation with a shaper who believes that for someone to be a good shaper they need to have 'mowed foam' for a number of years and have experimented with different shapes and surfed these to eventually master the material. So in what I am hearing, maybe the art of being a good shaper is not solely reliant on having good hand-eye co-ordination but is in the greater understanding of how the small changes made to the width, height, tail, rails, rocker etc will change the performance of the board.
This would be particularly true seeing as anyone like myself can learn to create a CAD model of a surfboard and then produce it, though it may be shaped perfectly, is it a good shape?
But if I continued to shape boards and experiment with them myself then surely I would learn about the certain nuances involved in the creation of a great board. This brings us back to the need for investing years into the skill of mowing foam, does this part of the process add to the overall picture or has it just been a necessary part of the process for so many years that we aren't willing to let it die by the wayside of digital technology... so what is it's importance?
Considering the material itself is petrochemical based and hardly very good for human contact let alone the environment, why are shapers reluctant to say the electric planer is redundant? Is there some mystical connection formed between shaper and craft through the shaping process, and if so, is it important for every surfer to feel this connection? So rather than just handing over hard earned cash to buy their next board should surfers begin hand shaping their next craft themselves, would this add to the experience or deplete their health?
These questions are still debated between other subjects like digital photography vs analog and will constantly evolve as technology progesses, and this is a good thing as we shouldn't drop past technologies straight away to jump on board with every fleeting trend that may not stand the test of time. There needs to be informed discussion and debate to iron out the bumps around these technologies so that we are heading in a sustainable direction.

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