Showing posts with label CNC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CNC. Show all posts

Monday, January 31, 2011


Just sifting through the massive amounts of photos taken during the making process, so here's a few of the better ones. Seems a waste to just leave them clogging up a hard drive.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

build 1

I have yet to try out my alaia, but have recently finished the relatively simple construction process. Supposedly the oldest and purest form of surfing, I decided to keep the overall design as pure as possible but use modern technology (CNC) to carve out the shape and get a perfect double concave throughout. I probably wont be able to notice the difference the perfect concave makes as I've never surfed this style of board before but the combination and balance of this old style and new technology seems to work really well as a process. I thought it might almost be sacrilegious to CNC cut an alaia instead of hand shaping it, but during and after the process I've been inspired by other possibilities the CNC could add to and enhance the construction of these old boards. I can see how purists would say the hand shaping is an equally important part of the process as surfing the end product, as this apparently adds a deeper connection to your board. However i would estimate that only a small percentage of surfers end up shaping their own boards, and most would buy them from the local shaper... who in this case might have more of a personal connection with the product he is selling, but is essentially acting just the same as a CNC would to produce custom products for a market. So wouldn't it make sense to add even greater precision and the option of customization to a product which is going to be sold to someone you may not even know.
There is something quite nice about hand crafting objects for someone you do know well, maybe it's just the romantic notion of pouring your own time and sweat into crafting something which somehow adds even greater value for the person receiving it. But I think this can only apply if there is already a relationship between producer and consumer, as the product is not built for display but to function and perform in the surf as a surfboard. Not to totally discount the fact that surfboards are beautiful objects in themselves, as these days a large part of the customization involves the artwork on the board, i.e. the spray job, stencil or resin tint unique to the board. This involves the consumer in the production process or can collaborate with practicing artists to add value and create one-off or limited run productions which some board manufacturers already do.
So this combination of precise technology and unique design creates the same feeling of personalised craft whilst increasing performance... I'd go as far to say it's better than growing your own tree then chipping out your own board with a stone adze.

Seeing the trailer for Thomas Campbells new film 'The Present' and hearing a bit about it, it sounds like it may be a better portrayal of surfing than what I constantly see in most movies and magazines. What you see and read around surf-culture is mainly based around competitive surfing where as a massive percentage of surfers don't compete and their surfing lifestyle doesn't look anything like what is portrayed. This all adds to surfers wanting labeled boards which they see pros riding and stops them experimenting with different equipment and surfing styles to discover what they enjoy for themselves, instead being channeled into a 'correct' way to surf with big hacks and aggressive turns which score points in competitions not local beach breaks.
I think the alaia could be a great escape from competitive surf culture while still being a tough skill to master and providing a great material to work with... wood (no foam, no resin, no fiberglass) , unlike the recent stand up paddle boarders (SUPs) who carve a path of destruction at breaks when they fall off and their boat is left to plough through unsuspecting surfers and swimmers, don't get me started.
Something to watch again... I've just posted a little vid of my making process for the alaia, hoping to add a surfing section soon, it's a great way to record and reflect on the overall process.

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.