Saturday, December 12, 2015

Desktop Surfboard Production

Six foot thruster core made from cardstock.

Haven't designed a good way to join sections, so for now I'm doing this.

Epoxy on some mating faces ...

... and clip together. Glue somehow later.

Shape looks good.

This should be easy to glass smooth.

Desktop surfboard production.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Builds Out There Happening!

Had some build reports in email recently, and that really makes me wonder how many of these boards are getting built out there that I don't know about.

Did a quick Instagram search and found a few beauties.

Whoa, studio photo shoot, backlit, in Delaware, I think:

Dry Simmler core - this might be in Switzerland? Look how clean and not dark the edges are. Was this cut on a laser, or with a drag knife + pen plotter setup? Still under construction as of 5 weeks ago, awaiting carbon fiber rails.
A photo posted by Claude Denier (@cla2ude) on

Core beauty in Australia:

And then there's Westkust in the Netherlands building some boards and a little kit biz based on my public designs (they're developing their own custom 3D printed fin service too):

Heartening. Thanks everyone for digging it.

Meanwhile, I'm slogging away at reworking my board design and rendering system with the goal of making it publicly available. Two goals there:

1.) Make the core patterns and downloadable cut files customizable for different materials and different CNC machines. This will make it pretty easy to adapt what I do to wood and other materials, and cut with routers, lasers, waterjets, whatever. The idea is that, instead of just downloading my stock files for lasers, you would first enter a bit of info about your materials and cutting machine, and then the system would make a few modifications on the fly and provide a download link to files made just for your setup.

2.) Make my board design system public, so you're not limited to just the boards I've designed. My approach to board modelling is different than in other software. It fits my intuition. And I think a few other people might prefer it. But I would also like to work out a way to import shapes from other software, so they can be sliced up into core assemblies by mine.


I could use some dedicated office and/or workshop space. So I'm interested in some good part time work that will let me move to a better place, with better space, to develop this and other projects, and build some more boards. (SUP is next.)

Consider me, recommend me, or spread the word. Here's my LinkedIn for some of my background and skills. It's Web dev heavy. But consider me for other stuff too. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Maker Faire SD

A photo posted by T R V Z R P L Y (@travezripley) on

Victor - a Geek in Residence at Fab Lab San Diego - cut his own 8 Fun core kit on the fab lab's laser and then glassed it at Shaper Studios. He displayed his board at the San Diego Maker Faire this last weekend, and invited me to go down and share some of my boards in the same booth. Thanks Victor!

When I started this cardboard surfboard project about nine years ago, I had no idea where to go to find local laser cutters. Since then, the Maker Movement, the proliferation of hackerspaces and fab labs, and the dropping price of laser cutters has made possible local core kit production worldwide. People have lasers and know how to use them. Or, better, people know where to find lasers, and friendly geeks to teach them how to use them.

Fab Lab San Diego had a bunch of rad member projects on display: self-built skateboard decks with materials and curves I've never seen before, a bubble-farting flying llama drone named Dolly, 3D printed prosthetic hands, and an internet-connected, phone-controlled coffee maker. There was also a DIY Biology display - the San Diego fab lab includes a wet lab, and some members are developing a pilot biology course - open to anyone - to be reproduced at other fab labs around the world.

And that was just what was happening within a few meters of us. The entire Maker Faire was like that times a thousand.

Thanks to Victor for inviting me, and for pitching everyone on the prospect of building cardboard surfboards. Thanks to Joy from SD Fab Lab, who seemed to be the head cat herder for the Fab Lab booths (but herding some pretty cool cats). Thanks to Katie Rast, who hustled to the keep the fab lab vision alive in San Diego through the last several years. Thanks to Dale Dougherty for spearheading the spread of Maker Faires worldwide.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Euro Core Kits

Maker/business duo "Frenk en Plan" is jazzed about producing cardboard surfboard core kits and custom 3D printed fins in the Netherlands.

At the moment, they're probably your best bet in Europe if you just want to order a core kit, instead of laser cutting one for yourself with my free cut files.

The project is just now launching under the name Westkust, which I think is Dutch for bitchin. Check it out here:

I hope they do well.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


That's no moon.

It's 0.13mm kerf in 0.23mm thick cardstock with a 40W laser at 32% power at 3500mm/min under 40X magnification.

That's 1/14 of a 6' thruster core done in cardstock. This took around 2 hours to cut and assemble.

Assembly was a double X chromosome canine because the notches were too tight, because I had guessed wrong about the kerf. But now it's measured, so maybe the next 1/14 section will go together faster.


even easier to find than cardboard

easy to waterproof - soaks up epoxy

laser cuts faster, at lower power

practical to transport unassembled parts (I think a 6' thruster's parts would fit within a ream of paper.)

Strong enough? Light enough? Will it surf? Will it really take 30+ hours to assemble?

Friday, April 24, 2015

First SUP Core Assembled

Don't have space for this, but did it anyway.

Here's a time lapse of my first cardboard SUP core build.

This is a 12 foot board, inspired by the Hobie ATR model that was out a few years ago.

The core pattern is significantly less dense than what I use for surfboards - larger star pattern, larger gaps to span, but less weight, and hopefully, a better view through the board. Not sure if it will be dense enough to provide reasonable strength and durability. I half expect this board to fail early, and I'll be half glad if it does. It would be good to approach what's optimal from both sides.

With the attitude that failure is an option, maybe some of you want to try to build this SUP before we even know if it will hold weight. I'm fairly confident I'll get at least a few sessions out of it, and that's worth it to me. (My very first board had this same core density, and it seemed to hold up fine, even though it was leaking. But I only rode that one once before retiring it in favor of my 2nd board.)

If you're up for the risk, the cut patterns for laser cutters are here: SUP12_v-1

You might finish the build before me. Let me know how it goes.

Maybe you'd rather have me be the one to waste that time and effort on the more-likely-to-fail end of the R&D arc. Hey, me too! That's part of the idea behind the previous blog post. It would be cool to see how this work progresses with adequate resources, and SUP developement seems a good theme to gather those resources around.

Monday, April 13, 2015

SUP Build Lab Space Wanted

I'd like to try building some SUPs, and maybe a prone paddleboard. But there's no space or budget left to do that here.

What would happen if we gave this project a decent workspace and an adequate materials budget?

We'd get more boards made. That's all. More styles, some core structure evolution, some different materials. But, bottom line, just more boards.

Anyone want to pour resources into just that? I do. I am.


Much more could come from having real space and a budget. I've got a few other just-add-water projects that people will dig, each deserving it's own funding pitch.

But I'm not overly optimistic or deceptive enough to concoct Kickstarters, spin startup visions, or compose grant proposals. Every time I try to stuff my work into those forms I end up with a plausible plan that I don't fit into.

All I can confidently promise "investors" is that with space and a budget I'll work on SUP designs until my curiosity about how to pull it off is satisfied. And the residue of that will likely be several functional translucent SUPs, and some more public information on how to build something similar at home. Is that worth the expense? (Of course! But does anyone else agree?)

If you expect more, maybe read between the lines and gamble the long odds that my other work will come out even better than the surfboards thing. The long odds are my best bet.


Buckminster Fuller famously celebrated the trend of doing more and more with less and less, so that soon we'll be doing everything with nothing. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to live in that future before it's arrived.

All I should say here is, I'd like to try building some SUPs, and if some of you can help me piece together some sort of live-work base situation to enable that, then I'll build a few SUPs.

Work space, office space, crash space. Materials budget, lunch money. The works. Starting from zero (again). Under-promising. Anyone have a space that could host this kind of thing?

- Mike