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Making a Template

A good template is critical to making a good surfboard. A template is simply a full-sized piece of 1/8” thick Masonite or other thin, flexible material that is used to trace the outline of the surfboard on a raw surfboard blank. If you plan to make a board 8’ or shorter, you can do the entire template in full length. If your board will be longer than 8’, you need to make a “spin” or “flip” template, which has half the outline on one side, and half on the other. This section will give you more detailed instructions on how to create your outline template.

Choose Your Method

In our Design section, we outlined 4 basic ways to make an outline template:

  1. Greenlight pre-made templates 
  2. Tracing an existing board
  3. Boardcad/Akushaper CAD templates
  4. Batten “old school” templates

The first thing you need to do is determine which method you will use to make a template. If you are satisfied with any one of Greenlight’s pre-designed shapes (53 available at last count), then you get to skip the design-stage and go straight into making your template.

If you have an existing board that you want to try to copy, simply trace the outline of an existing board that you want to try to copy.

If you want to create your own design from scratch, you have two basic choices: Free CAD Software or the “old school” batten method. For the CAD method, you need internet access, a computer, and a printer. For the batten method, you need a long, thin flexible “batten” to define your curve, and some small nails/hammer to temporarily secure the batten on the Masonite to define the outline curve you want.

Both methods work well and are pretty easy. The CAD method allows you to “fiddle” with the shape more easily on the computer screen to arrive at your final design. CAD also has the added benefit of calculating volume, allowing you to design the rocker and rails, and allowing you to view the board in 3D.

The biggest benefit of the batten method is that it allows you to visualize the shape in full size as you are creating it. With the batten method, you should be sure of your nose, tail, and wide-point widths before you start, because these points will be defined when you start, and it is a bit of a pain to change these dimensions/locations as you go.

If we had to choose, we would choose the CAD method due to the increased flexibility in design and the ability to determine rocker, thickness, and volume.


Template-Making Process

All of the four template making techniques will get you to the same point: a curved line drawn on a piece of Masonite. You can get 8’x4’x1/8” sheets of Masonite for under $10 from any home center. You should also get the home center to cut the Masonite in 4 1’x8’ slices, which gives you four straight-edge pieces to make 4 templates. They usually do this for free.

If your board is over 8’ long and you need to make a two-sided “spin” or “flip” template, you simply draw the nose half of the board on one side of the template, and the tail half of the board on the other side. Just make sure that you mark “stringer” points on both ends and top/bottom of the template to mark the point where you will place the template down on the stringer when you trace your outline on the surfboard blank.

If you are making a swallow tail, you do not need to include the swallow tail on the template. Just carry your template out to the end of the rail line and square off the tail of the template. You add the swallow tail later in the shaping process when the board is almost completely shaped.

Once you get that curve drawn on the Masonite, the directions to cut and smooth out your template are all the same. But first, we will outline the various methods of getting curve drawn on the Masonite:


1. Greenlight Templates

Once you have chosen your design, print out all of the template components and cut the sections out. Tape them together using the markings that are printed on each sheet for proper alignment. Once the curve pieces are taped together, you can tape down the paper template (or use 3M Super 77 spray adhesive if you want), making sure the endpoints of the nose and tail are flush with the flat-side of the Masonite. Once the paper template is securely fastened to the Masonite, trace the outline curve with a Sharpie Marker, being careful not to let the paper move or distort as you trace.

2. Tracing an Existing Board

If you are going to make a template from an existing board, the fastest, most accurate method is to clamp your Masonite template board directly to the bottom of the board you are copying. Make sure the flat edge of the Masonite is centered on the stringer, and make sure your clamps are padded enough so that they don’t put pressure dings in the board. Once the Masonite is secure, trace the outline with a Sharpie onto the masonite. Be extra careful to hold the marker vertical as you trace to that you get an accurate transfer of the outline.

3. CAD Templates

Transferring your CAD-designed template to Masonite is exactly the same as making them with the Greenlight Templates. From the software, you print the template in full size on multiple sheets of 8 ½” x 11”paper. Set your printer margins as small as possible so that you use the least amount of paper as you can. Then you tape all of the sections together and cut out the curve on the full sized paper template. It is better to cut OUTSIDE the line than INSIDE. Try to get as close to the line as possible. Once the curve is cut out, you can tape down the paper template (or use 3M Super 77 spray adhesive if you want), making sure the endpoints of the nose and tail are flush with the flat-side of the Masonite. Once the paper template is securely fastened to the Masonite, trace the outline curve with a Sharpie Marker, being careful not to let the paper move or distort as you trace. 

4. Batten Templates

To make a template using a batten (long, flexible, thin piece of wood or other hard material), you first need to mark 5 points along the straight edge of your Masonite:

  1. Nose
  2. 12” from Nose
  3. Midpoint
  4. 12” from Tail
  5. Tail

Once you have marked these points, you need to measure and mark the proper widths of your design at each of these points. Use a Versa-square to mark each point and hammer a nail into the Masonite slightly inside each of these points. Hammer two nails at the nose/tail marks to hold the batten in place. The nails act as guide-points for the batten. When you place the batten around the nails (secured by the double nails at the nose/tail), you now have a curve as a starting point. From here, you can place additional nails wherever you want to nudge the batten around and modify the curve to your liking. Once the batten is curved the way you like it, trace the outline with a Sharpie (or pencil) and remove the batten and nails to prepare for cutting the outline.

Cutting and Finishing your Template

Once you have your template traced out on Masonite, you need to cut it out with a Jig Saw and preferably carbide-tipped jigsaw blade. Don’t forget the eye protection and dusk mask, and once again, STAY OUTSIDE THE LINE when you cut. Give yourself a 1/8” or so buffer as you cut out the template. It’s best to have a friend holding the Masonite as you cut, or at least clamp the Masonite securely to a table/work-bench to keep it stable as you cut. You may have to move/relocate the clamps as you go to complete the cut.

With the template rough-cut, now it’s time to smooth it out to final shape. First you must clamp down the template onto a table or workbench securely. Now, take your Shaping Rasp or G-rasp and use it to take down all of the high-spots on your cut. Make sure you don’t shave below the line. Try to get to the line but no further with the rasp. In this Rasping stage, you are trying to take out any dips or lumps in the curve. Don’t let the Sharpie/Pencil line distract you, it is better just to look at the curve itself to try to discover any dips/bumps that need to be smoothed out with the Shaping Rasp. Let your eyes be the judge of the curve, not the line. Flip the template over to hide the line if it helps.

Once you have Rasped the template down to the line and have a nice, smooth curve, switch to a hard sanding block with medium grit sandpaper (60-80 grit) and run this along the curve to sand away any burrs and roughness created by the rasp. You should also slightly bevel the edges of the Masonite with the sanding block to smooth it out and prevent fraying of the edges. Again, the goal here is to have a nice, smooth curve without dips. The smoother your template, the better chances you have of building a good surfboard.

Once your template is complete, take a minute to measure the nose (12” from nose), wide-point, and tail (12” from tail) widths and write these down with a Sharpie on the template (along with the date and any other pertinent info). You may also want to drill a ½” hole somewhere near the top/bottom of the template (not too close to the edge), so you can hang up the template on a peg/hook in your workshop when it’s not in use.