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Paulownia plantation

Building a Lightweight Board

Building a Lightweight Board

Building a lightweight hollow wood board of any style can be a challenge but, in the end, not that hard if you choose the “right” materials. The very best wood for building hollow wood boards is a species of wood called paulownia tomentosa. Pauownia t. has the perfect blend of weight and structure. Availability of this species in North America is limited but it is available on a limited basis (I import and resell paulownia t. on my website at http://clearwoodpaddleboards.com/product/paulownia-lumber/). I always have it available for those hollow wood board builders that value a lightweight board. Paulownia tomentosa is approximately 2/3’s of the weight of many other commonly used species for strip planking hollow wood boards.

paddleboard construction tool closeup

Tool Requirements for Strip Planking

Tool Requirements for Strip Planking

Tool requirements for strip planking a paddleboard are simple; a basic set of hand tools and a few basic power tools are all that is required. The enhancement of our woodshops with a more diverse set of tools is something most woodworkers strive for, but strip planking is simple and the tools that you need to perform most of the strip plank build tasks are as well. What’s the most important tool in the wood shop for strip planking you ask? I’d say the sharpening stone! Block planes and chisels are used extensively in strip planking and sharp tools are a must. Hand tools such as a Japanese pull saw, a low angle block plane and a basic assortment of decent bench chisels will go far in getting your strip planked board built. The ability to keep your plane iron and chisels sharp is the key to success with chisels and planes, and there are many simple and inexpensive ways to accomplish this task. Dull tools don’t perform well, aren’t fun to use and can be dangerous.

building a strip planked paddleboard

Board Construction

Hollow Wood Paddleboard Construction Techniques

Hollow wood paddleboard construction techniques are common to many different hull shapes. The build method for all the boards I design is strip planking. Strip planking, for those not familiar with the process, is the application of strips of wood to a framework that is in the shape of the board (or boats, among other shapes). Many rowing shells were built before the advent of epoxy, fiberglass and carbon fiber technology in this fashion and were “state of the art” until modern plastic technology became the norm. The basics of strip planking in the case of paddleboards is slightly different than kayaks or canoes in that the entire framework stays inside of the board. The structure of a strip planked paddleboard is semi-monocoque, or in other words, a “torsion box” type of structure. A “skin” that remains attached to a subassembly, such as a light framework, is incredibly strong…think aircraft wing.

Tom Blake and Duke Kahanamoku vintage photo with paddleboard

Prone Paddleboard Background

Prone Paddleboard Background

Paddlers that have been around the paddling and surfing sports for any length of time know the basics of how these various sports interact. Prone paddleboards are the very most basic paddle craft on the water. The element of simplicity, versatility and cross-training possibilities for prone surfers, plus the pure fun of paddling, bind prone paddling to all the other paddling sports.

Clearwood P14 Prone Paddleboard in progress

Hollow Wood Prone Paddleboard Kit

Hollow Wood Prone Paddleboard Kit

Coming Soon!

We decided to go back to the roots of paddleboarding for this design. With the ongoing growth of all paddle sports, it isn’t surprising that prone paddle boarding has seen a resurgence. Many people involved with paddle sports paddle more than one type of craft, and even though prone paddling doesn’t involve a paddle. it’s still paddling. Prone paddleboards were the first “paddleboards” to be raced in the modern era going back to the first Mainland to Catalina race that Tom Blake won on his chambered wooden board in 1932. A lot has changed since 1932 but one of the things that has not is the pure fun of paddling. Paddling a light weight hollow wood board combines the best of both worlds; beautiful wood watercraft and modern building techniques. Prone paddling is another great way to get on the water. Prone paddlers that also surf traditional surfboards get the added benefit of paddle fitness when are hitting the waves.