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Clearwood - hollow wood surfboards and paddleboards

Building 101


Kit Building 101

Getting your project started

There are many choices that must be made in order to get your hollow wood board project started. Choosing which wood to use can be a challenging part of the process and one that should be considered early. There are a wide range of woods in the marketplace and some are better than others for the purpose of building hollow boards. We all have budgets for our projects and building a hollow board will be no exception. The investment in time I make will warrants using the very best possible materials.

stack of woods to build paddleboards and paddles

The best material available for the “skin” of your board is paulownia wood. Paulownia wood is a wood many are not familiar with but its light weight, and weight/strength properties make it the perfect choice for building light and strong boards. The downside to this material is that it can be hard to find. We can help with sourcing paulownia wood if you choose to use this material.

Red Cedar is also a good choice as is northern white cedar.

Tools you will need

tools needed to build your own paddleboard

Having the correct tools for building a hollow wood paddle or surfboard is essential. There are ways to “work around” some tools, but it is important to have a basic set of tools available for your hollow board building project. Here is my list of tools:

  • Table saw
  • Hand saw
  • Jig saw
  • Block plane
  • Utility knife
  • Electric drill
  • Wood chisels
  • Sharpening stone
  • Assortment of clamps

There are many tools that could be purchased and that would come in very handy for a hollow wood board building project but the list described above represents the basics.  Lumber can be milled with a table saw only but care must be taken and a quality thin kerf blade is desirable. Regardless of how you approach milling your materials the key to the best possible yield is to plan your cut carefully. Regardless of the technique used to mill your strips, your board will need to be sanded smooth when all the strips are in place.

Glues to use

glue drying with clamps holding paddleboard frame together

There are many glues available that claim some amount of water resistance. Titebond 3 (D4 in Europe), urethane glues such as “Gorilla Glue” and thickened epoxy are all good choices. Personally, I prefer epoxy but I have also used Titebond 3 and Gorilla Glue and have no hesitation in recommending it. 

Gorilla Glue creates a rigid bond, fills gaps and cures quickly. But a note of caution for using Gorilla Glue: follow the directions! Gorilla Glue requires a certain amount of moisture for it to reach full cure strength. Again, if you use Gorilla Glue, follow the directions for introducing moisture into the gluing process.

My personal choice for gluing parts together is epoxy.  This is my choice for a number of reasons: a strong, permanent and waterproof bond without the mess that comes with Gorilla Glue. This is just a personal bias of and has nothing to do with the outcome based on the strength of the bond. Gorilla Glue is perfectly adequate for hollow wood board projects. I have learned how to use thickened epoxies safely and efficiently and find that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. If you want to discuss this further, get in touch with me and we can go over the finer points of using epoxy adhesives for your project.


There are many ways to learn to safely use the tools and execute the processes necessary to build your hollow board. But the bottom line is this: Tools and the dust they create are dangerous. If you are a novice woodworker, educate yourself about tool safety and proper shop practices. Power tools are very unforgiving and trouble can happen quickly if you are not prepared and diligent in your approach to how you use these tools. Regarding the health consequences of breathing wood dust, take this issue seriously. Use good respirators with fresh, clean filters when cutting or sanding wood. This is also true for applying and sanding epoxy and other finish products. Uncured epoxy is toxic. Most of the ultra violet inhibiting finishes that go over the epoxy for the final finish are also toxic. Use the tools and materials at your own risk. Educate yourself and work smart and safe!

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