Handplane or Handboard? Part I

Sometimes, it’s just fun to ditch the surfboard and go for a swim in the ocean. Well, not so much this time of year, but bodyboarding and bodysurfing can still be fun if you’ve got a good wetsuit. Around here, we can get some big waves that are nearly impossible to get a board out into- at least in one piece.
Something I saw recently was this thing called a handplane (or handboard). This has become popular- although quite controversial in the bodysurfing world- from what I’ve seen on the internet. Bodysurfers claim that true bodysurfing is only to be done with fins, while handplane and handboard proponents claim if you can use fins, why can’t you use a little help on the other end?
Either way, handplanes/handboards seem like a fascinating ocean toy to add to the quiver. I’ve never seen one in person, only on the internet, so I thought it would be a neat project to make one, and make one that may work around here with our mushy, whitewatery waves. I know, I know, not the best time to do this project (would be more fun in the Summer), but there’s no time like the present.
A while back, I visited the local fiberglass store to pick up some things, and I asked if they had a scrap piece of foam around I could buy for cheap. They gave me a 1 foot square piece for free, at about 2 inches thick. I was going to use this to make a fin core, but then I thought it would be good for shaping a handplane.

My free piece of foam
C-Bead must mean “cooler lid” consistency

To start, I made a template from paper folded in half and I drew an outline and cut it out. I tweaked it a little here and there while it was folded in half.

Half of the template
Template cut out

After finishing cutting out the paper template, I taped it to the foam block to draw the outline of it in pencil on the foam. I did this on both sides of the foam to make sure I was going to make a straight cut.

Drawing the outline onto the foam

Ok, so here’s the fun part. I needed to cut out the shape but I didn’t have a hot wire, didn’t want to use a big saw, so I actually used a serrated bread knife. Hey, whatever works, right? I started by cutting off the corners, and then I began to fine tune the actual outline.

Hacking away at the corners
It’s taking a while, but I’m getting there….

After wrestling a bit with the foam (which was quite coarse, in my opinion) I finally had the general outline cut.

General outline of handplane

The backend I made pretty wide on purpose since I thought it could use some “push” in these waves….like I even know what I’m talking about. Anyway, I knew some of the handplanes I saw online had fins, or even channels on the bottom shaped out to give the board some lift. Since I wanted to try this, I drew an arc on the half pattern, cut them out while folded so they’d be symmetric, and drew the outline of them in pencil on the foam so I knew where to sand the foam away.

Arc for channel- sort of

Now, I’ll get ready to actually shape my handplane. Luckily, the foam was free. 🙂
In the next entry I’ll show my shaping job- let’s hope it’s worth showing….
On to Part II

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