Based on a farm a few miles from Ledbury in Herefordshire, I've been making bespoke furniture for the past 25 years. This slight departure from cabinet making started with making a couple of plywood boards for my own kids, as my dad had done for me in the 1970's. Starting with the shape of the classic Cornish boards, I thought there must be scope for improving the materials and construction and consequently the performance. In the process I try to maintain the same quality and attention to detail that I have to apply to the furniture I make, and use the best quality materials for the specific task.
Much is talked about sustainability at the moment, and that is a factor in my choices of materials. However the balance still has to tip towards the suitability for the task. All of the timbers that I use are responsibly sourced, and I use locally grown native timbers in some of the boards, when I can. This is something I will do more of in the future, but is a longer term goal as the availability of timber processed in the appropriate way is limited currently. The best way is to take control of the process from the felled tree, through to the final component parts. Something I'm in the process of doing. I do use petrochemical based foams in some boards, and epoxy resin in the finishing process. The epoxy is a plant-based bio-resin, with a high wood resin content and a much reduces energy footprint. As to whether the foam is sustainable and poluting? I suppose not, and yes. But, the intention here is to make a product that will last, and so only be produced once. Is unlikely to be discarded. Can be repaired, kept and used for years to come, unlike a foam throughout board.
The resulting boards are made using both modern machinery and techniques, and traditional hand skills. It's not reinventing the wheel, but improving on it (think putting Spokey Dokeys on you bicycle wheels - surely faster and cooler?). The bellyboards are made from Birch plywood, or solid wood veneers, vacuum formed with a Balsa wood frame and a closed cell foam core. The blanks are shaped and sanded by hand before decorating and then finished with 4oz glass cloth and a plant based bio-resin.
To try and make a board that will perform in bigger waves and a little more like a foam bodyboard, I've taken inspiration from the traditional Hawaiian boards; paipos. In trying to create a wooden version of a foam bodyboard I've been through and tested eight different designs. Initially getting thicker and thicker with more foam in the core, in an attempt to create the buoyancy of a foam board. I managed to get the buoyancy, but with weight and at the expense of flex and feel. The result isn't 'like' a foam board, but then why should it be? A foam board isn't like this board either! Compared to the bellyboard, this board has a much bigger planing surface, a little more buoyancy, much more flex and much sharper rails. The construction is similar, but the core is a rigid foam this time, and the internal frame is pre-shaped before vacuum forming. Again it is fibreglassed, with a fibreglass leash loop.
The third board in the range is the Alaia. I'm currently developing and testing two different variants. One is a foam cored, fibreglassed board with a similar construction to the paipo, and the other a solid wood version using locally grown British timber. More to follow...
BOARD(s)..of the farm
Making the most of and using every last piece of timber has always been something that appeals, and the introduction of skateboards to the lineup seemed the logical next step, and a perfect way to use what are often left-overs. Largely locally sourced and often due to their nature that put them on the left-over pile, beautiful and wild figured, these boards can be used economically in engineered decks to create stunning cruiser and longboards.