Five years ago Californian, Dana Blocksage, got laid off from his job as a territorial sales manager and wondered, “What’s next?” He wanted to do something that was both enjoyable and meaningful. Having been a California surfer half his life, Dana did what came naturally: he started building surfboards under his own brand name – Dana Surfboards.
“My wife, Lisa, and I started manufacturing surfboards out of a garage. Today, business is great and we have a 2,000 square foot shop. We make two kinds of surfboards: solid wood, decorative boards and hollow, functional ones you can surf with. We own a 25″ Woodmaster Molder Planer, and a 38″ Woodmaster Drum Sander.
2 surfboard lines – decorative and functional
Our decorative surfboards are beautiful to hang on the wall. Many are used at weddings — guests sign the surfboard like a guest book. We also make surfboard furniture: surfboard shelves, bookcases, coffee tables, and more. Our clients are surfers and non-surfers. We’ve done work for big corporations, foundations, Fortune 500 companies, and more. Anything surfboard-related, we’ve made it and people are buying it. Business is great. We’re getting orders every day and shipping around the world. We’re constantly adding products to our lines. We’ve been very blessed.
We also make functional, hollow wooden surfboards you can surf with. These are very time consuming and very expensive. They have a rib structure inside with a quarter-inch thick wood skin top and bottom. We run the skins through our Woodmaster Molder/Planer and Woodmaster Drum Sander. We glue them to the top and bottom of the surfboards, add rails, hand-shape them, and fiberglass them.
Only 5% of the boards we build are hollow, functional surfboards. Most are solid Redwood decorative surfboards. An eight-foot hollow, fiberglassed wooden surfboard is around $1,500. An eight-foot, solid wood decorative surfboards goes for $429.
Renewable Redwood from managed forests
Wooden surfboards go back to the 1800’s in Hawaii. They were often made of Koa, a wood that’s native to Hawaii. We use Redwood that’s native to California. All the Redwood we use is grown in managed forests and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. We start by hand-selecting all our lumber. We accept only about 20% of the wood we look at. We laminate our solid wood surfboards from Redwood boards with narrow, lighter colored wood ‘stringers’ in between.
Then we run the laminated wood through our Woodmaster Molder/Planer, cut the profile, and add the rails — the sidepieces. Then we add the nose and tail details — nose and tail ‘blocks’ made from a variety of exotic hardwoods fromaround the world. Next, we run the surfboard through our Woodmaster Drum Sander. We do a final palm sanding and put on a water based polyurethane finish. Finally we add the fin and ship it out.
Early hassles ‘til he got his 26” Molder/Planer
We started with a narrow benchtop planer and I had to make surfboards in two halves, lengthwise, then join the halves together. That was too time consuming. Then I found a woodworker about 75 miles away who would plane whole laminated surfboard blanks for me. I’d take 20 or so up to him every couple of weeks and he’d plane them.
I got to the point where we had some money and it made sense to get a planer of our own. I chose Woodmaster because I liked the price, the customer reviews, and that it’s made in the United States. I called Woodmaster and the reps were friendly, they had good financing, and I liked the five-year warranty. I thought about getting a used planer off craigslist but I figured a new one fit my needs better because of the 5-year warranty.
Paid for itself in gas money saved
The 725 Woodmaster Molder/Planer paid for itself as we used it. When we considered we’d no longer have to pay for gas to drive 75 miles each way to have our boards planed, we figured our planer paid for itself. But even more than that, it was great to be able to plane on our schedule, not when another guy was ready for us. I chose the 725 because most of our surfboards are 24” wide so this was the right size. For my purpose, it’s very good. I have two sets of planer knives. I send in my dull ones to be sharpened and mount my sharp ones.
Multi-tasking with his Woodmaster Drum Sander
I have a 38” Woodmaster Drum Sander, too. Sanding is the last step before the boards are finished. I got it with the Reversing Switch. I love it; I couldn’t imagine sanding without being able to send the wood through the machine, then flip the switch and bring it back. I sit in a chair beside the planer and run the wood back and forth while I’m on my smartphone checking orders, updating our Facebook page, emailing customers, and so on. I have a mask on, my ear protection, and do some multi-tasking.
We used to use a disk sander. It created a huge amount of dust and didn’t give a uniform finish. The Woodmaster is a lot less work and it creates a better finish. I can change the feed rate to match the wood I’m running. Both the planer and sander are very powerful machines.
Thousands less than others
I don’t see how other woodworking equipment companies can justify their prices. Some are several thousand dollars more than Woodmaster. Even so, buying two Woodmasters was quite an investment. But now that we have them, my wife and I ask ourselves all the time, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?” These machines let me do more than surfboards. I’ve made big conference tables and I’ve run work for others. A local hardwood supplier just asked us if we would do milling work. People call us for small jobs. These things aren’t our core business but I’m happy to help others and make a few dollars.
If someone’s thinking about getting a Woodmaster, I’d say it depends on where you are in your business or your hobby. Me, I’m the kind of guy who’d start
small with Harbor Freight equipment, then maybe buy a bigger, better, used machine. But looking back, I wish I’d bought Woodmaster equipment from the start. Woodmaster machines are not inexpensive, but they’re a lot less than others. Customer service has been good. If somebody wants to buy a planer or sander and are looking for something in this size, I would feel comfortable recommending Woodmaster based on my own experience.”
— Dana Blocksage, Dana Surfboards, Woodmaster Molder/Planer & Woodmaster Drum Sander Owner
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