I fight my way through a haze of foam dust and whirring machines to find Dennis perched behind a bank of computer screens like a modern day Frankenstein. Except Dr D isn’t creating monsters, far from it. Bobby the Robot, under the ever watchful eye of Dr D, is spitting out cutting-edge, high-tech, wave-eating magic carpet rides. You DEFINITELY want one of these…
So Dr D, tell us where Bobby the Robot comes from
The shaping machine is actually originally from Clayton’s factory in Durbs. He moved outta SA, and Seals local Alistair Brown brought it down to Cape St Francis. He’s involved in blank distribution, so it made sense at the time for him to get this to shape the blanks he was supplying to the Seals, Jbay and PE shapers. I bought it from Alistair.
Must’ve damaged the piggy bank somewhat?
Let’s just say a new one costs around R300k! Thankfully Casey Beveridge put some cash into the project, which allowed me to go ahead and get the machine to PE.
Ok, give us the quick tour of how Bobby works.
If we’re making a normal board, it’s a case of putting on one of the pre-shaped blanks. If it’s an epoxy – then that’s a fair bit more work. The epoxy just comes in sheets. We have to first bend the sheet to get the rocker in, and then hot-wire the blank out of it.
The blank rests onto a bunch of suction cups in the centre of the machine, which are powered by a compressor –these hold the blank in place.
I switch the machine on – and the blank gets ground into shape by the quickly rotating bit attached to the horizontal arm. Top deck and outline first, then it’s flip the board over, and the bottom deck gets done.
The whole shaping machine process is about 15 minutes per board.
Then the board still gets finished off by hand, with some extra sanding and tweaking. Then it’s off for artwork, and finally glassing.
Now obviously Bobby doesn’t have a mind of his own – how does it know what to shape?
It’s all about the software. I’m using Shape 3D – which is what Al Merrick over at Channel Islands is using too. It’s basically an Autocad design program. It’s now the design process that takes the time, and not the actual shaping.
I’ve created templates for all my models, and the software has the ability to scale them up proportionately according to the size required. I can also do tweaks to the designs on the software, so the board is still as customised as you want it.
So is this the Holy Grail then? Can you replicate “magic’ boards?
Absolutely! That’s the beauty of this machine. I can now measure up your favourite board and put it on file. Which means once you’ve got that magic board, you can order it again, and again, and again. Want a pin tail on it instead of a squash, no problem. Just a tweak in the software and you’re good to go.
So is all this high-tech going to mean boards become more expensive?
No, I’m going to be absorbing the extra cost myself, so machine-shaped boards will stay the same price as the hand-shaped one’s.
I’d say there’re only about 4 other shapers globally that are doing epoxy boards on shaping machines. Myself, Stubby, and 2 guys over in Aus.
The epoxy blanks are all hand-made by us, and that’s where the technique and time come in. You’re looking at about 2 hours of pre-shaping before it goes onto the machine. That’s why the epoxy boards are more expensive than the traditional foam boards.
So what’s the benefit in going epoxy?
The boards are insanely strong. The blank itself is super-light, which means we can add more glass to it without worrying about it getting heavy. We don’t use stringers in them, which also helps keep the weight down.
The strength and stiffness comes from either the carbon rails, or channels. The channels are for the guys who don’t want the carbon. It’s basically small gutters running along the top deck just inside the rails.
An epoxy board could last you up to 7-8 years. This means instead of having to replace your magic board every 2 years cos it’s bust, creased or the deck’s collapsed… now your magic boards last – so you can rather build up a bit of a quiver.
I see you hover around Bobby like a proud dad – not ready to walk out the room and let him shape by himself yet?
Let’s just say there was the odd disaster when I first started – some wrong settings in the computer (cos I was still getting the hang of it) suddenly saw rails going a bit haywire etc! I’ll admit my hands were shaking when I let it loose on those first few blanks. As they’re costly errors to make!
But all good now! Bobby’s shaping like the machine he is!
I know you must wanna make a few shout-outs...
This is such a milestone for me personally as well as the Boardroom, I'd really like to the following people;
Thank you all!
WIN A CUSTOM BOARDROOM STICK!!
I'm going to put up a free custom board* to anyone who can come up with a crazy new Boardroom/Dennis Ellis logo for our new range.
Get those crayons and finger paints out! Comp ends 1 April and starts......now!
<CLICK HERE> to send in your designs
*Polyurethane board up to 6ft6