After winning the Craftsmanship Award in our DIY competition We Make It Sic! in association with Bosch and Dremel last year, Bill Bulgen has been putting the tools he won to good use, and in the process has turned his passion for shaping wooden boards into a full time endeavour. We caught up with the new owner of Woodpecker Surfboards to see what projects he has been working on, and what his plans are for the future.
Only true log shapers cross step while planing…
ZIGZAG: So tell us a bit about your new venture, Woodpecker Surfboards?
Bill: I learned to surf 50 years ago on an extremely heavy wooden longboard, and always had to ask a friend to come to the beach just to help me carry it. Recently I decided that I would try to rediscover the stoke that I enjoyed with that board, and after several months of research I made myself a wooden longboard to the same dimensions (as I remembered through the mists of time). I was pleasantly surprised to find that it paddled and surfed really well. Friends who rode the board enjoyed it so much that they also wanted one, hence the Woodpecker brand was born.
We heard that you’ve been getting orders from locals, foreigners and even a few celebrities?
Because my surfboards are 100% natural and have the inherent beauty of wood, people are complimentary and very keen to try them out. I think that they are not “just a pretty face” but paddle and surf really well too. I’ve been fortunate enough to get orders from local surfers, as well as a Californian surfer who was stoked to see a traditional woody in the water (the originals have become collector’s items in the US). I also crafted one as a floating trophy for the recent Log Jam event, and for a sensational local/international artist who is stoked by the fact that my boards are totally natural, sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Bill Bulgen busy binding in the bay, bringing beautiful brown boards to life.
You won last year’s Craftsmanship category in our We Make It Sic! competition, for an amazing hand-crafted wooden log. How have the Bosch tools you won been treating you?
The Bosch tools are used daily in the workshop and have made it possible for me to effectively bring a higher degree of detail and craftsmanship to the work. The fact that many of the tools are cordless is magic!
How do you make each board, from the sourcing of the wood to the final glassing?
I attempt to source sustainable plantation grown timbers as much as possible. I cut my deck boards from a single piece of wood (to ensure uniformity of colour and grain); I then laminate the deck boards with contrasting stringers and fit the decks onto a light-weight framework. This is all clamped into a lay-up table that is set to the desired rocker and concave to give the finished board the shaping detail required. Continuous strips of matching wood are then bent and laminated into the framework individually to give a parabolic rail section. The board is then cured, removed from the lay-up clamps, fine-shaped, sanded and glassed with SUPERSAP epoxy. See my website for more details.
“With the grain…”
How do the boards go as opposed to more commonly used materials?
The boards are hollow and therefore more buoyant, which improves paddling and wave catching abilities. Wood also has natural flex and recoils out of turns. The slightly increased weight allows the board to glide, gain momentum quickly and power through chop. In my humble opinion wooden longboards are perfect for “logging” and a more traditional style of surfing. We have not yet really explored the construction of shortboards. However, my son Liam has enjoyed some incredible surf on a wooden retro fish that he made using the same techniques.
Lastly, what are your plans for the future?
Hopefully the Woodpecker brand will gain acceptance and it will be possible for me to devote my time to the refinement of wooden surfboards – the fine details of design and shaping are the challenge in this medium.
Liam’s hand-shaped retro fish.
Liam putting the fish to the test at E-Bay.
Two more of Bill’s beauties.
Go to woodpeckersurfboards.com to see more of Bill’s creations, like the three epic logs:
• Any creation that is surfing related is eligible.
• However, if your products are already a registered business venture you can’t enter it.
• The entries can be any material; plastic, metal, wood, glass, etc.
• Multiple entries are allowed.
• Entries must be submitted to email@example.com
• Contestants can submit as many photos or videos as they like.
• Only persons residing in South Africa may enter.
• Prize winners are limited to winning 1 prize category each.