Handplanes are mini surfboards for your hand when bodysurfing (you only use one at a time). They give you a little more lift and help to get your head out of the water. I’d been talking to my dad about them, and thought it’d be a fun, simple project to shape a couple.

I started off with 1” thick African Mahogany. The shape of the first one is based on my first surfboard - I stretched the width so the proportions would make more sense for the size I wanted. Then I traced that out onto the wood and cut the template

Next I cut out the channels with a chisel. Looking pretty good! I later ended up getting a cheap set of carving chisels, which made it much easier to clean up and round those inside corners. I woulda gone nuts trying to do that with only sandpaper.

In retrospect, it would’ve been better to continue the channels all the way to the nose, because I had a hell of a time blending them with the transition to the front rocker.

After a lot of sanding

I stained an arrow into the deck to mimic the design of the original surfboard. This ended up not turning out that great.

Two thin coats of linseed oil. Beautiful! I thought about keeping it like this, but I wanted the UV and water protection that comes with spar varnish.

Incidentally, I read a cool article about the San Francisco fire department’s wooden ladders, which they make in-house. Apparently they finish them the same way.

For the second hand plane, I wanted to do a more nebulous organic shape, without the hard lines of the first one.

I couldn’t find anything online about template shape or bottom contours for a hand plane, so I just winged it. For the bottom contours, I decided on a convex entry, followed by a triplanar transition to a large single concave. The template is a squashed mini-simmons/soap-bar sort of thing.

Most of the shaping was done with an old Stanley No. 5 plane, seen here in the background. A low angle block plane probably woulda done a better job. Or maybe a rasp.

I did this on one of those folding “workmate” workbenches. The clamping system works very well for this irregular shape, but the bench itself is super wobbly

  • kind of a pain.

Here’s the first coat of spar varnish on the first handplane, and the markings to guide the contouring of the deck for the second. It’s mostly flat, though I rounded the edges of course, and I tapered down the trailing edge to match the bottom concave.

Finished sanding the second one. I did the bulk of the concave with a sanding disc.

Varnish. Love how this one turned out.

Here’s a better view of the bottom contours

Screwed on some sections of a guitar strap, and that was it.

I was actually impressed by how much of a difference these make when bodysurfing. They’re not difficult to swim with, and you really notice the extra glide.