How Was That Made? Firewire Surfboards
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 6 August, 2015 - We’ve been using the same surfboard building materials going on 60 years now. Why? because polyurethane foam and fiberglass is cheap, abundant and familiar. Plus, we’ve all grown to love the flex properties of a PU board.
These same PU materials are also toxic, fragile and very disposable. Because the surf industry is slow to change we haven’t seen many new innovations in board builds. Sure, a few alternative constructions have come and gone, but one non-PU company that’s lasted and flourished is Firewire Surfboards.
All three Firewire building methods: Future Shapes Technology, Linear Flex Technology and TimberTek sandwich machine-shaped EPS cores with either composite or wood materials.
Breakdown of Firewire's TimberTek construction
These eps cores are individually shaped using a 5 axis CNC machine (by comparison many PU boards are machine-shaped with a 3 axis CNC machine). The 5 axis is complex and can do channels, wings, swallows and other tricky cuts that the PU industry-standard 3 axis machine cannot.
“Whether a board is going to be built in FST, TT or LFT, everything starts at the blank building stage,” says Mark Price, CEO of Firewire Surfboards. “We build our own blanks from blocks of foam and some of the component parts are assembled before the blanks goes on the CNC machine. For example the FST balsa rails are attached before shaping, and the deck skins are applied in-between certain shaping stages. In short, the blank goes on the shaping machine multiple times as various component parts are added and blended into the final shape.”
The sandwich construction takes place before final shaping on the CNC machine. After machining, the boards are laminated and sanded just like a traditional board.
Firewire builds boards in three constructions. Below is a brief rundown of each material recipe.
Firewire’s TimberTek is one of the least toxic surfboard constructions on the market. Firewire tapped the talents of Australian craftsman Grant Newby, who was using Pawlonia wood in various builds. The Firewire R&D and production crew worked to make this tech possible in a production setting. After much R&D Firewire tweaked the original recipe slightly to increase performance and build reasonable quantities.
TimberTek construction is a combination of a lightweight EPS core, sustainably-grown wood deck skins, Firewire's proprietary parabolic rail construction, a lightweight exterior lamination to seal the wood, and Entrophy bio resin throughout.
The physical properties of the 3mm thick Paulownia deck skins have allowed Firewire to reduce exterior lamination significantly, furthering the reduction of the board’s carbon footprint.
Future Shapes Technology
FST is what people envision when they think of Firewire Surfboards - a clear deck with parabolic balsa rails running the length of the board. While the balsa rail formula has been fine-tuned to control flex, the aerospace composite vacuumed to both top and bottom decks provides impact strength and is stronger than a traditional PU surfboard.
The Parabolic Balsa Rail features a 12mm thick rail at the boards widest point that tapers towards the nose and tail, built from 3 x 4mm strips which also act as a buffer against rail dings. Firewire says the long-term flex memory supplied by the balsa rails ensures boards maintain a lively feel for longer.
Linear Flex Technology
LFT incorporates Firewire’s new Springer HD, a 0.75” (18 mm) wide aerospace composite that runs down the centerline of the board. The Springer HD stops approximately 5mm below the top deck, ensuring that the surrounding EPS compression will not lead to ‘ridging’. Using their sandwich construction methodology, Firewire also added an extremely durable material to the top deck of the board. This ‘deck-skin’ serves as an additional buffer against the ridging effect while simultaneously working with the Springer HD to optimize the overall flex pattern of the LFT build.