The Essentials: What five shaping tools would you grab if the world was ending?

Gene Cooper's tool selection for the end of the world.
Gene Cooper’s tool selection for the end of the world.

In this installment of “The Essentials” we ask Gene Cooper, of Cooperfish Surfboards, “What five tools would you grab if the world was ending?” Here’s a quick refresher on the rules of this fun game. Even though the earth is ending, you’re still shaping and you can’t just go online or walk into Fiberglass Hawaii and order more tools or materials. Make sense? Probably doesn’t but it is fun to see which 5 tools these guys will choose out of their entire tool quiver. You can check out our entire tool quiver at Enjoy!

Fiberglass Hawaii (FGH): Hi Gene, how’s it going?

Gene Cooper hanging around.
Gene Cooper hanging around.

Gene Cooper (GC): Great. Glad you’re here.

FGH: So tell us what five tools you chose and why?

GC: Okay, these are the five tools I chose for shaping a surfboard. The Rockwell planer, flat wooden sanding block with 36 grit sand paper, Stanley low angle planer, 5” surform and my Skil Chainsaw.

FGH: Tell me about that hotrod Rockwell.

GC: This is my favorite planer, the Rockwell. I also use a Skil, but the Rockwell is just my planer of choice.

FGH: Tell me about the smooth action on the cutting depth adjustment.

Gene demonstrates how to control the depth of the cut on his Rockwell planer
Gene demonstrates how to control the depth of the cut on his Rockwell planer

GC: I keep it pretty tight, I might loosen it a bit every now and then. I’m a little different when I shape. I usually set my depth work in steps instead of cutting on the fly like most people. It leaves the marks on the blank right where I know where they are when I shape both sides. It’s kind of weird but, it’s just how I do it.

FGH: What about the blades? I noticed that they’re curved and not straight like most planers. Is that original to the Rockwell or did you modify it?

GC: Yeah, they’re spiral blades so you don’t get all of the chipping. It’s original to the

The very unique spiral cutting blades.
The very unique spiral cutting blades.

machine. If you go to buy one of these spiral blades they’re really expensive. I have two at home.

FGH: Two sets?

GC: They’re one unit unlike most planers…you can’t take them apart. They’re carbide blades that you can get sharpened but the sharpening is expensive. A lot of times you can find these for sale but the blades will need sharpening and it’s like, “Oh boy, eyyyy.”

FGH: Very cool. Tell me about the block with sandpaper.

GC: I use the block to flatten everything, to connect my bands after I use the planer. I use it to blend, to true up the template.

FGH: What grit do you have on the block?

GC: 36 grit.

FGH: Wow, your cranking through the foam with that grit!

GC: Yeah, you know I use the 36 grit for the heavy work. You want it to cut and not float (on the foam dust). One thing I don’t have here is a saw to cut out the blank though. I should have probably chose the saw but…you only let me choose 5! (laughing)

FGH: Haha! We’re in control!

GC: Yeah, well…back to the block. When I use it to true up the outline I like to hold it plum to the blank. I like to hold it straight up and down because it gives be a good gauge. I see a lot of guys that hold it the other way. If you do that you could miss more of the cutting surface but straight up and down gives you a gauge. But you know, you just grab it and you do it.

FGH: What’s next on the list? 5” Surform.

GC: There’s the big surform and then there’s this one. I like this one because I just throw it in my hand and it’s a part of me. I can take a rail band and just clean it up.

FGH: Why do you like the little one better?

GC: I have two hands and one hand is what I do the work with. The other one is just too much, you don’t need that much. If I’m doing a vee on a board, I’ll take this and knock out the work with this one. It’s just like brushing your hand on something and changing it. It’s fast and I can just jump right in with it.

FGH: That ease of use and flow of the 5” Surform makes a lot of sense. Give us the scoop on the low angle Stanley block plane.

GC: The low angle block plane is the most versatile of the block planes. Easy adjustment, easy to use.

FGH: You don’t prefer the lighter razor type planes?

GC: I’ve never used any razors. I’ve seen guys with the razors and I’ll try one, it’s kind of cool but…I’ve never used one. I have a whole collection of planers that have been modified to fit my hand, or the board, better that I can show you…

FGH: I would love to see them but you can’t weasel them into your tool selection for this game! (laughing)

GC: Almost (laughing)

FGH: Why did you choose a chainsaw?

This chainsaw can do it all.
This chainsaw can do it all.

GC: I’d use the Skil chainsaw to cut down the trees. I made an Alaskan mil with the chainsaw so I can just feed the wood into it and cut it with the chainsaw. The saw has a nice thin blade so I’d use the saw to cut the rocker into the board and to cut the outline. I bet you it’d be like an ice sculpture. I could probably get proficient enough and shape most of the board with a chainsaw. It would probably be the most important tool of the bunch.

FGH: I want to see that! Thanks for playing the game Gene.

GC: You got it!