Hey Glenn Minami, “What five shaping tools would you grab if the world was ending?”


We’re back this week with another edition of The Essentials: What five shaping tools would you grab if the world was ending?  Fiberglass Hawaii’s Grant Ramey caught up with Glenn Minami to find out what his five tools of choice are. Glenn has been shaping surfboards on Oahu since the late 1960’s and he still hand shapes every single board that is ordered. Needless to say he knows his way around a shaping room and he has his tool quiver dialed in. The cool part about Glenn’s tool quiver is that it’s not full of fancy, high-end wood working tools, just the essentials.

Fiberglass Hawaii (FGH) – Hi Glenn, thanks for taking a break from shaping to take part in this crazy scenario. We know it doesn’t really make sense but it’s fun!

Glenn Minami (GM) – Haha, yeah, no problem.

FGH – Okay, so, what five tools would you choose if the world was coming to an end and for some reason you still had to shape surfboards?

FGH – I think these ones are them right here.

minami's skil 100FGH – This is your final selection? A Skil planer, 14” surform, custom made sanding block, David Plane and a tape measure? Looks like you’re going to have to do your finish shaping with a smooth piece of tree bark.

GM – Haha. Yeah, maybe I’ll swap the tape measure for the fine sanding pad and sand screen. This would be more practical.

FGH – You could always measure the board out using arm or finger lengths.

GM – Yeah, haha. Or you could just eyeball the whole thing.

FGH – So work me through your five tools.

GM – This is my Skil 100 planer that I use to take off the hard shell and work through the foam.

FGH – How long have you had this planer?

GM – Probably like 35 or 40 years now.

FGH – No way. Are you the original owner?

GM – Yeah, I cut the back off, put on a new chord and freed up the depth control. I bought the exhaust attachment from you guys. I basically use this to cut depths, put in concaves, cutting outlines and all the rough work where you want to cut foam quicker.

vintage jumbo surformFGH – How about this jumbo Surform?

GM – This is a 14” Surform. The longer ones tend to keep the surface smoother. It’s like riding a long ski, it goes over the dips. Just like a long gun [surfboard] it glides over the chops.

FGH – That makes sense.

GM – I use this a lot on the rails and the flats. They don’t make these anymore. I’ve had this one for 40 years already.

FGH – Wow, that’s a long time. How long have you been shaping surfboards?

GM – Oh, since the late 60’s. The problem is getting a blade for these now. They don’t make them anymore. Good thing I have a batch of blades.

FGH – You have a secret stash? Hear that everyone, if you need a blade for the 14” surform, Glenn’s got them!

custom sanding blockGM – Here’s my sandpaper and block. Every step goes from more coarse to finer. The way to shape faster is to use each tool to its max. So when you move on to the next tool in the process you don’t have a lot to work on. So you got to use your tools as much as you can so that you can fine tune the board with the screens.

FGH – That’s some really good advice for all craftsman out there. Why did you make your own custom sanding blocks?

GM – I have small hands and I wanted something that would be light and fit in my hands. So these are lightweight and they fit in my hand really good.

FGH – Yeah, these feel small and really light.

GM – You could stick it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and mail it! hahaha.

FGH – Yeah, totally.

glenn's finish sanding blockGM – Same thing with this one. I just wrap the sand screen around it and it’s super light.

FGH – I like that little piece of carpet you have one there.

GM – Yeah, it helps it curve to the deck and the concave. The carpet helps keep it more rounded when you wrap the screen around. It keeps it from kinking.

FGH – Ahhhh. Very cool. Last thing you want is to drag this across an almost finished board and leave a deep scratch.

GM – Yeah, you don’t have scratches on the foam.

FGH – This David Plane is great. I’m really excited to let people know that you have the curved side dialed in. Nobody ever gets the blade dialed in on the curved side.

david planeGM – Haha, what? Really? I thought everybody uses that side?

FGH – No way, everybody uses the flat side only and then uses the spoke shave for shaping the stringer in the nose area.

GM – Yeah, I just use it like this (takes a couple smooth swipes off of the stringer).

FGH – Whoa, that thing is dialed in nicely.

GM – It’s a sharp blade so it cuts these small stringers really nicely.

FGH – Alright Glenn, thanks for taking time out from your busy shaping schedule to chat. Now get back to it!

We hope you enjoyed our conversation with Glenn. Here’s a list of tools that are similar to what Glenn uses:

HD foam sanding block

Rhynalox sandpaper

Sand screen


Artu Planer (Glenn uses this one to plane the stringer on the flats)

Hitachi planer