I've made a few boards recently but work has kept me so busy that I haven't been active here much. One recent board that I thought might bring some comfort to other beginners like me is a 6'2 Twinzer fish on which I messed up several times along the way, yet still ended up quite fun to ride and reasonably attractive (for a new shaper, don't expect too much here).
I started with a Lis style keel fish template made from a Mabile keel fish I love. His shapes have such graceful, sleek foiling and classic templates, I love his work. I'm 6'1 and about 200lbs, and his shapes have the feel of being made for smaller riders, or at least riders who are lighter on their feet than me. So my goal is to sneak as much foam into the center of my chest as possible, and usually add some width as well, while still aiming for a foil that doesnt feel bloated in the hand.
I've owned a few of his twinzer fish and loved them, but currently don't have one - only a traditional wood keel fish. His twinzer fish always have a little wing near the fins that cuts in and back to the tail, so I set out to recreate that element. Luckily, deconstructing images
Wing: Looking at the placement of his wings when he makes twinzer fishes, I played around with the measurements for adjustments on the rail line, and noticed that a lot of things suddenly clicked. Taking the Lis template, and scooting the tail section of the template in 1/2", I could see the rail line still continue cleanly along to the tail, and the tail now had the shallower buttcrack and 1" total narrower width that seemed consistent with the twinzer fish I've seen and ridden. I used the outside leading edge curve from a 7.5" Greenough 4a fin for the transition curve blending the wing into the rail, to avoid that jagged look of a wing with no transitional curves around it. I've been really into the idea of using wings simply as a spot to have a break in the rail to help free the rail in the tail a little, so I didn't push for a big, jagged dropoff in the rail line so much as just a little release point with an edge right there, with the rail otherwise continuing relatively smoothly.
Down rails: my favorite fish has a down, foiled, tucked rail from nose to tail. It has a bit of an edge in the last foot or so. I tried to follow that example and kept a slight tucked edge behind my wing continuing out the back.
Bottom: flat/very slight roll entry through front foot, with two little concaves starting 6" before back foot and leading out between the fins out the back with a little crown between the fins.
Fin placement: I have somehow never measured the toe and cant on a smaller twinzer fish. I've got a keel fish and have measured a 9'6 twinzer fish, which has a very different placement. So I read all the twinzer posts here on Sways. Unfortunately the data from these posts is all over the map. Fin placement took two tries and two sets of fins.
First try - big fat fail: my first fin setup worked so badly I almost threw the board out. Only my cheapness saved this thing. I had made a set of ply fins from thick 1/2" stock, and failed on placement in two ways (my guess, others will have better analysis).
First, foolishly ignoring Bill T's advice to "chase the line, not the number" I ignored how wrong it looked to keep my thick fins, foiled from 1/2" ply, placed as closely together as everyone's measurements of the fins on Larmo and Stu Kenson and Wil Jobson boards had been. I've noticed that if I get an instinctive feeling about the flow of a line when making boards, it's often best to follow it. Welp, I ignored it when setting these fins. The result was correct based on the numbers but the thickness of my single foiled fins pushed a big clog spot of outer rear fin foil into space that should have been open between the canards and trailers. Instead of a fat finger's space to flow, there was a squished pinky finger of space between them. Duh. Open your eyes, Rod.
Second, due to the thickness of the foiled fins, my following the cant and toe numbers was off. Again, should have used my eyes, it was obvious. Hopefully these things become easier to see with more boards because hindsight is embarrasingly clear. The thickness of my foils meant my exact measurements of the tips of the fins weren't really the points I needed to be looking at. On the second try, accepting my fins would not be perfect, I used more of a conceptual line through the fin to determine my toe and cant, and this was succesful.
I tried to follow the common cant numbers in the twinzer posts; something like 5 and 2 degrees for canards and trailers and 1/4 toe in. My execution was bad, and my bad spacing exacerbated the problem.
Finally, my toe in was a disaster. Due to my probably clumsy overthick foiling, and feeling unsure about where the center "front" and "back" of my thick single foil fins were, my toe in angles, based on the front and back tips of the fins, as I guessed them, left me with way too much toe in. Especially my canards, which I gave a 1/4" toe in matching the 1/4 toe of the trailers - this actually matched a larmo I took measurements from but my thick fin shape really caused problems with it. The shorter canard fin base and matching toe measurement meant more toe for the canard than for the trailer, which has been a discussion topic here.
For those who struggle with glass - this was my 17th or so board, I've glassed them all myself, and out of the blue my cut lap tape (I pay for the good yellow indasa stuff and it still happened) decided to completely drop off the board around my ankles in the middle of laminating the bottom. This became my first free lap board, except expecting a cut lap glass process I hadnt trimmed my glass cleanly enough in advance for a clean freelap. Sigh.
I had only one success on the first try with this board. I hand painted an image reminiscent of my childhood surfing La Jolla Shores ans Scripps with a monster north peak winter wave stolen from Blacks about to destroy everyone from the beach club to the jetty. I titled it "Shores-aré" haha. I wanted to test the idea of painting glass patches for major repairs to lay something pretty but also structurally useful on big damage spots. That went well, and laid down easy like an ordinary deck patch.
First ride review. Terrible. Board felt good in the hand. Paddled well. Catches waves well. Stand up, and WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?" It was so bad that I felt like I was cursed. Look I'm no pro but I've been surfing since childhood, I love surfing fish, and in fun chest high beachbreak waves a properly sized twinzer fish should not be trying to throw me off before I can pop up! It was ridiculous! The thing was cursed! It was pretty clearly the fins. Paddling, catching, initial momentum starting to stand, all fine. Then once up and trying to bottom turn, the board wanted to go four ways at once and also pull the E-brake intermittently!
I cut the canards off it that day. I was still so disgusted with myself I didn't ride it, but my close friend/neighbor who I share shaping space with and bounce ideas off wanted to test it. He's got more faith in my ability to make something that floats. His assessment - removing the canards made the board go like a predictable but underfinned fish.
I parked the board in shame for 6 months, maybe longer. Didn't bring it to show Bill T when I visited. Brought some singles that worked. Brought a 7'0 Simon Anderson-ish thruster that worked. Hid my yellow fish in shame!
Finally, got around to the fin issue because I don't have room to store useless boards indefinitely. This thing needed to ride or go into the alley.
I sawed off the remaining trailer fins and started from scratch. This time, less focus on sticking to numbers and more focus on trusting an instinct for flow and the concept itself, after trying to re-read and re-absorb all the swaylocks twinzer posts for an understanding of the twinzer concept rather than exact numbers - these masters all used different numbers anyway, they must be setting these fins based on something other than a baking recipe style plan!
I also suspected that I needed to really dial back my toe and cant; I'm a big guy in the surf world and my daily driver for the past year is a pig - I can turn a fish even if I had the fins dialed more for speed than for turn.
I foiled a new set of fins from some salvaged first growth redwood. I figured if they were pretty I'd get re-inspired. I cut the stock down to a "thicker than industry standard but thinner than last time" 3/8" this time. I spent more time (and have a bit more time under my belt) foiling a better shape into each fin.
I went back to the drawing board on toe and cant, but left my fore/aft placement alone. This time, I kept the 1/4" toe for the trailer, but set a more conservative cant at 2 degrees for the trailer. I also decided this time that these numbers would be based on an imaginary line that instinctively came from from the flat foiled side of the fins and not necessarily the actual exact leading and trailing edge of the foil, as those were likely not going to be perfect anyway and could be corrected or improved in sanding later. I lined my inside foil plane up with the pencil line. Not sure if this is the right way to do it, but it gave me a stable basis to put all the fins on consistently.
Now for the Canards. This time, I wanted flow between them, and I wanted them more than anything to have a mellower effect on the board. To stay out of my g$[email protected] way, mostly! Haha. I'd settled on a general plan for 5 degres cant for the canards, but a substantial change in toe in. This time, I ignored the toe number measurement and placed the canard pencil line exactly parallel with the tailer fin line. Also, accounting for my increased fin thickness, I placed my canard fins about 1/8" off the outside of the pencil line, leaving a true thumb's width of flow between the surface of the two actual fins as they sit on the board, rather than just between their theoretical pencil line placement. I forget the measurement now, but it comes out to that standard measurement that most of the sways threads put the canard off the main - an inch-ish. Basically, enough that water can flow through that gap and not have a clogged toilet between your canard and trailer.
I wasnt brave enough to go without a canard fillet of some kind. This is not a challenge to Wil Jobson's design theory, I am an insect compared to that. But, it is an acknowledgement of my beginner status as a craftsman. I wanted the fins to stick. As a nod to the design, instead of fin rope I used a reduced number of 1" 6Oz strips cut on thr axis and pressed them hard to the board at the transition. The result is a relatively squarish fin/board meeting point, and not a fat fillet. Better than no attempt at all, and string enough that flicking the canard with a finger gives a satisfying solid twang.
This time, the board goes! Fast. Speed at trim is fast and arcing, with instant traction on takeoff in a steep face the way a twinzer should. It is simultaneously twin fast but with the precise, surefooted cutting feeling like you're on ice skates feeling that makes twinzer boards feel so good. Very stoked I didn't throw this thing out.
So there you go, fellow beginners, from someone with about a year and 20 boards under his belt, after substantial attempts to soak up what I could from the conversations here and from tribe elders who let me sit and learn on a Saturday afternon (Thank you Bill T). How to fail yourself to a fun rider! Haha!