Saw something that may be Varial foam recently. It was shaped by Rusty and sent to a glasser here. Very light and hard. Looked up their site, but it doesn't look like they sell single raw blanks. You can get a machined blank from them, but I don't know what those cost. If the raw blanks were available and they didn't cost a lot, I'd certainly try one.
I'm still using inexpensive EPS for now, and adding balsa skins or more glass for added when strength when needed. Was planning on switching back to PU, but I've been getting good deals on EPS. It will be a while before I actually work with anything else.
The other blank I really liked was the XTR XPS foam I was lucky to try.
Wood blanks have all kinds of issues when compared to foam. Weight would be a big one, having a consistent even weighting across the whole board, and keeping it down. I haven't found wood that makes a lighter board than foam. Starting with raw trees takes a lot of work and time, and if bugs get to the wood before you can use it, you're screwed.
We use petroleum to make foam, but I'm pretty sure that we're using by-products and that the main use for petroleum is fuel. Either to make fuel for transportation or the Energy sector. The Energy sector uses the waste product called fuel oil. It's a heavy, tar like product one step above the stuff they pave roads with. Foams are made from other by-products that are pulled off crude oil during the refining process.
I don't know what is worse, sucking oil out of the ground for fuel or cutting all the trees down for all the wood products we use. Cutting trees has direct impacts on a variety of animals, and the environments where trees are "logged". It is a big reason why we are contributing to climate change. The cutting of all the tropical rainforests has a huge impact on the world's climate, and air quality.
Tree farms are not necessarily good for the environment either. We clear cut huge areas of the natural habitat to create sterile zones of harvestable trees, or planations of highly desireable plants.
The styrofoam they make for food products is a totally different product from polyurethane surfboard foam. The total volume of PU surfboard foam made world-wide is probably a drop in the bucket compared to styrofoam used for other products.
If that is true why not look to develop a better material than foam, which has been in use for nearly 50 years. Why add to the bucket at all? Surfing is a unique sport that is basically off the grid requiring zero energy other than the surf board. Why mix into such a basic and beautiful leisure the corrupt and violent industry of oil? *I have a buddy who loads oil trains in Colorado and several of his co-workers have been killed on the job, this is no joke. Surfing and shapers can aspire to be outside that realm of human destruction, and really it is on the shapers to advance the craft, just as the previous generation moved away from logging our planets rain forests for their craft in turn for manufactured foam, which made sense at the time when little was known about foam.
Agave is one of many viable solutions and alternatives to oil based surfboard production. Agave is not a tree but a plant, and is only useful for surf at the end of the plants life when it is merely a perch for birds to rest and eventual organic matter for the soil. It can be farmed or collected wild from nature. I collect it wild from vulnerable areas like creek beds, where it is also more accessible than cliffsides. For me it is local so it makes sense for my production. The process uses a fraction of the amount of energy used to mill trees (from falling, transport, milling) and yields zero waste because the sawdust goes to the worms and garden.
For practical purposes agave is not viable. Great idea but falls short of supplying the mass market. It's not the easiest raw material to work with either. Just ask guys that have used it a lot.
It does produce a very pleasing product if you are willing to dedicate yourself to it. I suspect the compression it yields (like balsa) is impressive just using one layer of 4 oz cloth. But as I said before...... unless raw materials suppliers.... NOT shapers, are willing to secure the raw material and can guarantee its consistency (many times the plants harvested net widely varying results) acceptable for production for such cosmtically and structurally demanding products such as surfboards, then I doubt we will see this material introduced into the marketplace due to widespread distribution.
Very accurate assessment in stating the supply of agave blanks is non existent nor able to fill any (potential) market demand. If you build it, they will come . . . .
I work with agave on many levels including surf, and I equate agave as a viable material to the use of bamboo in its potential market appeal. 20 years ago few people knew about bamboo other than panda bears eat it. Then cam the bamboo flooring and eventually seemingly endless uses of the material in daily life as an alternative material.
Agave is very much the same in its utility potential but no one has yet build the market by building the public knowledge and promoting its use to such a level that it is seen in the marketplace. In time, agave will be a common material like hemp or bamboo because it is a natural alternative and low in energy cost to create products compared to plastics.
It may start with surf and branch out from there. I use it for many applications in the house and in design. People really like my works before they know what the material is because it yields functional products that are beautiful and space age density to volume confusion.
Dude, its a matter of time till agave hits the market. I intend to make a go of it. I am in a situation/space with the potential to mass market agave blanks. I am still learning the material after 4 years of working and observing the plant (not a tree). And the public is willing to listen and try it because it is a practical material without a use (here).
Today people relate agave to tequila in similar fashion to how bamboo was related to pandas 20 years ago. 20 years from now, hopefully, agave will be what bamboo is today - everywhere and a useful alternative to what already exists.
That which can be assorted without evidence was read in an illegal magazine.
I wonder what the chemistry behind the varial stuff is. They probably won't tell, but does anybody have any ideas?
Foam is here to stay if you ask me. What's not here to stay is the current synthesis methods, blowing methods and recycling methods. I did a project on this for a class in my senior year, and I was a chem major so it was in depth on the chemistry side of things. People are working to reduce the energy cost associated with synthesizing ethyl benzene, which is the precursor to styrene monomer. For example, I saw a one pot synthesis involving toluene, methanol and a proprietary catalyst that goes right to styrene monomer with more mild reaction conditions and temperatures. That synthesis also has a much higher selectivity for styrene, so it's more efficient, and the waste product is hydrogen, not CO2 or something of that nature. The H2 can be used for energy to power the reaction by burning it, which is cleaner than burning hydrocarbons.
I also read a paper about an interesting process to depolymerize EPS back to styrene monomer. The used a high powered mcrowave and old used tires, oddly enough, to cause depolymerization through pyrolysis. They got a 66% yield, and considering this is in the experimental stages I'd call that decent. You can use the styrene monomer again, rather than having to make more.
Boards shaped: 8
There is more options coming on board, working on one at the moment. Think of a structural waterproof EPS that can be hand shaped.
About 12-18 months away for commercial.. but happy so far, fingers crossed the pros like it!
We've been a few years in the works at perfecting this board. NO FOAM! Much stronger than the foam boards. No more pressure dings. Not 100% "green" but pretty close to it. Spring of 2016 we should have them for sale. Check us out, when they become available go beat the crap out of them!
Interesting comments from the last several posters on this thread. Question: how quickly does Agave grow in comparison to some of the fast growing Bamboo genus, or geni (whatever the proper plural is for genus)? Sidenote: many of the bamboo flooring materials have hideous toxic adhesives in them - there is an effort to get nations to join an organization that requires them to comply with safer methods, but that has been met with limited success.
As far as bamboo, balsa, agave or some other natural product replacing the wide used TDI (Toulene di Isocynate) or MDI (Methyl di Isocynate) based foam, that's not likely to happen in our lifetime. EPS has vastly imroved for surfboard blank use since the widespread incorporation of EDRO/IDRO machines producing it, and the recyclability of the material is pretty darn admirable.... still, a considerable % of surfers don't prefer the ride on such a core.
The other materials and methods some of the posts hint at will only come to light when proprietary rights are secured and they have more fully developed and been covninced as to the feasibility of pursuing a Business Plan and founding of acompany chasing after the almighty buck or pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Good input from fellow Swaylockians on this thread - I never even thought 'it' would have a life!