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December 2011
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April 2012

Building a Cedar Strip Stand Up Paddleboard

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Katya has made a lot of progress on her stand up paddleboard. I am very happy to lend my expertise in this project and be able to document it. It will be good to work through the process and see how it’s done before I start to work on my own paddleboard. With the experience fresh in my mind and the notes I’ll be taking, the second time around should go much quicker.

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Building a workbench

The first step was to built a 12 x 2 ft workbench. A lot of it was made out of salvaged lumber. It is basically a 1/2 in plywood surface secured with drywall screws to 2x2s around the circumference as well as a few crossbeams. The workbench was put on top of an 8 ft long folding table, and legs attached to support the ends. The workbench was leveled as much as possible side to side with shims placed under the legs. The assembly was still quite flexible and uneven along its length, and the entire garage surface sloped toward the entrance. This shouldn’t matter as long as it is stable though, because the frame’s central longitudinal (what the designers call the “spar”) will be mounted above the surface.

The plywood pieces of the frame (“ribs” and “spar”) have to be cut out of the wooden panels that come in the kit. The wood is thin, 1/8 in plywood. The instructions tell you to use a sharp chisel to cut the tabs holding the pieces in place and then sand the edges smooth. In my first post I complained about having to do this and wondered why the manufacturers don’t sell the kits with everything completely precut. But now I realize that it is very useful to have the surrounding scrap plywood on the panels. For instance, rib #2 broke in half while it was being cut out and I was able to make a copy out of the scrap plywood. The outside inch of the plywood panels is also used to make the sticks used to mount the frame to the workbench surface. These sticks are about 3/4 in wide by 6 to 3 inches long.

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Broken rib #2



Copy of rib #2 made from scrap plywood


Mounting sticks made from scrap plywood 


Gluing the spar

The spar is the 12 ft long center longitudinal piece that holds the ribs. Since the plywood panels are only 8 ft long, the spar comes in two pieces that have to be glued together with a butt joint. The kit comes with two gussets that are glued on each side of the joint. The instructions say to place a straight edge along the top edge of the spar pieces to ensure proper alignment and glue the gussets to each side of the spar at the joint, then place a weight over the joint and allow it to dry.

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It sounds easy but during the first attempt the whole assembly slid out of alignment and dried that way. I think simply placing a big weight on a gluing joint is not a good idea. You can’t see the joint to check if it’s still in alignment while it is gluing when there’s a big weight on it.

In order to salvage the pieces, both gussets had to be carefully planed off the spars and all the dried glue (Gorilla Glue) scraped off. Two new gussets had to be made using plywood scraps from the 1/8th inch plywood panels. For the second attempt, clamps were used to secure the joint, and the joint was glued one gusset at a time. The ends of the spars had to be supported off the workbench because of the clamps. If the spar is not kept straight along its length while the joint is glued, it will be a little crooked at the joint.


This is the crappy joint that resulted from just using weights 

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The joint had to be carefully taken apart by planing off the gussets 


The spar joint is reglued, first one side, then the other


Mounting the spar on the workbench

The spar is temporarily glued to the workbench with a hot glue, using the mounting sticks that were cut out of the plywood scrap. First a centerline is drawn on the workbench. (The instructions say to snap a chalk line, but we just drew a line along a piece of string tied along the center.)


This is one of the steps where it really helps to have two people. One person holds the mounting stick square against (not on) the centerline using a straight edge while the other person squirts a bead of hot glue along the bottom of the stick. The stick needs to be held in position for a minute until the glue cools. The mounting sticks are placed every 8-10 inches. It is important not to place a stick where a rib will be along the spar, because it will interfere with placement of the rib, so it helps to lay the spar along the centerline to know where the ribs will be. Because of the board’s rocker, the mounting sticks closer to the nose and tail will need to be taller (5-6 inches) than the ones in the middle (3 inches).



Once the mounting sticks are secure, sight along the line of sticks to make sure they are in alignment and square to the workbench surface. The spar is held up against one side of the sticks and secured with a few clamps or clothespins, starting at the center of the spar. It is important to have enough room between the spar and the workbench to be able to run the stretchy plastic wrap that will be used to clamp the strips to the deck, at least 1 inch. Trim off any sticks where the ends extend above the top of the spar.



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Sight down the spar to make sure it is straight and square to the workbench surface. Once the spar is properly positioned, secure the spar to the mounting sticks by running a 1 inch bead of hot glue along the sides of each stick. Since the frame will eventually be removed from the workbench and all of the hot glue scraped off the spar, it is important to try to keep the hot glue to a minimum.

From the pictures, it should be obvious how thin and light this plywood is. It feels like you are making a model balsa wood airplane! The cedar strips will add a lot more strength and weight. Next: Installing the ribs!

Inuit Elders And Youth Work Together To Build A Sealskin Kayak

View on YouTube

You get a good sense of what it must be like working with sealskin in this wonderful video. I was impressed by how elastic fresh seal skin is, and also how meat-centric the Inuit diet is. I have to question the nutritional value of seal meat. Although they point out that seal meat has 34x the iron of beef and a lot of calcium, excess iron potentiates free-radical oxidative damage and really should be avoided, especially in men, who have no way to excrete of excess iron. And despite the calcium, the Inuit population had and still has the highest hip-fracture rate in the world. This may be because sulfur-containing amino acids in animal protein leach out the calcium from bones, contributing to osteoporosis. Look here for a more detailed discussion of low-carbohydrate, meat-based ("primal", or "paleolithic") diets.

From the video archive: The Reverend Gary Magno, Psychic Surgeon

Right after I graduated from college in 1989, I took a month-long trip to the Philippines. While staying with relatives in the Manila area I picked up a couple books at National Bookstore about the local faith healing and psychic surgery phenomenon. Psychic surgery is a uniquely Filipino form of faith healing in which the healer performs surgery with his bare hands on an awake patient, removing tumors and draining pus painlessly and with the immediate spontaneous healing of the wound. A few of the healers I had read about were based in the Baguio area. Since I had planned to spend a few days in Baguio (along with my aunt and uncle, my cousin, my girlfriend, and my brother, Rick) I thought there would be a good chance we might meet one of these healers and maybe even watch them in action.

One day while lounging around my aunt’s Baguio condo, we decided to simply call the Hyatt and ask if there happened to be any psychic surgeons working there. Yes, they said, as a matter of fact, the Reverend Gary Magno was in town. We asked to speak to him directly, and they connected us to his room. We probably talked with his personal assistant or something. Suddenly, all of us were climbing into the car and driving over to chat with him in person.

Hyatt Terraces Baguio

The Hyatt Terraces Plaza used to be the premier 5-star luxury hotel in Baguio. The hotel had a spectacular lobby area, with an atrium surrounded by lush foliage which cascaded down from terraces that rose several stories high. The hotel and its adjoining casino were later totally destroyed during a massive earthquake just one year after my visit, on July 16, 1990.


We sat around a long table in the atrium cafe, waiting for Magno. I don’t remember if we ordered anything. None of us had ever heard of Magno and he didn't appear in any of the two books I had picked up from National Bookstore. We didn’t know what to expect or even what Magno looked like. When he showed up though I don't think you could have mistook him for anything other than a psychic surgeon. He was dressed completely in brilliant white: white shirt and jacket, white pants, and glossy white shoes. His hair was long and combed straight back across his balding head. He wore several gold rings, a heavy gold watch, and a gold necklace with an eagle on it. It was one of those moments characterized by the awkwardness with which one is seized when confronting celebrity, as if Elvis himself had walked into the room (the old, fat Elvis).

Magno sat at the head of the table and my brother and I sat on either side of him and just started asking questions. I don’t remember many details, but I think I asked him respectfully about his early life and how he discovered that he had the power to heal. I was making up questions based on the stories I had just read in those books I bought from National Bookstore. Magno was soft-spoken but radiated a quiet confidence. He said his power came directly from Jesus Christ. Finally, he said that he was returning to Manila the next day, and that if we really wanted to know more, we should come observe him at his clinic in Manila.


The chance to watch a psychic surgeon in action was too good to pass up, although my girlfriend complained bitterly that we were going to leave Baguio early, because the heat and humidity in Manila was brutal, and it was so much cooler at this elevation in the mountains.

The next morning we drove about 4 hours to Manila and made it to the clinic in the afternoon. Since we were foreigners with cameras they asked us to pay a little extra for the price of admission -- something like $5 US a piece, which seemed a lot at the time in a country where everything else was dirt cheap. Plus they wanted an additional $15 to bring in Rick’s video camera. It was not a camera you could just sneak in, but rather a monster that you slung over your shoulder and into which you inserted full-sized VHS cassettes.

We spent a long time just sitting in the second storey waiting room which faced a large window covered by a curtain. This window obviously looked into the “operating room”. Statues and pictures of saints and the Virgin Mary hung on the walls. It looked more like a church than a clinic. In fact, it was a church, "The Holy Spirit of God Church, Inc., Founder Rev. Monsgr Gary George R Magno, Spiritual Advisor". As a steady stream of patients and their families walked in, the un-airconditioned room grew hotter. The fans provided minimal relief in the stifling, sticky heat. A few people looked sick and deformed. I especially remember a frail, elderly woman who had a very impressive softball-sized goiter on her neck.

Before the healing session we all gathered around in a circle and held hands and prayed and sang. Then someone drew the curtain to the operating room and the show started.

A team of assistants would help each patient undress down to his or her underwear and climb onto the table, holding up sheets and towels to protect their modesty. Everyone on the other side of the window wore white. Magno would stand on the other side of the table so we could all see him through the window. He would hold up a small white sheet against the patient for a few seconds before starting. This sheet served as some kind of spiritual x-ray. By looking at it, or through it, Magno could see right into the patient, see the disease. I knew this from reading those two books I picked up at National Bookstore. Then Magno would plunge his hands into the patient’s abdomen and start pulling out all kinds of black tumors. Blood would spill from the wound. When he was done his assistants would wipe the patient off and there would be no sign of any wound. Sometimes Magno would work on someone’s chest, shoulders, neck, or groin.

Gary Magno, "Psychic Surgeon" from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

There were a few other foreigners there. We met a young couple. The woman was from Israel. The man said he was thinking about having Magno treat him for chronic headaches. I noticed he had a very prominent brow ridge, as if it were a outer manifestation of his inner pathology. Another man from New Zealand said that he was a regular patient of Magno. He didn’t actually have real diagnosis or anything wrong with him. He said he just saw Magno once a year to “clean out all the impurities”.

The train of patients kept moving forward, one after another. Magno worked quickly and his assistants would wipe up all the blood and turn over the operating room within a minute. Then I saw the man with the headaches I had just met lie on the table. Magno started massaging his forehead. Blood oozed out from between Magno’s fingers and he started picking away small bits of black tumor that looked just like the stuff he had been picking out of everyone else. As soon as the man with the headaches got out of the operating room, I asked him what it felt like, and he said it was fantastic! Magno radiated so much positive energy! He had never felt better!

One of Magno’s assistants beckoned me. Magno wanted me in the operating room! They guided me inside. There was a patient on the table. Magno had already begun and his fingers were inside her belly. Take a picture he said, now, with his hand inside her belly and blood running down her side! I fumbled with the manual settings on my Pentax and fired off a few shots, trembling. After a minute they ushered me outside again. Did I get the exposure right? Was my camera even in focus?


Finally it was the woman with the goiter’s turn. All this time she had been waiting patiently. There were so many other patients, I thought that Magno might not even get to her. I couldn’t help staring at her huge mass, wanting to know what would happen to it. Would it deflate like a balloon? Was it filled with that ubiquitous evil black flesh he had been pulling out of everyone else?

The magician James Randi demonstrated that psychic surgery is a simple sleight of hand magic trick, performed using pig blood and chicken livers. Defenders of psychic surgery have said that what happens is not the literal excision of physical tumors but is more like the physical manifestation of a process that takes place primarily on the spiritual plane -- "4th dimension medicine". Tumor extraction is a metaphor for removal of the impurities of the soul. So whether or not a laboratory tested the removed tissues and discovered them to be of animal origin is totally irrelevant!

Magno massaged the goiter of the woman for a minute then suddenly a stream of thick, creamy pus oozed out of her neck. Quite a bit of pus drained out, but the mass was still there. I stared at her neck again as she was helped out of the operating room and back to her seat, where she sat and prayed. Didn’t the mass look smaller? Didn't it seem a little more dried out and wrinkled? Well, maybe it was a little smaller. I couldn’t really tell.

If we had had the Internet back then I would have discovered that Gary Magno had been arrested for medical fraud in Arizona three years earlier. It was common practice for psychic surgeons to travel to the US to get paid the big bucks treating Hollywood celebrities dying of cancer and other wealthy suckers.

Building a Cedar Strip Stand Up Paddle Board


I've started a new project: building a stand up paddle board (SUP). Actually, I know almost nothing about stand up paddleboarding. I took a short lesson one spring and really have only been on an SUP a couple times. It was fun but I didn’t consider it something I would seriously get into. I didn’t think of it was a very effective way to get around on the water, until I saw how fast some of the SUPs were going during the Deception Pass Dash. I recently was inspired by watching SUPers play in Crecent Bay. Having the advantage of both a paddle and a board, they were catching a lot of the small waves that kayakers and surf boarders couldn’t ride.

Despite the growing popularity of stand up paddle boarding in the Puget Sound area, I have yet to see a lot of homemade wooden boards. This is a real shame, because, compared to a kayak, construction is relatively simple. It’s shorter, so you use less material, and can build it in a smaller space. There is also great potential for showing off a lot of fancy woodwork and artwork on both sides of the board. It is basically a floating canvas!

I searched the internet and bought a basic kit from Wood Surfboard Supply. It is the Orca model, 12 ft long and 29 1/4 in wide -- plenty of stability for a beginner! The basic kit consists only of four 8 x 1 ft plywood panels with the forms for the frames and center longitudinal cut out by a CNC router. You still have to punch the forms out and clean up the edges. The instructions are emailed to you as a generic 70 page Wood Surfboard Kit Manual pdf that is used for all their kits.


A couple minor criticisms of the kit so far. 1) It takes a bit of time to unpack the panels because they are all stapled together. You can order the pieces precut out of the panels but it costs a little more. 2) There are a lot of fine points on technique (stripping, dealing with epoxy and fiberglass, sanding and finishing) that are incompletely covered in the manual. For a first-time builder, I highly recommend consulting a more comprehensive book on strip construction.


I am trying to be more cost conscious for this project. For instance, I decided to make my own strips from locally available Home Depot wood instead of ordering finished strips. The wood is sold as 12 ft 1 x 4 and 1 x 6 clear cedar paneling. Ricardo and I dropped by the Bates Boatbuilding program and ran the planks through their planer then table saw to rip the planks into strips 1/4 in thick x 3/4 in wide. It turned out to be really beautiful, fragrant wood, varying from pale tan to a darker chocolate color. We cut enough for two boards because Katya wants to make one too. The strips came to about $1.90/12 ft strip. Finished red cedar strips can cost up to $0.45/foot, or $5.40/12 ft strip.


The manual recommends that the first thing you do is prebend the strips. Wood that has not been given a curve prior to planking the board will try to straighten out when the clamps are removed and can actually pull the rocker out of the board. I think it’s probably more of a problem with shorter boards with a lot of rocker. In any case, we placed the strips leaning against the wall of Katya’s garage to bend them with gravity for a few days. They also discuss options such as steam bending or soaking in water.