This tutorial will teach you how to build the top and bottom panels for your board. The goal is to have two wide panels that are the length of the board and equal to the width (plus 1/2″ is nice). I built specialized panel clamps that you will see in some of the photos but pipe clamps or wooden wedges and a straight edge also work.
There are a couple of things that need to be done before we can start the glue-up process. The wide surfaces of our boards need to be cleaned up with a planer and the narrow edges need to be cut to a perfect 90-degree angle. You could complete this step with just a hand plane but I recommend using a portable planer.
Start by sending all the freshly resawn boards for a whisper pass through the thickness planer. At this stage you are not aiming for perfection as much as smoothing out any roughness left from resawing. The boards will all be sanded later to the perfect thickness so try to leave as much material as you can for gluing. Technically you can just glue the rough boards without any problems but the rough surface hides some of the character making the finished look bit of an unknown.
After planning the boards are now smooth and looking great but still need to the narrow edges squared for gluing. The boards all get sent through the table saw to square the narrow faces to the wide face and remove any handling marks. The goal here is to have a board that has four smooth faces with four square corners. The narrow thickness of the planks means you can usually skip straightening planks on the jointer. You can test the ability of the boards to come together by dry clamping them.
The patterns and color variations change quite dramatically within the Western Red Cedar boards allowing great variations from board to board. The triangle you drew on the butt end of your boards will help during this step. This triangle helps keep the boards in the correct order that the planks were cut from the board and allows for easy book matching.
Triangles are your friend
Book matching is basically opening the resawn board up like a book. Take the stack of 4 pieces and open the board from the middle like a book. You should now have 2 stacks of 2 boards. Open each stack of 2 again like a book resulting in 2 wide book-matched panels. This book-matching effect gives Sliver Paddleboards the illusion that they are made from really wide planks.
Panels being glued with tape hinge
Here you can see the book matching that was done to make up a wide SUP panel. This top panel is made up from 9 individual pieces. The four wide panels all were cut from a single board and then book-matched. The board that is hanging off the bench is being held by tape keeping it in proper alignment. If you are building a paddleboard and completing this step alone you are better off numbering your panels, as tape alone will not always hold the weight of a panel.
Depending on the grain patterns involved book matching can either look awesome or too busy? Not all grain patterns look good when they are book-matched. Some lumber has such wild grain patterns that they look too busy when they are book-matched. If you have this situation, consider flipping half of you planks end-for-end. Another option is to use the really busy lumber as a feature panel in the centre of the board or separate the book-matched panels location.
Color coded and numbered
This board shows another approach to using the book-match panels were 1 panel of our book-matched pair is on the top skin and 1 is on the bottom skin. This is a good approach with cathedral grain when you have too much of a good thing and the grain pattern is visually overwhelming.
Once the pattern has been chosen mark your boards so you don’t make any mistakes. I number from left-to-right as well as using colored tape. The bottoms and tops are built out of different boards but usually with a similar or complimentary grain.
Accents of Yellow Cedar and really dark Read Cedar compliment the wide book-matched panels nicely. Yellow Cedar is really special wood as it has minimal grain pattern and a really light color. The stringers are made from dark stripes of Western Red Cedar.
Each stack is now ready to be glued into a panel. The stack aligned using the numbers we put on and boards and aligned lengthwise. It is really important that the book-matched panels stay in the right alignment or visually the finished board will look off. If everything is perfect we add a few pipe clamps to hold everything tight and to ensure slightly warped boards will flex together. All seams should be checked to ensure they would go together perfectly. This is the last chance to make any adjustments. If everything looks good then tape all seams with packing tape.
Packing tape used lengthwise down the seams to minimize glue from squeezing out on the front face. The added benefit of the tapped seams is it allows us to hinge the panels for quicker gluing. An ELEVEN has 88 feet of edges that need to be glued and clamped at one time. Any thing that saves time during gluing is greatly appreciated!
A few clamps are enough for taping before glueing
Ideally you have a helper that can help support the board when they are hinged off the side of the bench. If you live alone on an island or have access to a panel press this method is easier. Draw a big triangle on the face of your lumber and skip taping all together. Clamp all your boards side-by-side with one of the narrow edges aligned forming one big block. Clamp the block together with some spring clamps. Turn the block so the edges you are going to glue point up. Apply glue to all edges at once. Use your panel numbers as well as the big triangle to properly align the lumber. Apply you clamps while making sure everything stays aligned.
Specially made panel clamps
Sliver Paddleboards uses specially made panel clamps to keep the boards aligned. Panels for paddle boards are really large and wood likes to slide out of alignment when pressure is added unevenly. 4-way panel clamps help to guarantee our panels stay aligned. This perfect alignment allows us to less material since the panels are squeezed equally from 4 sides at once. The top half of our clamps is a slightly curved so as pressure is added horizontally the cauls ensure the panels align vertically. You do not require this fancy of set-up to build a perfect board.
No clamps and no problem
If you are building at home and have no pipe or sash clamps you can use wedges to add pressure and weight to keep the panels flat. Simply attach a board to the side or top of your assembly table. Attach a second fixed stop 3/8″ wider than you panel will be. Place your lumber that you are gluing between the two fixed blocks (One Side has to be aligned) and tighten with a wooden wedge. (I like wedges that are 7″ long and taper from zero to 1/2″ in thickness.) Add weight to the top of the panels to keep the edges aligned vertically. This method works well and wedges are super quick to make or simply grab a pack of door wedges.
The panel should be left for 24 hours before being removed from the clamps to let the Titebond 3 reach maximum strength. The packing tape is removed from the front face and the bulk of the glue is cleaned up with a hand plane. Sliver Paddleboards has the luxury of having a 37″ wide double drum sander that we thickness sand our panels with but a hand plane and a sanding block also do a good job.
The completed panels should be strapped with some supports to protect them from flexing while they are put aside for the next step.
My “weekend helper” sweeping under a row of panel clamps