At Grain, we emphasize not only the process of building boards but the materials as well. Selecting materials isn't merely a choice of convenience or efficiency. Since day one, we've prioritized local, sustainable woods, recycled plastics and bio-based finishes. Read more below.
Our love for cedar (in particular Northern White Cedar) stemmed from Mike's early days on and around boats. Cedar has been used for centuries in boat yards around North America, and even longer in Native American canoes. An excellent wood choice for water craft, cedar is a workable and light softwoods with good strength-to-weight ratios. What makes it good for boats, makes it good for boards. Lucky for us, cedar grows abundantly in Maine! To this day, just about all of our cedar needs have been filled by that same family operation in northern Maine. And just about all of our off-cuts and shavings get used for smaller products, as animal bedding or garden mulch, or to heat our shop!
We were told as kids (in the 70’s & 80’s) that “plastics make it possible”. It was hard to predict that 40 years later, plastic pollution would become one of our planet's biggest environmental disasters as 17 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean each year. We feel a responsibility to contribute to a more circular economy, helping to find solutions, and keeping plastics out of the environment. Today we use high density recycled #1 PET as rail material in our banded ‘GreenRail’ boards. Each board helps to keep roughly 33 plastic bottles from winding up in our oceans.
Some of our earliest boards were built using cork as a rail material. Ever since then, we’ve known about it’s properties and advantages in building boards. Literally the bark from cork oak trees, cork is one of the most environmentally friendly materials there is. Cork is stripped from trees roughly every ten years in a process that dates back thousands of years. The trees are undamaged in the process and the cork grows back within ten years, to be harvested again. The trees continue to grow for 300 years. Cork's elasticity combined with its near-impermeability makes it a great material for uses related to sealing and floating, from corks, to gaskets, to… surfboards. Cork is our material of choice for rails in our PlyBeam Kits as well as our 3-day workshops, two options designed around a more simplified process for those with limited tools, time or technical prowess but as still looking to build their own beautiful functional surfboard.
The unsung hero, marine plywood makes up most of the interior of our board… that and air of course. We use top quality, Lloyds and FSC certified marine plywood which is void free and designed to last. Picture the inside of an airplane wing, and you can begin to understand the inner structure of our boards. This marine plywood is the bridge connecting the high tech CAD process we use to design our boards and the traditional ways we build our boards. All plywood is precision cut on our in-house CNC machine.
All of our surfboards are finished with a bio-based, no VOC (volatile organic compound) epoxy from Entropy Epoxies. PlyBeam and HomeGrown kits include this same epoxy making glassing at home less impactful. Our solid cedar products like handplanes and paipos are finished with a locally made finish consisting of natural oils, beeswax and turpentine.