Sunday, 30 September 2012

Our New Website ... and blog

A signing off note.

Throughout the last 6 months, we've been working hard on pulling together some new elements that will help our little company evolve. We have been developing a new website, which now includes the ability to buy our products online, supporting it with some amazing new photography from Mat Arney and developing our brand's logo to make the whole of Otter come together much more neatly and thoughtfully.

We hope you enjoy the results as much as we have enjoyed working to move things forward...we're ready for the next chapter in our story and we can only hope you will come along for the ride.

Our new blog will be updated weekly on and we're also going to be putting out a newsletter that you can sign up to on our new website at

Friday, 13 July 2012

A little video about a recent project with the National Trust

Early last year this project began with excited talks from Tom Clarke, the head Gardener from Trelissick, who'd recently felled a storm damaged tree and was looking for an exciting way to use the timber....

'Monumental trees - the truly old and majestic examples of nature - aren’t felled all that often, either by man or wind.

The National Trust is one of the largest non-governmental coastal landowners in the UK and in the past 47 years the Neptune Coastline Campaign has helped them to acquire 720 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and open it up for millions of people to enjoy. The campaign was launched  in response to growing fears that development was slowly destroying the best of the nation's natural coastline.

One of their Cornish properties is Trelissick which sits on the River Fal.    In the middle of 2011 a 28 metre Cupressus Macrocarpa (Monterey cypress) in the grounds of Trelissick was suffering from storm damage so had to be felled and the estate gardeners decided to find a good use for some of the spare timber.  The National Trust approached local wooden surfboard builder James Otter to see if he could produce a surfboard using the Macrocarpa wood which could then be toured around the Trust’s coastal properties to promote their conservation work.

When the tree was felled James Otter selected planks from the heavily furrowed trunk, and after air drying, set about making a 6’10” egg, with film-maker Romain Jucherau documenting the process.  The result is a beautiful board with a remarkable grain pattern and definition unlike many other wooden surfboards.

“Macrocarpa isn’t an obvious choice of material for a hollow skin and frame wooden board because it’s 50-60% heavier than the cedar we normally use, however it looks beautiful with the rippling and birdseye knots and just feels so strong.” said James Otter.

Rob Joules Watersports co-ordinator for the National Trust said “Its great to be working with James and I am really pleased how the board has come out. The gardeners at Trellisick were amazed with the finished product and it’s a great way of raising the awareness of our work along the coast”.

The National Trust’s latest acquisition, which is designed and built to last for just as long as the historical buildings that it also preserves, will be touring it’s coastal properties in the UK over the summer months and sliding across waves under the feet of some of the National Trust’s surf ambassadors.  Keep a look out for a beautiful wooden board with a green oak branch decal at your favourite coastal beauty spot soon.' - Mat Arney

Friday, 6 July 2012

Board testing in Surfgirl

If you pick up this month's issue of Surfgirl and find yourself oogling at a wooden board inside, it's one of ours! Sarah Bentley picked up our little 5'8 Whiz Twin and a handplane to add to an extensive selection of boards for testing in some clean head high waves with help from Holly Donnelly and Alexa Poppe.

Here's the verdict.

"Shaped in Cornwall from local, sustainable wood by James Otter. The hollow wooden construction and low rocker means this board is perfect for gliding through flat spots. It feels heavy on land but turns beautifully in the water. This is a board for life and one to hand down to the grandkids!"

Cover shot of this months issue

The article inside begins on page 74

Sarah dropping into a smooth peak

One of our handplanes also got a little mention "Wooden 16" Handplane: Perfect choice for surfers on a budget or those who need to get to waves using public transport! It takes a while to perfect the technique, but once mastered there is plenty of fun to be had. Bodyboard fins (swim fins) are a must for improved wave catching."

All Photos from the article are thanks to Mike Searle -

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Open Studios Cornwall

Wow, I can't quite believe it's June tomorrow! ... but that does mean it's that time of year when artists around Cornwall open their doors for the public to delve into their worlds and see where the magic happens.

The space we have just moved into is at Krowji - a collective of creatives - at the Old Grammar School in Redruth, and there are about 35 artists here who will be flinging their doors open ... us included!

So come in and see us making some wooden boards, check out a few of our demo boards that'll be on display and sift through some of our new handplanes and clothes ...including some Finisterre - Otter hoodies!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Little Canoe Trip ... for 'Against Malaria'

Just about finished a whole day of preparation for a 80 mile canoe trip along the south coast of Cornwall in aid of 'AgainstMalaria' - a great charity that "puts nets over heads and beds". Our page for donations to help us is here -

We did a little test with the old scout canoe that Dan bought a few weeks back and then spent the rest of the day repairing and making some modifications to it for our journey - back rests for the seats being my favourite! So we are just about ready to set off from somewhere near Fowey in the river tomorrow morning, with our intended target of Malpas, just outside Truro set for Monday night. Fingers crossed for some nice days on the water - it looks like it'll be a little windy tomorrow, but then it settles down so we can get our heads down and achieve 30 miles/day.

Here's a little pic of the canoe before its test run this morning...and fittinlgy it has a picture of an Otter on the front!

We'll keep you updated with progress through twitter on the mobile - technology these days!

Thanks for all the support!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Day of shaping - Day 4

Day four of our one week workshop was aimed at shaping the board. We unveiled the board from its overnight clamping of the deck and got to work removing all the excess material on the deck, bottom and rails. While it's important to take off a large amount of material, it's even more important to always hold in your mind how you want the board to end up. As with making anything, its tricky to put material back on!

So we did all of the work with hand tools so that you stay connected to what your hands are doing and don't have the chance of making costly mistakes that can occur if you use power tools. The most of the work is done using the surform and hand plane and then it is important to tie all the curves together smoothly, for which we use some nice big sanding boards.

Darren got on pretty well today and has an almost complete board, so we know tomorrow will be all about the finishing touches and putting right anything we see when we look at it fresh in the morning.

Darren begins the day by removing all the clamps that have held the deck down over night - a really exciting phase...suddenly you have a surfboard!

Using the templates to get the outline at the nose and the tail correct, making sure we are following the right curves when shaping.

Getting to work with the surform...there was plenty of material to come off the nose.

Always important to keep touching the board to make sure you're achieving the desired shape and hopefully the same on both rails!

Standing back from the board as we're almost complete allows you to see how the two rails tie togehter and how they look down the length of the board.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Midweek in the Workshop

Day three of the workshop with Darren... The aim was to prep the inside of the board and put an edge on the rails to make sure we could get the deck glued down by the end of the day. This would give the glue time to cure properly overnight and give us two days to shape the board. You can just about shape a board in a day, but it's a bit of a push and I always find that having a break and looking on it with fresh eyes on the second day you can spot things that you didnt notice the day before.

So we were pretty hectic today, with putting nose and tail blocks in place, making sure the vent block was in place and the foam blocks ready to accept the fin box too! Then Darren had to learn what is was like to use the surform to create a smooth edge on the top of the rails to give us a good glue join. We managed to get it all done in the day though....and to my surprise, we were finished by half 5, perfect, time for a surf?

Darren cutting the rail strips in preparation for the nose blocks.

Getting to grips with using the surform on the cedar...a good amount of concentration on his face.

With the nose and tail blocks in you really start to get a sense of the boards outline.

It's always nice to watch people using their hands to 'see' what is happening with the timber, it still surprises me, how much more you can find out with your hands. The rail edge taking shape!

Darren popping the last couple of clamps on after the frantic glue and deck layup frenzy, again utilising all the clamps available in the workshop!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Back to Source

Yesterday we had such a beautiful morning down here in Cornwall, it would have been a shame not to have made the most of it. With no surf about, Romain Juchereau and I headed over to the woods where the National Trust's board began its life to get some background shots for a little short that we are about to soon as there are some waves!

About 18 months ago, the head gardener of this Trust property got in touch saying that they had just had to fell one of their biggest Macracarpa trees (can anyone tell which garden it is?) and wondered if I could make use of any of the timber they managed to mill from it. With all the fissures and inclusions in the trunk, there wasn't actually much usable timber that they could salvage from the tree, but enough for a surfboard!

So over the past couple of of months we have been building a board using only the macraparpa for its skin. It has turned out to be such a beautiful board and all of the Trust staff that we met yesterday were blown away to think that it used to be one of their trees. It was great to see their reactions and also to take the board back to where it grew...I can't explain how excited it made me feel having the board back int he garden with the warm sun out and not a breath of wind, just such a great way to close a project.

So the next and last thing for us to shoot is some surfing on the board and we'll get the video wrapped up and posted online.

Here are just a few shots I snapped on my phone while we were at the base of another huge macracarpa within the grounds.

Check out that tree! The board is one of our mini magic shapes and stands at 6'10 and is completely dwarfed by this macracarpa, which was planted at the same time as the tree from which the board came.

You can just about make out some of the beautiful detailing in the timber...more shots will be on their way!

Romain behind the camera gettign a few more shots...we both agreed that we would have happily stayed for there for hours in the morning sun enjoying the woods.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Day Two of our one week workshop

Here are a few snaps from our second day in the worshop with Darren. Today the emphasis was on the rails...we needed to get as many strips as possible in place today to make sure we could hit our target tomorrow. Things managed to run so smoothly that we even started thinking about the nose and tail blocks too!

The rail strips are a tricky thing to get set right without breakages, but once the first few are on, the rest follow on pretty easily. Although it's important to keep your concentration to achieve consistant glue joins, which i think Darren found out as i was following him around for most of the day making tiny adjustments to his clamps.

Those first couple of strips going on give us the outline of the board - so critical.

Darren made the most of all the clamps at hand...lucky he was the only one building rails on Tuesday!

Darren making some micro adjustments before applying the clamping pressure.

The board starting to take shape now, you really begin to get a sense of its template.

Towards the end of the day we even had enough rail strips on to start fitting the nose and tail blocks.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Day One of our one week workshop with Darren

Here are a few images of what we got up to last monday with Darren from Jersey. It was the first day of our first one week build-a-board workshop and the day passed with a few cups of tea, plenty of conversation and surprisingly few hiccups....

By the end of the day we needed the framework to be cut out and glued together, then marked out onto the bottom skin and glued down for some overnight curing. The board was a custom 7'4 that Darren had the pleasure of naming....he had a week to think about it though, so didnt decide the first day.

Fitting the framework together to make sure it all fits.

The laying out of the frame is key to the whole build going smoothly so we took our time and glued it down at the end of the day.

The overview of our first day of the new workshop too!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The next set of handplanes are ready for some oil!

This month's batch of handplanes are almost done and ready for their oil coats so if you'd like to get your hands on one as the water starts to warm up and swimming about in the surf seems like a nicer idea, drop us a mail and we'll set one aside for you.

We're soon to be launching a photo competition for our handplane owners too, so if you have one or are planning on getting one, get snapping and you may well find yourself the proud new owner of one of our hoodies!

Who wants one?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Our Storyboard Project makes it into The Surfer's Path...last week to grab a copy!

Through last year we pulled together a project with friend and phtographer Mat Arney called The Storyboard. What began life as a few photos and an idea soon became the seedlings for a full exhibition. We documented the story of one of our surfboards, from the timber being harvested, milled, machined and finally constructed into a board with a few little twists along the way.

We have exhibited the board and its 12 accompanying framed photos at a couple of places down here in Cornwall. Firstly the Tubestation at Polzeath at the end of last year and currently it sits at The Scarlet Hotel in Mawgan Porth.

Mat, being the talent that he is, wrote a lovely story to compliment the photographs. Putting the two together, we have had some handmade books created by our friends down the road at Monkey Puzzle (£25 from our website) and following this, we have been lucky enough that The Surfer's Path picked it up as a feature article in their current issue (88).

The magazine is only on sale for one more week, so if you want to get your mits on a copy you'd better move fast!......failing that, here is the whole 6 page can just about read it if you make the images full screen.

The Cover...we didn't quite make it that far! Maybe next time...

Others from the South West that made this issue...Karl Mackie, photo on page 10....Julian Mathews of Gulf Stream, interview on page 30.....and Rob Tibbles, full photo portfolio on page 70

Saturday, 18 February 2012

SAS Fundraiser Board Sold on E-bay

The 6'10 Mini Magic that we built as a donation for the SAS fundraiser raffle last year was kindly donated back to them as the raffle winner felt she wouldn't be able to do the board justice - how kind! So SAS put the board up on e-bay to see if they could raise some more cash and it sold last weekend for a bargain price of £1022...with a Wave Tribe board bag and leash as well as a lovely Rainbow Fin Co. 9" fin.

The final winner is somewhere down here in Cornwall, so hopefully we'll be able to build a good relationship with them and get some feedback from the board as well as offer them a visit to the workshop when they come to SAS to pick up the board.

Here are some pictures of the board that SAS took to show the board off and if you want to get your mits on one, let us know and we'll see what we can do for you....

Dom from SAS holds the board up in the sun at the back of their offices in St. Agnes

The Winner's loot - board, bag, leash and fin, oh and one of our little jute bags to keep his accessories in.

The board in the making last year - looks like we needed to tidy the workshop a little!

I wonder if we'll be working with the guys down the road again...keep a look out for further collaboration projects coming this year!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Handplane Review in The Surfer's Path current issue

We have been lucky enough to have two sections about us in the current issue (88) of The Surfer's Path. One of which is this one here, with a lovely write up about our handplanes on page 36...Thanks to Alex for such a lovely review and keep up the good work with the magazine!

Let us know your thoughts and if you'd like to get hold of one of our planes, we are making our next batch this week

Friday, 20 January 2012

8'0 minimal nearly ready for laminating!

We've almost got our first over-seas order completed...just waiting on the fin to arrive before we take it to be laminated. This 8'0 is destined for Guernsey (about as close as an over-seas order can be!) and a matching stand is going with it, so when it's not in the water it'll be on display in the house. Nice to know it won't end up at the back of someones shed!

The board is mostly wetern red cedar, with poplar and walnut strips down the center and matching in the rails. The walnut didn't like bending into the nose on the rails, so the nose block had to be laminated cedar to give us the shape we needed to a point further down the board than usual. We can't wait to see how the colours in the timber come out once its laminated....

The bottom planking...where every board begins.

Here you see the extended nose-block allowing for a nice smooth outline.


All the rails on....nearly ready for the deck skin to be glued on.

The deck is on and we begin finding the shape.

Its now just about the final shaping and sanding to prepare it for laminating.

We'll post some more pics of the board and stand when we get it back from Paul at Diplock Phoenix.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Hoodies Printed - Limited Edition

Just before Christmas we were pleased to hear our hoodies had been printed by the guys down the road at Advertees. We have a limited run of hoodies in Navy, Grey and Chocolate in mediums and larges. If you're keen to get your mits on one to keep that little bit warmer as the winter rolls in, let us know and we'll drop one in the post for you. 

The printing is done using water based inks and the hoodies are 45% recycled polyester and 55% organic cotton and they are just oh so soft! We've all been wearing ours all the way through the Christmas period.

They are priced at £45 and once they're gone they're gone as sadly the hoody manufacturers have stopped their 'sustainable' range....kind of defeating the idea of sustainable we think. But hey ho, we'll figure out a more consitant supplier of more quality hoodies soon! As ever, we'll keep you posted.

The Navy Hoody

The Chocolate

And the Grey