I thought I would try to shed a bit of light on how I make my paddles.
I build 3 different kinds of canoe paddles, a normal straight shaft and blade paddle, a straight shaft power stroke blade design, and a bent shaft power stroke blade design. Here are profile shots of what they look like.
|Bent shaft paddle|
Straight shaft paddle
As an avid flat water canoer/paddler, I am very conscious of the need to keep the weight of the paddles down as much as possible yet making them strong at the same time. A lot of this can be achieved by careful wood choices. For example, I use a lot of bass wood for my shafts and blades. While technically a hard wood, it is very light, yet flexible enough to provide a comfortable paddle stroke. (It’s surprising how a bit of flex in the shaft takes the strain off the shoulders when paddling for any distance.) The bass wood is also superb for woodburning on! I like that.
All my paddles are laminated somewhat. All my shaft pieces are cut from 4/4 stock so nominally 1” square by 60” long. Both the straight shaft power stroke and bent shaft power stroke paddles are entirely laminated. The shafts are made of 5-7 thin strips that I have ripped to 1/8-3/16” thick. These are soaked in hot water for 1/2 hour and then clamped in my custom paddle forms. I leave them for another 1/2 hour, then unclamp them, glue them up, and reclamp them on the forms. Once dry (24 hours), I true up the edges and add the blade pieces, blade tip, and handle blocks. The paddles have blade pieces, 18” long x 3/4”-1” wide. I always use a very hard wood like maple for the blade edges and tip as this is where the abuse happens. Clamp up and leave for another 24 hours. I now have a paddle blank ready to work on.
I next mark out the blade and handle shapes and bandsaw the paddle to final shape, then mark a center line all the way around the blade. This is so that when removing wood I take the same amount off both sides, for balance and feel. I use a power hand planer to remove the wood on the blade until I am about 1/8” from the center line on both sides. I then use a belt sander to remove the planer marks and get the paddle to rough finished thickness. All that is left then is to do the finish sanding and decide what to burn on the blade. :>)
By playing with the blade and shaft thickness, and the types of woods you use, you can adjust the weight of the paddle a great deal. I have used maple, cherry, and walnut for the shaft and blade and while not really heavy, about 26 oz., you can sure tell the difference between them and a paddle made mostly of bass or black willow, which is another very light and great wood to use. Those 3 or 4 oz. add up when you are out for a day of paddling.
-- Koopmaun, Canada, www.screekpaddleco.com