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Paddle Construction Methods & Techniques

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Blog entry by koopmaun posted 08-12-2007 08:44 PM 1672 reads 2 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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

Bent Shaft Paddle

Straight 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.

Shaft glueup

Shaft glueup

Blade glueup

Blade glueup

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.

Cheers,
Doug

-- Koopmaun, Canada, www.screekpaddleco.com



8 comments so far

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 3547 days


#1 posted 08-13-2007 04:28 AM

A timely post Doug. I just finished #1 and started #2. The second is much lighter. I think #3 will be all cedar.

I don’t see your photos. How are you imbedding them? I use photobucket.com which works great and is very easy.

I’ve found using my drawknife gives great results for shaping the shaft.

What are you using for glues after you have soaked them. Poly glues? Do you use epoxy at all?

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker http://www.capecodbaychallenge.org

View oscorner's profile

oscorner

4564 posts in 3771 days


#2 posted 08-13-2007 04:37 AM

I can’t see the pictures. :^(

-- Jesus is Lord!

View koopmaun's profile

koopmaun

28 posts in 3659 days


#3 posted 08-13-2007 07:03 PM

Sorry about that. I’ve edited the entry and the images now show up.

One thing I forgot to mention in the original posting is that after the blade is glued up and dry, I square the blade tip on the tablesaw and then glue on the hard maple tip. Takes another day to dry before I have the blank done.

Bob, sorry I should have mentioned the glue. I use polyurethane glue for all my paddles. Epoxy entails all that mixing and such and I guess I’m too impatient. The poly works great for me. About the shafts. Mine are already quite small in size, at the most 1.25” square. I personally like the feel of a shaft that is not perfectly round so I only round over the 4 edges. This gives me the feel I like. Also, I think it helps with the grip of the shaft when it is wet. The paddle does not rotate when it is wet and I’m making a strong stroke. Personal preference for sure but most people I’ve sold paddles to agree and seem to like the end result.

I don’t use cedar as while I can burn on it, it is a bit grainy with sap wood which goes poof when my pen hits it. I have done it but for the kind of artwork I want on the paddles, I prefer the other woods I use, cherry, bass, black willow, maple, and birch.

Doug

-- Koopmaun, Canada, www.screekpaddleco.com

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 3547 days


#4 posted 08-13-2007 09:56 PM

I’m going to have to try one with poly glue. The epoxy is expensive and a pain to work with.

I think the second one will have a shaft similar to what you describe. It too is 1.25” square. I’ve rounded the edges and like the feel. The 1st one has an oval shaft but it started as 1.25” x 1.5”. I’m afraid I’d have to remove too much on the square one to get an oval.

I may try some other woods in the future but the cedar is so inexpensive compared to the others. Very light too.

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker http://www.capecodbaychallenge.org

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 3482 days


#5 posted 08-13-2007 11:45 PM

Interesting stuff guys.

I have to admire your techinques.

What you two will be jonesing for now is probably a stroke sander. ! VBG

Bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View koopmaun's profile

koopmaun

28 posts in 3659 days


#6 posted 08-14-2007 01:27 AM

HI Bob. Stroke sander, where’s the fun in that? I’m more into getting in the face of the sanding job. Me, my mask, ear muffs and the sander. I use a palm sander for finishing and am really happy with the results. I probably could use a random orbital sander to really true up the blade surface, but it would be down my list of things to buy. I have a home made band saw that I have used for years that I would love to replace. A few more paddle sales and perhaps I’ll do some shopping. :>)

Cheers,
Doug

-- Koopmaun, Canada, www.screekpaddleco.com

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 3482 days


#7 posted 08-14-2007 01:30 AM

Doug, if you can bring your productivity up to one paddle a day you can probably have that new bandsaw too. <vbg>

Bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View mtnwild's profile

mtnwild

3474 posts in 2988 days


#8 posted 10-01-2008 03:41 AM

Very cool, always wanted to make my own paddles now I can research your site. Thanks. They are beautiful. Sorry, didn’t read everything yet, but, do you use the ones with pictures?

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

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