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View nakmuay's profile

Kayak / canoe paddle carving

by nakmuay
posted 08-20-2017 12:45 AM


18 replies so far

View firefighterontheside's profile

firefighterontheside

20626 posts in 2392 days


#1 posted 08-20-2017 12:54 AM

I have no experience making paddles though I really want to. I have done a lot of canoeing though. Is your maple hard maple or soft? Hard would seem to be too heavy to me. I prefer a nice light paddle.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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nakmuay

82 posts in 1889 days


#2 posted 08-20-2017 01:21 AM

I was going to go with hard maple as I thought I’d need a hard wood to stop the shaft from breaking. I could get some red cedar but I was worried it might be too soft?

View msinc's profile

msinc

567 posts in 1039 days


#3 posted 08-20-2017 02:26 AM



I have no experience making paddles though I really want to. I have done a lot of canoeing though. Is your maple hard maple or soft? Hard would seem to be too heavy to me. I prefer a nice light paddle.

- firefighterontheside

Yes sir, I agree. I also do a lot of canoeing and store bought paddles are effective but they can get to be real heavy after a long day on the river or pond. I am currently in the process of making a couple canoe paddles. I chose royal paulownia because it is strong but very light weight. I am not done yet though…the wood just got dry enough to do something with it. For my pattern I took one of my store bought ones and made it a little longer on the handle. My reasoning was the longer paddle would be like more leverage and if I find it isn’t doing what I want I can always cut it down a little at a time until I get the feel I want.
No expert on carving here, but the paulownia wood does carve fairly easy and I have a few ideas to make the handle part more ergonomic. The wood itself seems strong enough and I always believed that they make paddles out of several glued together pieces to save wood. I mean a paddle really isn’t that wide to be too worried about it warping? So what if it does? I have always noticed that without exception every single store bought wooden paddle I have owned for some reason had the blade laminations come apart {unglued? maybe never were sealed right?} within a few years use. And I haven’t seen any yet that had a laminated handle…that don’t mean I wont have to with this wood I have chosen. Going to try it solid though for starters. If it proves to need it I will drop back and do it that way. It does seem to be strong enough though once I finish getting the blade tapered down.
Royal paulownia is a beautiful wood and expensive stuff to buy. I was lucky enough to have the tree so it only cost me time and rough milling fees. Seems like I should be doing something better with wood that goes for right around $11.00 per board ft., but then again a really nice lightweight paddle sealed up and finished properly should be worth every penny.
Always interested to hear anyone’s thoughts and ideas about this topic.

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firefighterontheside

20626 posts in 2392 days


#4 posted 08-20-2017 02:27 AM

I believe my bending branches paddle has a basswood shaft and a blade made from basswood, alder and maple.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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firefighterontheside

20626 posts in 2392 days


#5 posted 08-20-2017 02:30 AM

My paddle is all laminated, with the shaft being made from laminations of basswood about 1/8” each.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View msinc's profile

msinc

567 posts in 1039 days


#6 posted 08-20-2017 02:27 PM


My paddle is all laminated, with the shaft being made from laminations of basswood about 1/8” each.

- firefighterontheside

Can you tell by looking at it whether or not the laminations are “grain perpendicular” to the load {when being used} or are they parallel? Seems like the reason to laminate the handle or stem would be to add strength, I was wondering which way they oriented the grain? Thanks. I have never seen one that had the handle or stem part laminated…then again, it’s probably because I have never seen a decent quality paddle either!!

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firefighterontheside

20626 posts in 2392 days


#7 posted 08-20-2017 02:30 PM

This is not my paddle, but same model. You can see where the laminations end in the blade as it begins to taper. They are parallel.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View msinc's profile

msinc

567 posts in 1039 days


#8 posted 08-20-2017 03:02 PM

Okay, yeah, I do see that….makes me wonder now why they did it that way? Was it the old save wood, save money thing? If so, it seems like they didn’t really save too much…was it to give the paddle more spring under load? It seems like to me if the laminates were perpendicular that would make the handle stiffer and have more resistance to bending while pushing with the paddle. I guess a stiffer paddle handle might allow more speed or power, but some springiness might help with less fatigue. Kind of like swim fins?
I just hate to expend valuable wood on a paddle that is less than ideal. Maybe the thing to do is drop back and make a few out of just pine and try them out before using the other stuff. A spare paddle or two is never a bad idea when you’re “up the creek”. Thanks again!!

Edit: another idea just occurred to me as to “why” the laminates…it might be easier to do all the shaping that way. The paddle blades are tapered, maybe they shape them first {even if it’s just rough} and then glue everything up?

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ClaudeF

1006 posts in 2243 days


#9 posted 08-20-2017 06:19 PM

It looks to me like the paddle firefighter shows was laminated for looks using different woods. I don’t think paulownia is a good choice as it is soft and has low strength. Look through this: http://www.wood-database.com/wood-identification/ For a paddle, you want something with a relatively lower dried weight, and high modulus of rupture and high elastic modulus. Birch, such as silver birch, would be better than hard maple. Birch was used by the native Americans for strong lightweight canoes and paddles, among other things. As an example Howard Hughes’ big airplane the Spruce Goose was made entirely of birch…

If you really want light weight and strength, you might consider laminating some bamboo flooring pieces, especially for the paddle handle/shaft.

Claude

-- https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClaudesWoodcarving

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firefighterontheside

20626 posts in 2392 days


#10 posted 08-20-2017 08:24 PM

I see your point about turning the laminations 90° and how that might be stronger, but I believe the laminate stock to be stronger. With a solid shaft it could break along the grain. With laminations the grain is not continuous and therefore is less likely to have a defect that will fail. Think of a baseball bat and how often they break.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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bladedust

217 posts in 2802 days


#11 posted 08-20-2017 08:35 PM

I’ve mad a few paddles (37 at one time for a Boy Scout High Adventure) and maple, I think, would be way too heavy. I’ve made mine out of laminated cedar and any light wood I can get. If your worry is the paddles being brittle, the fiberglass and epoxy create a very sturdy and strong paddle and I’ve never had a problem, especially with 36 Scouts beating on them for 12 days. I hope this helps.

-- ok, is it cut once measure twice, cut twice measure once???? I know....I'll just keep cutting until it's long enough.

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wood2woodknot

102 posts in 2509 days


#12 posted 08-24-2017 03:32 AM

Granted it was for decorative purposes for my daughter, I carved a 6 ft oar this fall from a 2×10 piece of western red cedar. Very light and easy to work – very positive and fulfilling experience. I took measurements from oars at Bass Pro Shop and a local boat sales store and transferred them to the stock. Cost of WRC was under $30 for a 6-1/2’ x 2” x 10” stock.

My one caution is that WRC is relatively easy to “ding” or dent. Fiberglas, at least for the blade, might be a remedy. I think traditionally some oars were made of cedar. Other than blocking out the oar’s shape with a band saw, all the carving was done with a small box plane, a 3/4” chisel, a rasp, and knife (be sure your tools are sharp to prevent lifting or splitting the grain.) I ended up with three kitchen bags of cedar shavings.

-- ajh

View nakmuay's profile

nakmuay

82 posts in 1889 days


#13 posted 08-24-2017 11:04 PM

Thanks guys, I think I’m going to change from maple to cedar for the spine, maybe use maple to laminate the paddle end like firefighters. Maybe try Paulowina when I know I’m not going to screw it up. I’m pretty surprised that a high end paddle would be basswood, I guess the load must be less than I thought. I appreciate the information

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wood2woodknot

102 posts in 2509 days


#14 posted 08-25-2017 12:27 AM

Keep us posted.

-- ajh

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

687 posts in 439 days


#15 posted 10-07-2018 07:52 PM

I suggest that you do a search on “Greenland-style paddles” and the styles offered by Pygmy Boats of Port Townsend, WA. Unless you’re using the paddle as a yoke for canoe portaging, it will not need to be heavy or strong.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View runswithscissors's profile

runswithscissors

3080 posts in 2561 days


#16 posted 10-08-2018 05:13 AM

I have made several kayak paddles. Mostly modeled after a Mackenzie River Eskimo paddle described by David Zimmerly in “Sea Kayaker” many years ago. It is a good balance between power and reduced wind resistance. Also, Zimmerly said, “This would make a good recreational paddle.”

I used Sitka spruce for the shaft, and laminated red cedar onto the sides of the shaft to build up the blade. Originally, I tried glassing the tips for strength, but I no longer do that. I just mix up a batch of epoxy in a makeshift vessel and suspend the paddle vertically to soak up the epoxy. Only submerge the blade about 3 inches in the epoxy. That lump of epoxy is later ground off. This hardens the wood, and it has held up to all the usual fending off rocks, etc. I do not baby my paddles, though I am aware that there are limits.

I make the shaft hollow, by hollowing each of 2 layers with a home ground router bit, and gluing these together, face to face. The shaft runs the full length, and where it blends into the blade, is not hollow. The walls of the shaft are only about 3/16” thick, which makes a very light paddle. About 32 oz. or so, not much different from a fiberglass paddle—and lighter than some. I paddle on the ocean, sometimes in surf, and through rock gardens. I also carve the shaft slightly oval in shape, so you can feel whether you have it gripped properly without looking. I do not feather my paddles, partly because it would require a ferrule, which adds weight plus a stress riser. My blades are narrow enough to mitigate the windage problem.

Another good wood for the shaft would be yellow cedar. Y. cedar and spruce both have the desirable traits of toughness combined with light weight. The cedar is slightly heavier. I think maple is too heavy, also birch. I think H. Hughes used birch plywood for the skin on the Spruce Goose, but Sitka spruce for the frame (somebody who knows for sure can correct me on this). All the old time biplanes of WWI were framed with “airplane spruce”, and the US Gov. actually laid claim to all the spruce production at one time. More or less.

Some people around here carve Inuit style paddles out of solid red cedar, but they are heavier. A 2X4 is wide enough for an Innuit paddle.

Later on I’ll do some photos of my paddle. But I have to go do the dishes now.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View ElroyD's profile

ElroyD

134 posts in 1124 days


#17 posted 10-08-2018 06:19 PM

I thought I had photos of it, but I can’t seem to find them. When I built my skin-on-frame kayak, I used a jack knife to carve a Greenland style paddle out of a plain old 2×4 from Home Depot. I got lucky and found the straightest, clearest 2×4 I’ve ever seen in my life. It was a cheap solution, but it’s lasted about 8 years now, even without a finish on it.

-- Elroy

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runswithscissors

3080 posts in 2561 days


#18 posted 10-08-2018 10:38 PM

Took some photos of my hollow-shafted paddle. I like this paddle because it is lightweight, has sufficient blade area to give reasonable power (I am not a particularly strong guy), allows unfeathered blades without undue windage, and has very buoyant blades. The curved back surface provides powerful lift during a sculling stroke due to pronounced laminar flow. Also, I make the blade shape symmetrical, so that it is always right side up, and never necessary to swap it end for end. Werner Furrer (founder of Werner Paddles) saw it at a symposium and said, “That looks like a good paddle.”

Anyone considering copying this paddle should bear in mind that the dozens of people I have paddled with are well aware of my paddle, but no one has shown interest in copying it. Paddle choice is very personal, though novices tend to pick whatever is fashionable/popular at the moment. By the way, don’t let the salesperson in a shop tell you to determine proper length by standing with your fingers hooked over the end of the vertical paddle. Not the best way.

My paddle happens to be 88 inches long (I would drop 2 inches, at least, if building it again. The blades are 22 1/2” long by 5” wide. I would shorten the shaft rather than the blades.

One more point: On an earlier paddle, I wanted a spoon shaped blade with maximum curvature, but this gave me a paddle with an annoying flutter. If you sight down the length of the paddle, blade on edge, you can see that the curvature of the “spoon” at the tip goes no further than the center line of the shaft. This paddle is flutter-free. The slight center ridge on the power face may (or may not) help mitigate any tendency to flutter. Except for the symmetrical blade shape, this most closely resembles Werner’s “Camano” paddle.

Below: shows how the shaft transitions into the blade.

Below: shows the power face. The glue line can be seen down the middle of the shaft and blade.

Below: The hollowing bit. I ground this out of a high speed steel blank, 1/2” shaft. Used with a fence on a router table. It makes a 7/8” diameter hollow . I have looked for 7/8” diameter bits, but have never found one. The hollow ends where the blade begins.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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