Bent Shaft Paddles

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I started these a couple years ago, when MDB and I were squatting at our daughter's house. Very challenging to work at their house, so I postponed efforts until we finished building our new house, right next door.
Nothing fancy, pine shafts, 12 degree bend, cedar blades, phenolic tips. I built two sets of similar paddles, 35 and 25 years ago, those have survived nicely through rough service.

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And that's where they sat, patiently waiting (I think, you can never be sure with inanimate objects) until MDB and I finished our new house and I had more free time.
So the house is 98% done, we moved in last February, pecked away at loose threads since then. Also sold many of our rental properties since cutting and gluing those blanks, so my free time expanded exponentially.

Here's what went on in the last week or so...


Shaft blanks, after waiting for me, some shaft tapers cut.

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Shaft blanks after cutting all the shaft tapers.

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Shaft blanks in the process of adding grips.

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Grips after sanding smooth to match shafts.

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Layout of grips





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7/8" Forstner bit used to cut grip/shaft radius. Look carefully, I used a guide rail to repeatably and reliably ensure that the radius would be tangent to the shaft.

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Ready to band saw the grip profiles

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Grip profiles all cut to shape.

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Time to cut all the round overs on the shafts and grips. This is much easier (read possible) before the blades are glued in place.
Unfortunately, I do not have a collet adapter for my shaper, so I had to use my router. Even more unfortunate, I somehow lost the router table...for the last three years, we have had our stuff stored and scattered in two counties, four houses, and our 48 ft box trailer. We're slowly consolidating our worldly possessions. So far, this router table is the only thing that I haven't found. So I fashioned a substitute, quick and dirty, from some leftover 3/4" hardwood ply (pantry shelving).

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Lastly, for now at least, here's all 10 future paddles ready for blades.

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The handful of knots have been mostly cut away, those that remain are either in low stress areas, or will be wrapped with 4 oz cloth and epoxy resin.
Cedar strips will be tapered, to provide an understated sunburst pattern. Once the blade strips are glued on, I'll epoxy on the phenolic tips, then sand and glass, followed by more sanding and finally, varnish.
Oh, paddle OAL's are 48", 50" and 52".
 
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I started these a couple years ago, when MDB and I were squatting at our daughter's house. Very challenging to work at their house, so I postponed efforts until we finished building our new house, right next door.
Nothing fancy, pine shafts, 12 degree bend, cedar blades, phenolic tips. I built two sets of similar paddles, 35 and 25 years ago, those have survived nicely through rough service.

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And that's where they sat, patiently waiting (I think, you can never be sure with inanimate objects) until MDB and I finished our new house and I had more free time.
So the house is 98% done, we moved in last February, pecked away at loose threads since then. Also sold many of our rental properties since cutting and gluing those blanks, so my free time expanded exponentially.

Here's what went on in the last week or so...


Shaft blanks, after waiting for me, some shaft tapers cut.

AM-JKLXLxCz3xWgwntDS6MpfTIqDEwMImvVZSu8zST-RM2Lezph1z390247fZvB2BtLfULeUkWKQ2B6PwpicY1gAqagM1Zk3BQ8nqkH3XyhB-iBgs-4_um1AUBQKjlQ3exG8BajlOn-rJ_JXWnEZBKt8lAS6cQ=w652-h868-no


Shaft blanks after cutting all the shaft tapers.

AM-JKLU33RnWWgnLUlTH-UErI2_CRXOAljt2plPA728srFgnW-_pbBBarbhPZtAnbwhhGpNOItrZDADtPwcLXT5kXegesYVRzrgTL-5sTxT-Qtxg-Z0--SqOnkYPKAiRqo6mSqTS4Zhbz_jBWpA6N7kfGaupAg=w652-h868-no


Shaft blanks in the process of adding grips.

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Grips after sanding smooth to match shafts.

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Layout of grips





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7/8" Forstner bit used to cut grip/shaft radius. Look carefully, I used a guide rail to repeatably and reliably ensure that the radius would be tangent to the shaft.

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Ready to band saw the grip profiles

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Grip profiles all cut to shape.

AM-JKLXQeDXiGkYa4d_g-GWM9ESB87hMuUmLAMS5wcPYkdnkayHz6toNNtDiT3-KdG-gMBnC9UOnEfqPhyudkMTb5KXxeMOVHdItL0POnTAqOtHv0E6AksrRvU7d3ASBy8f-iGVHQAHFPa7RV_4TByglQHaM0g=w1158-h868-no


Time to cut all the round overs on the shafts and grips. This is much easier (read possible) before the blades are glued in place.
Unfortunately, I do not have a collet adapter for my shaper, so I had to use my router. Even more unfortunate, I somehow lost the router table...for the last three years, we have had our stuff stored and scattered in two counties, four houses, and our 48 ft box trailer. We're slowly consolidating our worldly possessions. So far, this router table is the only thing that I haven't found. So I fashioned a substitute, quick and dirty, from some leftover 3/4" hardwood ply (pantry shelving).

AM-JKLW_f8gPc1u6Fx9gNBp7OTKqZSklbTRJD5boSG_gAY_VXKWm3QGFQ5myeuERC9RleCOyzikCusGUPlnOtEHTh-56XMAbPsJeOdmuh5u378dssT6ZIoOUUeMXVGMO-VizRS7vf_-mXLgQXicKs2210EqXcQ=w652-h868-no


Lastly, for now at least, here's all 10 future paddles ready for blades.

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The handful of knots have been mostly cut away, those that remain are either in low stress areas, or will be wrapped with 4 oz cloth and epoxy resin.
Cedar strips will be tapered, to provide an understated sunburst pattern. Once the blade strips are glued on, I'll epoxy on the phenolic tips, then sand and glass, followed by more sanding and finally, varnish.
Oh, paddle OAL's are 48", 50" and 52".
Wow! You don't mess around. Ten! Looks good.
I'm still undecided about straight vs. bent. If I go bent, it will likely be only slightly bent, say, 5 or 6 degrees.
I just got my Fishell paddles yesterday and I have four other paddles I haven't used yet.
I don't want to get ahead of myself. If I'm smart, I won't order or make any paddles till I've had a chance to try all my new paddles.
There are also a couple more off the shelf paddles I could try before going custom.
 
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I've been distracted the last few days tying up another loose end on the new house... $200 in materials vs $1,200 and a 12 week wait. Almost done, so I can get back to the paddles. A quick note for those of you that inspect the photos for details, yes, those are my skis in the background, I'm skiing tomorrow in VT.

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I think I mentioned that I plan a subdued sunburst pattern on the blades? Yeah, I did. I have a bunch of scrap strips that my son donated, not sure if there will be enough of them, but at least I can get my tooling and approach sorted out.

It can be tricky and time consuming to cut tapered strips one at a time. When I was still working, I would just clamp a bunch of strips together, maybe 20 at a time, and throw them in the milling machine, and fly cut them all at once. Since that is no longer an option, I slapped together another quick and dirty jig to cut the tapers on the individual strips.

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On the underside of that 3/4" hardwood ply, I have a 3/4" wide strip screwed in place to fit my table saw miter slot. And on top of that plywood, you see a very, very thin strip (one of the scrap strips, can you guess why it was scrap?) glued and pin nailed in place to provide the taper. A 20" strip will be tapered from 3/4" wide to 1/2" wide. Since there's precious little safe finger space to hold the strip in place, I use those rubber faced pusher blocks. Since the guide strip is so thin, I can easily hold the strip to be cut in place with the pusher blocks. Also, I had to add that block at the back end, so I had something to hang onto for sliding the jig back towards me after the cut is done.

After all my babbling, I'll just say that it takes me less than 20 seconds per cycle to cut the tapers, good enough for now.

Lastly, here's a few of those tapered strips, laid in place along one of the shafts. Keep in mind, once the edges are trimmed, the sunburst pattern will be more noticeable, but, hopefully, not obtrusive.

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I like your method of shaping the shaft and grip first. I also like the 10 at a time idea !
1/4" strips ? Even glassed, will they be strong enough ?

Maybe S-glass ?

As far as the skis? I didn't notice. But I did note you used Yellow glue on the shafts, but the grips you had a TB III bottle sitting there.

The Mantle looks great ! When you can do for yourself ? It's amazing how much you save, instead of hiring someone else to make for you !

Jim
 
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Jim,
Thanks
I used original Titebond on the shafts since that’s all I had hanging around, and it’s also survived an average of 30 years on some previously built paddles.
The blades will be 1/8” with 4 is E glass, again, same as my old paddles, haven’t failed one yet!! Unless someone steps on one or shuts one in a hatchback, these should survive as well.
I’ve enjoyed building the mantle, just one piece of edge moulding left to glue and pin nail to the top shelf and it’s ready for paint.
Carried it up from the basement the other night, it barely fit up the basement stairs!! One inch clearance, never thought to measure before hand…
 
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Given we are talking paddles 4 oz and any s glass will be more than overkill .... IMO the 2 oz I use it likely overkill on a paddle
 
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Given we are talking paddles 4 oz and any s glass will be more than overkill .... IMO the 2 oz I use it likely overkill on a paddle
Cruiser,
Do you have a weight of the paddles you've built? I know you've built some lean canoes.
My 48" paddles, 8 x 20 blades, weigh 14 oz, but if I could shave off even more...
 
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That’s a really good weight for a wood and fibreglass paddle stripperguy. I am working on a straight shaft balsa core paddle that I plan on laminating with carbon sleeve and cloth. It’s 55 inches with a 7.75 x 21 or so beavertailish blade, and with most of the carving done it looks like it will come in around 9 ounces balsa only. I can shave a little more off, but I doubt it will be any lighter than your paddles once the carbon fibre is on - probably heavier. Looks like it’s back to the drawing board for me …..

BTW I really like the way you get the bend in your paddles - I was all caught up in planning for thin laminations with a bending jig for my next paddles but your approach is much more straightforward and elegant - I will be using it instead.
 
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Hey Stripper, thanks for this post
That’s a great idea using the forstner to cut in the grips, putting that one into the bag of tricks. What sized router bit are you using to round over the shafts?
 
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Hey Stripper, thanks for this post
That’s a great idea using the forstner to cut in the grips, putting that one into the bag of tricks. What sized router bit are you using to round over the shafts?
Thanks, boo
Precutting that’s radius with the forstner really simplified the process, it would have been challenging to cut that out in the band saw.
All the round overs were done with a 1/2” radius router bit.
 
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Are you rounding or ovalizing the shafts?
Uhmmm, both?
Near the blades, the shafts will be more round than oval.
Near the grips, the shafts are more oval than round.
The shafts are tapered in two planes, with the thickness near the grip greater than the width near the grip.
The pics of the in process shafts don't show that two plane taper very well, but if you look at the old beat up paddle that keeps sneaking into the pics, you should be able to see the shapes more easily.
 
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Cruiser,
Do you have a weight of the paddles you've built? I know you've built some lean canoes.
My 48" paddles, 8 x 20 blades, weigh 14 oz, but if I could shave off even more...

I went looking and the batch of bent shafts I made have absolutely no pics or documentation that I can, which is really unusual for me. I went out pulled one out to gets some stats. The blade shape is called a "Sugar Islet" and is 8.5" at the widest and is 20" long, total paddle length 56" with a 33.5" shaft, so a little bigger than yours. Material is WRC.
Finished weight comes in at 20 oz., which I thought was pretty light, but that is quite a bit heavier than your 14 oz.. I will need to puzzle over that ..... 14 oz is the finish weight, correct?



IMG_3617.JPG
 
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Yes, 14 oz finished wt. My old ones (I have 2 build sets, built about ten years apart) all weighed nearly the same. All are 48" OAL, 1/8" thick 8 x 20 western red cedar blades, with single layer of 4 oz on each side, phenolic tips, nothing wrapped around the edges or tips. The glass is wet out only, no extra epoxy used.

I just went down in the basement, and out to the detached garage, measured carefully the old blade, it's well under 1/8" thick.
Also, weighed those Sawyer paddles in the basement...As far as I'm concerned, they're Al Camp paddles that Sawyer stuck their name on, but that's neither here nor there. The Sawyer's are 21 oz each, my other homemade one next to them is 16 oz. My son and nephew have my other homebuilt paddles somewhere, I did believe all of the paddles were close in weight.

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There's so little glass and resin involved, the weight is dominated by the wood, it seems.
There was a guy that I worked with long back, he strip built his rowing oars, hollow they were, glassed on the outside. He was very cryptic describing the construction in detail, don't know if or how he would have glassed the inside???
 
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John Winters postulated that a rough surface on a paddle might actually increase performance, so not doing the other fill coats may put you on the "advanced" design curve, I have thought about trying that.

Concur that the glass/resin shouldn't be a major weight component, I am sure mine have a lot more meat than that.

As far as hollow oars, that is likely using a "birds mouth" shaft, I have a complete set of the bits to make those shafts, but haven't got around to trying yet, one of the builders I know makes them and they are pretty light, he builds in sequence to your paddles.


Brian
 
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A little more progress today, nothing earth shattering though.
Added a couple clamps to the table saw taper fixture and the shaper fixture.

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I think I mentioned that most of the strips for the blades are leftovers from my son's build a few years ago. Some of those strips were straight edged, those have easily been taper cut on the table saw. Some of the leftover strips already have bead and cove cuts, hmmm. 1st step was to cut the taper on the cove side, effectively removing it. Then I built up the fixture to recut the coves on my shaper. It was nearly impossible to hold the strips in place safely, a couple went for quite a thrilling ride!! Well, a day and a half later, those cam action clamps you see in the pics jumped onto my doorstep. Soooo much better. Those clamps worked so well I added them to the table saw fixture, and good thing I did, since I ran out of strips. A quick run the Little Falls Lumber (not in Little Falls, but actually 10 minutes from home) and picked out a suitable piece of WRC. Sliced that up in the band saw, and zipped them through the improved table saw fixture and BAM, strips are done.

Once again I moved all the parts to the basement since my detached garage is not heated. I managed to get 4 of the paddles glued up today, should be able to finish gluing the blades tomorrow.

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Next will be trimming the blade ends and epoxying on the phenolic tips, also need to add a Cabosil filled epoxy fillet where the blades butt against the shaft. From there it's the tedious stuff...sanding, glassing, sanding, varnishing.
 
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Phenolic tips are on, gonna trim them tomorrow
I have already sanded the power side of the blades, to be sure that the tips end up coplanar with the blade face.
Next comes all the rest of the sanding, followed by glassing
 

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