Canoe paddles

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Has anyone here built their own canoe paddle?

I don't have the funds at the moment to build a canoe but a paddle on the other hand....
 
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I have a handful of bent shafts that I built around 15 to 20 years ago. They weigh around 14 oz each, have 8 x 20 blades with a length of 48 inches. Blades are left over cedar strips with 4 oz cloth, epoxy resin, shafts are yellow pine.
I have a pair of straight shafts, same blade size, that I keep in my sailboat for getting around before and after I'm under sail power. The straight shafts were built so long ago that I was still using polyester resin...I have since stripped and reglassed the blades with 4 oz and epoxy resin.
The old bent shafts get used roughly, and are still surviving and performing. The shafts have a bit of flex in them, which I prefer, they're more gentle on my elbows (I had bad bouts with tennis elbow in the past).

I have photos somewhere...sorry for the awkward link, firewall here at work is obtrusive. There are a few more photos along with the somewhere link.

One last thing, these paddles cost me about $25 each to build, back when a similar paddle cost $150. And, I had a pair of Al Camps, that only survived about 5 years. A replacement, labeled Mad River but clearly another Al Camp, has survived 25 years but with multiple repairs.
 
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I've probably built 50 or 60 of them. I don't like spending money on expensive paddles. You should be able to build a good paddle for under 10 bucks. The most important piece of wood is the shaft. I always use hardwood of some kind, because i break every softwood shaft I ever use. Lots of good waterproof glues out there, I have used everything from epoxy to gorilla glue. According to folks on this site, titebond 3 is good too.

If you have access to a jointer, your life will be made much easier if you are laminating your paddle. Also, a hand power planer sure helps to take the blade down, but perseverance with a hand plane and belt sander will do the same.
 
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Thanks mem. I was thinking about a hollow shaft with birds mouth joinery. Any thoughts?

Wow, not at all what I'm used to...I toyed with the idea of hollow shafts, but I was going to build stressed skins (just like a stripper hull) using inner and outer glass over a very thin wood substrate. I never got past the pondering stage.

Here's one photo of my bent shafts in action...I realize that we're talking different animals, but maybe some techniques and material could transfer over.

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Never built a paddle, but I've reworked a couple. There's a maker in Minnesota that makes paddles by hand and when I got mine home I found all kinds of flaws. I ended up reshaping the grip, the shaft, and parts of the blade. Not much fun, but now I have a real "favorite."
 
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Never built a paddle, but I've reworked a couple. There's a maker in Minnesota that makes paddles by hand and when I got mine home I found all kinds of flaws. I ended up reshaping the grip, the shaft, and parts of the blade. Not much fun, but now I have a real "favorite."

I’ve built a couple of cherry beavertails from scratch, mostly because I had the wood and wanted to try my hand. They are OK but not up to a skilled paddle maker’s standards, and it was more work than I care to do again for a so so stick.

But like Gavia I’ve reworked several old paddles, reshaping the grips and blades. For my rudimentary skills that was much more fun and the final product far more pleasing.

Two of those are still favorites; an old Camp (Now Foxworx) bent shaft and a straight Mitchell. Both needed blade splits repaired. The Mitchell was actually missing a slice of blade and the Camp missing a piece of the grip. Both needed to be stripped and re-varnished, and that gave me the opportunity to use oil on the grips.

Starting with a well made paddle that simply needs repairs or refurbishment is easier and still provides opportunity to rework the stick to suit your personal preferences.

I eyeball yard sales when I drive past, looking for paddles. You never know what treasure you might turn up, even if 99% of what you find are old FeatherCraft junkers.

I’ve found some paddles from the 50’s and 60’s that were well regarded in their day and refurbished them keeping their original design and shape. I don’t use them very often – they are too long and the blades are oversized for my preferences – but they were such classic sticks that I couldn’t bring myself to alter them.
 
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Thanks mem. I was thinking about a hollow shaft with birds mouth joinery. Any thoughts?

I'm not sure how that would work out, what kind of wood were you thinking of using? Sounds like a lot of fun to try it, although it would be beyond my mere wood butchery skills. Would it be eight sided or six sided? could turn out pretty strong.

Some people never break shafts on their paddles, some, like me, break them like hockey sticks during the playoffs. I do a lot of prying off gunwales, pushing off rocks and jamming in white water. I've also snapped shafts while paddling my bigger canoes on flat water, so I usually use solid oak, birch or ash for the shaft. I have taken to using cedar or pine for the blades now, and just putting a small strip of fiberglass on both sides of the bottom. Not terribly attractive, but fairly resistant to damage.
 
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Just looking at a cross-section of birds mouth joinery, I'd say it could be strong, provided it's wrapped in fiberglass. Otherwise it seems like it could easily crack if levered against a gunwale.

Sawyer makes a paddle called the Kai. It's a 10* bent shaft with a bamboo blade and a hollow carbon fiber shaft with a bamboo wrap. Nice, light paddle with a small blade, but the joint at the throat can come apart (I fixed mine with duct tape in the field, then epoxy at home).
 
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One thought about a hollow shaft paddle: It's likely to be blade-heavy, which makes for tiring paddling. Better to have a little more weight closer to the grip, which makes the paddle feel lighter.
 
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I've only built a couple of paddles and always assumed that a multi-ply shaft is the strongest. But now I'm wondering. Maybe we can get stripperguy to make up some paddle shafts and do some strength testing for us in all the spare time he has between his day job, building apartments, re-building motorcycles, building canoes, property management, bc ski trips, etc., etc.
 
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I've only built a couple of paddles and always assumed that a multi-ply shaft is the strongest. But now I'm wondering. Maybe we can get stripperguy to make up some paddle shafts and do some strength testing for us in all the spare time he has between his day job, building apartments, re-building motorcycles, building canoes, property management, bc ski trips, etc., etc.

Yes. That man definitely has his priorities straight! Good thing too, otherwise we would all be hounding memequay for more pictures of strippers!
 
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This web site uses the birds mouth method for the shaft. http://ngc704.home.comcast.net/~ngc704/paddles/ Was thinking about this myself. Wife wishes a stand up/polling paddel for when she stands up in the Mad River Explorer.

That's who I'm going to copy. I have some ripped Doug fir that is really dry from a 2x12 that's been laying around a couple years. Time for practice I guess.
 
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There is a fellow on the Bear Mountain Canoe Builders forum who makes birds mouth paddles, beautiful they are, usually bent's, but someone else figured out how to make straights with the hollow shaft. Personally I would like to make a double blade with that hollow shaft.
 
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Just looking at a cross-section of birds mouth joinery, I'd say it could be strong, provided it's wrapped in fiberglass. Otherwise it seems like it could easily crack if levered against a gunwale.

Sawyer makes a paddle called the Kai. It's a 10* bent shaft with a bamboo blade and a hollow carbon fiber shaft with a bamboo wrap. Nice, light paddle with a small blade, but the joint at the throat can come apart (I fixed mine with duct tape in the field, then epoxy at home).


Had the same blade issue on a grey owl kayak paddle after the re-epoxy at home step, it never came off again. Three years strong now.
 
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Got started. 8 staves roughly hacked on my el cheap table saw. 1/4"x1/2". 55" long. I cut the beak on the saw as well. Following thesawdustfactory's method. It took quite a few scrap pieces to get it "right" but its close enough for me.

I slid all 8 staves into a section of PVC pipe to hold them together and then used painters tape to hold it together.

For the glueing I cut the rape at the same line along the staves and 'unrolled' it keeping the staves taped together. Just laying flat on the table

Then I ran wood glue down each beak and rolled it back together. Then add more tape for clamping pressure.





IMG_20140207_103546_485 (1).jpg
 
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A couple hours later I took off all the tape and started shaping the shaft. I didn't get the joints perfect resulting in the gaps running the length of the shaft. Next time "good enough", won't be.

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