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Making a Composite/Carbon Paddle

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I have thought about that too Alasgun. I love the composite canoes, but love the traditionally finished wood paddles. I don’t know why they “go together” in my mind, but they do. I’ve never used a carbon paddle. Heck, I’ve never seen one for sale I could hold in my hands.

My love of wooden paddles may be boosted by my interest in traditional archery. One of my longbows mixes gorgeous woods and carbon in the limbs. I also use carbon arrows that have wood grain graphic wraps. So these things go together!
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Here's an old thread:

 
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@Glenn MacGrady, thanks for pulling up that older post; there’s some interesting reading in there.

Now that it’s rigid the “user friendliness” is improved, today I began using the course side of my double ended rasp to remove all the flashing and excess rosin, right down to the glass. Before moving on i weighed it at 11 oz. At this point i’ll weigh between layers to get an idea what each layer is adding. This combined with the stiffness of the paddle is what will determine when i stop. The goal is “enormously strong and light as a feather”. Of course there will be compromise along the way. While i was at it i weighed the “special” at 2 1/2 lbs and concluded it’s the balance that’s off. That long blade probably creates an illusion of excessive weight because of the “weight forward”.

After rasping i went over it with the palm sander and added todays layer. The shaft now has it’s final layer of glass and the blade edge‘s were covered with a split carbon sleeve. Before sleeve material the edges always took the most time and effort. With it’s u shape (channel) that carbon edge will provide a lot of flexural strength without the added weight of a full blade skin.
Now that it's firm i can handle it while applying the epoxy to the layers. I wear nitrile gloves for this work and once i have everything wetted out i can use my hands like a squeegee and strip off the excess epoxy easily, which makes the cleanup easier between layers. If id spend the money and follow the learning curve associated with vacuum bagging or infusion id get perfectly finished products without all the extra fiddling. However; no more of this than i do it’s just not going to get anymore high tech than this!
i’m going to let this cure out hard for a couple days before taking after the carbon/kevlar blade covering. The epoxy is just easier to rasp and sand if i give it more than 24 hrs.
 

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While i’m waiting for the glue to dry; i’m going off track just a wee bit. In one of my previous post i probably left some with the opinion i have an aversion to wood, which couldn't be farther from the truth! The goal of this project was “Comfort and efficiency“ and all i’ve really done here was modify a couple Tools for a specific purpose. I doubt there’s many who appreciate fine form as much as myself and i certainly appreciate creativity in those who have an artist eye.
To make this legal, i’ll call it my Canoe gun; even though it’s highly unlikely to take a ride in the canoe. This is a Trapdoor Springfield i recently built. Starting with original parts for the action, breech block and lock; however all the parts were from different vintage guns going back between 130 and 150 years! This is what they call a plank build meaning i started with a thick board and a pile of parts. I won’t bore you with all the tiny details but if you look close you’ll notice the stock is not some awful looking plastic thingy And i hope i offended no one who may view canoe paddles with the same affection. You’ll also notice a canoe paddle lying in the pile, which was the next project in line! Enjoy.
 

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I'm late to this thread. I can only offer my experience with the Pink foam.
I used it as a reinforcing layer on the football of my first Kevlar composite build.

It was 1/4" thick. I laid it down on a bed of filled epoxy, and weighted it. After epoxy had set, I removed the weight and added a layer of 6 oz E-glass.
It Oil cans like a Royalex hull. I still have and paddle it.
I played with a test sample, and found the Pink foam delaminated. It had a super thin coating on one side. Evidently the epoxy didn't bond. Hoping some day to remove the foam, and replace with 1/8" cedar .

I still use the pink foam , more as a form, for my flotation chambers.


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@memaquay, there’s always some sort of project, about January i’ll start the garden starts then it gets real busy till about October when i can focus on fun stuff! Thanks for the kind words!

@Glenn MacGrady, the wood is maple stained with aqua fortis and nitric acid (traditional stains from the earliest days of gun makers) and the finish is simply an oil finish.

@Jim Dodd i’m not sure what id think about the foam as a structural element but solely as a form to give shape to the fabrics it’s cheeper than balsa and easier to work with. Any number of glue’s dissolve this stuff but epoxy isn’t one 0f them. I cut the blade of one paddle in half (to retrieve the shaft) and was surprised at the strength of the foam cored carbon, even right at the cut section. This gave me great confidence. Im not sure how “paddle factories” build hollow laminate paddles but for a poor boy’s meager efforts; pink board’s just fine. I’m sure id change my tune soon as i break one; which hasn’t happened yet.
 
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Yesterday and today i spent some time and covered the blade faces with carbon/kevlar fabric.
The way i went about this was to do one face at a time, a day apart. The right pictures shows the fabric wetted out but i didn’t include a picture of the shrink wrap cover i drapped over it. Then after pulling the two overhanging edges together i clamped the edges together every so often and just let the clamps hang. This gives a nicely trimmed edge as shown on the left.
After a major sanding session over the whole paddle; i’ll be ready for the carbon skin. I’m prepared to put on two layers but would be real happy if i only need one?
 

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The only obstacle i’ve encountered when using the sleeve material is how to finish the ends in an attractive manner. Blade tips are easier because they get the kevlar/carbon split sleeve treatment. Grip’s are different. When i built the carbon dip net i simply used a wood grip. For this one im trying something different. I began with a good wrap of carbon tow all around the knob then draped a piece of 3k 2x2 carbon twill over the end followed by another wrap with the tow. I find the 2x2 twill to be pretty conformable! Then i pulled a nitrile glove over the top and wrapped it tightly with elec tape. Once cured; i’ll peel off all the garbage and rasp/sand the grip to something pleasing, hopefully!

today i also tried out some rubberish craft tubs from the box store for mixing epoxy. Most paint trays etc wont flex enough without breaking to get the residue out. These worked perfect.

my next entry will have the paddle starting to look “more finished”.
 

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So here we are, getting down to the end. A lot of sanding remains but nothing else except the tip protector will be added. I did some side by side comparing and here’s what i learned. The pattern weighs 40oz. the carbon paddle weighs 32oz.; not a tremendous weight savings but the balance point is enough different that it no longer has a “too heavy blade feel”. When all the sanding’s done i may loose another wee bit but not enough to be note worthy. This paddle has 2 layers of glass, a layer of carbon, a layer of carbon/kevlar over the blade and a full carbon sleeve. This is a big paddle, 65 inches long, large dia shaft etc and im happy with the weight. It’s also robust and capable of more than propelling the canoe, id not go so far as to say it could double as a peavy but it is quite stout. For this fishery the paddle will see service as a paddle, a pole; for pushing off heavy mud banks and thru a small rocky section and possible to “repel boarders”!😉

Over balsa, i believe one full layer of kevlar and one layer of carbon would give equal strength and a much lighter weight. So what i have here is a “ray special blade“, an approximation of an Aleutian asymmetrical shaft and a north woods grip, in other words; a collection of compromise. I like the shaft girth and the grip section real well and will use them again, the narrow blade is suppose to be gentler to my shoulders? Time will tell!
What else did i learn? The spine on the Aleutian blades is suppose to re-direct water and reduce drip as well as prevent chatter (with very narrow blades). Mine should have been added before the last layer as it pretty much went away under the 3 previous layers And unless i see a strong drip deterrent, it will go away next time.
I have enough leftovers to make another paddle and for that i will use balsa instead of foam for the core. I can work it into thinner sections than the foam and will end with something more svelte. The next one will have a shorter/wider blade, better suited to the numerous shallow streams around here. This one will function fine used in the intended tide water fishery. At some point i’ll need one of @lowangle al’s quivers for a two paddle arsenal!

Once it’s done done i’ll post the final pictures, im still a couple days away.
 

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Except for a couple additional coats of the UV inhibitor, I'm done. it went well enough and im happy with the outcome, would it win any prizes at the State Fair; i doubt it!
Early on Glenn had ask for time and material estimates for a project like this. These estimates are very generic as i didn’t spend any time “documenting” but i will tell you it was an enjoyable project and the cost doesn’t even come close to what you can buy a carbon paddle for. The real beauty is that i have just what i wanted pattern wise and none were available commercially.
i used one quart/pint of the West System 105/206 at roughly $100. I have about $200 in the glass and carbon and $6.00 in a piece of foam. And around 25 hours, spent mostly in incremental bits as a lot of the time your waiting for glue to dry.
At this point i’ve only made 3 composite paddles and i can say the first two functioned exactly like i wanted so i have no apprehensions about this one. As with the first two; i learned a few things along the way and look forward to at least one more. What started as a functional exercise to develop a better Salmon dipping platform has re-kindled an interest in paddling that has been dormant for several years. We’ll see where that go‘s when the water isn’t hard!
For any of you who followed my escapade, thanks for your interest!
 

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