Wood Poles

Joined
Jun 12, 2012
Messages
3,670
Location
Appleton, Maine
I was in the Schuyler Thomsons canoe shop yesterday and talk turned to poling and some of the different types of wood poles. He knows about the pine "closet pole" alot of folks use, he never has used one though. He knows about the aluminium poles and understands their popularity, but he never owned one either.

He has a few older spruce poles that he made himself. Being a canoe builder he used a crooked knife and spoke shave to form spruce trees into serviceable poles and he even had a local source for pointed shoes at one time.

He told me that on a northern Quebec canoe trip where he had a first nations guide, he learned that the best canoe pole came from a burned over forest. The guide showed him that even though the outside of the tree was charred, it was dry and light weight, and very sturdy.
 
Joined
Feb 14, 2013
Messages
989
I have read in the past that spruce is the best wood for poles. Went looking for some, but it just wasn't to be had locally. Ash is pretty good - but heavy. I have a birch tree that is about to die - I wonder how that would be.
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2012
Messages
3,670
Location
Appleton, Maine
Schuylers assistant has a degree in forestry, I'll see what they both think, next Tuesday will be when I get back in the shop.
 
G

Guest

Guest
I used red cedar. After buying a 14 foot 1 1/4 inch thick board with nice straight grained wood, I ripped a 1 1/4 inch wide piece from it, (right down the middle) carved in round, and sanded it smooth. I then slid a 1/2" x 1 1/4 band of Al tubing over one end. I also drilled a center hole on the banded end and screwed in a 3/8 bolt and cut off the bolt head to leave a unsharpened 3/4" spike on the end. The spike is great on rock and ice.
 
Joined
Aug 2, 2011
Messages
210
Location
Scituate, RI
I have read in the past that spruce is the best wood for poles. Went looking for some, but it just wasn't to be had locally. Ash is pretty good - but heavy. I have a birch tree that is about to die - I wonder how that would be.

Birch is generally not very rot resistant, nor does it have much tensile strength, so you'd likely be better using something else. I've used spruce and ash, and both seem to work really well.

I would think red cedar would be highly rot resistant, but I don't know how strong it would be under a load. It would at least smell nice if it broke!

-rs
 
G

Guest

Guest
Birch is also heavy.

I have a fir closet pole that has a slight bend in it, which I've been trying to straighten out. I'm hoping that holding a counter-bend at that point for several weeks will help, but so far it's still bent. I'm thinking I might wrap some very light but strong nylon cord around the pole in several places, to act as reinforcement as well as for grip.

Rather than putting a spike in each end, I used a couple of table-leg screws that have a wood thread on one end and a machine thread on the other. I put three nuts on each end, one to lock against the copper end cap and two on the very end, tightened against each other. The nuts can wear without wrecking the screw itself, and then be easily replaced.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,392
Location
Raymond, ME
I'm not a poler but hang out with polers. What kind of poling are you doing.. traditional or modern. Traditional uses one end only and shoes are available. http://poleandpaddle.com/merchandise/pole_shoes

Usually modern double end polers look for something light and fast in aircraft aluminum with double points.

This discussion of double ends for a wooden pole is a little weird to me.

Spruce, ash, maple, tamarack. http://nwwoodsman.com/Articles/CanoePoling.html This is traditional poling. I have only seen polers who compete in races around here use spruce. But we have an awful lot of spruce..
 
Joined
Feb 14, 2013
Messages
989
So far, I have used fir, hemlock, and ash for wood poles. I started with the well-known "Home Depole" from a fir closet rod. Sorting through a lot of closet rod paid off, with a nice straight and fine grain that has lasted for several years now (although it hasn't been my primary pole for a long time). That pole has copper caps and hanger bolts for spikes at both ends - which have been replaced a couple times due to wear.

My ash pole has ends that are essentially the last six inches of a typical aluminum pole, in the style of the Ed Hayden design - complete with delrin caps and grade-8 bolts (with heads ground off) for spikes. That pole has seen a ton of use and has held up very well - but it is heavy, compared to the fir pole. I have another ash blank roughed-out that I hope will be a little lighter due to reduced diameter....if I ever get around to completing it. ;)

The hemlock pole has the same ends. It was another closet-rod pole. At the time that I made it, H-D had no fir closet rod material - it was all hemlock. So I picked the straightest piece I could find and gave it a try. It is nice and light. But hemlock is a pain to work with. Scraping tends to cause the grain to peel at the growth rings. And I find that I have to sand those loose ends that have begun to lift away from time to time, to keep the dang thing from biting me. I can't recommend hemlock as pole material.

YC - wood poles aren't necessarily about traditional poling. Wood is not cold on bare hands like aluminum and it is not as noisy. I also have less trouble with it icing up in the dead of winter.
 
Joined
Jan 8, 2014
Messages
1,133
Location
Minden, NV
I have messed around with poling a few times and my OT Guide was made for it with its flat bottom and long length. I have found a pole to be very useful for pushing an aluminum power boat in shallow water. We are in our third year of drought and many of the lakes are really low. I started with a ripped piece of western red cedar and used a spoke shave to make it fit the hand. Since WRC is not especially strong I made a shoe out of a piece of galvanized pipe. It is actually a bell reducer which is hand fit on the pole and protects the end nicely. It also makes the pole sink a little faster, which is handy. To use it in a canoe I would put a shoe on both ends.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
Messages
248
Location
toronto
i grabbed a maple dowl years ago -- another home depole -- put a copper cap on one end and a short length of copper coupler at the business end extending the copper a few inches past the wood, seems to grab and stick well enough on rocks and softer bottoms -- i mostly use it for messing around beside the lake at my camp, not for tripping, but i do hope to move into a proper spruce thing with a shoe at some point...lots of fun, learning corrective strokes in deepwater using a stick...makes you very aware of where the power is going thru the stroke...
 
Joined
Jan 8, 2014
Messages
1,133
Location
Minden, NV
The other good use for wood poles in a canoe is to lash them side by side abut 4-5 feet apart across the thwarts. It makes for a stable platform. With a tailwind it is time to pull out the bedsheet for a sail. Anyone else ever try it? I would like to put an outboard on such a rig.
 
G

Guest

Guest
I'm not a poler but hang out with polers.

I’m also not a poler, but damn near everyone I paddle with is, and sometimes I’m the only one sitting. Even my sons pole. They must get their balance from their mom. Those friends are most often “snubbing” their way downstream in the shallows, with a nice tall field of view and the ability to play upstream features.

I’ve tried it, and I am quite content to sit in a very comfortable seat in an eddy and watch, a position from which I am unlikely to fall into the river, shin bashing across thwart or gunwales.

I’ve built a variety of poles for family and friends. And some even for me, in the form of easier transported 6’ closet rod “poles”, employed for a variety of uses - pushing across shallows, launching/landing on cobble bars, hiking staff and spare tarp pole when ashore.

Closet rod poles are easy to make and to modify the ends, and if you manage to find a nice straight and straight grained closet rod with no (or few) run outs it will work. Fred Klingeher’s instructions are as detailed and easy to follow as anything on the net.

http://www.brockeng.com/AmusingRaven/pole.htm

I’ve made a Texas Towers 2-piece pole, which isn’t that much harder and has take-apart storage advantages. And cold aluminum disadvantages. Somewhere in the inter-net ether are instructions and a (specific diameter Texas Tower tubing parts list) for making DIY aluminum poles.

Lendal once made a 2 piece (3-piece?) carbon/glass pole with stiff hex-key ferrule connections, but I think that was discontinued when they were they bought out by….. Johnson?

So, who still manufactures commercial canoe poles?

I know Hayden’s kin have continued the pole making tradition:
http://www.haydencanoepole.com/

Shaw and Tenney made canoe poles for something like 150 years, but I don’t see them on the website anymore. Although they do now offer a choice of Stand Up paddle blades. Somewhere Mr. Shaw and Mr. Tenney are spinning dervish-like in their graves, muttering “Tradition….”

Are there any other commercially available canoe poles? There must be some traditional wood setting pole makers in Maine or Canada - of course shipping would be absurd.

Or are canoe poles the bastion of the DIY’er?
 
G

Guest

Guest
The other good use for wood poles in a canoe is to lash them side by side abut 4-5 feet apart across the thwarts. It makes for a stable platform. With a tailwind it is time to pull out the bedsheet for a sail. Anyone else ever try it? I would like to put an outboard on such a rig.

We have tried it on family trips when the boys were young, using a tarp or poncho for sails. It is stable, but canoe catamarans seem exponentially more awkward than a single unfettered canoe. And the whole jury rigged business was kind of a PITA, lashings on the cat poles, having bowmen holding paddle or tarp pole masts upright, skewed tracking if the hulls were dissimilar.

When my sons were young and we family paddled in two tandem canoe their downwind responsibility was to hold a golf umbrella vertically in the bow. That was surprisingly effective, and they developed some early “feel” for sailing and the wind. Having set that precedent for downwind assistance our solo boat travels evolved to this:



I’ve seen cat-rigged Grumman rentals from Tex’s or Tag-a-Long on the Green, but I’ve almost as often heard their propulsion units discussing a separation for easier paddling.



I don’t like paddling tandem, much less being tied to another boat.
 
Joined
Jan 8, 2014
Messages
1,133
Location
Minden, NV
Mike,
Tripping is all about fun, and I have fond memories of floating the Snake River in Idaho with two solo boats lashed together. The best sailing was the Missouri R in Montana with a strong westerly tail wind and rooster tails behind the boats. It is rewarding to push the limits of what canoes are capable of. Poling is a good example too

Last spring at a family gathering in Anacortes, Washington I stayed up late in my cousin's "canned ham" aluminum trailer from the 50s drinking vodka and listening to Frank Sinatra. We hatched "Floating Man." A take-off on Burning Man here in Nevada. After seeing pictures of the unusual freight rigs on the Yukon River with boats lashed together and plywood decks and wall tents, I thought of a large trimorran with plywood decks and a mast. I have a 1929 1 1/2 hp Johnson ob that has been in the family since 1950. I would like to to putt my way down Roosevelt Lake for 170 miles on the impoundment of the Columbia River behind Grand Coulee Dam in Washington.

There are really no right answers in the outdoors except what you are comfortable with.
 
Joined
Feb 14, 2013
Messages
989
The other good use for wood poles in a canoe is to lash them side by side abut 4-5 feet apart across the thwarts. It makes for a stable platform. With a tailwind it is time to pull out the bedsheet for a sail. Anyone else ever try it? I would like to put an outboard on such a rig.


Oh, there's more than that. I think I posted it before somewhere on this forum, but maybe not. If you sleep in a hammock when you are tripping, two canoe poles can be rigged to support one end of your hang. All you need then to suspend your rig is one good tree, your poles (I always carry a spare), and some way to anchor a line out from the poles.

Ah yes.....

 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 14, 2013
Messages
989
.....Are there any other commercially available canoe poles? There must be some traditional wood setting pole makers in Maine or Canada - of course shipping would be absurd.

Or are canoe poles the bastion of the DIY’er?


Well...it was a couple years ago or so, but I paid $80 for the ash plank that will eventually make four 12' poles (one in use so far, and another roughed out). The shoes I am using on my wood poles cost me about $8 each to make, IIRC. If I could get someone to buy just one pole from me at the price of a Peavy or Pole and Paddle pole - without adding the huge shipping fee - my other three would be cheaper than dirt. But at this point, I'd probably give that one away to someone local who would promise to use it.

When I was making my aluminum poles, the blanks were costing me $40 for a 20' length. That's the only length my local metals supplier gets it in. I think the price had jumped to $60 the last time I asked. So, I cut 8' off of one blank and 8' off another, and then 2' off each of those - that gives me two one-piece poles, blanks for one two-piece pole, and two 2' sections to use for making shoes for my wood poles (enough shoes for four poles).

You rich folk can go ahead and buy your poles. I'd rather make 'em. More than glad to make poles for anyone local to me for cost.....IF they promise to use them. No takers yet, other than my son.
 
Top