Shaping Paddle Blades

November 25, 2015
working on the blade for a paddleboard paddle

One step in the life of a new paddle blade is the process of removing any rough edges or spots. I also thin the blade a bit, as in the picture above (btw, the shavings are from a whole batch of blade pieces). Using a plane makes for a great smell as paper thin shavings come off the cedar blade.

Once the blade blank is smoothed and checked, it’s ready for life as part of a paddle, a paddle built by you, on your table or counter.

Blade pieces in a wavetrainSUP kit are vertical grain clear western red cedar, unless you want something different like walnut or redwood, or a piece of knotty cedar.

Each kit contains enough materials for two paddles. That means four big blade pieces, enough for two paddles. This gives you a ‘warmup’ paddle to learn on or experiment. Once that first project is complete and your paddle building instincts are warmed up, you can take what you learned on the first one and build the second paddle.

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A day in the sun watching Floatzilla

August 16, 2015

Floatzilla is River Action’s annual attempt to break the Guinness World Book of Records entry for number of canoes and kayaks in a single free floating raft. This year RA added a costume contest to FLoatzilla. This pair of paddlers had two of my favorite costumes. Look out for it next summer, it’s a fun way to do some Mississippi paddling and maybe be part of a record.

Customer Paddles

July 13, 2015

Matt D. from somewhere out in sunny (and presumably dry) California sent in some pictures from his paddlemaking project. The paddles look good and his emails read happy!

The Humble Hold-down

July 9, 2015

Woodworking tools range from complex and electric to simple and manual. You need tools to make a paddle. I take care of the electric and complex tools. You get to work with your hands using the manual tools. Each paddle kit comes with materials for two paddles that can be built ENTIRELY with hand power.
That said, there are several hand tools that make paddle making even easier. The humble hold-down (or is it holddown?) being one of them.


There are at least two different styles. Both come in quite handy. I have a couple of the portable, removable red hold-downs and several of the vise grip types as well. The red style is particularly handy because you can install one in the middle of your work area, assuming of course you are not averse to drilling a hole in your work surface. The vise grip style needs a table edge to grip.
Both definitely earn their keep and then some.
Happy paddling!

Paddle Handle update

June 29, 2015

The first style of one piece handle I made included a notch, which required the maker to laboriously fit that notch with the top end of the first shaft strip. It worked, and still does, but it was a time consuming step in the project.

The new handles remove that back side notch. This means that the top of the first shaft strip can be left square, if desired. Or you can shape that top end as you see fit and leave it. Or you can cut side pieces from scrap and epoxy those side pieces in place. Once dry the handle backside can then be shaped to the maker’s desire.

I like adding side pieces, most of the time in a contrasting color from the shaft piece and/or the handle itself. It’s another option for customizing your paddle. Best of all, I think it improves the process of mating the handle with the shaft.
adding handle to a paddle
side pieces for the handle
an example of a wavetrainsup paddle handle

A customer’s paddleboard paddle

May 8, 2015

Matt D, from way out on the edge of the continent, sent in some pics. He’s worked his way into a fine looking paddle.
a DIY paddle from paddlemaker Matt Davis
He custom-shaped his large blade pieces, which is certainly possible. The blanks I send are more in the inland paddling tradition. The upside of this is that there is material to work with, so if you want to change the blade profile that is certainly possible.
Looks great!

Z is for the Zeya river

April 30, 2015

I’m trying to stay at least within the broad realm of paddling water on this the final day of the challenge. The Zeya River comes to the rescue in a nick of time as I was just about to resort to the Phrontistery for an unusual “Z” word. The Zeya River in the Amur Oblast region is weird enough to satisfy. It is also wet, paddlable and fishable. The Wiki entry for this river is quite brief, likely the shortest entry out of all the entries I have used in this challenge. Must be an exotic unknown place, with fierce guards letting only a select few into its big unknown.

Happy trails bloggers!

Y is for Yangtze

April 30, 2015

The Yangtze. It’s an amazing river. I’ve never been there, but I’m a fan. Third longest in the world. Exotic. Big. Mythic. What more could someone want in a river? How about funky dolphins and giant turtles?

It turns out that, in a surprise unexpectedly revealed by basic research, there’s a four mile long bridge across the Yangtze that serves as a legendary spot for suicide. GQ published an article on it a few years ago. Surprised again.

It’s the river of eastern myth and history. And more. Some good. Some tragic.

X is for xebec

April 28, 2015

Xebec, according to some is a small ship like a galley used by Barbary pirates and Algerian corsairs. Love the imagination that fires. Meaningful “X” words are few and far between when it comes relevant paddle making words.

At least Xebec has something watery in its core meaning. If it was good enough for Algerian corsairs and Barbary pirates, then I guess it is good enough for me.

W is for wavetrain

April 27, 2015

In my memory, Hancock was a Main Salmon rapid that was mainly a nice long set of big standing waves. A wavetrain. Back in the day when I was guiding this drop was memorable because you had to do very little. Get on the tongue at the top, centered and straight and enjoy the ride. Up and down, up and down. Over and over. It was great in a raft. Maybe even better in a paddle boat, possibly superb in an inflatable kayak. Here is one of the shots I still have from running Hancock. That’s me in the white turban, a guest on the floor up front, knocked down by a wave as she tried to ride the front tube. My Dad was on the gear pile behind, with the then precious fragile and NOT waterproof old school SLR film camera.
Hancock-Main-Salmon