Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

Making a Paddle – Twice Warmed

January 18, 2018
Bent shaft cedar SUP paddles

I grew up in a house heated with wood. Usually, in the summer, my brother and I spent beaucoup time out at the wood pile, sweating away, cutting long logs into short sticks and then splitting those sticks and THEN stacking those split pieces. I don’t recall too many late nights during my teenage summers, we were too tired from the advance planning for wood heat. Whenever we did this ‘wood working’, it was the ‘first-warmed’ episode. A crackling wood stove down in our basement during the cold Duluth winters of the 1970-80s was the pleasant ‘second-warmed’. We were truly twice warmed, with one of those times being sweaty and full of mosquitoes.

Making a paddle is like that, minus the Cro-magnon physical labor aspect that wood heat requires. There’s a good bit less mosquitoes involved, too. Spend time in your garage making the paddle. That’s the ‘first warmed’. Getting that piece of wood out on the water becomes the (hopefully) ongoing and repetitive ‘second-warmed’. Hopefully, there’s only a few mosquitoes around for your version of ‘second-warmed’.

I still have the first paddle I made and I still derive a good deal of pleasure whenever I opt to use it. It still works. It still feels good and I am still twice warmed.

My paddles have evolved over the years as I have improved in my craft and explored other materials and styles. The first one was not the only one, rather it was like dipping my toe in the lake and finding it to be a pleasant temperature. My shop is full of paddles now, and full of wood waiting to become kits and custom paddles.

I hope you’ll consider the double pleasures of making a paddle. It’s just like wood heat, but without the hard labor. You’ll be ‘twice-warmed’ in the best of ways !!


T is for Taper

April 25, 2015

This has to do with how you choose to shape the lower ends of each of the shaft strips. The first shaft strip is joined with the blades. No worries there. The second shaft strip I usually make several inches shorter than the first strip, so it ends about halfway down the blade. Where it ends (the overall length) itself is a maker decision. I like how it looks with the end being about in the middle of the shaft.

The shaft strip pieces are sent with simple, square, full-thickness ends. They’re ugly. How to finish the lower end off such that it looks good as part of the lower end of the shaft, largely below the bend and largely at the upper end of the blade is the largest design decision in making your paddle. It comes down to a point. Do you want a long taper ending in a sharp point? Do you want something short, ending in a rounded shape? I’ve done tapers both ways, and basically have yet to find a shape I did not like.

Specifics. I think running the full length and full thickness of the shaft strips through the bend is a good thing. That said, you have about eight inches to work with below the bend. The fifth (top) piece is the shortest. This piece may just barely extend into the bend area, depending on how you position this top piece.

The tapered point of each piece will likely be close to the pieces above and below. You can work the pieces into a smooth continuous shape or you can have a series of step backs with the pieces. There’s no right or wrong.

I do caution against excessive thinning over an excessive length. The lower end of the shaft does add strength and stiffness to the blade. Removing too much of the wood from the shaft strips will effectively allow more flex in the blade. Fiberglassing both sides of the blade does wonders for the overall stiffness, nonetheless I am still aware of leaving enough wood on each strip that it contributes to the blade stiffness.

This is one reason I opt to continue packaging enough wood for two paddles in each kit. Unless you have done it before, it is very hard to know what you like in a paddle until you have made the first one. The making of the first vastly informs the second. Likewise, using the first one will also inform you of likes and dislikes which can then be used on the second.

F is for Form

April 8, 2015

In life sometimes we are encouraged to hold things together. In paddle making that’s just what a form does. A form makes it easy to keep things in one place, straight and aligned as the epoxy sets or the glue dries.

It took me awhile to conjure up the first form. I have gone through a few more iterations of that form in the past couple years, making it smaller and lighter, as well as quicker to manufacture, all of which keep costs down, shipping down, and ease of use high.

The form is the base for the paddle. It’s the first thing you have to trust. You want a paddle shaft straight. The easiest way to get that is to rely on a form that is straight. The wavetrainSUP form is the same width as the shaft strips. I like being able to use both eyes and fingers to look and feel along the length of the forma and the strips. Anytime I feel a bump or a gap, I know something is not straight and I can easily zero in on that area and “straighten it out”. No pun intended.

So I hope you will be a maker! I also hope you will consider using one of my forms to keep your paddles straight and in line!