Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sugar Island Paddle

I just finished my first canoe paddle. I decided on the Sugar Island design found in Canoe Paddles, A Complete Guide to Making Your Own by Graham Warren and David Gidmark. It gets it's name from the island in the St. Lawrence that is owned by the American Canoe Association where international canoe races between European and North American paddlers were held. I made it for Zoe so, more accurately, I guess she decided on the design. As any one who knows me, knows that I can't leave well enough alone and have to modify or add my personal touch to everything and this project was no different. The offsets in the book produce an 8" wide and 24" long blade. In my opinion that is a very wide paddle, I subscribe to the school of thought that a long narrow paddle will allow you to paddle greater distances with less fatigue. Keeping in mind that Zoe is new to paddling and I felt that the 8" of blade would catch too much water causing her to tire quickly so I reduced the width to 7" X 22". I also believe that a shorter paddle shaft reduces stress on the shoulders so the length of the shaft, from the shoulder to the end of the top grip is 31.5". The edges are very fine, finer than I had intended because I had some issues with warping of the blade and had to take more material off one side to compensate. In the end I was able to work out the warp and achieve a paddle that is straight and true. Because of the warping I had to erase the guidelines that I had painstakingly marked out and continued with the project shaping the blade by eye, which I guess is a more traditional approach.

I learned a lot during the build, here is a list off the top of my head:
  • It's not easy finding a suitable piece of wood with little warp to it and a straight grain
  • A ten inch plane works great for thinning the blade
  • Aluminum oxide sand paper is way better than anything else, it lasts long and cuts fast
  • The use of a flexible straight edge would help greatly in marking out the centre lines on uneven surfaces such as the shoulders and throat
  • A wood rasp works great for shaping the top grip
  • Marking out guidelines can be very time consuming
  • building jigs and sanding blocks takes a lot of time away from the actual building of the paddle (but they only need to be made once)
Laminating the blade and grip

The blade and grip are cut

Thinning the blade with a plane

Rough shaped grip (you can see the course marks left by the rasp)

Shows how fine the edges are

The paddle is ready for a coat of varnish


Lee said...

beautiful paddle! its an addiction so watch out! I ma just have to dig out my credit card and purchase that book as well.

Wildpaddler said...

Thanks Lee,

I've got plans to build many more. The book was very helpful with many good tips.