Sunday, May 23, 2010

Voyageur Paddle

I just finished carving a voyageur canoe paddle. This paddle came together much quicker than the sugar island paddle I finished a week ago, mainly because the learning curve is starting to level out. This time I used lacewood (Grevillea Robusta) for the blade and laminated it to an ash shaft. Lacewood or Silky Oak, is an exotic wood that grows in Eastern Australia. The color can very from pale brown to walnut. It has a very irregular grain that made it tough to plane because the grain tends to switch directions, forcing me to work the plane in an unorthodox manor from all directions. Having wood chip out was a constant occurrence and a lot of extra sanding was needed to sand some of the deeper chips out. Lacewood is hard and heavy, making ash seem as soft as basswood, perhaps its Latin name gives a hint to its qualities. I had purchased a 4/4 board (4 quarters or one inch) but because of the way the lumber is stored at the retailer the board had obtained a curve that had to be planed out. (I don't own a thickness sander) This meant that the final thickness of the board ended up being a little over 3/4 of an inch which isn't a problem for the blade because it was going to be shaved down to 3/8" anyway but I had intended on using the offcuts for the top grip, which were now too narrow. The solution was to laminate two pieces together to make a thick enough block and while I was gluing things anyway I decided to add a strip of ash between for an added bit of design detail. The blade measures 30" by 6" and the shaft is 31.5" long for a total of 61.5" in length. (long paddle) It weighs 902 grams. Even though the lacewood is much heavier than the ash the blade was shaved down enough to even out the weight and in the end I ended up with a paddle that is fairly well balanced.

This time I learned:
  • Using small finishing nails to align the blade while gluing helps a great deal to keep the pieces of wood from slipping around
  • Had to sharpen the plane often while working with the lacewood
  • Careful preparation of the lumbar in the beginning saves a lot of time later on when trying to work out a bend in the wood half way through the carving process
  • Handles that clamp to the ends of a strip of sandpaper keep fingers from getting shredded
  • A short piece of 1x2" with a notch cut into it works well for clamping down the rounded shaft of a paddle.
Small finishing nails used to align the blade pieces while gluing

The blade is half rough cut out, I'll go over it with a plane, rasp and sanding block to true up all edges.

The grip is roughed out, I usually leave the shaft for the end. Leaving it square provides a convenient way to clamp the paddle to the work surface.

Here I'm starting to round off the shaft by first shaving the corners down to form an octagon

A close up of the extra ash strip in the top grip

A close up of the various grain patterns in the top grip

Here you can see the irregular grain pattern in the Lacewood

The finished paddle measures 61.5 inches long

Computer drawing I made of the paddle before I started construction.


Clarkson said...

What did you do the drawing on ?

Wildpaddler said...

Hi Paul,

For most of my projects I first draw them out, to scale, using Corel Draw. that way I have a good idea of the dimensions before I start. I also create templates for the blades and have them printed at a local print shop, that way there is no guess work, both sides of the blade are always symmetrical. I've been meaning to learn how to use sketch-up so I can render things in 3D but I just don't have the time right now.