A few weeks back a university student called me up. He was here in the state, in an industrial engineering class (I think) in which the class assignment was to design and build a paddle. What a cool class and an even cooler lab project. He was calling in search of information and fiberglass. I gave him the fiberglass (he had to pay for shipping) and wished him well. A nice guy.
The other day he sent me the above pics of his class creation. Looks like they turned out well! Not sure of the angles, but he tried, he built and he’ll learn one way or the other. I think he is better for having done it! As are most people that undertake the many pleasures and problem solving efforts found in hand crafting their own paddles!
I’m also quite impressed with the professor who’s doing this class. None of the professors I had, ever came close to this much practical learning.
A beautiful day on the Yahara. Local water, middle child, and some sunshine are all that’s needed.
Finally. An afternoon to get out on the water. Not so much an escape to someplace, as much as simply enjoying what’s around us. Big vacations happen sometimes. Little afternoon paddles trips like this happen quite a bit. Although with my daughters away at their summer jobs, not so much this year as in others. But they came home for a few weeks and away we went one afternoon.
I love paddling like this. The wind blew us around. The ducks paddled around us and we drifted silently quite a bit listening for the water talk. It only whispered this time around, but that was enough.
This little stretch of the Yahara above the newly redone Dyreson bridge is historic water, although you’d never know it, much like so most of flyover country. There’s a sweet little put-in at this bridge and directly out from it are the remants of an old pioneer log bridge. If memory serves, I’m thinking pre-Civil war – late 1850s? It amazes me that these little old pointy logs still survive after so long in the water. Just up from those remnants are some large stones in the water. They look like stones should look in water. Some of them though, are doing double duty. Those hard working stones are the remnants of a Native American fish weir, approaching 12000 years old (again if memory serves me correctly).
This little stretch of beautiful quiet flyover river speaks volumes about years gone by and people long gone, but you have to be still and listen to that water talk. So when your chance comes along, enjoy a simple float on local water and soak up all those that have gone before you.
It was a great day for Floatzilla ! This is an annual event put on by River Action. It happens at Potter Park, a sweet watery spot just off the Mississippi in the Quad Cities. I think Rock Island is the closest of the cities. Tons of canoes and kayaks all in one spot for an attempt on a Guinness Book of World Records for most canoes and kayaks in a single floating raft.
The main idea underlying quietwater paddles, besides using lowercase letters for the company name, is that I do the “work” requiring electricity and power tools, as well as gathering all the pieces together and producing a kit that has materials for two paddles. Raw materials like lumber comes in widths and lengths that do not fit paddle dimensions. Other materials, like epoxy, come in large quantities for hundreds of dollars, rather than the 2 or 3 ounce sizes that are needed for paddle making. That leaves you, the paddle maker, with the main task of making the paddle and not prepping and gathering the raw materials.
All that said, once you get the kit, there are still tools and techniques that can be used to make the project more enjoyable. The humble “bench dog” is one such tool. Rather than the wood sliding all over the bench, a bench dog gives you something to brace the piece against without movement. Very handy.
A vise also comes in handy for making a paddle. Unfortunately most vises come with metal jaws. These tend to leave undesired marks on the paddle. I replace those metal jaws with wood jaws, which tends to decrease the marks left on the paddle surface.
Design options are one of the many benefits you get in making your own paddle. In the custom paddles I make, deciding on wood to use for the handle is one of those design options. The first picture below is a handle I’m working on that I made from a piece of salvaged redwood. Secondly, I used to think that working cedar produced the best smell on earth. After working with redwood, I have to report that the aroma from working redwood is even better than cedar.
Anyway, you can see in the first image below that there is a knot on one side of the handle. For whatever reason, or possibly character flaw, I really like how knots look. I’ve incorporated them into paddle blades before, but this is the first time I’ve found the right piece of raw wood that offered the chance to incorporate a knot into the handle. So far so good.
Besides just being simply beautiful, to my eye anyway, an object like this handle serves to illustrate several design concepts that I like to keep in mind. First and foremost, this is an asymmetric element in the paddle. It’s not centered, it’s not paired and it is irregularly shaped. It is fairly tight, so I am confident that a few coats of epoxy and spar varnish will “lock” it in place and not irritate the hand holding it. I do make paddles intended for using after all. A paddle that hurts your hand defeats that purpose.
Finally, for this custom paddle (which will be up for sale when complete hint hint) the handle is the only obvious element offering a unique design element. The blades are going to be clear vertical grain redwood and the shaft is made from five pieces that blend well together. The final design point here being that subtlety is a design element to keep in mind. Offering multiple unique elements tends to “water down” each of the elements and lessen the overall impact. Of course, if your design style goes in a different direction, that’s alright as well. Perhaps the best design element of all is that there is not really a right or a wrong, as long as you like what you are making.