Redwood and water go great together

curly reflections courtesy of redwood and H2O

A few years back, I got lucky and snapped up a piece of salvaged redwood joist that just happened to be curly redwood. Beautiful stuff. It’s also light and strong, especially when wrapped in the loving embrace of four ounce plain weave fiberglass cloth and my preferred MAS brand epoxy. Good stuff all the way around.

I went with walnut accent pieces along the shaft strip. A tip guard made from West Marine GFlex is protecting the bottom of the blade and sealing up the end grain as well. Sand and watere courtesy of a……lake. I can’t remember where I took this picture. Most likely Lake Wazeecha, up in Wood County, central Wisco.

Anyway, wood paddles are well within reach of an aspiring DIY’er. A quietwater kit simply puts all the pieces together for you, so you don’t have to start your project sourcing the materials and then cutting the wood. A kit comes with everything you need to build TWO paddles.

Or I can build one for you.

A one of a kind custom, with no epoxy stuck to your fingers and in your clothes.

Either way, a paddle is a means to an end. That end being the pleasure of a day spent paddling water somewhere. wherever you are…….Enjoy it!

Corporate out Design in

Knots and nail holes, courtesy of a bookmatched table saw cut

As my old corporate life recedes into the dim recess of time, an ongoing growth of ‘new stuff’ is blasting the old cranium. Maybe more like shaking the rust off….

Anyway, as I have likely written elsewhere on either the site or this blog, the amazing strength of fiberglass and epoxy is what allows for a wood paddle to do what it does. I should also acknowledge the waterproofing that fiberglass and epoxy does. For me, and hopefully you the builder as well, this means that I am free to use ‘non-traditional’ wood for the paddle blades. The picture above illustrates that notion. This is reclaimed barn board, at least a hundred years old, in addition to the age of the tree that gave up the lumber. The matching pair of blackish holes is from a nail. The iron of the nail oxidized (aka rusted) and stained the wood around it. At first I thought it was a bullet, but no – the wood is from a sensible midwest farm barn not a romantic western robber’s roost shack.

And the knot stands alone.

This has to be my favorite example of ‘design’ in nature, if you can call it that. The randomness of the lines, the color, and the shape is nearly impossible to match even with something as good as Photoshop. I love it! There’s just no way to manufacture something like this. Truly one of a kind, and best of all – accessible. Even affordable. Note the walnut accent strip on either side of the shaft strip, usually those strips are purpleheart, but not in this paddle. Also note the simple blunt and rounded off style end relief of the shaft strips. Also, one of a kind, something that no mass built paddle can ever replicate.

Building your own paddle using ‘found’ wood is well within the DIY paddle builder’s grasp. If you have a notion to think outside the box, I urge you to do so. The pleasure and ‘feel good’ parts of sourcing your own material and then building your own paddle is hard to beat!

I will happily resaw your paddle blade wood, AT NO CHARGE, if you have a piece you want to use and lack the table saw. Just send me your piece and I will send it back to you cut into quarter inch thick pieces as part of your kit.

OR, you can look through the range of ‘non-traditional’ blade blanks I have on the quietwater paddles website and pick some of your own.

As always, enjoy your paddling! Of course, you just might enjoy it more if you are using a paddle you built yourself!

July 4th means Lake Wazeecha


We have only a few simple traditions. Site 34 at South Wood County Park is one of them. The July 4th weekend found us camped out at that site again, for about the fifteenth time now. This spot overlooks Lake Wazeecha and is a ten second walk to the shore. The campground is heavily used and the lake is long, narrow and still fairly small. It’s also full of motor boats, but it is a sweet place, full of happy memories. So we went there for the hot steamy July 4th weekend and it did not disappoint!

New Dog and more Pleasant Paddling

I like pictures. I think they make a web page more interesting, especially if there is a canoe and paddles in the frame.

This time around though, there are no pictures, even though a canoe and paddles were involved. Water, too.

We took our young dog out on her first canoe (actually second) paddle. Just my wife and me. And the dog.

We put in on the Yahara River at the old iron bridge landing, just down from the old pioneer wood bridge and within sight of the 10,000+ year old native american fish weir remnants. It is said that this stretch of the Yahara is haunted. One of the many things I like about paddling this old slow river. This particular stretch certainly has the credentials for being haunted. I bet quite a few old bodies crossed the river here, whether it be fishing, or crossing a wagon or building a bridge.

Memorial Day weekend in the COVID era brought out surprising amounts of people. Usually, this stretch we have to ourselves. Not today. On the upside it kept Sula entertained. She has yet to meet a person she’s not immediately ready to run away with. Definitely a people dog.

All of which is a long way to write that I did not want to add an old expensive camera to the mix of young excitable dog, a wet river, and the first paddle of the year.

It was sublime. I do love getting out in a paddle-powered boat!

Nonetheless, there’ll be pics next time. This little dog is a happy smiley cutie. She adds fun and joy to the simplest of things!

Journey or Destination?

Knotty-Farmhand-paddleEvery wood paddle journey starts with raw wood, as the first image shows. Most colors in nature are muted. Some would say drab. Why is this? Does is take too much energy to produce a bright, vivid color? Does brightness attract unwanted attention from predators and hungry consumers? Does a relentless sun always win when it comes to UV rays damaging the pigment and chemistry of a vivid color?

Could be all of the above. Or none.

The blades in this first image are barnboard of unknown origin. Almost for sure it is pine. Most likely white pine. Age has faded what little color the wood may have originally had, but it is beautiful (to me anyway) and I enjoy the story this wood has. I’ll never know it absolutely, but it has to do with a tree that was probably growing when that old incorrigible, Chris Columbus, landed on our eastern shore and changed the world. That tree grew for the next couple hundred years until some immigrant arrived on the Wisconsin frontier and made their claim on the plot of land that included this tree. They cut it down and somehow milled it, turning it into the lumber that was then used to build their barn.

Or not.

Maybe loggers clear cut the tree somewhere in northern Wisco and floated it down the Wisconsin river, to a mill, where it was then cut into lumber which the farmer subsequently purchased and hauled out to the farm and built the barn.

We’ll never know.

The red trim pieces are tropical in origin. Not sure which country. I can’t remember if the trim is bloodwood or bubinga. It might even be a third species. There are several tropical woods that are red like this and my eye cannot really identify which is which. They’re all red though. And fairly vivid at that. Why does wood native to the north american continent tend towards the drab, while off shore wood (either south america or africa) is frequently found in strong colors? Is it seasonal? Is it the soil? This is a whole new set of questions.

At any rate, the paddle building journey starts with raw wood and it tends to look drab. The final finish, ideally epoxy covered with a varnish containing UV inhibitors, provides the ‘pop’. Like this next picture.Solid-Citizen-and-Old-School-red

This finished set of paddles both have epoxy and varnish covering the blades. Yes the lighting is different for the two images, but having taken both of these pictures, the impact that adding epoxy and varnish make is still quite strong.

The left paddle is cedar (bland NA origin wood) with purpleheart (vivid SA-origin wood; maybe African?) trim. The right side paddle is reclaimed redwood with walnut trim. Redwood is a strong exception to the color theory described above. Redwood is ONLY found on the NA continent and it is incredibly red. All by itself. Even in its raw state it is still a gorgeous dark red. Definitely not drab. The walnut trim complements the redwood (to my eye anyway) and is one of the most well known and popular NA woods to be found.

So like the old saw about journey and destination, it is good to keep in mind how visually stunning your finished paddle will be, while you happily enjoy the journey of the building project, all the while wondering what the raw drab wood will look like once that final finish brings it to life.

Happy trails! I hope they are wet!

PS 1 – Call me a hopeless capitalist, but I would be remiss if I neglected to add that all of these paddles can be built from quietwater kits.

PS 2 – Amelia G. from Canoecopia sent an email inviting quietwater paddles (and wavetrainSUP) to show and share what I do in paddle building. I accepted and will be hosting a table-sized chat up in the solarium Saturday starting at noon of 2020 Canoecopia. Come and see these paddles with your own eyes!

Student Designed Paddles

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.

Sunny Day. Simple Water. Leisure.

picture of a paddle going down the Yahara river

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.

Floatzilla 2015

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.
Floatzilla 2015