Working on a paddle with redwood strips in the shaft. Unbelievably good smell, it might be even better smelling than cedar. The strips are from salvaged wood, but it’s clear and some of it is vertical grain. Redwood works well with both scraper and sandpaper, but it’s more brittle/rigid than cedar. So far so good.

Z is for Zambezi

Last one. While it’s not exactly paddling, it is a river which you can paddle in, on, and through. Do not go over Victoria Falls and do not feed the hippos! Yes I am talking about the Zambezi River. “The river rises in a black marshy dambo in north-west Zambia, in dense undulating miombo woodland.” Straight from Wikipedia. How’s that for a sentence laden with wonderful to read African vocab words?

This is the final entry in what has been a very pleasant to do 26 Days of April blogging challenge!

Y is for Yuba

There’s a neat little river in sunny (and dry) CA, the Yuba. Not to be confused with Yuma, that’s in even sunnier and drier Arizona. The Yuba is a river with a long history, the longest belonging to several native American populations. Then came the freight train that was the California gold rush and this river has not been the same ever since. It’s a typical story of resource extraction to build wealth for those who got there in time to risk their time and money on claims of unknown quality. For the most part, the purveyors of jeans and shovels are the ones who made the serious money.

Then came the dam builders and irrigation-loving farmers and agriculture types. They made their own mark on the terrain. Not really any better than the miners.

Today things are calm(er) and relatively stable. We seem not to be repeating the sins of our ancestors. You might even consider that we are trying to undo some of the damage prior generations have wrought. For the most part, it’s too late for the Konkow, Maidu, Nisenan and Miwok. A new wave of diseases pretty much took them out of the picture within a few generations of contact.

While the Golden State pats itself on the back on a regular basis, that state stands on top of the same pile of carnage as the other 49 states do.

Many times I wonder if what we have now is worth what it took to get here?

X is for xeno – stuff

I’ve tried to keep these 26 days of April somewhat paddle-, water-, wood-, maker- centric. The letter “X” proves to be taking more time than I want to give for discovering relevant words. So I resorted to the Phrontistery, which rewarded me with more X words than I can shake a stick at.
Xenophilia, for example, is the “love of foreigners”, while xenophobia is the fear of foreigners. I appreciate the symmetry of this word pair and appreciate the discovery of the Phrontistery, which for once allows me an escape in advance of any opportunities for digression……

W is for Walnut

It’s a dark wood. Not black, more like a rich chocolate brown. Marvelous contrasting wood for poplar. Love the look of these two together. Ebony and ivory-type stuff. Wonderful stripe pattern for the paddle shaft. Lately, I’ve been getting Peruvian walnut. Not sure of the provenance or even of the differences between it and American walnut. It’s proving good to work with and it looks great. So far so good.

V is for vertical grain

Why vertical grain? I sat here for awhile asking myself that very question. As usual, Google provided an array of interesting answers, most of which were in line with why I like vertical grain wood for paddle making. The big reason being that dimensional lumber, like a 1×10 piece of western red cedar (very expensive by the way), in a vertical grain cut is very stable. Pieces cut from that vertical grain board generally do not cup or bow very much (if any) at all. So I trust cutting blade pieces from a vertical grain board and both using them and selling them. I use them because I trust vertical grain blade pieces. I sell them because I trust that they will remain flat and not provide a bad experience for my customers. Generally no good ending to a story involving a mad customer with a piece of warped wood in their hands. I’m OK with quarter (flat) sawn wood for the shaft strips. The form takes care of warping and the one inch width of each strip does not leave much to work with for the forces that cup and bow.

Some wood, like walnut, I cannot find in a vertical grain. Walnut offers a unique color in the wood working world. It’s been good to me so far, but the risk is that the quarter sawn blade pieces may cup. Getting the wood under fiberglass and epoxy asap helps minimize this, but that’s not always possible.

I still use quarter sawn wood on occasion and it works. But I worry about it.

Vertical grain wood remains my preferred cut to work with for paddle blades.

U is for Unique

Making your own paddles allows for several advantages. One of them is making a paddle just the way you want, from size of handle to length, to the order of the shaft strips. In other words you can make a unique, one-off custom paddle. you can even add rice paper decals to the paddle blade if you want. Just send me your design and I’ll print it out on rice paper.

T is for Turbulent Flow

A few days back laminar flow was the word of the day. Turbulent flow is, of course the opposite. Have a look at the linked Wikipedia entry, there’s an amazing amount of information on this seemingly humble object, even jokes from physicists. Rivers exhibit all sorts of turbulent flow as you might expect. Eddies, for example, are a characteristic of turbulent flow.

Paddling does offer its own version of turbulence, although at a scale that I have a hard time seeing as significant. I could be wrong. Paddle design has an effect on how the blade enters the water. Edge conditions and paddling technique offer further opportunities for turbulent flow as the paddle is pulled through the water (or the boat is pulled up to the paddle). The scale of this is in the millimeters in the area around the paddle edge. In the paddling world this doesn’t really pass my smell test. I have a hard time finding any significance in it, although if you ask a racer or possibly a high end manufacturer of racing equipment they might try and convince you otherwise.

Ask them for their data on reducing the Reynold’s Number and see what that shows.

R is for ripping shaft strips

Ripping is the opposite of cross cutting. Instead of a cut across the board, you are usually making a cut along the length of the board. Hook angle and tooth count are two explicit differences you’ll find in blades. Each blade is touted to have their advantages. In my experience, tear out along the cut and the smoothness of the cut surface tend to vary a good bit from blade to blade.

The Wood Whisperer goes into more details. How can you go wrong with a name like that?

Personally, in my shop I use Forrest Woodworker II blades. LOVE THESE BLADES. I burned one up over the years and have since bought two more. Wonderful blades. Worth the money. I also have a cheaper blade that I use for ripping the engineered wood that I use for the forms. I found that the glue used in laminating this lumber made for a tough cut with the WWII blades. Heat built up, the surface burned, the blade got all gunky, and worst of all the teeth were dulled. So not I keep the WWII blades for the “good stuff” and I sacrifice this “other” blade when it comes time to rip a bunch of form blanks from that nasty (but very straight) engineered wood.

Beyond the blade, when ripping shaft strips I set up an extension table at the same height as the table on my table saw. Trying to hold a long board as you push it past the blade is dangerous when ripping. Get both surface the same height and slide the board form one surface to another, with no stress as your pushing hand (or stick) approaches the blade.

Finally, when ripping be patient. Pushing too hard strains the saw motor. Hopefully this will trip the circuit and teach you a lesson about haste before you burn up the motor. Urgent pushing also generates heat and strain on your connections. Be patient grasshopper. As soon as you hear or feel the motor start to labor, quit pushing so hard, ease up and let the saw blade whisper to you how fast it wants to go.