Hands and Handles

In the paddling world, one hand or the other is always holding / grabbing / gripping a handle. I think handles are fascinating and underappreciated. They need to feel good in both hands, they need to fit a hand, so not too big or too small, most often they need to look good or at least somewhat appealing, and they need to stand up to sweat and dirt as well as handle getting wet and not absorbing water. I’m being dramatic, the shaft has the same set of concerns, too. Even the blade needs to handle the same parameters. By the way, remember to seal the bottom of the blade, which is all end grain and acts much like a bunch of little tiny straws that suck water up into the blade pieces.

A t-grip tends to be the start. In the kits I sell, I went with a modified t-grip. It is a roughly shaped piece with a mortise drilled into the bottom which then fits like a cap over the top of the shaft pieces. The goal for this kit handle is that it fits the shaft and does not require electric powered tools to create. This is a compromise, but it works well for a paddle builder putting a paddle together from one of these kits.

But this is ONLY one option. IF you have tools, then the world is your oyster. In the gallery of images above, I included a couple different styles of handle that can be added to your paddle. I can do it for you, or we can talk and I can include unfinished pieces in your kit. Multiple pieces, grain in line with the shaft strips, at right angles to the shaft strips, contrast or blend in with the shaft strips, on and on it goes.

So build that first paddle. Get acquainted with the steps in the project. And – if you like that first one, open up your scope and consider how you can create a truly unique paddle simply by adding your own touches to the handle.

Wood is good!

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!

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.

Making Paddle Handles

There’s nothing like a good handle, at least for me. I think comfort when paddling starts with how your hand feels when gripping the handle. Ergonomics is the official word for this, but it’s really about comfort.

Quietwater paddles are all wood. They’re kits that you put together yourself. No cutting required. Not even electricity is needed, unless you really want to get that sander out (note: the pieces arrive fairly smooth so don’t sand too much).

Two pre-made handles come with each kit. If you’re wondering – yes each kit has enough materials for two complete paddles. There are a couple different styles of handle. The picture above is a batch of new handles I’ve been working on. This style adds a piece of redwood to the front of the handle. Redwood is hard to find these days. I was fortunate to come across some redwood and salvage it.

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

Canoecopia 2015 paddle making seminar


Nancy from Rutabaga called the other day and offered me a spot at Canoecopia this year! Rutabaga is the paddlesports company that puts on Canoecopia every year. Nancy Saulsbury is the project manager. Canoecopia is the first sign of spring for about 20,000 paddlers, which is about how many people show up in Madison, WI. each year to attend this three day event. It’s like the CES for paddlers except it’s in Madison not Las Vegas and there’s beaucoup boats of all shapes and sizes and not so much electronics. Saturday from 1-4 PM, quietwater paddles is doing a three hour open house / seminar on paddle making up in the Atrium. There’s a ton of educational seminar type sessions, which is what makes Canoecopia different from normal trade shows. There’s also a ton of vendors and manufacturers of everything under the sun in the outdoor rec world. Big fun walking the aisles!