Wooden paddle shaft

Wooden shafted C1 paddle

We have seen and heard from many paddlers that rave about wooden paddle shafts from the likes of Backlund, Mitchell, Sawyer, Jimistyx, Echo and so on. So, in our usual way of doing things, we decided to have a go at making one for ourselves. Deciding that a straight shaft was going to be a bit easy, we went for a laminated bent shaft.

First job was to procure some timber; luckily a friend had experimented with doing the same a few years ago, and had some bits of spruce and ash left. The strips we got were about 6mm thick, and had proved difficult to bend to shape. We decided to go for a 7-layer laminate of alternating woods, with each strip needing to be just over 4mm thick to give a shaft diameter of 30mm at the grip. So a few hours with a hand plane and calipers had the laminates thinned down to the correct dimensions, including a slight taper towards the T-grip.

Hand planing the laminates to the correct thickness Laminates ready for bending

To get the shaft bent to the desired profile, we made a form to clamp the laminates to as they were being bent. This was just a bit of 2" by 4" planed to the profile of the front of the shaft. The laminates were steam bent individually and clamped to the profile, building up the shape layer by layer. Our steam generator was just an old kettle, with some plastic sheeting to contain the steam.

Wooden former Steaming the first laminate The first laminate clamped into position Part-way through the bending process All the laminates bent and clamped into position

After all the laminates had been bent, the whole thing was left alone for 4 days in hot dry weather for the wood to dry out. The clamps were undone, and it was quite satisfying to see that none of the laminates sprung back to straight! The whole laminate stack was glued together using epoxy, and re-clamped into position to set.

The bent laminates being glued together The glued laminates after being released and cleaned up

We then shaped down the laminate stack to a circular cross section, and tapered the bottom end to fit inside our C1 blade mould. The shaft was long enough to go nearly all the way to the tip of the blade. The shaft was covered in a woven fibreglass tube to protect it from water and damage. The two faces of the blade were laid up in their moulds, and clamped together with the shaft, foam core, edging strip and Dynel tip in between. Once this had set, we trimmed the edges and released the finished blade from the mould. Sanding down the shaft and a thin coat of epoxy finished the job nicely.

The shaft shaped to fit into the blade mould Materials cut ready to lay up the blade The blade clamped in the moulds Finished blade Finished crank shaft

The finished blade has only been on the water a few times so far, but it is already a favourite, with just enough flex to be kind on the joints.

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Updated: 22 April 2017 Valid HTML 5

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