Friday, March 21, 2008

Laminated Adirondack Guide Paddle - Part 1

While searching the net for different paddle designs, I came across a pic of two Adirondack Guide paddles and liked their look. Their distinguishing feature was a combination pear grip with an extra flattened area encompassing almost half the shaft length. The only other time I've seen this close up is with Turtle Paddle Works' Whip-Poor-Will paddle, but that one comes with a narrow beavertail blade. Instead, I opted to keep the shaft style but use the 28" Algonquin pattern blade listed in Gidmark's Canoe Paddles book.

This paddle was made up of extra strips I had on hand from my attempt at the laminated Greenland Kayak paddle made back in the fall. Just like that one, the canoe paddle would be made of a Yellow Poplar (Leriodendron tulipifera) shaft from a pre-planed 1 1/8th inch strip (cut to 58") and a blade of Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) waste pieces. The photo sequence below shows the pieces lined up before cutting as well as the final orientation before gluing the blade. The 8ft long walnut strip (which was quite warped) was cut into 30" pieces for lamination against the poplar shaft and remaining bits of scrap walnut (one side square) were used to complete the blade. In the end, the width just measured that of the Algonquin style blade pattern at its widest point (5 1/4").

Leftovers for materials; Alignment; Dry Clamping & marking out of blade

The grip area was made with additional walnut waste pieces lying around and were oriented in such a manner as to be able to carve a regular mushroom head grip with a flattened extension of the upper shaft. Another board covered in waxed paper and setup on sawhorses served as the laminating beam. The strips were glued up with my usual adhesive, Gorilla Glue and clamped for 24 hrs.

Grip pieces; Wax paper laminating beam; Clamping & glue up

In the end the blank looked quite odd with all the waste pieces glued up, but it was more the sufficient to make a full paddle from these "scraps" so as not to waste the wood. While maybe not as aesthetic as a one-piece, it certainly allows for a more eco-friendly use of this precious resource. The actual paddle shape still needed to be cut out from the glued blank and that was done as part of my earlier post on the visit to The Carpenter's Square Do-It-Yourself woodshop.

Glued up blank & cut out paddle

The cut out paddle has been a breeze to plane and shave thus far. In one evening, I was able to do the work that nearly took 3 days on the Omer Birch paddle. The reason for this was because BEFORE the glue-up of the strips, I had lightly tested the grain with the spokeshave to ensure that all the strips aligned with the grain in the same direction. This way, the strokes would not need to be reversed when passing over the walnut & poplar, a mistake I had corrected from my earlier time-consuming error on the Laminated Jay Ottertail. From now on, every laminated paddle I intend to make will go through this initial test to save on the shaving time.

For the grip, I intended it to be a modified mushroom head style (like on the Walnut Kingfisher) with an flattened section to give the paddle more flex. Shaping involved cutting two grooves with a round rasp on either end, spooning out the wood between these indents, and then using the round rasp again to undercut the head of the grip in a slightly curved pattern. By shaping the undercut backwards like this, I could stop to check for feel and ensure I didn't remove too much wood. The pics below show the rough job, although I signficantly cleaned up the work since taking these shots. Don't know why the photos resulted in a blue tone, but in the 4th image you can spot a reddish smudge on the grip face. While holding onto the grip area, I scraped across three fingers on my left hand with the rasp - a careless and painful mistake that tore off layers of skin while smearing blood all over the shaving horse and onto the paddle grip. I guess now I've formed a blood-bond with this one.

Carving the grip

With bandaged fingers unable to bend at the knuckle because of my thoughtless mistake, I thought I'd begin the sanding phase on the bulk of the paddle using the orbital sander. All this while Toronto experienced another massive snowfall with -16 Celsius windchill. So I bundled up and did some work outside.

Initial sanding with the ROS

This revealed a major crack with soft dead wood in the walnut when I sanded down part of the flattened grip. I had some left over Epoxy from the knife making kit and figured that by filling the knot with epoxy and then sanding it down, it would prevent the crack from spreading and the dead wood from chipping out. Time will tell if I made the right decision here.

Epoxying the crack to strengthen and prevent weakening

This is where I am sanding, shaping, and repair. Stay tuned for the second part of this post which will have to wait until I can remove the bandaids on my three injured fingers.

April 1/08 Update: Part 2 of the post now online.


HikingStick said...

There are wood-hardening products out there (resins?) that can be used harden wood in the early stages of rot (or to protect wood from rot in the first place. I used some when repairing some woodwork around the windows on an old house. Once it soaked in and dried, it could be sanded, tooled, and painted. It might be worth looking into it.

cyril said...

some very nice paddles im about to start a course in traditional maliseet paddles at the college of craft and design in Fredericton New Brunswick .Love your stuff !!!Do you carve some of these by hand with a crooked knife and draw knife ?

Murat said...

Thanks Cyril! I'd love to see some pics from your Maliseet paddle carving course. I'm working on trying to replicate this circa 1878 Maliseet at the York Sunbury Museum. I'm definitely leaning towards basic handtools last ash paddle was made with just an axe and spokeshave. This spruce cree style design was made with just an axe and crooked knife.

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