Wrapping wooden shafts with leather isn't a new idea, although I first got the idea from a product advertised on Tandy Leather's website as a Walking Stick Grip kit. The kit was simply some tooling leather with lacing to form a rough gripping area on wooden staffs. Famous Paddlemakers Shaw & Tenney use leather on their oars to protect the wood from the oar rings and another site run by Paul Gartside documents the details of how to finely stitch a leather piece onto an oar shaft as a permanent fixture.
For my purposes, I wanted a temporary solution that I could transfer relatively easily from paddle to paddle when I'm in the mood to change. Instead of the X-style cross lacing pattern commonly used on these products, I consulted Ian's Shoelace site and settled on the Double Helix method. Easy to lace and to tighten with one hand.
Scrap leather piece; Punching the lacing holes
Lacing up the paddle sleeve
I realize that many purists will say it's a sin to pry the paddle off the gunwales and shun any additions to the paddle shaft (like leather whipping etc.), but I don't understand the fuss. This temporary solution using otherwise scrap materials works for me and can be unlaced and transfered to another paddle when needed. While it may seem bulky, the leather stitching doesn't get in the way if you paddle with the seam facing towards the stern, as the leather wrap bears all the abrasion during the correction strokes.
The final product