Thursday, December 27, 2007

Preparing the Blank

Preparing the blank is where you finally get into some basic woodworking action. I unfortunately never took many "work in progress" pics of my first real homemade paddle (Yellow Poplar Penobscot Heron) featured on the main page margin, so I'll document my steps with a current paddle I'm working on. A long & narrow solo paddle similar to the Quill by Ray Kettlewell. This one is made from some choice figured maple I scored last time I was at Century Mill

Like I mentioned in my first post about lumber, qualities such as straight, contained grain in the region that will become the shaft (at least 36 inches is a good guideline) is a must, with the grain in the blade region of less importance for strength. At the mill I get the shop guys to machine plane the board down to 1 1/8th inches which will be the final thickness of the shaft. Warren's book mentions 1 1/8th as fine for round hardwood shafts and 1 1/4 inches for soft woods.

Here are some basic steps in prepping the blank.

1. First, mark the centre line of the board (I've started using a chalk line for convenience but any method is fine)

2. Then, trace the pattern of your chosen paddle on the board ensuring the centreline for paddle matches to that of the lumber stock. For the shaft of the paddle, I use a 40 inch metal straight edge that is exactly 1 1/8th inches wide and trace the edges to the grip

3. Keeping in mind that sawing out can cause up to 1/8th inch of lost wood, keep to the outside of the line when sawing. Excess wood can be later shaved off to meet the desired dimensions, but once you cut too thin (especially around the shaft), the wood paddle will lose much of its strength.

4. Using a simple handsaw (I prefer a fine toothed one with 12-15 teeth per inch which minimizes spliting and leaves a cleaner edge), cut around the pattern and if the blade shape permits, continue in one long continous curvy cut around one side.

Here are some pics of the progress:

Beginning to saw out the pattern. I'm using a walnut scrap piece to lightly wedge the cut open as I saw, making cutting curves easier without the saw sticking due to friction.

Cutting around the second side. The 1st side cut pretty cleaner and the "waste" wood will be re-used (last photo)

Final Blank cut out and "dressed" with guidelines (more on that in another post)

Here's a final shot I took of this paddle along with some others (laminating a Greenland Kayak paddle on the far left with another laminated ottertail canoe paddle on the right). The completed one piece maple paddle is 2nd from the left and the "waste pieces" are next to it. I've since glued these up with a walnut shaft to make what I call my "recycled paddle" and it resembles some of the West Coast native paddles from BC. In other words...don't waste the wood!


Unknown said...

Do you know of anyone who sells paddle blanks? I have taken Lloyd Stonehouse's paddle making class and did purchase an extra blank from him but I am looking to do some more.


Murat said...

Sorry Russell - don't know of anyone selling blanks. Having difficulty sourcing precut blanks was why I started this hobby in the first place. Here in Ontario, your best bet would be contacting some local makers and see if they have any stock to sell to you. Try contacting Bruce Smith Paddles (Guelph area), the folks at Badger Paddles (Huntsville), Martha Baldwin Paddles (Toronto), or even the Canadian Canoe Museum that runs paddle making workshops. Hope that helps and good luck.

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