Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Grip

Carving the grip is the most personal job in paddle making. Part of the reason I got into this hobby is that I felt most commercial grips were uncomfortable for my broad palms. After a few km of paddling, I'd get sore where they would bite into my hands. I also find the standard "pear" grip to be aesthetically bland and have always been curious as to the artistic & functional grips carved by First Nation natives.

For inspiration, I've used Adney's work, Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America which has some fantastic sketches of various styles, like the 3 Passamaquoddy styles in the image. Typically these elongated grips allowed for a more natural grip posture so that less correction and wrist strain is produced while paddling...a definite plus while paddling solo.

Doug Ingram's site, has a great section on various grip styles that he's produced over the years.

One of my favourites is also the also the simplest to make...the elongated Maliseet grip...basically an elongated (up to 12 inches) flattened rectangle that's cambered to fit nicely in your palm when placed along the side. These grips can also be grasped along the top and don't need any rasp work or other carving instruments to shape other than the basic spokeshave. It's basically like carving another smaller, thicker blade. For decoration, I used a round file to shape out 2 semicircles along the bottom edge of the grip.

Maliseet grip in the cut out blank...basically an elongated rectangle

Cambering the grip with a spokshave

Completed Maliseet grip


Julien said...

Sweet looking paddle. Question though, do you not round off the top. Those sharp edges look like they would hurt when you grip over the top of the grip. Also, how much do you camber the edges of the grip- like how thin?


Murat said...

Hi Julien. The edges are slightly rounded off and sanded but the grip is meant to be quite angular. It is not held on top as a usual grip but the palm is laid flat across the grip in a relaxed manner and pushed during the paddle stroke. In this paddle the centre of the grip is about 1/2 inch thick with the edges around 1/4 inch but rather than be bound with static measures, I carve the grip down until it feels comfortable and balances the weight of the paddle blade.

Julien said...

Hey thanks for the help. I've already roughly carved out this grip and I'm planning to follow through with this style but I've already put a lot of work into this paddle and I've never tried this grip before. I'm afraid it won't be comfortable because I was thinking it would strain my wrists. But you say it's comfy, so I shall try it.

So even the top is only slightly rounded over?
Thanks again,

Murat said...

Well, comfort is always a personal thing. I hope it works for you. I have a wrist injury that never properly healed and holding a common grip and doing the J-stroke is too painful for long distance paddling. In northwoods or native style paddling, the grip hand is very loosely draped over the flat grip area with your wrists aligned much like holding a kayak paddle. The grip hand is not holding on tightly but instead is used to push the grip down during the power stroke and direct the blade recovery underwater. There's a photo of this here and some illustrations here.
Since the grip is not held on the top like a traditional grip, the top is only slightly rounded but still very angular. I shared some of my paddles with some folks at the WCHA Killbear event this summer and not everyone liked this style of grip because they were accustomed to holding a typical pear shape all the time. The one limitation I see of this design is its limit with whitewater paddling where a very strong grip is needed in the current, but for long distance touring, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this basic grip shape.

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