Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Yellow Poplar Penobscot

Most of the books and sites I read recommended using Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) as an introductory wood for paddle carving. The wood is a breeze to carve and rough stock is very affordable...5/4 stock is $2.50 board foot at Century Mill compared to up to $8-$9 for stuff like walnut and cherry. The lighter colour is pleasing although it does tend to contain streaks of greenish heartwood that sometimes give the paddle a bit of an "algae" like colour. Either way, this was my first attempt at a paddle entirely made on my own after the Canoe Museum Workshop in late May 2007. Cut out the blank at home and did all of the carving over the '07 Canada Day Long Weekend while up at the cottage.

I wanted to try a different style than the typical "beginner's paddle" so elected to try a Penobscot style listed in Graham Warren's Canoe Paddles book. Basically an elongated Beavertail with a sloping, flattened grip. Sawing out the blank by hand took a while as usual, but I found poplar to be a pretty forgiving wood that allowed for the sweeping curves of the blade when cut with a fine toothed crosscut saw. Below are some pics of the job (skipping all the intermediate steps I've outlined in other posts)

The sawn out blank

Completed paddle before artwork

Varnishing after burning a heron on the blade and cat-tail image on the grip

Taking it out for a spin on a sunny day...would you believe I actually spotted a Heron while using it...perfect coincidence!

Poplar is one of the softer hardwoods so the blade and shaft are prone to scuffing and denting if used carelessly, but you can't beat it for lightness. I wouldn't really use it again for paddles I intend to use for tripping but for a starter project and pyrography artwork it is a great wood to use.

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