Saturday, February 9, 2008

Laminated Ottertail Jay

After my perceived success with the laminated greenland paddle, I decided I would attempt my first laminated canoe paddle and settled on an ottertail blade...the same blade design as my first paddle made at the Canadian Canoe Museum Workshop. I also liked the contrasting look of the dark and lighter woods used in the kayak paddle, so decided on a simplistic 3 piece design.

Century Mill had planed 1 1/8th inch square strips of soft maple for me and I used one of these as the shaft. For the blades, I wanted to recycle wood cuttings from some of my other paddles rather than cutting new stock. While sawing out the Passamaquoddy Northwoods paddle out of the walnut stock a few weeks back, I had created 2 side pieces that could be used to create a blade. Problem was that the edges were had been rough-sawn and not squared so the edges would not be flush during the glueing process.

At this point, I tried hand planing the edges, but quickly realized by woodworking skills had not progessed sufficiently to properly plane by hand. So as a cost effective measure, I went to my local Home Depot and rented a Makita Power Planer ($17 for 4 hrs). Pretty simple to use and with a couple of runs over the walnut (aligning the grain away from the tool to avoid tear out), the edges were now square. Thoroughly convinced after using this tool, a few weeks later a purchased a Mastercraft model on sale at Canadian Tire for $50.

The glueing and clamping were straight forward as before. For the grip, I had other scrap pieces that were glued up to form a common "tripper style" grip. After more handsawing on the balcony, the paddle blank finally took shape and I was eager to begin shaving the blade. By this time, I was confident thant I would be able to shape it pretty quickly. What I hadn't counted on was the fact that I had glued the walnut with opposite flowing grain to the maple shaft. In effect, everytime I used the spokeshave on the blade, I would tear out one of the two woods. This made the process more time consuming because I would have to switch directions with the spokeshave quite frequently. The weather had begun to turn and snow was on the ground but working outdoors was still comfortable.

Shaping the grip area was quite easy as the grain pattern was oriented properly. I purposely made the top of the grip quite wide to suit my hand shape and then thinned out the lower section to make it appropriate for Canadian Stroke / Northwoods style paddling.

After a thorough sanding, it was time to wet the grain before the final sanding and the decorating stage. Wetting the paddle at this stage gives you a peek at the actual colour tones when the paddle is finally varnished or oiled. The two toned paddle may look garish to some, but I really like the contrast. For the burning, I decorated the blade with a Blue Jay image and burned a second, native inspired Jay image on the flattened section of the grip.

Wetting the blade

Started the Jay burning after sketching on the blade

The completed blade image

Native Jay on the grip

The whole paddle

May 5/08 UPDATE: This paddle has now been varnished. View it here.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

great paddles I started a few years ago nothing
as good as yours. Have you ever tried staining a
pattern into your paddles ?

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