Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Paddlemaking Book - Adirondack Guide Paddles

In my never ending quest to learn more about unique paddle designs, I stumbled across the page of Dr. Gordon L. Fisher describing his recent (2008) publication, Guideboat Paddles: An Adirondack Treasure. Available online is a PDF format excerpt from the book that shows some black and white photos documenting grip carving. Intrigued, I ordered a copy and recently received it in the mail.

Single blade Adirondack style paddles are quite a speciality in the paddling community. Their usage and history localized to the Adirondack region of New York state. My knowledge of guideboats in general was quite limited having assumed that they were exclusively rowed with oars rather than propelled with single blades, but an informative opening section in the book describes how many guides would silently maneuver the guideboats with single blade paddles as their sporting passengers would hunt deer and other game. Often, while one person powered the craft with oars, a helmsman would steer the boat with a single blade from the stern. Single blade paddles were therefore quite functional with guideboat touring.

The truly interesting feature of the paddles, however, are the circular grips. The book details some of the surviving historical paddles now at the Adirondack Museum and provides plenty of computer generated sketches and technical details necessary for reproducing the unique handle designs. Offset data as well as fullsized portions of the blade curves make reproduction a breeze. From a canoeing persepective, the narrow, straight sided blades would serve well for solo paddling, although the length of the paddles (and proportional blade lengths) would need to be reduced , especially when kneeling. Other than that, these are some designs I intend to replicated soon.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about the book, besides the plentiful illustrations and photos, was the historical context of each of the museum paddles described in the text. To many, a paddle is just a utilitarian object until a story is attached to it and its history revealed. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Gordon's contribution to the paddle making community and hope to make a trip to the Adirondack Museum one day and check these unique designs out with my own eyes.


Bryan said...

Looking forward to see you build one. I'll also be interested in your impressions of the round handle--how it works, etc.

Matt said...

I’ve been enjoying your posts and thank you for your contribution to our understanding of canoe paddle history.

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