I knew it was going to be tough waiting for the canvas hardener to dry, but a paddle making course came at just the right time. Roger offers these day long courses at Carlisle Canoe Company, for those who would like to create their own ‘individual’ paddle exactly tailored to their height. It took some effort, but I finally convinced Cindy to join me for a ‘date day’. (Pretty romantic, don’t you think guys!) After all, how would we power our beautifully renovated canoe without paddles?
It was a wonderful sunny day when we arrived raring to go. There were 2 other couples, so Roger had the bench setup with 6 blocks (I really do mean ‘blocks’) of black cherry in the general shape of a paddle and marked with guide lines and colours to follow in our work.
At each step during the day, Roger took us through what to do, the guide lines to follow, and exactly how to use the spoke shaver. (Sort of like a ‘Dummy’s Guide to Paddle Making’ — anyone can do it — really they can). Starting with the paddle blade, the toughest stage, we set to work. This took tons of carving and some brute force, but by the time we finished, the blade was finely contoured and very thin.
Cindy and another woman had the hardest blades to carve, as their paddle grains were very mottled and zigzagged throughout the wood. When finished, however, these particular paddles were really beautiful and totally unique. Being black cherry, the blades, despite being thin, had both strength and flexibility. Finishing the blades took the entire morning, so we were all thankful (and really tired) when the lunch break arrived.
After lunch we tackled, or rather shaved down, the shaft and handle.
Then, after a final hand sanding, we applied linseed oil as the final step. Each paddle turned out quite different, and totally unique due to the grains, all very beautiful and extremely light. Some in the group weren’t going to use their paddles, but intended to hang them on the wall as ‘artwork’. Not us, however. I’m even more keen now to complete the canoe restoration. After all, a beautiful paddle requires a beautiful canoe — or is it the other way around? Regardless, the paddles and canoe are ‘a match made in heaven’. OK, at least made at Carlisle!