Paddle Making Day: Waiting for hardener to dry

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.

paddles 1Roger first went through basic safety and use of the spoke shaver.  Then it was time to begin.

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.

paddles 2Cindy 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.

paddles 3Each had to be done a specific way to get just the right shape.  Roger attentively, and very patiently, watched and guided us all through the process, often lending assistance when needed.

paddles 4As each of us finished, and got the thumbs up from Roger, we took our paddles outside to assist Roger with power sanding.

paddles 5Then, 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!

paddles 6previous Heritage Canoe Project next

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