Saturday, January 05, 2013

Paddlemaking: A New Hobby

My workshop with my new spokeshave and drawknife (on right)

 As someone who really doesn't need more stuff , my Christmas list normally consists of socks and underwear and dress shirts.  This Christmas, however, I decided there really was something that I wanted.  A drawknife and a spokeshave--tools that the local Ace Hardware don't carry!  Santa was good to me.  I also received a folding workbench.  I used to have one of these and it didn't make a move years ago.  The new one is fancier (with more bells and whistles) but not nearly as sturdy.

I you remember, before Thanksgiving I had a guy with a sawmill cut me some ash logs and strips to replace the gunnels on my canoe.  He told me to take the extra planks (as he was just going to burn them) and I decided that I would like to attempt to make my own canoe paddles.  I set up shop on the 3 season porch and went to work.  My first discovery was to learn that my jig saw (which is a heavy duty one) was going to take all day to cut this 1 1/4 inch ash.  So I called a friend with a bandsaw and took the boards over to his shop and cut them into the shape of paddles. I had two pieces of wood that seemed to be free of splits.  One I fashioned into an "otter tail" paddle (narrower) and the other I glued pieces onto the blade to make a broad "beaver tail" paddle.  My friend also suggested we try an electric planner on shaping the blades (which saved a lot of time).
Adding wood to the blade
 The drawknife takes off chunks of wood in a quick fashion, but can also dig way too deep and I had to learn to be careful as I finished the blade and carved the shafts.  The spokeshave seemed to really be more for fine work and i found myself constantly having to clean the build up around the blade (and to sharpen the blade).  I can't imagine how long it would have taken to make a wagon wheel with spokes fashioned with this tool! I found that a broken piece of glass (the bottom of a beer bottle) worked best in smoothing down the handles (this suggestion came from someone whose grandfather was a blacksmith and who used glass to smooth handles made for his tools).
Stages (from bottom):  Wood plank, rough cut paddle, carved paddle, an older paddle of mine that's finisihed. 
For finish work, I was able to set up my belt sander and use it to do a lot of the sanding.  I also found a rasp worked best on the blades and files (especially a 1/2 round file) worked well in shaping the handles for my hand.  Below are the two paddles...   I am going to let them dry out for a few months and in the spring will seal them.  Now I need to find more wood!  I would like to try to do some fancy paddles--with strips of wood and maybe even a bent-shaft paddle.
2 paddles waiting to dry out beside an older paddle of mine.


  1. The trick with the spokeshave is a foot clamp rocker. The old way with it wasn't to use it as a plain so much as a smaller version of the drawtool as you call it. A heavy skin apron is useful as it keeps you from reefing your legs and otherwise. Since you have very sharp instruments wandering about down there. The reason why so low (You would be sitting down with a leg pushing the clamp btw) is you have way more control of the shave when you use the shoulder as the axis of movement than the elbow you use while standing. And use the ash shavings as your final polish. way better than the glass. Lovely job all the same. Have you doweled the side bits as well as the glue.

  2. Wow, this is incredible! It just really does go to show, a person can pretty much do what ever they set out to accomplish! Very awesome, you could even possibly make more for others, and put your own special carving (logo on it!) It's also cool how Santa was good to you, but I kind of thought all along you've been on his good list! Hehehehe! I bet you're really excited to get it in the water too!

  3. If there is a cataclysm I want to come visit you. You know how to do stuff.

  4. I am so impressed with your talents!! They are beautiful oars/paddles.

  5. I've done lots of laminating strips of wood to make beautiful stuff but never into a paddle. I've always wanted to try though. Like you though, I need the proper tools which I don't have.

  6. this is really cool man...what a neat gift and one that will keep giving as well...look forward to seeing your finished paddles...

  7. Very cool, Sage.

    And just think, if you botch one, you can just whittle it on down and have a new pool cue :)

  8. Did you get to drink the beer before breaking the bottle? I like Bone's idea. I bet you could make some pretty spiffy pool cues.

  9. Hey there! Long time no see! Hope all is well with you. The paddles look pretty darn good for just starting out. I'll be back very soon to catch up here! Hope you had a great and happy holiday season.

  10. You really do have a talent, Sage! This post also reminded me of luthiers!!

  11. That is awesome!

    Crafty guy, aren't ya?!