Help support the WCHA Forums by making a tax-deductible donation!

Choosing lumber for a paddle

Discussion in 'Paddles and Paddle Making' started by white cedar, May 25, 2015.

  1. white cedar

    white cedar Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi: I am going to be choosing a few 5/4 planks to build some paddles. I'm curious what type of "sawing" should I look for. Would quarter sawn be a good choice? Or, should I look for another orientation? The lumber is white ash and cherry.
    Thank You!
     
  2. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    I typically use flat sawn, but quarter sawn can work. The problem that you might (might) have with it is the grain doesn't have as much strength with that orientation, as it does with the flat sawn. For a quarter sawn paddle, I'll leave the blade a bit thicker (heavier) to adjust for this. Your mileage may vary.
     
  3. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    For what it’s worth, in my small collection of non-laminated paddles, five made by well-regarded individual paddle makers,five factory made, and one that I made, all are flat-sawn except one, which is rift sawn. None is quarter-sawn. In my experience, quarter-sawn is pretty unusual, and flat sawn is the norm.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2015
  4. Jon Bouton

    Jon Bouton Sucker for an Indian Girl

    For tool handles, look for grain parallel to the forces you apply. For example, I learned to keep the label on a baseball bat pointed straight up. Bats are labelled so, with the label up, the grain faces the ball and the wood is less likely to fail. However, although the wood is stronger parallel to the grain, wood splits most easily along the annual rings. Therefore the thin blade would easily break along the annual rings if the oar blank is quarter sawn (the annual rings perpendicular to the face of the board). The shaft is thicker, so can take the stress of having the grain perpendicular to the forces. That's a good reason for the shaft to be oval in cross section with the thickest width to the front and back. You can save some weight but still have enough strength for an extra strong stroke. If I built laminated paddles, the shaft would have grain facing the bow and stern while the grain of the blade was perpendicular to the shaft grain and would face the side of the canoe.
     
  5. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    It won't matter as much in cherry but in ash you would be begging for a split blade with quarter sawn. I use perfectly plane sawn and if you line the paddle up perfectly with the center if the tree you can get a grain pattern like this.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 27, 2015
  6. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.


    my small collection of non-laminated paddles, five made by well-regarded individual paddle makers,five factory made, and one that I made


    Sorry Greg, had to seize on that (as i'm always defending yet another paddle purchase, though still under 20 - just barely), whats your total count? sounded like lots more laminated etc....
     
  7. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    I quit counting long ago... and I have two more in the works. Can you really have too many?
     
  8. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    I was working off the top of my head the other night, and was off a bit in my count. The hand-made include two north woods-style paddles by Alexandra Conover Bennett (one painted by Jerry Stelmok) (ash), a north woods style by Dale Tobey (maple), and a Wabanaki style by Steve Cayard (maple), one made by Caleb Davis (Cherry), one I carved under Caleb's tutelage at Assembly (cherry), and two whose maker is unknown (spruce). The factory-made include two by Old Town (ash), one by White Canoe.(ash), and two of unknown make (ash). All are from flat-sawn lumber, except one of the cherry paddles is rift-sawn. sub-total - 13

    I have five laminated paddles, three by Grey Owl (one of walnut and basswood, two of basswood -- all three plastic tipped), a bent-shaft paddle, maker unknown (looks like spruce shaft and basswood blade), and a double-bladed by Bending Branches (not sure of the wood). sub-total - 5

    One Grey Owl and the Bending Branches have shafts with the grain perpendicular to the flat-sawn blades. The two basswood Grey Owls and the bent shaft have flat-sawn blades and the grain in the shafts is oriented the same as that in the blades.

    The total of 18 does not include the first paddle I owned, and still have, a plastic and aluminum Mohawk, nor does it include four or five plastic and aluminum Old Town kayak paddles. Also not in the count is a pair of Shaw & Tenney oars -- spruce, flat-sawn -- for use when I get the Dan Neal rowing canoe or the Henry Packard wood/canvas rowboat restored. And also not counted are the two sassafras boards waiting to be carved into paddles.

    The collection is a family project, a joint effort, some attributable to Deborah as user or purchaser. Two were commissioned by Deborah as gifts to me, and three others of the hand-made paddles were bought at fund-raisers -- a good way to justify buying such things.

    The Grey Owl walnut/basswood started the collection; it was my first wood paddle nearly 35 years ago, still used once in a while, and the Alexandra Conover Bennett north woods style (65th birthday present) is my usual user.
     
  9. OP
    OP
    white cedar

    white cedar Curious about Wooden Canoes

    THANKS for all your input, I appreciate your taking the time!!
     
  10. Oldad

    Oldad Curious about Wooden Canoes

    How about spruce for paddles?
    Oldad
     
  11. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    Spruce makes fine paddles... not for banging into rocks, but for paddling.
     
  12. Apoc

    Apoc Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I had the same question about cut selection. So I'm looking for a plain cut near the center? Do you have a photo example from the end of the board?
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
  13. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Actually the closer to the center of the log you get the close it comes to being Quarter sawn. you want plane sawn close to the outside of the log. I'll try to get photos later.
    When I was talking about lining up the paddle with the center of the tree it was so the grain pattern on either side of the central spline of the blade matches. For example in this photo the 2nd. blade from the top is the ideal I am shooting for and the bottom one less so. It's just an aesthetic choice, not structural.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. Apoc

    Apoc Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks I think I understand. That makes sense too you want grain to run through the whole paddle for mere strength. How about strip paddles? Would that be the same idea?
     
  15. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Grain patterns

    Here are a couple photos that I think will explain. The first is plane sawn which is what I am after. It is from a smaller diameter sassafras tree. If it were a larger diameter tree the rings wouldn't curve as much and run almost parallel to the face of the board all the way across. The second is a piece of perfectly quarter-sawn oak. the rings run perpendicular to the face of the board and on a thin paddle blade you can see how east it would be to split. I assume the same would hold true for the grain orientation for strip paddle but I only make single board paddles so I'll let someone else answer that.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 29, 2015
  16. Apoc

    Apoc Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thankyou very much hopfuley I will have some photos up in the next month or so.
     

Share This Page