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Newbie at paddle making

Discussion in 'Paddles and Paddle Making' started by Ray Kepler, Jan 21, 2021.

  1. Ray Kepler

    Ray Kepler Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi,
    I’ve started glueing up my first paddle and plan to do many more. My question is about fiberglassing. Should I or should I not? Is just using some Spar urethane OK, or will fiberglass be worth the trouble? If I go with fiberglass, what would be a good, recommended weight and epoxy to use? Or should I spar it and glue on a hardwood tip?
    Thanks for any advice.

    Ray
     
  2. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    I use fiberglass for paddles that will see hard use, but not on deep water paddles, such as otter tails or FreeStyle paddles. But it's all up to your preference, really. If you do a search on these forums for Doug Ingram, you'll find his method for creating a composite tip, which is interesting as well.

    When I do use fiberglass, it's lightweight material: 0.75oz, which I got from Raka: http://store.raka.com/75ozplainweavex50in.aspx and used West System 205 resin and 207 hardener, which was recommended to me 20+ years ago... I haven't tried any others, as I'm happy with this material. Chances are good other brands will work just as well. Like I said, it's up to your preference. If you go this route, you may want to epoxy a couple of practice pieces, just to get the hang of it. It's not difficult, but you don't want to put all that work into a paddle, only to gun it up at the very end! Todd Bradshaw looks in here periodically, he knows more about glass & epoxy than most... If he says something different is better, I'd go with it! There are other strip & glass canoe builders here as well, who will hopefully chime in.
     
  3. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    That sounds like a good glassfiber scenario to me, though without destruction testing a fiberglassed blade (or a similar sample chunk) it's hard to say just how much strength it really ads. Since there are a variety of ways to laminate a paddle, some successfully using fiberglass sheathing (Sawyers for example) and others just using varnish I don't think there is one correct answer. The glass can certainly add some durability, though it will also add weight and it is possible to screw up the balance and feel of a perfectly good paddle by adding the weight of fiberglass sheathing to the blade. I personally won't tolerate a paddle which is blade heavy. When it comes out of the water at the end of a stroke I want to to automatically seek a horizontal position, pivoting on my lower hand. That way, I'm not having to lift the blade on every stroke, it does it by itself. If the addition of fiberglass is going to result in a paddle which is blade-heavy and won't level itself out, then I will avoid using the glass sheathing. It is possible though to fiberglass the blade with some constructions and still maintain really good balance. This Camp bent shaft (glassed wood strip blade) is very light, but still handles beautifully. So I think the answer to your question will depend on exactly what sort of construction you are using.

    paddle-2a.jpg
     
  4. OP
    OP
    Ray Kepler

    Ray Kepler Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for such thorough responses. I’ll be paddling on the rocky Shenandoah and a lake. another question: if I spar varnish now, can I glass it later?
     
  5. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    If you want to varnish now and fiberglass later, you'll probably want to strip the varnish before 'glassing. I'm thinking your best bet would be to glass before varnish. Others may have different thoughts.
     
    Jim Dodd likes this.
  6. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Yes, fiberglass first onto bare wood. Then varnish after fiberglassing, mostly in order to protect the epoxy resin in the fiberglass from UV, which will deteriorate it in fairly short order if it's not protected. You want a good quality spar varnish which says right on the can that it has really good UV resistance. As to the need to fiberglass a blade for rocky river use, it's pretty easy to justify reinforcing the tip, but it's pretty rare to be hitting rocks with the front or back of a paddle blade, so the proper answer of whether or not to fiberglass the whole blade is more a question of whether the blade's construction is such that it needs the extra tensile or cross-grain strength - more than it needing impact or abrasion protection on those face surfaces.

    There are a variety of ways to build a composite tip protector and in a lot of cases that's all you need, even for whitewater. People have cast small epoxy extensions making up the lowest half inch or so of the blade. Others have applied a piece of epoxy saturated rope, standing proud along the tip of the blade. If you cut strips of fiberglass on a bias (diagonal to the weave) it is also possible to wrap the tip neatly with multiple layers of form-fit fiberglass. We used to do this on whitewater kayak paddles once the riveted-on aluminum tip protectors that they had come with had worn through at the corners. We would remove the aluminum piece, sand down to bare wood and wrap the tip with a couple layers of 7.5 oz. fiberglass cloth. Then we would paint the glass silver as paint is an even better UV shield than varnish. If that tip wears down, you just sand it off and stick a new one on. This is my old Prijon Leiser whitewater slalom paddle. It has no fiberglass on the faces, but the aluminum tip protector has been replaced with fiberglass. When you cut a strip of glass fabric on a bias it's pretty amazing what sort of odd shapes you can coax it into. A similar strip cut square to the weave would never lie down neatly and conform to the tip shape like this.

    prijon-tip.jpg
     
  7. OP
    OP
    Ray Kepler

    Ray Kepler Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for the info, guys. Much appreciated. I like the idea of the string/protection. I saw that done somewhere in a video.
     
  8. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    If you use the string method, make sure the string is saturated with epoxy. Otherwise, you'll have bubbles inside, and as the epoxy cures, it generates some heat, which tends to make the bubbles expand. You don't want that!
     
    Jim Dodd likes this.

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