North Woods Paddle wood.


LOVES Wooden Canoes
Is a traditional north woods paddle that would be made of maple a hard maple or soft maple? Any advantages to either. I suppose hard maple might be heavier.
Interesting question. Ash is lighter yet. Cherry & walnut are lighter than ash... but I think ash is the "traditional" wood. I'd be interested to hear what others have to say about hard vs soft maple, and others may have more insight about what's "traditional" as well.
According to my wood tech book the specific gravity of Soft maple is: 0.44-0.49 green and 0.51-0.55 0ven dry.
Hard maple is:0.52 green and 0.62-0.68 oven dry.
Paddle woods

I've made my Northwoods style paddles from Cherry, Basswood (as an experiment) and Sassafras (have made 9). If you can acquire 5/4 Sassafras, I would recommend it highly. Sassafras is a wonderful wood to work, gives off a beautiful aroma while working it and provides you with a light weight, superbly springy paddle when finished. The grain patterns are very eye appealing, and close in appearance to American Chestnut. It is considered by many as the cadillac of paddle woods. I've read that the voyageurs made their paddles of spruce and poplar , readily available woods, easy to carve and very light in weight.

I've made a paddle of ash and it was hard to work with, flaking off in chunks taking more then you really wanted with a spoke shave. I'm just going by what I read in wooden boat # 67 as maple or ash being a traditional wood for the paddle. I have a Sassafras Shaw and Tenney paddle that I love, very light weight, If I could find it that thick I would use it but I've only seen 4/4 at best. Paxton or Austin hardwoods are probably the only Denver resources. I'll compare maples when I get down.
You can make a paddle from 4/4, I have done it. It is not a problem. Your handle will be just a tad more slender than starting with a 5/4 blank. I have some old maple paddles that obviously due to the extra weight of maple, have been shaved down to have very slender handles and extremely thin paddle blades. If you are planning to attend assembly this July, I could bring you a 5/4 sassafras blank or, black walnut, popular, basswood, cherry, maple ,you name it, to take back to Col. with you.

Wood tech book states Spec. Grav. of Sassafrass as: 0.42 green and 0.47 oven dry.
Oh and Happy Mothers Day to any Moms that might read this, as well as any Dads that played the mom roll too.
For what little it's worth as evidence, the paddles (of Maliseet and Micmac manufacture) I've seen in museums have been hard maple, almost certainly sugar maple. I found (and traced) one Micmac type in a New Brunswick museum made of an attractive birdseye hard-maple. I own a paddle made for my great-grandfather by a guide and canoe-builder in Presque Isle, Maine, about a century ago. This paddle is also of hard maple. (The guide's name, by the way, was Curidineus Hoare, according to my Uncle Howard when he gave me the paddle. I was skeptical of the story but, sure enough, the census of 1900 lists one Curidineus Hoare, guide, living on State Street in Presque Isle.) I've made a couple of replicas of this paddle and use them frequently.

I've made paddles of white ash, sugar maple, red or white spruce, and cherry. I think maple is the toughest wood. My favorite paddle is of cherry, patterned from a tracing of the above-mentioned birdseye Micmac type. To me, the cherry feels lighter and more pliant.
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Alexandra Conover, who has made hundreds of Northwoods paddles by hand, usually uses hard maple or white ash. I paddled one of hers made from hard maple for several months, but the one I regularly use (#466) she made for me of ash. My preference is for ash because I like the feel of the ash open grain in my hands better than the smoother, grainless feel of the hard maple -- a minor matter, certainly, and one of personal taste. My ash paddle seems a bit springier, also, but that is pretty surely because the paddle shaft was made thinner than usual at my request. Otherwise, I think there is not much difference in paddling performance between the two woods. I would note that Major league Baseball has been finding that baseball bats made of maple seem to break more frequently, and more sharply, than traditional ash bats -- something that is probably of no moment for paddlers, given that canoe paddles rarely experience the type of sudden shock impact that a baseball bat suffers.

Major league Baseball has been finding that baseball bats made of maple seem to break more frequently, and more sharply

I agree, but my son has gone through three "Louisville Slugger" ash bats in the past two weeks. Seems they don't make trees like they did before.

I need to get a lathe to supply the team.:cool:
I need to get a lathe to supply the team.:cool:[/QUOTE]

If you get the lathe & start supplying to team, you won't get another boat done before your son quits baseball... DON'T DO IT!!!!!!!

I know this, because I got a camera and became the official photographer for my daughters softball team, and now for her lacrosse team.... and the boat restorations have gone idle...
While I can't vouch for historical accuracy, so called soft and hard maple are very much alike, except that hard maple is more prone to splitting with changes is humidity. Soft maple from my experience is very hard, typically hard enough for most any rough and tumble job.
I'm still thinking. Ed has me interested in the sassafras. I'm getting the itch to paddle. The lake should be free of ice by this weekend.