Voyageur paddle photo tutorial

Douglas Ingram

Red River Canoe & Paddle
Thought that I would post photos of my current Voyageur paddle project. 22 paddle, 17 millieux and 3 Gourvernail. The text to describe every photo would take me hours to write out well, so I hope that the photos are pretty self-explanatory. If there are any specific questions, I'm happy to explain.

Starting with 10-12 foot 4/4 Birch planks. Lay out the patterns, rough cut, let rest, lay out precise outlines, cut out. Clean up shaft, set centerlines. Taper blade, rough out grip. Round over grip end to get the correct radius, carve the grip, round over shaft, clean up the transitions from shaft to grip and blade. Sand smooth. Apply finish.

NOTE! In the photo of the jointer bed, you can clearly see the plug. The machine has no power and is safe in this mode.
 

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More...

The centerlines are drawn on the side of the paddle using a simple pencil holding jig. I use the jointer bed, set to zero cut and unplugged! The bandsaw takes out a lot of the excess wood for the grip.

There is a little saw cut at the tip of the blade to register the face centerline, for easy re-drawing. The tip is also left a little long, and square cut so that it rides the jointer bed without rocking as it would if it were rounded over. The tip will later be drawn and shaped.

For the grip taper, I set the lines 1/4" out from the centerline, leaving the wood 1/2" thick, 2" back from the end of the grip. This allows enough material for subsequent shaping steps.
 

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The blade is rough tapered on the jointer. This takes off the waste wood very fast. Take care if you use it so that you don't go too far too fast.

I use the Makita electric plane to take the taper down a little more in between the tip and the throat, as well as beveling the blade to the side. Use the drawn centerlines as a guide. You can draw lines for the blade thickness, but after a number of paddles you can do it bu eye just as easy.

Then the grinder abrades the shapes that you can't get with the planer. There isn't a whole lot more wood to take off at this point. I use 24 grit for shaping, and 100 grit for surfacing.
 

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You want to develop a systematic approach to carving the paddle. Once the blade is rough carved, I re-establish the straight taper with a hand plane, then redraw the centerline, again! and then go back in with the grinder to refine the symmetry of the shaping.
 

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Because the blade width had been set earlier by shaping, you can easily see when you have brought the thickness down enough by the amount of bevel showing.

At the grip end, clean up the saw cuts and rough out the transition to the grip roll. Its easy to not carve enough here, or to carve too much. You need a clear mental concept of what you are after. Either practice a lot on sample paddle grips, or get some clay and work out your shapes with that.
 

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Using your finger a a guide, set a pencil line parallel to the edge of the grip, on all four edges. Bevel to this line, keeping an even distance from the side centerline. Later you will round this bevel off, but for now it ensure symmetry.

I timed it out, from rough shaping the saw cut to finishing the bevel takes me about 4 minutes.

From this point on, its a matter of rounding over the shaft, refining the straightness of the blade edges, refining the blade-shaft-grip transitions, and sanding. I'll try and get a few more photos later, but that's all I have downloaded so far.
 

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Great start on the article for WC! :) Can't wait to see more!

Your method seems influenced by production (mass efficiency) techniques, yet you're still doing a lot by hand -- hog off the bulk of the wood with power tools, then get the good ones out. I like the idea of the notched tip, for re-drawing the centerlines; I've had to get help, or use a spring clamp, to do this, and there seems to be a bit of error in that method. So I'm told...:rolleyes:

So that's what happens when you've made 1000 paddles -- you get good at it?

This is excellent, Doug, please keep posting!
 
Thanks Paul.

Forgot this one. Its a pretty useful step. Use the electric plane to bring the edges of the blade parallel to the centerline and take off as much of the camber as is reasonable.
 

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