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Kayak Paddle

author-gravatar Squeazle May 31, 2018

One of my dream builds is a wooden kayak. Unfortunately, I  won't be getting to that build anytime soon, so I figured a good way to dip my toes in that water would be a wooden paddle for the plastic kayaks I already have. This took me way longer than it should have but I got a taste of the techniques a full boat will require and am really happy with the end results. 

These were made using mostly scraps from my bin. In this initial glue-up, the blades are already roughly cut to the their curved profile on the bandsaw.

The first attempt had to be scrapped due to a screw-up on my part, but they were still useful as practice for the power carving and shaping I had no previous experience with.

A beautiful day for some outdoor woodworking. Nature is my dust collector! You get an idea of all the tools I used on the shaping of the blade and blending it into the handle I broke out everything from a belt sander to a spokeshave. Freehand shaping of organic lines and curves is completely new to me and I loved it. Can't wait to do more!

Holding a round shaft as I tried to blend the blade into it was becoming a pain but I stumbled on this way of holding it in my leg vise using another scrap and it holds like a rock! Just drill the hole through a block with a forstner bit, cut it in half at the table saw and you're good to go.

Not everything went swimmingly. I wanted to apply an epoxy toe to prevent damage if I had to push off anything like sand, tree trunks...alligators... I cut the profile at the scroll saw, built a play-doh dam around it, and poured in black dyed epoxy. However, some of the epoxy crept back into the lighter wood and penetrated into the fibers. The play-doh also left a residue that's visible in the final product. Lesson learned, next time I'll seal the whole thing with clear epoxy first.

Play-doh residue. 

This was my first time fiberglassing anything. It went...meh. There are a lot of bubbles in there. I definitely need more practice.

After fiberglassing, I applied several coats of Epifanes Clear Gloss Varnish to act as a UV inhibitor for the epoxy. I'm sure it boiled down to inexperience but what a PITA this stuff is to apply. I brushed on the first 5 or 6 coats the build it, sanded it nice and smooth and then sprayed the last 3 coats. It takes 24 hours to dry no matter how much you thin it and because of that, dust nibs are impossible to avoid.  I eventually settled on a less than perfect finish knowing it was going to get scratched and used anyway but someday I'd like to achieve that high gloss, clear-as-water finish I've seen on some paddles and kayaks. 

After varnish, I epoxied on the carbon fiber ferules from Duckworks Boat Builders Supply. I wanted the paddles to be collapsible for transport but I've also read that experienced paddlers often have the blades canted (not co-planar) for a more efficient stroke. I wanted to try that with out committing to it being permanent. These allow you to lock them in either orientation.  

One last detail to apply. Amongst all my other nerdery, I'm also a bit of a knot nerd. These turk's head knots make a nice transition between the ferrule and the shaft. By coincidence, they also cover a little lip that developed because of the build up of epoxy and varnish on the shaft. It would be irritating to keep bumping that with my hand while on a long paddle. 

All done and all together. 

Only one thing left to do; take it for a test paddle!

Trying both the new paddle and my old plastic one to really get a feel for the differences. 

Here's what kind of a dork I am: I was so excited to get home from work in the morning, get my kayak in the water, and test the paddle that, when I went to put on my crappy mud shoes at the house, I only put on one...and didn't notice until I was in the boat. 

Happy woodworking and boating everyone!


Awesome build! I want a kayak now so I can build some paddles 

That's ok, I want a standup paddle board so I can build a paddle for that too...that and they're a lot of fun. 

@joelav  said:

Awesome build! I want a kayak now so I can build some paddles 

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