Thursday, May 29, 2008

Paddle For A Flea

The girls need a paddle to go along with their new kayak, so we started to build one. First, I drew a paper template based largely on what just looked right. I used mom's Grey Owl kayak paddle as a point of reference for blade size, and made the template about 2/3 of the adult paddle. Unlike the adult paddle, the kid's paddle is symmetrical so that there is no right or left side to it, simplifying it's use. The paper template was folded in half (to ensure symmetry) and cut out, then the shape drawn onto some 1/8" birch plywood I had left over from the cockpit coaming of the guillemot. The blades were then cut out using the band saw, and sanded to the line. Once the blades were ready, the girls took over, each putting her unique artistic style on one of the blades.

I used some leftover cedar from building the frame of the Sea Flea for the shaft of the paddle. The piece was 1.5" x 1.5" and I cut it down to 150 cm long (Grey Owl sells a kids paddle that is 150 cm long). Using a bandsaw, I cut a curve into the end 15" of the paddle shaft blank to give the blades a curved shape, and cut the shaft so that it is 1" in the height dimension and 1 1/8" in width dimension. The full 1.5" height of the shaft blank was maintained at the paddle blades but the thickness tapers to a point at the ends. I should have taken some pictures of the paddle blank as it was being shaped but I didn't.

Prior to attaching the blades I also rounded the shaft. First, I marked the shaft as described in Warren & Gidmark's paddle building book using an easily constructed spar gauge (also described in the book). I then, with help from my daughter, planed down the four corners to give an octagon in cross section. We then took down those eight corners to give a 16-sided shaft which was sanded smooth to oval. On Wednesday evening I glued the blades onto the paddle blank using colloidal silica-thickened epoxy and I have since begun to shape the part of the shaft that backs the blade. Ideally, there will be no corners, just smooth flowing lines. The paddle shaft will flow into a thickened backing of the blade. In reality, I'm not sure how achievable this is as the shaft backing the blade is only 1.5" wide, much narrower than the rest of the blade which is 1/8" thick.

After the shaping is completed, the blades will be glassed with 4-ounce cloth on the front, and possibly on the back as well. The glass on the front will strengthen the paddle as well as protect the artwork. I am considering adding some aluminum or copper wire to the edge in order to add a degree of protection since it's certain the paddle will see hard use and the blade edges will take the brunt of that. It's ironic that due to their lesser strength, the paddle must be as light as possible, yet due to their lesser coordination, the paddle must also be as tough as possible.

More pictures will follow soon.