onsdag 8 april 2015

Ten paddles project part one

I'm now nearing the end of my woodworking education and to sum it all up each student gets to make a final project. Some make spoons, others make bowls, a cabinet or wood burning. For me it came quite natural to make canoe paddles. And thinking practically I saw the chance to both make my paddle making more effective and hopefully make some money at the same time. So I decided to make this a serial production project. All in all I have a little less than 5 weeks. I calculated that I can carve a paddle from an ash plank in one day. So 10 paddles would be 2 weeks of carving. That gives 3 weeks for drawing the designs, writing the documentation and oiling and varnishing.
But the school I'm attending is not just a woodworking school. It's all about traditional woodworking (but they do let us use some machines). So I wanted some kind of twist and decided to make half of the paddles in a more native design aimed at deep water paddling and half in a more modern design aimed at whitewater. Though both are compromises of what I personally think is good.

I'm now at the second week, I have decided on 2 designs. The native one is an ottertail with a grip which is something like a merge between a pear grip and a northwoods grip. The modern one is a wide and short Sugar island with a T-grip. I differ the construction in them a bit. The native one is a one piece paddle which I will not sand and for finish I'll only use raw oxidated linseed oil. The modern one has a 3-piece grip and 5-piece blade to save material and lessen the chance for warping. I'll sand them till my hands bleed and give them an oil finish with a varnished blade. I'm gluing with polyurethane, I considered using epoxy but it blunts the tools really fast.

My paddle-forms with adjustable shaft length.
I made the designs in Adobe Illustrator as described in a previous post. I printed them and taped the papers together then glued them onto plywood. I was very careful here to get the forms completely symmetrical. I saw a track for the shaft in the blade to make them easily adjustable on the wood. I still needed a straightedge to keep them completely in line but it works very well and made the marking out much easier.

My initial idea was to make the modern blades in 3 pieces. But my planks were too narrow to get out 2 such wide pieces in one length so I decided to make it 5 pieces. But just gluing 5 pieces of ash together felt like it would look boring and amateurish so I wanted to make 2 small dark stripes along the center. But I didn't have any dark wood. But then I remembered something I learned a few weeks ago. Thermally modified wood. What I did was take the pieces and put them in the oven at 200 degrees for 1-2 hours. This makes them dark, a lot darker actually, and not just on the surface... all the way through. I'm not sure exactly how it affects the strength of the wood. But as they will be laminated in the middle of the blade I don't think it's a problem.

Barely fitting in the oven....
Before and after being in the oven. The dark one in the middle was on top and got a little too much heat. Also the side closer to the door is a bit brighter due to lower temperature.
So a summary of where I am right now: I've planed and marked out the 5 native designs. One of them is a stand up paddle I intend to use for myself. It feels insanely long... I give that one a thicker shaft to lessen the flex a bit.
I have cut out and planed all the pieces for the modern ones and glued one of them.
By the end of this week I intend to have glued up all paddles and cut them out.

My feelings so far for this project is that it's fun and I'm learning a lot. But I've used machines a lot this first week which is a bit depressing. I kind of regret not making the paddles by hand instead. Cutting my own tree, splitting it and carving it with an axe and crooked knife would feel much more satisfying and result in much stronger paddles. At least after I cut out the forms it's hand tools all the way till the end!

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