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  • Alick Burt

My First Paddle Making Course

A while ago I had a request from some of my OCA friends to run a paddle making workshop. As I have never done any teaching or instruction this was to be a new experience for me. However, I do have thirty years of woodworking experience to draw on and I did find myself referring back to the times years ago when I was taught my trade.

I advertised the event on facebook and spread the word via word of mouth to some of my paddling friends and when It came to it, I only had one student to instruct but I was still happy to proceed with the course as I would learn from the experience. With the date set for the 15th-16th of August I had some planks planed up in readiness and waited for Alan to arrive.

When Alan arrived I offered him a choice of blank and he chose a piece of Ash. We had plenty of designs to choose from as I had recently purchased Graham Warren's excellent book of “100 Canoe Paddle designs” which I thoroughly recommend to anyone wishing to make their own.

Alan had decided on a Beavertail made to suit his dimensions and as I had only one student I decided I would make a rather unusual Nootka paddle and I had selected a piece of Yew. Once you have a planed up plank the process begins with making a template of half the blade shape and marking this out on a centreline on the board. Here is Alan at this stage.

Here is Alan on the next stage cutting out the shape with a jigsaw.

Whilst he was doing this I had cut out the shape of my Nootka blade and was working on the unusually shaped grip.

Next for Alan came shaping the cut edges down to the line with a spokeshave.

I showed him each stage and helped him where he struggled or needed a little advice to cope with awkward grain.

I began shaping the blade on my Nootka with a spokeshave.

and, Alan began shaping his beavertail with a plane.

Whilst he worked on each quarter of the blade at a time I continued working on the intricacies of the grip on my paddle.

With the blade almost shaped Alan started work on the shaft turning it from a square section into an octagon.

The Nootka paddle design appears to have one obvious flaw in that there is some weak short grain on the handle if made in one piece. whilst I began shaping it the inevitable happened and one of the grip pieces broke off so I decided to glue it back and then I drilled a hole and glued a dowel right through both of them so they would be stronger.

After a bit more shaping we finished for the day set up our tents and after eating went for a brief paddle before it got too dark.

Next day Alan continued working his blade and shaft down before moving on to the grip and after I finished shaping my blade and grip I started sanding.

Although we still had the afternoon to go, Alan was so pleased with his paddle he decided to finish it at home and would rather go for a paddle on the beautiful river Nene. Once he had the grip closer to a finished shape we packed up and went for a little paddle on the river.

I gave my Nootka a coat of oil and left it to dry.

We met up with Pete who had come to collect some tools off Alan and joined us for an afternoon paddle on the Nene. Alan and Pete went tandem in Alan's boat and I followed behind.

All in all an interesting weekend in the workshop learning to share my skills with a brief bit of paddling thrown in.

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