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  • Alick Burt

Making a disrupted face paddle with a swan inlay on the grip.

A disrupted face paddle is one where one of the blade faces is shaped with an uneven surface whilst the other is smooth as normal. The theory is that this will make for a more efficient paddle on forward propulsion strokes. The jury is still out as to whether or not it actually works and as you might imagine it is a difficult concept to prove. There are so many things to consider when testing for example how can you guarantee that the paddler will use the same strokes in exactly the same conditions throughout the test. In any case there have been a few designs made and it was seeing one by Graham Warren that made me think I would give it a try. Graham’s paddle has holes drilled in the blade ( not right through!)which looks interesting but I thought I would try a different approach and put grooves along the length of the blade.

To begin with the paddle is made in the usual manner, beginning with marking out then proceeding to cutting out the profile with a jigsaw or bandsaw and carefully shaping the edge to the lines with a spokeshave.(I have covered this in other blogs so I am not going to repeat it here.)

I decided the grip would be one of the inlayed kind with waterbird designs on that I am making a series of. The blade would be made to Graham’s Concensus design which can be found in his book of 100 paddle designs. I thoroughly recommend this if like me you are interested in making blades of different shapes and styles.

With the shaft still square the blade is shaped in the usual manner and then it is clamped to a spare bit of ply or mdf for routing the grooves.

I find this is easier to clamp to than my workbench because the board allows you to put a clamp in the middle that is easily moved around to allow for the rest of the cuts and it gives you a straight edge unencumbered by a vice that you can run your router fence against. I started with the centre cut then moved across to the outer edge a cut at a time. Always treat your router like a plane taking thin cuts at a time. Your cutters will last longer and need sharpening less often. It also prevents burn marks!

Here it is with the routing completed.

There is still sanding to do but at this stage I move on to making the grip and the inlay. The grip is going to be based on a Boni Youka style that I have come to love and find comfortable. It also has the advantage that is creates a great space where your palm goes that is a good size for inlays.

I have decided to make this a mute swan inlay and after sketching my design on paper I begin by cutting out the biggest piece from a bit of sycamore. The slice has been cut to about 3mm thick on the bandsaw.

Pic 3

Then I cut and shape a bit of reclaimed ebony to fit onto it. This cutting is done in a metalwork vice using a coping saw but if you have a fretsaw or treadle saw maybe an electric fretsaw feel free to use it. I use needle files to file it to a good fit with the sycamore. It takes a bit of time but if you rush and file too much at least the tiny piece of timber is not difficult to replace. I have had to start again with some of these before as they also break easily!

The rest of the parts are cut out and fitted in the same manner and a hole is drilled for the eye part then the bits are glued to each other using 5 minute Polyurethane Glue. I like this as it is waterproof and sets quickly but don’t get it on your skin as it will be there as black marks for a few days. It looks like you have permanently dirty hands!

The inlay is then clamped temporarily in place on the grip in order to mark around it with a 0.5mm propelling pencil. You can also use a knife or scribing point. I sometimes use the point of a set of dividers as it gets right into the corners.

Here it is with the inlay removed ready for cutting the recess.

The recess is roughed out using a router free hand. The depth of the cut has to be adjusted carefully to take account of the curves in the grip thickness and don’t expect it to be perfect just do it as close as you can at this stage aiming for a 2 or 3mm depth. Go carefully up to the edges too, tickling them with the router cutter till you are as close as you dare.

Next the edges are tidied up to the lines carefully with chisels and gouges until the inlay fits. Again it pays not to rush this. Too tight and the edge may bruise when you fit it but if its tool loose you will have a gap. I get it trimmed all round then test the fit carefully looking for areas that need a but more off before trimming and testing again and again until it fits with pushing by hand. The middle area may not quite go down because of the curve of the grip but as long as it fits you can proceed to clamping and glue the inlay in place.I use lots of clamps to be sure it is properly down in the recess but it is important to note they are not excessively tight as this can squeeze too much glue out of the joint.

I leave it to set overnight as the joint is under a bit of stress so its best that the glue is left to achieve full strength. Then the face can be cleaned up with a spokeshave if the grain allows. If I get any tearing of the wood grain I quickly swap to a belt sander though, given the choice I prefer working without large amounts noise and dust.

Apologies for the poor focus but here it is once sanded.

Then the grip and blade are sanded and the shaft is shaped to octagonal section before making round. Again this is a process I have detailed in other blogs.

The whole paddle is given a final sand and then I oiled it with boiled linseed oil. I start by using the oil thinned 50 percent with white spirit and warming it in hot water to help it soak in well for an initial drenching. Later the same day I continue with undiluted oil leaving for 40 mins between coats and rubbing off the excess.

The oiling continues throughout the next day and on into its life being repeated whenever it looks a little tired from use.

The question is is the disrupted face any quicker or more efficient than any other...? I gave it a test and I’m not sure as it may only be a second or two faster in a whole days paddling but it certainly looks intriguing.

Happy Paddling



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