Thursday, August 20, 2015

Making a SUP Paddle

The other day, okay, so like 8 months ago, I decided I wanted to make a stand up paddleboard paddle.   Not that I need another hobby, but this was more of a project that I new I could get done in a few weeks.  In the summer it seems like a teach one to three stand up paddleboard classes a week and I thought a neat paddle might make it a bit different, and give folks the chance to see a wooden paddle. I did some research, in October, and realized that it would cost more than I wanted simply because of the epoxy that is often used in constructing wooden paddles.  I decided, in June, when it was back on my mind that I would just start and go from there, which sounds like a good idea on how to write this post.

I bought wood, cheap wood.  A simple 2x4 from Home Depot, a strip of red cedar, and a little piece of oak.  Most people would laminate the shaft but I figured for my first try a cheap 2x4 marked "fir" on it at Home Depot would work. I did pick through the pile to make sure I could get one with no splits and limited knots.  I didn't plan to do a reverse scarf joint, just mark the 2x4 with a 10 degree angle and cut it out.  The 2x4 allowed enough room for me to do this without having to do any special joints, but more on that later.  I marked out the angle and cut the 2x4 with a table saw and a hand saw.  A band saw would have been easier, but alas, no such thing in this household.  After some cuts and some glueing, I got this. 

The shaft was cut to about 1 1/2" wide, so mostly square, and the handle parts, to shape the grip, were glued 84" up the shaft, from ground level if holding the paddle straight up.  I new I would lose some of the blade in shaping, and that was the height I needed.  I also glued on all the strips of wood at this point.  You can see the 10 degree piece on the floor, which is what got cut off the 2x4 to give me my angle.  After the glue dried it was time to get rid of all the extra wood.  I cut some off with a handsaw for the angles to the shaft, and made a straight across cut the bottom of the blade to save time.  

And now it was time to get the thickness of the blade down, the whole way to the line you see on the tip of the blade.  I didn't glue all this wood with the grain going the same way, so spokeshaving was a bit of a challenge.  I was able to get most of it, but I had to both push and pull the spokeshave based on what piece of that colored wood I was working on.  I also started to round off the shaft, marking the center on all sides, and then 1/4" marks the whole way up and down as well so I could get it as round as possible.  After awhile, and a few days of income making work, I got it down so far, and chose to get out my orbital sander.  If you what videos of how wooden paddles are made, they use a big router making two passes and have the shaft done.  A belt sander then makes the T grip piece with a few passes.  It is NOT that easy with a spokeshave and a orbital sander, which is why I gave up all my 1/4" marks and just went to town hoping that in the end I would have a mostly round, mostly centered paddle.  I did keep the center lines until the final stages of sanding though.  Sand, sand, sand. 




Now was time to test some epoxy and fiberglass, which is what I, and you if you are trying this, are most nervous about.  You want me to pour gluey, messy, expensive sludge on my beautiful wood that I have spend 10 hours working on?  Yep.  I opted to try some Parks Super Glaze, link below, instead of forking out $80 or so on West Systems Epoxy, system 3 epoxy, or any of the actual epoxies you read about when researching fiberglassing wooden boats, paddles, etc.  I also just bought fiberglass cloth on amazon, and after mixing up the Parks Super Glaze as directed, I poured some on a text piece of wood, laid the fiberglass cloth down, and poured more Parks Super Glaze before spreading it over and pushing it down with a plastic spatula thing.  No pictures, sorry, I only had a few minutes to work. This is what it looked like though after it dried and I cut off the messy edges.  Not bad I thought, let's do this. 



After a lot more sanding (read: HOURS), I was ready to fiberglass this thing.  I sanded the whole paddle down to 800 grit, and even wet sanded it a few times to draw out the grain and to make it super smooth. After some wipe downs and some supply gathering, it was glass time.  Parks Super Glaze makes it clear to use flat bottom, straight walled containers with calibrated measurements, which, are impossible to find at the normal stores.  I found some cups at the dollar store, poured in 2 tablespoons of water, marked them with a marker, poured out the water, dried the cups, and was good to go.  Mix, mix, mix, pour on some glaze, lay the fiberglass down, pour on more glaze, and smooth it out with the rubbery fiberglass spreader thing, glassing only the blade on one side.  This takes four tries, once for each side, a sand on each side, and a second coat to fill in some holes and make it smooth, in a dust free, warm environment so it dries smooth.  After the first coats on each side I did some sanding, which takes that perfectly smooth surface and makes it white and cloudy, again, scary. I had a few bumps of epoxy to get rid of, but after I was happy with it, it was time to clean with alcohol, and coat with spar varnish.  This is needed because UV is not good for epoxy, and spar varnish, from what I read, has UV inhibitors in it, so don't just use the cheap poly.  And since it is now dinner time and I have a 3 year old and a 8 day old baby, I need to go make dinner shortly, so it will be brief.  

Here is what I used/purchased. 

Wood - varied, $10, and yes, a cheap 2x4
Tools - spokeshave $17, handsaw, sander, spatula spreaders
Glue - wood glue, $7, hopefully this works. 
Epoxy - Parks Super glaze, $25, again, a test, but not $80. 
Finish - spar varnish, $9, I bought the spray but would spring for a quart of liquid for better coverage.
Sandpaper - had some, bought some 800 grit, $10
Fiberglass cloth - Fiberglass cloth  $9, only 2 oz cloth, everything I read says 4oz, again, we'll see. 

And the paddle, used once so far with a 3 year old sitting on the board, so I'll let you know more later. 







Not so bad, so here is what I would do differently.
  • Thinner wood for the blade to limit the sanding.  
  • Thicker wood for the first strips out from the shaft.  The drop here is a sharper corner, which A: looks funny, and B: probably isn't as strong. If the first two pieces off each side of the shaft where thicker, I could taper out the blade better with more wood where it counts. 
  • Tablesaw the shaft with more 45 degree cuts, again to limit the spokeshave time. 
  • Laminate the shaft. Yes, more work, but my shaft has a small split in it (second to last photo). It is filled with epoxy so it shouldn't be a problem, but it looks bad, plus, a laminated shaft could make the paddle stiffer, more flexible, etc.  Since this was paddle #1, I have no idea how this will be, but the shaft seems as flexible as an AquaGlide Rhythm Carbon, per my put the blade on the floor and push down on the shaft tests.
And that is all.  Paddle specs:

Weight: 34 oz, claimed weight of similar carbon paddle, 31oz. I could get this down with thinner epoxy coats, something I need to practice to master. 
Blade: 16 x 8" - seems good, and is much like other paddles on the market. 
Shaft: 83" - good for me.   It is also ovalized where I place my shaft hand to limit fatigue.  
T-Grip: custom for my hand suckers.  

It was fun.  If you want me to make you one, I can, but it won't be perfect and you can buy a mass produced one for cheaper.  Make your own and paddle your own paddle. 




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