01 October 2009

DIY: reinforcing the stick

I have been paddling with my stick (traditional paddle) for a little while and I am pretty happy with it.
Did not feel sorry to see one of my Werner paddles go to a "better home" last night.

What I miss however is the durability of a fiberglass paddle.
Admittedly epoxy and glass are a bit stronger than Western red cedar.
The shaft and blades have been so far rather solid.
The Vanstix Aleut has a strong ridge right down the middle of the blade and I don't think I will brake it anytime soon (getting dumped in the surf excluded).
I have noticed that the relatively soft wood does not take the rocks too well, though.
The tip of the paddle is showing signs of chipping.

I remember where the damage occurred: pushing off cliffs in the Whitsunday Islands.
My usual paddling waters (Queensland's Moreton Bay) don't have many rocky places where I could damage my paddle: it is mainly sandy beaches (with a few muddy ones too, but let's not talk about that).
I have seen pictures of some traditional paddles where there is a piece of bone (whale?) stuck on the tip to protect the wood from rocks or ice.
It makes sense: the tip usually is the one banged against hard objects.

Not wishing to use bone or ivory to protect the Aleut paddle I decided that epoxy could make a decent surrogate.
A quarter moon (sliver) around the tip it's all that's needed.

I applied masking tape at the end of my paddle and traced the outline, cut with a utility knife and peeled back the masking tape.

masking tape to protect the paddle from sanding, later on
The wooden tip had to be ground down and prepared for a layer of epoxy reinforcement.
I used the magic tool: the Dremel.
With a little attachment of coarse sandpaper the power tool cuts away the wood with precision.

The shape of the wooden tip was reduced and a thinner "blade" was created.
It will be replaced later by an epoxy mix.

I used West System epoxy (105/206) and some microfiber to thicken up the resin to a consistency of peanut butter.
I applied the epoxy paste to the tip of the blade and shaped it roughly allowing for excess epoxy that later will be sanded away.

This pic looks wrong.. what's pink doing there?...
On the smooth side of the Aleut paddle (back side) I placed a greased up piece of plastic that was held in place by light clamps.
So what is pink epoxy doing there?
This paddle is for Adventuretess and it needed a "softer" touch :-)
I tinted the epoxy mix with a bit of red dye which will also make it more UV resistant.

padlde tip with epoxy mix cured, before sanding
The excess epoxy had to be sanded away.
A cork block with stiff coarse waterproof sandpaper was used.
I used plenty of water to prevent clogging up the paper when sanding away the excess epoxy.

The tip was now taking the original shape of the paddle before it was modified.
Sanding has to be done carefully to avoid cutting into the wood of the paddle tip.
The masking tape was protecting the paddle and once I noticed tears appearing in the tape, the epoxy was sanded back enough.

All it needed now was to peel back the blue masking tape and touch it up with a utility knife.

The paddle is now ready to tackle rocks (and ice :-) .
I am sure I will be still able to damage the paddle if I am abusive but probably no more than a common fibreglass one.
If the paddle will see a lot of chips along the sides of the blade I might extend the reinforcement.

1 comment:

  1. You have no idea how helpful this was. Been looking for a solution for years!! This step by step has to be the best!!


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