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Assistance with Paddle Protection

Discussion in 'Paddles and Paddle Making' started by Wriggs, Jul 10, 2011.

  1. Wriggs

    Wriggs Survivalist

    Good day all,

    I have just completed my first paddle making adventure. However I was hoping to add an epoxy protection to the tip of the paddle blade.

    I have never tried this and I would love some advice on how-to add that 1/2" tip protector.


    Blackberry Photos 147.jpg
  2. Rob Stevens

    Rob Stevens Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    One option before you thin the blade is to use a bandsaw to cut in a narrow kerf, then add epoxy and a hardwood spline.
  3. OP

    Wriggs Survivalist

    Unfortunately I have completed the craftmanship of the paddle and started the finishing touches.

    I just wanted to add the epoxy tip protection but I have seen several different methods and just wanted to check here because of the obvious knowledge, skills and experience that floats around this forum.

  4. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    It's not what you're asking for but, when I made a few, I just butt glued a hard maple strip to the end of the paddle. Very easy.
    The blade was then covered with 2 oz glass and epoxy.


    Ya, what Fitz said, protect the epoxy if you use any.
    I varnish my paddles, and than lightly sand/steel wool the lower shaft and end, to simulate oil.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2011
  5. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood


    Wriggs, if you use epoxy on your paddle you will need to protect it from UV, which may not allow you to use oil as a finish, but varnish with UV inhibitors.

    Paddles can be stored out of the sun, but it is worth thinking about.
  6. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    The answer to the UV problem is to use pigmented epoxy or epoxy mixed with graphite powder, aluminum flake (barrier coat) powder or other opaque fillers. These will stop the UV at the surface. With a lot of sun exposure, you might get a bit of chalking on the very surface, but down below, the epoxy will still be fine. Similar protection could be done by painting over the tip protector with enamel. Even so, unless you store your paddles out in the yard when not in use, most will never get enough UV on the blade to do much damage to the tip.

    In some cases (like the epoxy tips on Sawyer paddles, for example) they grind the tip down to a V shape in cross section to essentially get a scarf-style joint where the wood meets the epoxy. For a one-off, you can usually make a temporary dam/mold around the paddle's end using one of the plastic modeling clays (craft shops and art supply stores, comes in little colored blocks, pretty cheap) or even cardboard that's been waxed (or even duct tape) and pour the epoxy tip in place. Make it a little thicker and bigger than needed and after it hardens, peel the mold off and sand it down smooth and flush with the surface.

    Plain epoxy is pretty brittle, so it's a good idea to mix it with something to toughen it up a bit. There are some high-strength fillers that work, as will short (like 1/8" long) cotton, fiberglass, or other fibers. Sander dust is also a possibility as wood dust saturates nicely and the resulting hardened goo is pretty tough. With some off-white filler powders and pigments, you can come pretty darned close to something that looks like ivory (ever see a faux scrimshaw - that's what it's made from and it makes a pretty good looking paddle tip). Graphite powder makes a black fill that turns a nice satin charcoal grey when you sand it. After that, you can leave it or oil it for a bit more sheen. By itself, graphite powder makes a fairly soft fill, but by adding a bit of coloidal silica you can harden it up a bit.

    Most of these things don't have official recipes, but a little experimentation will tell you how much you can add and still get a mix that has a fairly high amount of filler, but still flows into the mold and levels nicely.
  7. Douglas Ingram

    Douglas Ingram Red River Canoe & Paddle

    Most of what you are asking about doing should be done before the finish is applied. You will either have to remove the finish in the area affected or mold a protective cap that will go over the paddle tip.

    You're going to make more paddles, I wouldn't worry too much about this one and do those efforts later on other paddles. Just pay attention to how you use it and keep up the finish. Many, many, many, paddles have been built without anything more than varnish protecting the tip.
  8. OP

    Wriggs Survivalist


    Thanks for the reply. I am definately going to handcraft more paddles. I have since made 3 more and my attention to detail and craftmanship has improved. This of course is making the process more enjoyable for me and producing a better paddle.

    However, I live close to Algonquin park and thus some of the paddles will be utilized in white water situations. So learning how to get a nice protective tip that looks professional and universal is important to my continued growth in paddle making.

    Thanks to anyone who can assist.
  9. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    I think that what I have done is not quite what you have in mind, but it is something that might work for you. After rehabilitating an old paddle and staining it, but before varnishing it, I put a layer of West's G Flex epoxy mixed with graphite on the very tip of the blade. The G Flex is supposed to be more flexible than most epoxies; the graphite thickened and colored it. After removing the masking tape and after the epoxy had set up well, I sanded the masked edge to feather it a bit, and then proceeded to apply a number of coats of marine varnish to the blade.

    sm 100_5909.jpg

    I don't know how effective this actually has been, because the paddle was auctioned off at the 2010 Assembly, but I do expect that the tip was made more durable than if it had just been varnished, and if it chips, repair should not be difficult.

    I don't know if it would stand up to your white water use?????

    I believe the the half-inch wide plastic (epoxy or urethane) protective strips that are seen on some commercially-made paddles are are put on before the final shaping of the paddle blade by casting in place or with the kind of commercial glues not usually practical for the small shop, and are shaped with the wood of the blade after the glue/chemicals/plastic have cured and set. I think it would be difficult to fasten a separate piece of anything (or cast any new material) onto a blade which has already been given its final shape and then finished.
  10. OP

    Wriggs Survivalist


    What you have done and the picture you provided is actually exactly what I am looking for. I only mentioned the white water given that the area is scattered with the rapid moving stuff at what seems to be every lake, river and pond. So inevitably the paddle tips will make contact with a rock here and there.

    Is there a chance you have any other pictures of the process or a set of good guidlines that may save me the hurt and pain of completing it the first time blind.

  11. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    That was my first (and only, so far) time doing something like that -- no plans or guidelines -- I was flying blind also. Even after some serious sanding of the old blade tip, the tip edge was a bit raggedy, and what I wanted to do was to cover and hide the tip edge as much as I wanted to protect it.

    So -- I just added graphite to the epoxy until it felt right to me -- thick, but still liquid, like thick pancake batter, perhaps, so that epoxy coating went on perhaps 1/16 " thick. I cut the masking tape with an exacto-type razor knife, and then put much extra tape below the working area in the event there were drips. I made the black strip as narrow as I did so that the masked edge would be just where the edge of flat of the blade turns -- the little ridge that masking inevitably leaves was less apparent that way, and more readily minimized with a bit of sanding. I also considered making the epoxy band abut 1/2" wide around both sides of the tip -- but felt I might have more problems with the epoxy not coating evenly and showing runs, etc., and I was concerned with adhesion over the stain -- not a problem on the end-grain edge. The risk with the narrow band is that, being narrow, it would chip more easily. I imagine that you could make the epoxy coating a bit thicker by creating a dam with masking tape, as Todd mentions, but I'm not sure how durable it would be without something other than graphite as an additive, again as Todd mentions.

    But as I say, other than thinking that it looked pretty good when I finished it, I have no information about how it actually worked out in use,

    Unusually for me, I don't have any other pictures, not even of the finished job. With a digital camera, I usually give into the temptation to take too many pics, but for some reason, I didn't this time.
  12. Douglas Ingram

    Douglas Ingram Red River Canoe & Paddle

    This is what I do.

    After rough shaping the blade and exact profiling, I prepare a panel(thin plywood or heavy cardboard) to an oversize pattern of the blade. Usually I have to cut the center section out to allow for the thick center of the paddle so that the panel lies in plane with the blade. The panel is covered with packing tape to act as a mold release. I use epoxy, usually pigmented black, and thickened with colloidal silica. The silica seems to lessen wicking of the resin up the grain. Thicken to the consistency of mayonnaise, and apply it around the perimeter so that there is enough to shape smooth to the blade face, and wide enough-maybe 3/8".

    Once the resin is cured, shape smooth. Then refine the the blade shaping. I like to overlay a layer of fiberglass over the whole blade. 2 oz is good for touring paddles, 6 oz for whitewater.
  13. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    This wicking is actually quite desirable. In fact, standard wood/epoxy procedure when using resin mixed with fillers is always to mix the resin and hardener, then lightly pre-coat the wood with this mixture - and then mix the filler into the bowl and do your filling, right on top of the wet epoxy pre-coat. Both the bond and the water seal between your fill and the wood are much better this way. Even on end grain, the distance that resin will penetrate is pretty limited and you're not going to find anything else that will seal the wood or anchor your tip to the wood any better than plain epoxy. The more filler you mix into epoxy resin, the less it will stick to other materials. At some point with heavy fills, it almost becomes more like dough than epoxy. Do yourself a favor and help it get a good grip on the wood with the pre-coat. In some cases, it will even lessen the tendency for the wood to suck resin out of the filler, which can weaken the filler.
  14. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Tip reinforcement

    I was in Maine this past weekend, where my canoes, paddles, etc. dwell, and I took a few pictures of a Grey Owl reinforced paddle tip -- maybe something to try on future paddles.

    It looks like a kerf was cut across the entire paddle end.

    sm tip 5.jpg

    Then a spline was placed (glued?) in the kerf, to act as a tenon, and the plastic tip was cast on the end of the paddle, into the kerf and around the spline/tenon.

    sm tip 1.jpg

    This paddle is now well over 25 years old (varnish has been re-done a couple of times), which speaks well of the method.
  15. Douglas Ingram

    Douglas Ingram Red River Canoe & Paddle

    I should have been more specific. Using silica lessens wicking of the black pigment that I use. If I use milled cotton fiber I get lots of black bleeding into the end grain. If I use silica I don't get the end grain staining.

    On my paddle tips the epoxy is locked in with a fiberglass plate that is used as a cross tip spline.

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