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Edge protection for wood paddles

Wood paddles get dinged no matter how careful you are and soft woods like pine and WRC are really bad for getting beat up.
A friend asked me about some clear tape made for protecting the edges of helicopter blades; I have never heard of it.
I typically use epoxy.
Any other suggestions?


  • I use epoxy glue
    with WRC paddles I use epoxy glue (microfibre/epoxy mix tinted to match wood color).
    The "helicopter tape" is generally a clear tough tape that has some stretch in it and adheres quite well to smooth surfaces but I don't know if it will stick to wood, especially if oiled.
    3M (and others) make the tape; often used in the automotive industry as protectant against paint chipping from stones
  • What's Rockgard?
    -- Last Updated: Oct-30-12 10:22 PM EST --

    I had a Bending Branches Expedition Plus paddle. It has a black strip around the edges. BB calls it Rockguard, but I don't know what it is. I believe (memory fades) I met a paddler who had put a thin strip of graphite around the edge of his paddles. I'm wondering if that is what BB uses on their paddles. Sorry, not very useful--just scratching my head for ideas.

    I have a spruce paddle on which I tried to emulate the Rockguard edge, even though I don't know what Rockguard is. I fiberglassed the blade. rather than fold the edges over, I let it over run the edge of the blade. When the epoxy dried, I cut off the excess, leaving about .25" of excess material. Then I built up epoxy on/around the extended edge until I had a solid epoxy edge about .25" thick. The edges on that paddle have held up very well. The paddle gained a lot of weight, but was feather light to start with, and is still a nice light paddle.

    Another idea that occurs is the Keeleazy strips kayakers use on their boat bottoms. You would probably have to varnish or epoxy the area where you wanted to stick the keeleazy, and maybe use heat on it to get it to fold over the paddle edge. Just an idea.

    Hope this helps.


  • Helicopter tape is useless
    It's rather soft and it shreds on rocks, barnacles and such. Don't waste your money.
  • Related info
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 10:36 AM EST --

    Most of the modern wooden canoe paddles I've seen have a "rock guard" of some kind, and all of mine do. I have the Bending Branches Expedition Plus too, and its rock guard is very tough. My Sawyer paddles have a rock guard that seems to have a fibrous internal structure which is much different than the "hard plastic" appearance of the Bending Branches rock guard, but both materials seem to be indestructible (the paddle will break before you do anything more than put a nick in that edge material). My first bit of advice to anyone wanting edge protection for wood paddles would be to consider this problem ahead of time and buy paddles that already have it.

    Graphite is soft, and I doubt if it's used in rock-guard edges. However, it IS used (mixed with epoxy) as a slippery hull protection surface.

    Before DuluthMoose left us, he had posted some detailed advice here (with links to photos) about how to make your own rock-guard edges on wooden paddles. That man made some of the finest wooden canoe paddles I've ever seen in my life, and the ONLY home-built paddles I've ever seen having rock-guard edges that looked as good as what the commercial builders do. So, making professional edge protection CAN be a do-it-yourself job. I bet Darryl's paddle-making photos are still posted somewhere, and I may look for them later, but if anyone already knows how to find them, now's the time to chime in.

  • Similar to epoxy
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 11:07 AM EST --

    I have coated the tips of my guide-boat oars with marine-grade J-B Weld. I had no concern about "matching the color", but I did give the job a somewhat-neat appearance by masking the edges with tape before applying the coating. These oar blades have much tougher edges than most paddles and are not prone to chipping or denting, but abrasion from sand or gravel in shallow water can be a problem (I don't want the wood to soak up water every time the varnish starts wearing off). The J-B Weld is holding up pretty well, and it should be easy to fix any locations that wear though.

  • The best edge protection I've had is ash
    glued to the edges of my Mitchell slalom paddle. The paddle is now roughly 16 years old. The ash is hard, and tough, and best of all, easily repaired with small amounts of epoxy. (G-flex would be the preferred kind today.) I haven't had to do any repairs.

    Ash edging is special order, but it is lighter than Mitchell's glass rope edging, and less likely to crack.

    Some use slippery Dynel edging, but the problem for paddle edges isn't frictional wear, it's compression blows, and Dynel really doesn't excel at that.

    I've tipped home-made paddles with mixed strands of Kevlar and glass, and epoxy resin. Usually I bring this edging up the paddle sides a few inches. As edging, it's OK, but not as good as ash.

    Mahogany marine plywood, used as a paddle blade, absorbs a lot of West epoxy and becomes quite tough. But plywood is not a good material for ww paddles.

    Ash. Think about it.
  • Oak works, too
    I put oak edges on a paddle that I had trashed while paddling in sea ice. The oak edging took a beating for several years but showed virtually no wear.
  • Ash n Oak ... What was the finish
    you used ? ... Were they glassed over, did glass wrap edges ? Or simple brushed, sprayed on finish over the wood ? If it got dinged, did finish stay on ? How thick was it ... Thick = blade width addition.

    Just wondering and thank you.
  • The ash edging was not glassed, but
    probably Mitchell ran the epoxy over the edges before varnishing.

    Check this out if you hadn't heard. Backlund apparently used hickory for edging.


    I have an old 206 cm 90 degree wood, glass faced, metal tip wrapped New World that I treasure. I should have had Keith reduce the 90 degree and shorten it a bit, before he had a stroke and backed off on work.
  • Eric
    Here is a link to Darryl's webshots album on paddle making. Does this help?

  • automotive door guard
    -- Last Updated: Nov-01-12 5:16 PM EST --

    I asked a similar question earlier this year and someone had a good suggestion... Use clear door protector edging available at any auto parts store (napa, checkers, pep boys ect.) The stuff is usually put on the vertical edge of your door for a bumper/ding preventer.

    I used this this summer for a while and it works great and takes a beating. Its about a dollar a foot and it worked for a month or so. It wanted to pull away at the edges where the paddle bent but I just put a couple rubber bands around the edge it and let it sit for a week and it held its shape fine after that.

    It would get hooked on weeds so I took it off for deep lake paddling but would put another strip on when I knew I was going to a shallow rocky river for the weekend (like the St croix around here). Not a permanent solution but if you don't want to work with epoxy/glass or only occasionally paddle in shallow/rocky areas its a cheap and easy fix.

    It cost me $6 for the summer and my paddle tip is still mint.

  • fiberglass and epoxy?
    that's what I used not knowing any better after the bare wood started showing up just above where the Rockguard ends on my BB Espresso Plus, then varnish. Maybe the glass doesn't add anything above just epoxy alone?

  • Glass fibers will add "something".
    And mixing in some Kevlar strands will reduce the chance of chipping pieces out of your edging.

    Epoxy is a wonderful binder, but by itself, it is actually less sturdy than a lot of plastics, such as Nylon, Lexan.

    But epoxy binds strongly to fibers, fillers, and surfaces of other materials. That's something other plastics often don't do. It is the combination of epoxy with suitable reinforcing fibers that can make a paddle edge strong.
  • Ash makes a lot of sense.
    My ash canoe pole gets scraped and bashed on rocks a lot, and doesn't show much wear for it. Working with ash (such as rounding stock for a pole) dulls your tools faster than a lot of woods. There's a hint.
  • I used an oil-varnish blend
    It's the same 50:50 blend of tung oil and varnish that I use on all of my paddles. The finish does wear off, but it's quick and easy to renew. The underlying oak is hard enough that it never wore appreciably.
  • That's the one
    Taking a quick look at it, I don't see an explanation of what the resin is, but perhaps someone here knows.
  • Ash shines for steam-bending.
    It shouldn't dull your tools though. I've never noticed a difference anyway.

    I think Gillespie and Mornstein both edge-band their paddles with ash.
  • All wood dulls tool steel.
    Some slower than others. Some steels dull slower than others. But process enough wood and you will notice it. I'm pretty finicky about sharp tools. That's not any reason to avoid hardwoods where they are appropriate though.
  • You know what I meant.
    And nobody's more anal about sharp tools than I am.

    Well, except for maybe Nystrom and Wilson. ;^)
  • Well, okay..
    ...so long as you know what *I* meant. ;-)
  • Try teak in comparison.
    That stuff is as bad for edge tools as it is for your wallet.
  • Door guard advantage - cushionining
    Epoxy-finsihed edges will crack and chip with hard blows on rocks, even if there is a hard wood, Dynel, or other sort of reinforcement. They will also simply wear off over time. The door edge provides a bit of cushioning to minimize and eliminate chips. It can be easily replaced preiorically.

    Thanks for the tip about the rubber band to make it conform to the paddle shape. A bit of heat gun application might also work.

    This type of door edge protector might not work well on very thick edged blades, but is perfect for thin-edged blades.
  • Harder to steam bend and glue, too, no?
  • Or ironwood!
    I will probably be using some teak soon for a little work on the sailboat. Thanks for the heads-up.
  • I think you're right.
    I used it to replank the sole of our Ensign. I used a block plane to relieve the edges with a slight chamfer and to clean up the long curves on the outboard planks. Teak is not especially hard-working, but I was surprised at how quickly it dulled my plane iron.

    They recommend wiping surfaces with acetone just before gluing. The only glue I used was straight West 105/205 to glue the screw-hole plugs, so I didn't bother. I think we've only lost one out of about a hundred over a few seasons now.

    I've never heard of anyone trying to steam-bend teak.
  • I rarely use ash for edging
    Ash is tough and steam bends well however hickory and white oak are tougher yet. They are my preferred woods for edging.

    I also use a variety of synthetic/composite edgings, especially for paddles that may get especially harsh usage. Those edgings are either blends of epoxy and various strengthening fillers or one of several synthetic yarns, saturated with epoxy.
  • The reason teak is tough on tools...
    ...is that it contains a silica, which is essentially sand. Given that, it's no wonder.
  • I won't buy tropicals unless necessary.
    -- Last Updated: Nov-04-12 10:07 AM EST --

    Last year I made some sailboat trim for my BIL from Honduras mahogany. That stuff is a dream to work.

    I do collect pieces of exotics when I can get them for free, though. By far the toughest I've gotten was a 4" x 8" x 6' chunk of "Bongossi" that friends were using to build a seawall for a historic property in "The Point" section of Newport, RI. I'd never even seen anything quite like it before. Six passes did in a brand-new Forrest ripping blade.

  • Insist on Dynel Edges
    I have many wooden canoe paddles, but most are not protective around the side edges. The bottom edges are usually protected, but the sides get chewed up when paddling outrigger, which means hours of sanding and varnishing. The wooden canoe paddles that have their entire edge covered by Dynel cloth rarely get damaged, especially when used by kids.
  • My mistake.
    Thanks for the clarification.
  • I used Ipe on the last one ........
    -- Last Updated: Nov-06-12 7:06 PM EST --

    ...... it's really hard , moving into the realm of Ebony but not quite .

    Bought a plank to cut up for restoration of an old cast iron bench bought from the flea market and had a little bit left over .

    One of the hardwood specialty places (Exotic Lumber) around here sells Ipe in 1-1/16" x 5-1/2" x 16' for deck planking . The stuff can be left outside unfinished for 100 years and not rot (just turns grey) .

  • Those of us who have worked with
    different boat cloths are not uniformly convinced. Dynel is great when frictional wear is the problem (though is absorbs a lot of resin and is not that strong), but damage to paddle edges caused by *adults* involves not friction, but sharp, very localized compression force.

    Carbon is great for compression force, but does not withstand frictional wear very well. Kevlar isn't very good with compression. The best available solution, on paper, is S-glass. Tougher than ordinary FG, very good in compression, very hard and so resists frictional wear well. Except that Dynel is "slippery", I don't know any way it is as good as S-glass.

    Mitchell, one of the most experienced makers of advanced paddles, has settled on glass "rope" for paddle edging. They could have used Dynel.....

    My Mitchell paddle has ash edging, and over 15+ years it has stood up quite well to local compression blows and to frictional wear. Lighter than glass or Dynel, and easily repaired.

    I think Dynel paddle edging has gotten to be like Kevlar felt skid plates. Not used because it is best, but because it is kind of easy and has a good (undeserved) reputation for marketing.
  • So Far So Good
    On a kid's Kialoa outrigger canoe paddle, the Dynell edging is working out better than expected, and saving me a lot of time and work repairing edges. Of course, as technique improves, there's less damage.
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