DIY Carbon Fiber /Wood paddle

Winter is approaching and I am looking for shop projects to keep my idle hands busy. I have another seat in the works for my Magic, there is a cherry paddle to be customized, and a number of other projects can be attacked when the fancy strikes.

As I have mentioned before, I have a “project” canoe paddle, a Bending Branches Sun Shadow straigh shaft that I have lightened via judicious blade shaving and shaft contouring to make it lighter and more hydrodynamic. All in all, I am pleased with it and I use it probably 65-75% of the time on flatwater.

I have toyed with the idea of obtaining a Mitchell Surreal, but every time I was ready to buy one I could not find the size I wanted. Over the weekend I got an idea: start with another BB Sun Shadow, shave the blade down to a radical thinness, and pressure mold a sheet of CF to each blade face ala’ Mitchell. My plan is to use several pieces of foam, starting off with a blue foam sleeping pad closest to the laminate, followed by progressively softer open-cell foam and then a plywood backer with sand bags as weight to compress the laminate. Plan would be to laminate one side at a time.

I know that many manufacturers and other builders commonly use 6 0z glass to reinforce their blades, but I believe Mitchell is the only manufacturer using a CF laminate.

Before anyone flames me for this, let it be known that I am an unabashed futzer, unable to leave well enough alone. When I win the Powerball, I will spend 12 hours a day in my custom shop turning out projects like this: Available commercially, but Done by Myself.


Vacuum bag it?

– Last Updated: Oct-19-09 9:56 AM EST –

With all the handwork you propose, why risk flubbing the laminate? With sandbags, you can't be sure of the results without some time/material consuming experimentation.

The whole idea seems like an excercise in frustration to me. I know you love to putter in the shop - so do I - but part of genius is knowing when to stop.

Yeah, I didn’t know that vacuum
bagging had gotten so simple until I was watching guys on the SPEED channel making carbon car parts.

If one considers the cost of a new BB ($100+) and the cost of materials, with the real possibility of failure factored into the equation, the cost of a Surreal (~$200) is not too bad. As I said, I was just thinkin’.

Someone asked CEW if he would continue in the canoe building business if he hit the lottery, and he responded that he would keep building canoes untill ALL the money was gone. I guess I have the same mindset - “Oooooo…I bet I could ___________ for $_____ .” (fill in the blanks).


I would get the Surreal, at least to start. Call Mitchell or email them, they’ll make you whatever you want, even custom sizes, more CF, etc. Then you can see what that is like as a baseline before you decide whether or not you want to spend your time and money doing your own wood/carbon paddle.

You have to take Jim at his word
It’s not about the paddle. Jim loves to futz. I envy the time he is able to put into it. He comes up with some pretty good stuff too.

I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage

– Last Updated: Oct-19-09 1:39 PM EST –

anybody from trying to do something for themselves, and Jim doesn't seem like one likely to be unduly influenced by anything I might have to offer, anyway. In this case, though, unless he's planning a radical design departure, it almost strikes me as reinventing the wheel.

My ex-wife once asked me
(read this quote in a whiny, derisive tone of voice)

“Why do you have to change or modify everything you buy?”

I answered, after some thought, and with a devilish grin, “Because I can!”


Futzers of the World, Unite!

Dyslexic Futzers of the World, Untie!

Thanks Brian.
Of course, the downside to having time to futz is directly related to being divorced with no children. I don’t need a “litchen pass” - but the dishes don’t get done unless I do them. And “Honey-Do” lists are a thing of the past!


Your Plan
sounds workable. I did a carbon faced paddle, now owned by turtle who posts here occasionally. On his paddle, I applied the CF in the conventional manner, simply by saturating the CF with resin, squeegeeing and applying additional coats until the weave was filled. I’ve since switched to vacuum bagging. The problem with vacuum bagging is the investment in equipment and setup to do only one paddle.

You may want to consider using 4 or 6 oz FG instead of CF. Most of my paddles are FG sheathed and are quite stiff. I typically use 4oz of FreeStyle Blades and 6 oz for Touring blades.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes

pressure bag it
Instead of using sand bags to pressurize the cloth, why not put the paddle in a water tight bagwhich has been treated with silacone then put it in the bath tub or(toilet tank)the weight of the water would be pretty evenly distributed. Some of the wine bags would be pretty tough. I will try to take an empty on e to work and see if I can modifiy it with our shrink wrap L sealer.


Marc & Charlie -
Marc, I appreciate your confidence in my (limited) ability to laminate CF. Please note that I am fascinated with the look of CF (gotta match my BG Magic!).

Charlie, that is an interesting idea. I may have to look into that. A trash compactor bag is stiff and strong, and might do the job.


Okay, Jim, I’ve come around. I think
you should go for it. I’ve used cotton duck sand bags as weights for clamping and supporting difficult shapes at work a few times, but never for veneering. I’ve also never used CF fabrics, so I’m not sure if they behave similarly to glass.

That aside, I think if you plan to use layers of differing densities of foam to help evenly distribute pressure, you should work from softest next to the work to densest away and make them thin. I’d also dispense with the caul, as the sand bags should be floppy enough to conform somewhat to the contour. Otherwise, you might as well use bricks. Don’t use bags that are packed hard! There is a happy medium between too saggy and too stiff. The bags I have at work are proportioned like baseball bases - basically square and kind of flat - in different sizes from about 20" down to about 6". Make your bags at least 6" wider on all sides than your proposed clamping area.

There is also the matter of supporting the blade from below while applying pressure from above. A properly filled sand bag can work here, as well, if it is of similar size and weight to the one on top. You could also make a plaster bed to prevent deflection under pressure, like you’d do for vacuum bagging.

I took a wine bag and used the heat wire from a shrink wrap L sealer to "weld an edge. I imagine an iron would do the same, if you want to customize your pressure bage.

Try Peel Ply first …
Simple to process, leaves a smooth surface ready for finishing + will do all the contours.