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.

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. ;^)