What are the pros/cons of a laminated GP, like a Mitchell?
Versus a solid Western Cedar or similar design… are there benefits to using laminated hardwoods, as opposed to a solid softwood paddle in practical usage?
What are the pros/cons of a laminated GP, like a Mitchell?
Looking at my softwood paddle
The edges need to be very carefully treated. I took mini chunk out of an edge just accidentally whacking it on something.
Softwoods are wonderfully bouyant, perhaps an aid in balance brace and rolling.
Laminated paddles of course can have softwood surrounded by thicker more indestructible hardwood edges.
A laminated paddle can be built with a hollow core, which makes it lighter. That also gives you a greater choice of woods.
I prefer cedar because
a laminated paddle should be varnished to keep the wood dry. I am not sure that oil alone would be a sufficient water-proofing method. I was told that the different types of wood will expand and contract at different rates when exposed to moisture which could warp or break your paddle (also stresses the glue joint because the glue does not expand or contract with the wood). Not that there is anything wrong with a beautiful laminated paddle, but, some people like me, do not like the feel of a varnished paddle because it is more slippery. A laminated paddle can be stronger than a cedar paddle.
A cedar paddle is often lighter than a laminated paddle and the wood is softer so you will inevitably get some dings and gouges in it. Even with the dings and gouges my tung-oiled cedar paddle works fine.
Some people will tell you that you must have a laminated paddle if you want a take-apart GP. I took a chance and made myself a take-apart GP out of western red cedar and it has held up fine so far with many miles of kayaking off the coast of Maine. I do carry a backup non take-apart as a spare, just in case.
Hope this helps.
I’m not so sure. A GP has a narrow
blade, and usually the paddling style does not put great stress on the shaft. I think solid cedar or other softwoods will perform very well under those conditions. One must select the wood blank very carefully to be sure the grain stays in the axis of the paddle and runs properly. That’s nature’s lamination.
For a feathered paddle with a European style blade the situation can be different. The blade, especially, may benefit from being laminated, and a wooden shaft may need to be spliced, so lamination is also beneficial to orient the wood grain properly.
Most wood will warp
Laminating even with the same wood (rip the two x four and flip one side over) allows you to counteract warping to some extent.
Either way is fine but wood choice is most importaint. Laminations can add weight depending on the wood used but may also be stiffer and stronger given the same dimentions. Hollow cores can reduce weight and add buoyancy but at the cost of strength. I don’t like Mitchele laminated paddles since they are too heavy. I think they use spruce or something. The one piece cedar blades are very nice though. It’s all a matter of taste. They will not last forever and when they break you can try something different.
I think you’re right in that a lot
depends on the actual piece of wood. Species, grain runout, ring orientation and proportion of spring wood vs. summer wood all are factors determining overall strength/weight ratio, relative stiffness and tendency to warp. Lamination, including glass wrapping, eliminates or minimizes many of these issues at the expense of weight. Highest-quality lumber has become increasingly rare and expensive when, or if, available. The stuff doesn't grow on trees, apparently.
Thanks. So, are Mitchells heavier?
Thanks for the great info… Much appreciated.
So, are hardwood laminated paddles like Mitchells noticeably heavier than other preferred options (WRC)?
I was under the assumption that using laminated hardwoods allowed for carving a thinner paddle, resulting in less weight. (while maintaining good strength with the laminates and harder woods)
I only have one Mitchell, but they not
only laminate for stronger blades, they often, perhaps almost always, put a glass or carbon face over the laminations. My Mitchell slalom paddle has thin, curved, edge glued laminations, glassed front and back. It is impressively strong and light. I somewhat prefer glass facing rather than carbon, because while it is a bit heavier, glass shows any interior damage. Prettier, too.
I still think that Greenland paddles are perhaps the best example of where one can use a single unlaminated wood blank and end up with a light and sturdy result.
Laminated vs solid
I agree with what was said about Mitchell paddles. Their GP is well made, but it’s quite heavy.
Whether to laminate or not often comes down to the availability of suitable blanks for one-piece paddles. If the selection of wood in your area is lacking, laminating is one way to make do with what’s readily available.
If you can’t find quarter-sawn cedar, you can take a flat-sawn board, rip it down the middle, turn the pieces 90 degrees and laminate them into what is effectively a quarter-sawn blank. You can also add a “spine” down the center to increase the width of the blank or to add an accent.
Laminating thin hardwood edges onto a cedar paddle dramatically increases it’s durability to typical paddling impacts without adding significant weight.
OTOH, carving one-piece paddles is really simple.
I have been using a solid WRC Beale GP exclusively for several years. I recently tried a laminated Mitchell, same length and blade width. I didn’t put them on a scale but they feel about the same weight. FWIW, the Mitchell loom is a bit smaller in diameter and the paddle felt like it flexed noticeably more in the water.
One thing not said is that a one piece GP tends to be more flexible, some (like me) like that in a paddle.
I use a laminated GP and Storm in the
non ice months, and a solid Sitka in the pool and ice months. While the laminated paddles are actually tougher, I think they are too pretty to beat up in the ice. The Sitka is lighter and flexes more. All of the paddles are covered with a 50-50 mix of tung oil and Zar exterior poly varnish which yields a tougher oil appearing finish. If weight is a big issue, you could consider a Superior or Novarca carbon fiber paddle. I sold my Superior CF paddle as I found it too light and the surface finish tended to be noisy with a loose grip. I have been very impressed with Don Beale paddles in both solid and laminate. My laminated paddles were made by Kris Buttermore in Ft. Lauderdale Fl. and I am seriously thinking of asking him to make a couple more for me just in case he decides to stop making them for others. I really like his laminated paddle, and yes it is heavier, just the way I like it. Bill
cedar one-piece GP!
Buying a GP needn’t be like agonizing over the most expensive bent-shaft Euro paddle.
Here’s the thing: if you think about a GP not as a $400 high-tech pinnacle of paddling greatness but as an under-$200 hard-working stick of wood, you can use your paddle(s) hard and afford more than one. Also, you can modify them yourself with a saw, a block plane, and a piece of sandpaper. I have 4 GPs, all one-piece western red cedar and all good sticks: a Beale (my first), a Lumpy (that I was lucky enough to win as a door prize), and 2 that I made myself in classes with Brian Schulz. I use them all, selectively. One of the two I made is not oiled – I just never got to it, and it’s fine without. Another great thing about one-piece GPs is that they’re not slick in your hand. There’s just enough friction so that you have a good grip even with a pretty relaxed hand. (Of course I hate sanding, so maybe that’s why!) I guess I’m saying, don’t stress about the choice; you can get yourself more than one stick – maybe one laminated and one one-piece! It wouldn’t hurt to start with a one-piece and go from there.
G in NC
stress on GP’s
are more likely to come when used in the extended postion (for rolling, sculling, sweeping, bracing etc) than when held at the shoulders for paddling.
True, but if you don’t catch a rock or
log when yanking hard on the paddle, the stress is not going to exceed what can be born by a non-laminated GP from a properly selected wood blank.
Paddles made for whitewater can encounter very strong stress or shock loads, especially when catching unseen rocks. That’s why lamination or synthetics or both become so important.
One of the things I admire so much about GPs is that they can be made from a single wood blank and fulfil their design goals.
Some paddle manufacturers
Use laminates for strength, reduce paddle deformation and reduce waste. Laminating can add a lot of character to a wood paddle. One piece wrc paddles are probably the lightest weight to strength ratio of wood to use for a paddle. Adding a strip of hardwood along the blades edges can add a lot to the durability of a wrc paddle. Use whatever wood you can find and try to keep the weight down. Weight and durability is always a compromise.
Just curious…most people say they can’t possiably use a paddle that excedes 20 something ounces.(they do the math and figure that it causes them to work too much)
I too like a heavier paddle and am curious as to what weight it is that you like. or maybe …at what weight does it feel like it’s a little heavier than you wish it were?
Great question: What’s a good GP weigh?
Is there a weight that’s considered optimal?