Most "sliceable" canoe blade shape?

This is really a niche question, but perhaps some here have experience or opinions.

I want to focus solely on the ability of a SYMMETRICAL STRAIGHT SHAFT paddle to slice cleanly and without shimmy or flutter – as that ability may relate to paddle moves such as palm rolling a buried blade, in-water returns, the Indian stroke, the Canadian stroke, the Northwoods stroke, sideslipping draws, sideslipping pries, sculls and inverse sculls.

The two sub-questions are how (i) blade face shape and (ii) blade profile camber (dihedral) shape affect these abilities.

For a more targeted discussion, I want to assume all blades are of equal thickness, except as to camber. I also want to exclude all narrow blades such as beavertails, ottertails and quills, and only focus on the following three “modern” touring blade shapes in the 8”-9” maximum width range. I also want to exclude all hard-square-cornered modern blades such as whitewater blades.

The three face shapes are:

  1. “Rectangular” blades. These have flattish bottoms and parallel sides, which at some point and angle begin a slope up to the throat. These blades can vary in length from 19 to 24 inches. The longer ones sometimes have names like Honey Island or Sugar Island. The shape is sort of a triangle on top of a rectangle. Most touring blades are this shape as are some so-called freestyle blades.

  2. “Tulip” blades. These have flattish bottoms, which then transition almost immediately into non-parallel sides that begin a long slope (more or less arced) up to the throat. The shape is sort of one big, curvy triangle. There are touring, freestyle and high-end custom paddles that have this shape.

  3. “Teardrop” blades. These are like tulip blades except the bottom is completely rounded or elliptical. The shape is sort of a curvy triangle on top of a partial ellipse. There are teardrop touring and freestyle blades, though this is perhaps the least available shape of the three.

    The two types of camber (dihedral) on which I want to focus are:

    a. No camber. Some paddle makers try to shave off as much wood as possible below the throat in order to get the thinnest and lightest weight blades possible. The power and eddy faces of the blade end up being essentially parallel. Some argue this is best for sliceability.

    b. Camber. The camber begins as thickness at the throat and continues as a shallow ridge part way or even all the way down the center of the blade face. I have heard arguments that camber improves sliceability, hurts sliceability, or doesn’t affect sliceability.

    Hence, there are six blade shapes under discussion: rectangular, tulip and teardrop, each of which can be cambered or uncambered.

    Which of these six blade shapes is the best for:

    • Turning or palm rolling into and out of slice position? Perhaps the tulip or teardrop shapes provide less turning resistance than the rectangular. Perhaps the elliptical bottom provides less turning resistance than the flattish bottom. Seems unlikely to me that camber would affect turnability.

    • Executing a flutterless slice? There are three blade shape factors that could affect the slice itself. The presence, absence or shape of the camber seems to be the most likely candidate to affect the smoothness and predictability of the slice. Also, the greater, lesser or changing slopes on the leading edge of the rectangular, tulip and teardrop blades could affect slice resistance and flutter. So could the elliptical vs. the flattish bottom.

    None of this may matter to most canoeists and may not matter to me. I’m basically wondering about claims made by different paddle makers and sellers to whom I’ve been talking recently about blade design.

My guess is
having a very symmetrical dihedral on the two blade faces affects the ability to slice the blade without flutter more than the blade shape.

Hopefully, Marc Ornstein will come by and answer your question.

another issue…
you might be concerned about (or not) is what is known as “piffle” which is different than blade flutter, where the wake or water trail during an inwater recovery is apparent. and can be attributed to many of the criteria you mention in addition to shaft length, recovery speed, and recovery style ( vertical vs dragged). Flutter I have not found consistantly from one shape or camber style to another. I do find a tendancy with larger and longer surface area blades that are not cambered to be more prone to flutter. I tend to prefer the longer rectangular shapes (modified honey island), such as Moore and Quimby; both have the dihedral. I do get some flutter with one of my Grey Owl FS paddles, but not the other one.

Marc Ornstein is willing to produce custom blade shapes; however I need to come up with a few more pennies first before he can do a new one for me.

I would suggest that you attend one of the FS events where you can try every blade shape you mentioned and get others feedback. Next weekend is the start of AFS in Star Lake NY. Great opportunity.

Dunno but
the Zaveral whitewater that I have, a slightly heavier version of their standard racing paddle, slices better than anything else I’ve ever tried.

Too bad it’s bent!


All of my slalom paddles slice without
flutter, and they do not have a bothersome difference between power face and back face behavior. However, I’m sure a serious freestyler would not care for them.

agree w/canoeist11
In my experience the Moore Cue and Quimby paddles slice the best…Cue best of all.

I’m also perfectly satisfied with the way my Black Bart Troublemaker teardrop blades slice although they are not quite as effortless as the knife-edge on a Moore Cue.

Many other paddles seem to slice just fine…my experience is that paddle to paddle varition can be a big factor in whether one flutters…I also have several Grey Owl freestyles that slice cleanly and many other blade shapes as well.

Thanks. Other issues.
Appreciate the comments so far.

What I’m looking for is a quality symmetrical straight shaft to use for touring and occasional easy WW. But I don’t want to ask such a broad and unfocused question.

In that context, I have heard various claims about the three blade shapes and the camber/no camber issue as to overall pulling power, forward stroke smoothness and flutter, as well as sliceability. The claims are inconsistent. I thought I’d focus on sliceability.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but Pat Moore Cue’s are no longer available (nor would I pay the price), Quimby’s are only sporadically available (nor would I pay the price), the Grey Owl wood Freestyle is no longer available, all Zav’s are asymmetrical in some respect, and wood whitewater paddles are all too heavy for what I want.

The slice question is more focused and is technically interesting to me – even though it may be of piffling and minor importance in an overall practical sense.

I can see an argument that camber could be helpful on a scull. I can also see an argument that camber, especially of the sharp-ridged kind, could cause more friction resistance and turbulence resistance during a slice than an uncambered blade.

I think it has been somewhat established by testing that cambered blade faces offer less forward stroke pulling power than flat faces, which in turn offer less power than a curved face. A recent development seems to be a power face having thin-ridged camber with cupped concavities on both sides of the ridge – such as the Zav Power Surge, the Zav Power Curve and the Sawyer Stingray (the latter two being Harold Deal designs). However, they are all asymmetrical paddles as between the power and eddy faces.

Which brings me back to symmetrical straights.

And now the burning issue is why the quote marks, apostrophes and n-dashes in my OP transformed overnight into question marks inside diamonds. Odd.

I am lucky
enough to own some Quimby paddles and there is nothing I have tried in 30 years that slices as nicely. You may not want to pay the price, but you may not get anything that works quite as well. Not saying it’s not out there, but I haven’t seen it. It always amazes me that people will spend huge bucks on a carbon/kev hull but balk at the price of a custom paddle. Give me a less expensive, or even less efficient hull but a great paddle any day instead of the other way around.

a few you might wish to check out …
Marc Ornstein makes a sweet blade…a little more durable than his more delicate FS blades. Grey Owl produces a Carbon FS/ touring blade. Cricket produces a variety of touring paddles and also a wood whitewater blade; nice quality but certainly subject to personal preference. You should also check out Mitchell. Also, I recently tried a Bending Branches Sunburst and was quite pleasantly surprised with the performance. In my particular situation, though, if I had to live with one paddle for everything, it would be my Black Bart Troublemaker. I do a fair amount of river paddling and is durable; unfortunately no longer available. It does slice real nice!

For those who like the Quimby slice, could you describe the blade shape and the type of camber, if any?

I’m trying to isolate the paddle design elements that may contribute to sliceability, rather than just identifying paddles. In this way, I may be able to spec the shape and camber to a custom paddle maker.

I’ve seen two Quimby’s in person … it’s been a while … and I think they were two slightly different shapes. One was closer to my rectangular definition while the other was closer to tulip. I didn’t think to examine whether camber was present and, if so, its length, width and height.

Does Quimby have a big honker grip or one called a “tomahawk grip”?

Quimby paddles are entirely custom
When I ordered mine ten years ago there were six or seven sizes. You had to send in hand measurements.

Quimbys shape is similar to Grey Owl FreeStyle and there are several blade widths and lengths.

They are a double dihedral shape. They slice superbly.