oak paddle

i just bought two 60" pieces of red oak to make two paddles, am i going to hate myself for this from a weight perspective? i’ve never done this before so some quick questions… do i need to get plans to trace or can i just start with basic dimensions for blade and shaft and draw something symetrical from there that looks like a canoe paddle? trying to figure out how much science there is to this

While not a common choice, there’s no

– Last Updated: May-14-10 5:06 PM EST –

reason why red oak wouldn't make a serviceable, if heavy, paddle.

The only book I know of that addresses the subject: http://www.amazon.com/Canoe-Paddles-Complete-Guide-Making/dp/1552095258/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273869944&sr=8-1

A nice little article on how Alexandra Conover makes her guide paddles from the WCHA site: http://www.wcha.org/paddles/northwoods/index.html

Go for it and let us know how it turns out.

paddle making
Just finished the first coat of varnish on my first (well second, the first ended up being an experimental piece of junk)paddle. The key to making it symetrical is making your pattern of only one side of the paddle. Mark the center line on the pattern and your blank, draw the outline of the right side of the paddle, and then flip the pattern over lining your center lines up and draw the left side. Also draw a center line on the edge of the paddle and draw parrallel lines to the center line marking the thickness of your blade. I am by no means an expert but these things helped me.

Red Oak has…
very open pores. You can actually blow air through a piece of it. Because of this property it can act like a sponge and draw moisture. Never been a good choice for outdoor use. That said, a paddle is only in the water when in use and if it is sealed, especially the end grain I can’t see where it’s wicking properties would be that much of an issue. It will be heavy though.

The Warren & Gidmark book
should be a required reference IMO. Many tricks are to be learned from it.

Conk, would sealing the wood initially with thinned boiled linseed oil before varnishing slow the absorption of water?


Sealing Red Oak
My choice for sealing any wood paddle would be epoxy resin followed with a few coats of varnish. The area of a Red Oak stick that I would be concerned about would be the end grain or the tip of the blade, an area that one might want to butter up with a protective finish anyway.

I don’t want to dissuade anyone from using Red oak for a paddle. It might make a wonderful stick. I have no experience here. I do know I have never seen a Red Oak paddle and a farmer once told me, “Never use Red Oak to build a trough for sloping the pigs, it won’t last.” I had the sense that he did have experience.

I concur with the Warren and Gidmark recommendations.

Red oak
Red oak is very heavy,and not as easy to work with as somthing softer. As previos posters have said. It is not a good wood for anything outside. Even though you will be covering it with varnish it will get wet through scraches and normal ware. Try using Cedar,Basswood,Ash,Mahogany. Look at what the major manufactors make there paddles from. I hope this helps.

Red Oak
I’ve used red oak for furniture and it is a beautiful wood, mainly because of it’s reddish color and the grain looks likw stitching done by hand. It is not a durable outside wood though. It will warp and splits very easily.

As I mentioned in the other thread…
…oak has large pores that, if not filled, will be very difficult to give a smooth finish. Even if you seal it with epoxy, it may take forever and a day to get those pores smoothed out to where they won’t collect dirt.

I’ve had good results filling the pores in red oak with a water-based wood-filling paste (don’t remember the brand), smearing it in with a putty knife to get it as deep as possible. Two or three applications with sanding and blowing off the dust in between when dry. Then after plenty of drying time, several coats of finish - and you get a smooth, slick surface.

Just don’t gouge it on a rock…

I’m looking at an oak paddle grip
I carved quite a few years ago. I must have put several coats of varnish on it. Except where the varnish has been scraped through, the wood looks great and there is no evidence of water soaking into the pores. Where the varnish is damaged, the wood has darkened and has taken a grey cast. I don’t know if it is red oak, but I’m not sure that matters for the present discussion. The pattern of radial rays is very beautiful.

My other custom paddle grips have been made from slippery elm, walnut, cherry and alder. Probably all are more water resistant than red oak.

As for using red oak for an entire paddle, one would like to get oak that happens to be lighter than average.* The plan for the blade and the shaft should take into account that oak can’t take bending and strain as well as white ash or even cherry. Probably the overall paddle will need to be relatively stiff, with care to see that no part of the blade or shaft bends more than the rest when in use. To reduce the risk of splitting, I would glass at least a couple of inches of the blade.

*I dried and milled cherry from a tree I had to cut down in my yard, and found that the cherry wood was much harder and heavier than cherry I have bought for furniture. There can be quite a bit of variation in wood of the same species.

red oak pore filling …

– Last Updated: May-16-10 11:16 PM EST –

...... you can smooth to hand smoothness with paper stepping down to 320 , tack off with mineral spirits , give a coat of Shellac ... then when Shellac is cured use a filler product and apply with credit card , etc. .

You will notice when sanding after the pore fill has been applied , that you will be hitting the Shellac on the flats , but only the filler on the pores ... don't sand through the Shellac or too deep into the filled pores . The Shellac will keep the filler from getting onto/into anything except the pores .

We're not talking glass smooth here (that's a whole different thing with Red Oak , because those dark lines you see running all through the grain (which give the Red oak it's famous beauty) ... are much harder than the lighter grain with pores , so the ligther (softer) grain will tend to sand away faster than the harder dark lines giving a slightly not perfectly glass flat surface ... that's Red Oak and part of it's beauty .

Sand out with 320 after you've filled the pores over the Shellac ... then use a Sand and Seal product , and when cured sand again . Apply the Sand and Seal and sand over again as many times as you wish .

Then move on to your spar varnishes or spar polys .

Shellacs are different than varnishes . Shellacs cure quicker , fill better . Shellacs are made from disolved flakes .

Sand and Seals cure quicker and sand better because they are designed to sand easy and dust off well (sterates or whatever they are called are added to the Sand and Seals just for the purpose of making them ideal for sanding and smoothing) .

Varmish takes quite a long time to cure out , even though it feels dry it won't be cured for a week to a month ... not a good thing for sanding .

My recommendation is to use all solvent based products and no water base ones (that is unless you want to stain first before doing any other layer finishes , in that case I like water based Aniline dye powders mixed for staining first (always use distilled water) , but you'll need to damp out the wood with distilled water a few days in row to raise the grain , sanding in between damping sessions lightly ... before finally applying the mixed water based Aniline dye stain) .