Ray Kettelwell "Quill" paddle

My wife is bugging me about birthday gift ideas (for me), so I thought a good paddle might fit the bill. Does anyone have any thoughts on the subject paddle? I already own a Kettlewell ottertail paddle and am quite happy with it. I thought the Quill might complement it: The Ottertail for going places and the Quill for playing around on flatwater. I like to use the Canadienne stoke (slicing the paddle through the water on recovery). When doing this with the Ottertail I notice that I get quite a bit of drag due to the fact that part of the round shaft is being pushed through the water on recovery. I’m thinking the longer thin blade of the Quill will not do this. Your thoughts would be appreciated.


– Last Updated: Jan-19-06 2:05 PM EST –

Wha Ho, Pilgrim;

The Quill is made for the "Canadian Style". I use mine for "messing around" in my Prospector. I find it good for the underwater recovery along with my good ol' Nashwaak Cruiser. I mostly use the Indian Stroke myself in cruising.
Due to the Quill's design you can easily reach under the hull with it - great for doing Gimbles. With your Ottertail, just raise the paddle out of water to bring the throat of the paddle above the surface on your recovery stroke. Maybe your paddle shaft is a little too long. On the Canadian you want a little "whosh" when you bring the paddle out of the water. With the Indian you never bring the blade out of the water, you just completely rotate the paddle forming a circle. A good instructional video on these strokes are Bill Mason's Path Of The Paddle and Becky Mason's Classic Solo Canoeing.

Fat Elmo

By your description of dragging the shaft through the water during underwater recoveries I agree with Elmo, it sounds like your ottertail shaft is too short for you. I don’t think the longer blade of the Quill will solve that particular problem as easy as having an ottertail with a shaft length that fits you.

I use my Quill just for occasional messin’ around. With it’s nice long reach it makes a great flatwater play paddle. It’s well worth having. With its long blade length it’s not a stick I use for cruising, it would just beat me up too much. That’s a lot of blade to deal with for cruising… but to compliment your ottertail? Sounds darn good to me.

Ray Kettlewell’s paddles are very nicely carved. His beautiful one-piece cherry paddles beat many mass produced “fruit striped” laminated paddles for appearance and overall quality hands down - and at very competitive prices. I particularly like his grips, they fit my hand well. My one reservation about Ray’s paddles are the round shafts - as a general rule I prefer oval shafts.

Turtle Brand makes a similar ottertail to Kettewell’s. It has similar blade and grip shapes, but has an oval shaft instead of round. Turtle is another relatively small paddle carver worth supporting IMHO.

A side note: Like Elmo I also have a Nashwaak Cruiser. Mine makes a rather loud sound when exiting the water during the recovery phase of a Canadian stroke - as opposed to a pleasant low pitched whosh… Some who’ve heard it agree the word “Zzzzwoinck!” best describes it. ;^) The unusual slightly spooned lower face of the Nashwaak blade seems to add power to the stroke, but aerates the water, adds flutter during underwater recoveries & seems to cause that odd sound. Personally I prefer a more traditionally cambered blade ottertail for cruising.


It might be hard to find where you live, but in MB I know of at least two “Master Craftsmen” who will make a paddle to your exact specifications.

I had a really interesting custom solo paddle made, and am looking forward to putting it to water.

I think the key is to find someone who is both a great woodworker and an dedicated canoeist (because I have seen some very pretty paddles that balance like baseball bats and have no life in them at all).

(if you e-mail me, I can give you a couple of names)

Quill vs Ray Special, and Turtles too…
the quill is like it’s namesake and well described by the gents above. it is so long however (i think the ratio is 30/70 shaft/blade) that it is suitable only for Cdn freestyle or what we Canucklheads sometimes call ‘ballet’, basically what you have to do for ‘lakewater’ status in our training scheme. the blade never leaves the water with this paddle.

Ray’s self professed favourite is his paddle, the Ray Special. it is 50/50 shaft to blade and is great for style paddling but also great for deep water tripping. i have a 66" which is an amazing paddle and an incredible peice of cherry wood. you would find more utility in that model, but hey, it’s your birthday, maybe you should get the pure style paddle?! i like mine so much (even though i have 6 canoe paddles) that i keep it in my living room as decoration.

i was surprised to see that Ray is still around making paddles. he was looking to sell about 10 years ago if memory serves.

Turtle make nice paddles but they don’t have the symmetry or fine-ness of Rays. it’s also kinda cheap that he ripped off Ray’s designs in almost every way. same blade design, same grips.

if you call Ray, ask him about Turtle paddles- then prepare for the fireworks…

let us know what you go for.

Indian Stroke with Quill
Actually, it is the Indian Stroke that I predominately use when cruising. Given this and taking into consideration the comments on Ray’s “Special” does the Quill still sound like a good choice? By the way, I have a nice light bent shaft that I use when I just want to cover a lot of water fast. Elmo, you state that the drag problem when I do the Canadienne using my Ottertail is that the shaft is too long. Randall says the shaft might be too short. I’m quessing Randall made a typo, as I can only understand the logic of it being too long if it is dragging in the water. Am I missing something? Also should the overall length of the Quill be the same as my Ottertail (if the Ottertail is properly sized)?


As a canoeist I enjoy few things more than a fine traditional single blade solid wood paddle. Enjoying and appreciating them as I do I have purchased many paddles over the years, I’ll admit to being fairly compulsive about it actually. I also enjoy carving my own paddles for my own use and occasionally as a gift for a close friend (never for sale). Though I make my own these days I continue to purchase paddles made by others. I take pleasure in buying from small shops – it helps to keep their shop doors open. I seldom buy from large paddle manufacturers these days and I have no more interest in garish “fruit stripe” laminated paddles made of several types of wood than I do in paddles made of synthetic materials. With my interest in traditional paddles I’ve done quite a bit of research on the subject of paddle making and paddle design. I have copies of most of the books that I’m aware of that describe paddle making and the history/development of North American canoes. I would not call myself an expert, but I consider myself fairly well versed in the tradition of single blade wood paddles, especially paddles from the Northeastern US and Eastern Canada. Anyway…. That’s where I’m coming from.

I had noted similarities between the Kettlewell and Turtle paddles. In my opinion it seems that the work of one generation strongly influenced the work of the next generation – as it should be. If you’re going to be influenced by a paddlemaker might as well go with one of the best: Kettlewell. Such influences are just part of the tradition, there is a very long and rich history of paddle development that is based on one person’s paddles influencing another’s. This has happened since the first guy carved a paddle with bone and stone tools and continues to this day. Ray Kettlewell was influenced by the paddles of previous generations and interpreted what he saw his way. He took lessons from the past, interpreted them his way and improved them as he saw fit. As I hold one of each of the Kettlewell and Turtle paddles in my hands I can plainly see the Kettlewell influence on the Turtle paddle – no doubt about it. I also see many design differences where fresh interpretations were made. Turtle paddles are not mere copies as has been suggested. I have respect for each of these paddlemakers as craftsmen and as “interpreters” of traditional paddles. I do not see anything underhanded about this.

That’s my opinion. Randall

It’s a Quill!
Thank you all for your comments. I called Ray Kettlewell today and talked paddles. He’ll be makin’ me a Quill with a 30" shaft and 33" blade.


Wha Ho, Pilgrim wit a Quill;

Coongrituaschoons wit yer upcomin’ Quill. Let us know how ye like it!

Fat Elmo

a fun and totally unique paddle
keep it in the water almost the entire time and work it. takes some getting used to but it is pretty much a play only paddle.

when not in use, lean it against the wall in the living room as decoration and a conversation peice. the wood itself will probably be a thing to marvel at, and it makes a good air guitar as well…