Various commercial wood canoe paddle makers put synthetic edges on their paddles to give them protection against rocks, etc. I assume different makers use different resins… Does anybody know specifically what these edges are made of? What could a DIY paddle maker use to fashion a durable thin edge? A friend of mine suggested wood dust and epoxy. Anybody have experience with this - or ideas to throw out?
I have used bundles of glass, Kevlar
laid into a groove in the edge and wet with epoxy. Works pretty well, but I’m not sure it is worth it. I ordered my Mitchell slalom C-1 paddle with wood edging, rather than their epoxy/rope edging, and the wood is both lighter and easy to fix. Ash is often used for edging, and works quite well.
I saw a DIY paddle with cord (1/8"rope) saturated and bonded to the edge with resin. Very tough.
I wonder if you make the edge out of wood flour and epoxy alone it may be brittle, but maybe if you were to glass the blade over the epoxy edge it might be better.
I have found that hardwood edges hold up very well with minimal care if you use some care while paddling. My last few paddles I have glassed the blades and not used any hardwoods, makes for lighter paddles. I have noticed that the hardwood edges do hold up better than the softwood paddle with glass. But I prefer the weight of the softwood paddles and the performance gains of a glassed blade.
Since I always have a spare paddle along, I use my good wood paddles for deep water and a plastic paddle for destroying on rocks and such. This method seems to keep maintanance on my wood paddles to a minimum.
I talked to the folks at Superior and the person I talked said that they felt that the epoxy edge was more for traditional looks. Instead of putting an epoxy edge, wouldn’t it be just as good, and significantly easier, to just epoxy the edge of the paddle? Wood soaked in epoxy can be as strong, if not stronger, than fiberglass due to the length and cohesion of the wood fibers (I believe that’s the theory!). It might depend on the type of wood and how well it absorbs the epoxy.
I have been using Minwax Wood Hardener
on the ends of my basswood paddles and am not dissapointed with the results. It was made to treat rot where replacement of the wood was impractical. It is soaked into the wood until the wood won’t hold any more. After it cures the material is noticably harder than the surrounding material. I ususally treat the bottom 3/4" of the blade.
I’ve done it that way too. 1/8’ nylon cord stretched along the edge, a straight pin on each end to hold the cord to the wood, apply resin until cord is saturated, remove pins when epoxy is partially cured. If you like, you can also flatten the cord a bit when the resin is partially cured. I thought it worked well.
I’ve used fiberglass and Dynel…
…laminated to the paddles with epoxy and they both do the job. Dynel is available in a woven tube that could be used on paddle edges. I have some, but haven’t used it on paddles yet.
Epoxy Working tip…
.... Something I learned working with epoxy may be of some help to you. I used a slow set (1 hour), and first heated the wood and epoxy with a high temperature hair dryer. You must sand all of any finish from the wood, so the bare unfilled pores of the wood are exposed. You may also want to use a thin straight pin, and make many holes in the bare wood, to help the epoxy soak in deeper.
.... A hair dryer is minimal heat, so if you want to buy something better, go to a hobby shop that sells supplies for building radio controled airplanes. These planes are covered with a heat shrink plastic film called "Monokote". There is a heat gun made just for this film, and it works great for the epoxy deal too.
.... Use this heat gun to heat the wood, and heat the epoxy. This makes it water thin, and it soaks into wood like a sponge. During the working time of the epoxy, apply several coats to the wood, and heat the layer so it soaks in. Just be aware that heating the epoxy can make it set quicker too. I used a 2 part Epoxy by "Devcon" from the hobby shop, and the 1 hour set worked well.
..... Don't heat the last layer so much it runs off, and it will give you a nice finish. I reccommend you get a scrap piece of wood from a cabinet shop, of the same wood as your paddle, to practice on. Good luck!
Be sure to use real good ventilation with epoxy, (or other resins for that matter) especially if you are heating it. The stuff produces some nasty fumes and people have developed sensitivities to it. You wouldn’t want to end up having to rember to take an asthma inhaler or some such thing along paddling just because you breathed too much chemical of some kind. It also produces a contact dermatitus if you expose your skin enough to it. How much is too much? It depends on the individual. Having worked in a laboratory for the last 22 years I guess I don’t take more unnecessary risks than I can avoid, which covers a lot of avoidance.
epoxy + additives
I edged 2 paddles just last night. I use epoxy and add fumed silica or cab-o-sil. For a little natural color add wood flour to this. If you have a carbon fibre paddle add graphite.
Make the mix thick like peanut butter and you can pile it on the edges and hang the paddle to harden. Keep an eye on it and as it dries shape the edge with your fingers. (Gloved, of course.)
Edges treated with this mixture last 2-3 years, but then I don’t pry off rocks very often.
If you use marine epoxy…
…it’s thin enough that you don’t need to heat it. The “1 hour” epoxy is only “slow set” when you compare it to the "5 minute variety. Marine epoxies typically take several hours to set, depending on the hardener used. That allows plenty of time for the epoxy to soak in.
Marine epoxies are also a LOT cheaper by volume than the twin tube packs. You can get a quart kit for as little as $20. That’s ~70 times the amount of epoxy as the twin syringe packages for only ~4 times the price.
Cabosil (fumed silica)
I’ve found that while it makes epoxy much more abrasion resistant, it seems to make it brittle. The paddle tips wear well, but have a tendency to chip. Next time, I’m going to try using milled glass fibers in the mix to strengthen it.
I hadn’t noticed that
Pls let me know how the glass fibers work out.
I have used glass fibers…
.....I have used glass fibers as reinforcing in Epoxy in other applications, and that made it very tough and durable. It is a lot more shock resistant, and less brittle.
.... You might want to try mixing some of each of the silica, and glass fibers both into the mix? Possibly more glass fibers, than silica.
durable edge for wood paddles
You might try calling Ron Sell at Unadilla Boatworks. 734-433-1651.
Ron makes custom paddles and he uses carbon fiber strands and epoxy to put a super durable edge on his cedar paddles. I’m not sure exactly how he molds and trims the edge. It ends up looking like factory production and is as strong and tough as any edge I’ve used. You can smack rocks all day long with it.
Ron also re-shaped a couple of Grey Owl Freestyle paddles for me to make the blades a little smaller and more beavertail-ish…and the edge he puts on is much stronger than the original.
Or you might call Bending Branches and ask them what they use. As far as I can tell their epoxy edges are indestructible.
Tom (and Jessie the Wonder Dog)
Thanks for the details
I’m definitely going to give a fiber/cabosil mix a shot.
Chop up some glass or carbon and add
to mix 'till its the way you like it… nothing stronger for this sort of isotropic home made reinforcement. Just keep stirring it in… be suprised how much you can add. Use tape to make a dam too. Can consolidate with uni strands, peel ply, 4oz. glass or 4 mil plastic.
I’ve certainly learned a lot from this discussion, I hope it’s been helpful for others as well. I appreciate the input folks - from all of you. I‘ll mull over all the various approaches to this and take it from there.