Shortening a WW Canoe Fiberglass Paddle

In a trade, I received a decently nice WW canoe paddle that’s a few inches too long. I think the shaft is fiberglass but it may be over wood or aluminum. The paddle does not have a name or logo. The blade is fiberglass. the lower half of the shaft is oval and has a red plastic-like covering. The upper half is black fiberglass and is round. It has the typical “t” grip.

So-- I need to shorten it. Tubing cutter? Saw? Thoughts? On the off chance that I can’t save the “t” grip, where can I buy another?

I’ve shortened several such paddles
Occasionally there is a mechanical fastening of teh T grip. Look carefully on the shaft, just below the grip to see if there is evidence of a pin of some sort. If there is, you’ll need to drive it out. More commonly the grip is glued to the shaft. If you’re lucky you may be able to wrestle it free. Placing the grip and the upper portion of the shaft in very hot water for a few minutes may help to soften whatever the adhesive is. If not all is not lost.

Cut off the shaft below the grip by the amount you need to shorten it. A fine tooth hacksaw blade will do fine. Sand any rough edges. (Note: If the shaft is kevlar, no matter what you do, the cut end will remain fuzzy.) Now you can remove the bit of shaft that is still attached to the grip. Use a utility knife, sharp chisel, Dremel tool, file or whatever it takes. No need to be overly neat here. You only need to clean up the stub of the grip enough that it will fit into the end of the shaft. The rougher you leave the stub of the grip the better. It will help the epoxy bond. Rough up the inside of the shaft with some coarse sand paper (80 grit). Mix up some thickened epoxy, (the consistency of peanut butter is about right) cover the stub of the grip with it and shove it back into the shaft. Make sure it is aligned properly with the blade. Wipe off any excess epoxy and let it sit until cured.

Good luck with your “new” paddle.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes

But before you decide how much to
shorten it, what is the present length? What is your height, and how high do you kneel?

Taste in WW paddle length varies widely even for people of similar dimensions. My personal opinion is that a lot of WW paddlers use paddles somewhat short to be effective in serious maneuvering situations.

In the past, I’ve pointed out that slalom c-1 champs Jon Lugbill and Davey Hearn used paddles around 59", even though both guys are rather short and sat very low in their race boats. I’m 6’5" and use a 61" to 62" paddle. If you saw me sitting in my slalom boat and holding my 61" paddle, you would never believe it was that long.

I suggest you don’t go below 58" in making your “first cut,” unless you are a very short guy.

Scott, you didn’t mention what material
constitutes the t-grip. This can affect planning the shortening operation. Otherwise, it sounds like the paddle shaft is carbon, or black fiberglass (common), and it is likely that there is not a wood or aluminum “inside” to the shaft.

If the t-grip is plastic, then it may resemble the old Norse grips, so that it will have a plastic stem going down into the shaft. Following Marc Ornstein’s suggestions, you may be able to extract the entire plastic t-grip and stem with heating and twisting. In fact, one fault on Norse WW paddles was that the grip would start slipping and twisting in the shaft, and would need to be pinned.

Don’t put a clamp on the shaft. Clamp the blade instead when twisting the grip. Clamping a hollow FG or carbon shaft can damage it. As Marc indicated, don’t move heaven and earth to remove the grip, because you may be able to saw the shaft at the desired length and then clean the shaft remainder off the grip.

If your t-grip is wood, then there may be a wood dowel segment filling the upper end of the shaft, with a tenon (tongue) glued into a mortise in the t-grip. Getting the entire t-grip and dowel out of the end of the shaft may be difficult. Again, you can saw at the desired shaft length and try to clean the dowel, but you may end up with the dowel being rather rough, and possibly difficult to re-insert.

What I have done in that situation is to saw the shaft at the desired length, right through the dowel, and then see whether there seems to be enough dowel in the shaft for a sound connection. (More likely if you aren’t shortening a whole bunch.) Next I clean out the mortise in the wood t-grip. I then drill a hole in the center of the shaft dowel and epoxy in a small, short segment of hardwood dowel, sized to fit, or approximately fit, the mortise in the t-grip.

I then check the fit of the wood t-grip, mix up some epoxy, and glue the t-grip to the shaft at the appropriate angle.

Large WW stores like NOC are likely to have spare t-grips available. If you want to see some custom t-grips, send an email address and I’ll show them.

Measure twice. Cut once.
The t-grip is indeed plastic, and there is a pin. As for length, I was going to cut it to the same length as my primary WW paddle. This one will be a backup. I think I may paddle with it once before making any cuts, though. Thanks for all the help and suggestions.