I’m looking for suggestions on good makers of solid wood canoe paddles. In all honesty I just prefer the looks of solid wood compared to laminates.
They are all ottertails and beavertails
Sugar Island designs are all laminates. Laminates are stronger… Solid wood paddles you have to pay attention to grain and construction… Poor ones can warp or break.
I suggest Tremolo Paddles or Badger Paddles or Grey Owl for solid paddles.
Shaw and Tenney
Good paddles but wicked heavy
Some trimming would be useful
I also highly recommend Tremolo paddles by Caleb Davis. Caleb lives in the heart of the Adirondacks, and has been making high quality paddles and teaching traditional flatwater canoeing for more than 25 years. I have a couple of his paddles. They are made from a single piece of wood. I've been using mine for many years, maintained with a little varnish and oil they are still as good as brand new. Caleb tapers the edges to a relatively sharp edge, making them ideal to easily slice for strokes that require it.
Badger and Grey Owl, both Canadian companies, make very good factory animal tail paddles. Animal tails are known for use with in-water, recoveries, the long blade and sliced recovery both slowing cadence. That long blade also pretty much eliminates cross strokes and maneuvers.
Your paddling might improve with a Grey owl Fleetwood, a B.B. Espresso or a Cricket with wider, 8"+ and shorter, ~ 22", blade because they work better in the water.
While you’re deciding
I’d suggest picking up a Grey Owl tripper or chieftain in cherry. Either will do till something better is found. Be careful with them in shallows, though…
With all due respect…
A good way to choose the best paddle is to start with your goals and needs, rather than just looks. Some questions such as, what is your paddling style? Tandem or Solo? Kneeling or sitting? Type of canoe; Type of water; Payloads and duration; Well, without belaboring this, you get the picture and maybe already rejected these criteria. For me, laminates are mostly the better choice. Solids are often too heavy and sometimes even not as durable. HTH
Most of my paddling experience has been in kayaks (3-4 days per week during season for last 12 years). I canoe intermittently but it has always been in a tandem with rental equipment. For the past several years I have done multi-day trips in Algonquin.
Although I agree aesthetics should not be an overriding factor with gear I am a bit old-school and just simply like solid wood. I dabble in some woodworking and enjoy the beauty of wood. Also, I am a big guy at 6’2"; 240#. I can paddle all day long with a club and so weight of the paddle is also not an overriding factor for me either. Balance, feel and quality of craftsmanship on the other hand are important.
I recently acquired a used Wenonah Prism solo that I will be using for daily/local paddling as well as for occasional camping trips. It came with a bent shaft paddle that I haven’t enjoyed so far but I admit that could change with the tincture of time and usage.
I appreciate all the suggestions.
Think you’ll find out that there is much
more of a difference between one piece brand_X and brand_Y, along with the difference from laminate paddles in terms of stiffness=density=burliness. Factors that people need to assess for themselves(ie their physique). Agreed they are nice to look at... $.01
The Prism is a neat boat, designed from the first line on paper to be a recreational sit and switch boat, the paddler sitting on a bucket seat with feet on a cross-bar footbrace. The combination of Delta Hull and seated stance suggests a relatively small bladed paddle bent to ~ 12 dg. Start looking at BB’s Espresso/Sunshadow and Grey Owl’s Monarch but check Piragis’ Sanborns and Cricket. The hull shape and seating dictate a bent,
I love my Shaw and Tenney’s
Great paddles that can take a lot of use.
Dri Ki Paddles
I have a couple of these and they are nice paddles, nothing fancy, but decent basic solid wood paddles that I have used for years. The price is certainly right. He is located in northern maine on the way to the Allagash and St. John country. Not sure if still up and running but I think so.
I should say that
given your boat and seat set up I would choose a light bent shaft - my choice would be graphite - specifically a ZRE “Whitewater” model.
Wood is beautiful
I agree, I much prefer wood, other things being equal (which they never are). I have a cherry beavertail from Grey Owl that’s so pretty I hardly want to get it wet. But it’s my favorite for flatwater, though I’d never take it out in whitewater or a downriver paddle where I’d be pushing off rocks and gravel bars. Ultimately, though, I spend very little paddling time looking at my paddle, but I spend a hell of a lot of time feeling it, so the handle is the most important thing from a usage perspective. If you narrow down your selection to paddles that fit your hand perfectly… you probably won’t find that you have a lot of choice regarding material.
also equals tiresome.
A variety of paddles
It just so happens I counted my paddles yesterday. I have a total of 20, five are kayak paddles, the rest canoe paddles. Some are wood, some are carbon. Some are straight, some bent. I have solid wood and laminated wood. Some of the wood ones have fiberglass on the blade some don’t. Some are “animal” tail, some are not. I have an Inuit stick and a wing paddle too. I use them all. I guess my point is, variety is the spice of life.
Of the brands of wooden paddles mentioned in this thread, I have the most experience with Grey Owl. I like them, but quality varies. They can make some incredibly beautiful and functional paddles, like the Monarch Charlie mentioned (I highly recommend it), but also some really crappy stuff. If you want a solid wood animal tail, be aware that you may have to do a little work to get them just right. Some are blade heavy and have thick edges, which makes slicing (like in the Indian stroke) not very pleasant. But sandpaper can take care of that.
I would stay away from Bending Branches. All I have seen from them lately are completely flat blades with thick edges (and all are laminated).
Buy a pretty paddle for your wall . . .
. . . but get the most functional one for actual paddling.
The Prism, influenced by Wenonah’s racing heritage, is a tractor seat hull intended to be paddled most efficiently sit & switch style with a bent shaft paddle. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a solid wood bent shaft paddle. And I certainly wouldn’t want to paddle sit & switch with any heavy paddle.
Of course, you can paddle a sitting canoe with a single-sided correction stroke. If you don’t care about paddle weight or blade-shaft balance, then you already have the names of several makers of solid wood mammal tails.
Sounds like you have a nice collection! I have a bent shaft and a double bladed kayak paddle (although I think I would benefit from one that is a bit longer). I want to learn traditional strokes with a straight shaft paddle which I think will help when I am fishing. Not many options to buy local so trying to educate myself before pulling the trigger on an internet purchase. Thanks for your thoughts.