Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ash Paddle

Let Sea Kayaker Magazine explore the world of light composite Greenland paddles.  As usual, Mark is blazing his own trail, eschewing cedar and embracing ash.  And from the smile on his face, he seems pretty happy with the results.

Mark loves Greenland paddles, he even used it when he ran the Kenduskeag race.  But he is tired of sanding the ends of his cedar paddle, and hasn’t had any luck keeping epoxy on the ends. And since he had a plank of ash left over from building a skin on frame kayak (the ribs were ash), he figured, why not move to a sturdier material?

Of course this entailed purchasing a new saw blade to cut it to size, and after several hours of attempting to sand it to shape purchasing a sureform as well.  (A sureform is a blend of a rasp and a plane.)  He made the paddle to the same specifications as his current paddles, same length and width, same loom.  His paddles are asymmetric, one side is flat and the other shaped.
Hopefully this shows how one side is flat and the top shaped
His first draft of the paddle was five pounds, more than a brick.  Since then he’s taken over a pound of ash off.  Oddly, or impressively, enough he estimates he’s only put 8 hours into his ash paddle, not a big increase over the 6 hours he estimates to build a cedar paddle.
Mark using his sureform.  How many pounds of shavings are on the workbench?
Mark thinks that the extra weight works like a flywheel, once the paddle gets going it just keeps moving.  Plus he is very pleased with the toughness of the wood.

I tried using the ash paddle just for a short while.  I did admire the lack of flutter.  I don’t use a Greenland style paddle often, so it usually takes me several strokes to get a flutter free pace.  Not so with the ash.  Plus after just a few seconds of using the ash paddle my carbon fiber paddle felt like a feather; honestly I expected it to float away. 

Another advantage, admittedly untested, is that an ash paddle should be twice as effective as a cedar in fending off polar bears.

Mark tends to be a trendsetter, so I expect that by next year there will be many articles on conditioning, strength building, aerobic capabilities and other advantages of a heavier paddle.

In the meantime, out in the wide world of paddlers, I’m sure there are a few others who’ve played with hardwood paddles.  If you’re one of them, maybe you have some advice to offer Mark?
Another day, another boat - same ash paddle!

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