Thursday, June 12, 2014

Greenland Paddle Building:/6:Final Smoothing and Shaping

Greenland paddle making
Here Dee removes from the still-rough paddle the bridge forms which guided the router along the paddle's various contours: flat and thin at the paddle's tip; higher, thicker, and more rounded towards the shoulder of the blade and the shaft.

It's at this step, removing the bridges, that the utility of doweled bridge forms becomes obvious. Not only do dowels and moorings make the bridge forms easy to remove by hand or with a hammer, they also allow the builder to use the same jig and forms for as many paddles as he or she has time, interest, or energy to build.

Moreover, by carefully controlling the depth of the router bit, a shaper can roughcut a paddle to the extent one chooses: chunkier and less refined for custom shaping later with hand tools, or as close to spec as you like if you are certain the jig holds your perfect paddle's shape.

Greenland paddle making
Factory-made paddles are designed and cut according to broad generalities around length, torque, angle. But build your own paddle and you can customize it to your particular needs around shaft thickness, blade thickness, etc.

Once Dee has removed the bridge forms that guide the router through its cuts, it's time to work and shape the paddle by hand with a variety of handtools: rasps, files, block planes, a SurForm tool. To speed matters up, Dee will use a random orbital sander and 80 grit discs to remove excess wood. Doing so will smooth the blank for better laminar flow but also smooth the paddle shaft so that it won't cause blisters.

making a Greenland paddle

Above:
the tip sanded smooth as a baby's bottom using sandpaper grits progressing from 80 grit to 200 grit. Note the wood's open grain. Tung oil will seal the grain and close it.
Brian Nystrom photo.


In the bottom photo, see Dee making her initial passes with a SureForm tool to bring down the ridges and high spots left behind by the rapid cutting with the router. The router chops in the paddle's fundamental shape: rounder and flatter near the blade, more peaked, etc., towards the shoulder.

Note the wood chips on either side of the jig. Note, too, that the blank is firmly clamped to the jig and to the table, so Dee gets plenty of purchase to pull her hand tools against.

At this point Dee is working by eye, checking to be sure that her SurForm cutting is even and symmetrical. She needs to be sure that the SureForm's cutting screen is sharp, and its gutter clear, so she won't tear the wood. After about an hour's sanding through progressively smoother grits from 80 to as high as 220 or higher, the paddle will be ready for first use.

making a Greenland paddle

Above: the freshly-sanded tip brought down to 220 grit smoothness with sandpaper and coated with its first layer of tung oil. Cedar is porous and really soaks up the tung oil. Apply subsequent coasts on successive days.
Brian Nystrom photo.


Once Dee has tested the paddle in the local lake, she'll bring it back to the workshop to rinse and dry. She'll then coat it with numerous layers of tung oil wiped on with a rag. Perhaps she'll mask off the bottom six inches of the blades to prevent tung oil from entering the grain there. This allows her the option of epoxying the paddle tips for added strength, or of dabbing on fiberglass cloth after adding, if she wants, colored tint to the epoxy.

Above: Silbs, in a skin-on-frame, slips from the bullrushes, propelled by a laminated Greenland paddle from Mitchell. Hardcore Greenland style aficionados can be a prickly bunch. While they often insist on such historical authenticity as throwing sticks, etc., they also tend to eschew such modern-day safety basics as decklines.
(Greg Fojtik photo.)

Dee is a source-hunter if ever there was one; likely she'll add to the epoxy at the blade tips either a light reflective compound for night paddling or day-glo paint for better daytime visibility. While color additives may put a Greenland purist's knickers in a twist (many of the type eschew such accepted standards as decklines and watertight bulkheads), warning colors on a paddle's tips are nice to have on those hot summer afternoons when Dee leads a pod from her local paddling club through a busy harbor.
copyright 2008/North American Kayak Fishing

Greenland Paddle Building/5: The SurForm Tool



Above: the business end of a Porter-Cable random orbital sander. Random orbital sanders are excellent tools. Their discs are easy to switch from one grit to another. But be sure to buy your sanding discs, in grits from 80 to 220, on mail order from places like Ohio Supergrit, because opping in to pick up discs from your local hardware store is a good way to go broke.
Greenland paddle makingHere's a couple of overviews of the next-to-the last steps before refining the blades and shaft with a random orbital power sander, draw knife, block plane or rasp. Doubleclick the images to enlarge them.

In the top photo, Dee works with a surform tool to bring down the high spots left over after routing. In a small pile on the left side of the photo you can see the dowel bridges which she has removed to clear the blank for further shaping. You can also clearly see in the jig plate itself the series of round moorings Dee drilled into the jig to hold the bridges.

Look carefully at the removed bridges in the left of the top photo. (Doubleclick to enlarge.) You'll note that the dowels are long and thick, for strength. Routers are heavy. Dee didn't want her bridge channels to snap under the router's weight.

The photo below shows the paddle blank at an earlier stage of the initial router rough cuts. You'll note that, at this stage, the blank is still rather thick -- the blank has only been shaped on one side. The blank needs to be turned over and the bridge channels put back in their moorings. Dee will then shape the other side.

Greenland paddle makingSimplicity and symmetry are the truest utility, in the end, of Greenland paddles. The paddle is symmetrical on all four faces. The symmetry not only facilitates fast paddle making, it also makes the paddle simpler to use. There's no power face to look for when rolling, sculling, bracing, bow or stern ruddering.

Of course, the paddle feels strange first time you use it. It's as if there is nothing in the water to provide speed, propulsion, or stability. Yet, over time, most Greenland paddlers are just as fast as other paddlers. Typically they also suffer fewer stress injuries to their wrists, elbows, and shoulders. And often they find rolling with a Greenland paddle to be effortless.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
The jig

copyright 2008/North American Kayak Fishing

Greenland Paddle Building/4 Router Hits Wood

Greenland paddle making
Above we see Dee Hall getting down to work with her router (a Porter-Cable, one of many manufacturers of high quality power woodworking tools). You will note that the rough cut paddle blank Dee made is firmly encased within the channel jig she meticulously designed.

How Dee's channel jig works should be clear now: the peaks and angles of the wooden bridges mimic the shape and taper of a Greenland paddle's blades and shaft.

Dee sets the router bit to an appropriate depth, so that it won't cut deeper than the bridges allow, then turns on the router just before she places the router onto two adjacent bridges. The router assumes the correct angles for carving by virtue of the router's base plate gliding smoothly up and down the bridges.

By working slowly and carefully, and being sure to wear safety glasses, Dee lets the router glide up and down slopes of the bridges. The router cuts all the while. The chips fly fast and kick up a fair amount of dust. It's very noisy work, machine-shop level, so Dee is sure to wear hearing protection, as did the photographer.

Greenland paddle making
Another paddle-maker, Brian Nystrom, points out that cedar dust, like most wood dusts, is mildly toxic. Wear a dust mask, or a VOC respirator if your intolerance to dust is high. Similarly, if your plans include mass production, the Greenland paddle builder would be wise to work in a well-ventilated shop. Ratios of fresh air exchange per square foot of shop space are readily available on the internet.

The two photos show two distinct processes. In the top photo, you'll note that the router lies nearly flat on the flatter bridges at the paddle blade's thinner, flatter ends and tips. (Move your curser over the photos and right-click to enlarge them.)

Dee calculated these tapered angles, from flat to steep, on graph paper, then glued the graph-paper templates to plywood, whereupon she cut the plywood templates with a bandsaw. This method is closely-related to the process Nick Schade currently or in the past used to provide form stations for his strip-built designs.

Greenland paddle makingAbove: Where it all began. Members of a recent expedition to Greenland pose on the top eighth of an iceberg. The Inuit built their paddles from driftwood.

In the lower photo you'll note that the router is angled steeply uphill. And by looking carefully at either photo, you'll notice that the bridge rails change, progressively, from bottom left of the photos to top center, from quite steep to much flatter. This is where a paddle-maker using Dee's method needs to exercise the greatest care. Routers are heavy, and if yours slips too fast downhill, it could fall off the jig and onto your leg.

There are a number of tools scattered on the table: leather work gloves, a pair of hammers, numerous clamps, a sanding block. All get put to good use: the hammers for removing and replacing the dowelled bridge jigs, the clamps for securing the jig and paddle to one another and to the workbench, the sanding block for later refining the router cuts, the gloves for avoiding splinters.



Above: three Greenland strokes: the sliding stroke; vertical racing stroke; horizontal cruising stroke.

Several readers have written to ask whether Dee can make plans available for her jig. The short answer is maybe. The long answer is that she needs to find time to boot up some CAD software to reproduce the measurements and angles she intuited first time around. Many other readers have made comments that relate to refining the technique to make it more efficient. One writer suggested replacing the wooden bridges with steel rails; another posited the use of a power planer instead of a router. I encourage everyone to post their similar comments on the blog so we can all read them.
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
The jig

copyright 2008/North American Kayak Fishing

Greenland Paddle Building/3 Set Up the Jig

Greenland paddle makingHere Dee sets the rough-cut paddle blank into the channel jig she designed and built using a pine 2x4, wooden dowels and carefully-spaced holes she cut with an electric drill and bit.

The channel jig accomplishes several tasks. Not only does it hold the blank firmly in place for cutting and shaping (the jig has to be securely clamped to the worktable), each bridge forms a peaked curve over which the router, sometimes referred to as a laminate trimmer, floats.

As the router follows the paths of the curves, it cuts into the blank a shape that duplicates the curve. Sounds complex in words, but look carefully at the photo and you'll readily grasp the idea. (By the way, the photos can be enlarged. Simply click on them to open them.)

Greenland paddle makingAbove: the rough-cut paddle blank strapped in and ready for routing. If you look carefully at the bridges of the channel jig, you'll note how the bridges near top right of the photo are flat, where Greenland paddles are flattest and thinnest. Moving down, to the left corner of the photo, you'll notice that the bridges get steeper and more peaked, mimicking where a Greenland paddle becomes rounder, thicker, and more peaked at the center of the paddle.

Cutting with an electric router is noisy work. You have to wear serious hearing protection. (See the first post, which shows the Mickey Mouse ears-style hearing protection some woodworkers call cans.)

Cutting with the router is also dicey work. You won't believe how fast a router bit spins. One slip and, should the router fall off the table, you may feel the router bit merrily spinning its way through your leg or kneecap.

The key is the jig which Dee spent considerable time designing and building. The time she spent building the jig she readily made up in how rapidly she was able to shape her first paddle with the router.

For her next Greenland paddle or two, the jig is already built. Thus the jig follows the law of increasing returns. The more paddles Dee carves (hey, no one ever builds just one Greenland paddle, just like no one ever builds just one wooden kayak) the more return she gets in terms of saved time.

Above: A Porter-Cable router. Porter-Cable's well-known for making high-quality long-lasting power tools that aren't too expensive. Routers (sometimes referred to as laminate trimmers) are tricky tools. Their bits spin fast, the routers are heavy, and together the two are so effective at cutting that in the wrong hands they can quickly turn a project into sawdust or body parts into Swiss cheese. Best to use one only after some workshop tutoring with an experiences user.

There's other stuff on Dee's worktable worth noting: a SureForm tool, a clamp, measuring tape, sanding block, etc., tools Dee will use to burnish the paddle to a smooth, silky finish.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
The jig

copyright 2008/North American Kayak Fishing

Greenland Paddle Building/2: Refining the Rough Cuts with a Jigsaw

Greenland paddle makingAbove: the initial rough cuts Dee makes into the red cedar 2x4 plank. She uses a jigsaw, following the rough dimensions Charles Holst suggests in his downloadable plans. Note router, tape measure and variety of clamps.

Greenland paddle makingAbove: To roughcut the curve at the paddle tip, Dee traces a quarter circle, using the lid of a mayonnaise jar for a guide. The power jigsaw is an old cheapie Dee keeps kicking around in the basement.

Greenland paddle makingAbove: the 2"x4" red cedar plank roughcut down at one end to form the basic shape of one blade and the shoulder of the soon-to-be Greenland paddle Dee will carve and shape with a series of channel jigs and an electric router.

All of the photos above can be enlarged. Move your cursor over them and click on them to enlarge.

Typically, most builders fiberglass the blade tip to protect it from chipping on rocks or the beach while launching and landing or while paddling close to shore. The epoxy resin fiberglass requires can easily be colored with a variety of tints if you don't like resin's tendency to turn yellow over time. The tint also gives the epoxy some of the u.v. resistance it needs to prevent it from turning brittle with sun exposure.

The paddle above later emerged as a birthday gift to a friend, Karen, a member of the North Shore Paddlers Network (New England coast of the US) who took the paddle on a trip to New Zealand.

Karen took an extended kayaking trip there with a woman friend she met through one of the many seakayaking clubs in New Zealand. Karen had long been a devoted user of carbon fiber paddles. While she has not entirely made the switch to Greenland style paddling, she does comment that rolling with the paddle Dee made for her is just as easy as it is with a Europaddle.

Greenland paddle makingAbove: Dee takes a few minutes to refine with a jigsaw the rough shoulder cut in her Greenland paddle's general shape. Using a jigsaw, she'll further refine the paddle's shaft and blade by following the layout lines she drew according to her friend Karen's arm length, hand size, and height. These are easy, straightforward cuts. Go slowly and follow the lines. To cut the rounded tip, follow the general shape of a curve. After she forms the paddle shape with the router, she uses a variety of rasps, files, 80, 120, 180, and 220 grit sandpaper (links to Ohio Ohio Supergrit, a terrific sandpaper wholesaler) and planes to further refine the rounded shape of the tip.

Karen also comments that after several months of physical therapy for a neck injury, the Greenland paddle is easier on her physically: it produces less strain due to the paddle's reduced torque, flexibility, and higher cadence.

The photo sequence shows the first slant cut, which creates the taper in the shaft (thinner at the shoulder to wider at the blade); the shoulder cut, which creates a shape for your hand to search for to center the paddle; and the rounded tip, which some think is more efficient than the square tip many Greenland style paddlers prefer.

This is a multi-part series:
Refining the Rough Cuts with a Router
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
The jig

Greenland paddle makingAbove: roughing in the shoulder cut, or the widening from shaft to blade which marks a Greenland paddle's transition to the blade. It's also a handy tactile aid for flattening the blade in preparation for a roll or brace (links to posts and videos of Greenland rolling.)

copyright 2008 North American Kayak Fishing

Greenland Paddle Building/Part 1: Rough Cutting

Greenland paddle makingThe first step to handbuilding a Greenland paddle is to choose a straight-grained 2x4 cedar plank at your local lumberyard.

The intricacies of choice are as much art as science, but essentially you need to find a clear, knotless piece with tight grain and no cracks or voids. (For more info on blank choice, you can always contact Brian Nystrom, who has written a fine book on making Greenland paddles. Although his approach differs from Dee Hall's, it's just as effective.)

Here's Dee, a trip leader trainer for a local kayaking organization, preparing to make the first rough cuts to her blank. Using the inside edge of a straightedge, she pencils in the paddle's rough shape: wider at one end (top center of photo, by her right hand), narrower at the shoulder (bottom right of photo).

There's a couple of details to note in the photo: hearing protection (the red ear muffs), essential come time to spark up the router; the router (top left, and essential to Dee's carving technique), and finally the roll of masking tape, which Dee uses to trace the shape of the end blade.

She's also got some other handtools (links to doityourself.com, an excellent site on tools basics) scattered around: a tape measure, sanding block, and lots of sandpaper. (Best to buy your sandpaper online from places like Ohio Supergrit. Much cheaper and a wider variety.)

This is the first step to rough cutting a Greenland paddle. The specific details of diameter, width, and so on, are pretty flexible. Essentially you tweak those measurements to fit the size of your palm and the "o" of an "okay" gesture you make with your thumb and forefinger, as well as how long your arms are.

To read the rest of the series:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
The jig

copyright 2008 /North American Kayak Fishing

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Some Paddle and No-Paddle Greenland Rolls from Brooklyn, New York

Videos by Christopher Crowhurst.

Though these were shot in a pool, and make rolling look more like flashy art than useful utility, I guess the best takeaway is the relaxed ease rolling requires.

First step to rolling is feeling unperturbed while upside down.

In a pool, freshwater-filled nasal passages make rolling practice uncomfortable. Consider nose clips, a diving mask or, most simply, a steady exhale through the nose.

Also consider that the tulik favored by Greenland rolling purists looks a little dorky. And should you have to wet exit, you'll have to self-rescue wearing an enormous skirt that's ungainly and cumbersome.

Nose clips from Amazon. Also, Kodak's really well-reviewed waterproof HD videocamera - I have great luck buying them refurbished.



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