Fiberglass/epoxy on paddle blade?

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Adamv
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Location: Owen Sound, ON Canada

Fiberglass/epoxy on paddle blade?

Post by Adamv » Mon Oct 15, 2007 7:39 am

I've finished the cutting and shaping of my bent shaft paddle to its final shape. The shaft is laminated mahogany and poplar, and the blade is mahogany, poplar and maple, all glued together with Titebond III. I plan on reinforcing the tip as per http://bluestempaddler.com/canoe_paddle/epoxy_tip.html. Actually, I've built the whole thing according to his method.

I'm considering three options for finishing the blade, and would like your advice on which would be best.

Option 1: Simply varnishing it.
Option 2: Coating with epoxy and varnishing (should I use one or two, or more, coats?)
Option 3: Sheathing with fiberglass cloth and epoxy and varnishing (what weight of cloth? and how many coats of epoxy?).

I am a bit concerned about weight, but realize that strength is important as well.

Any advice would be most appreciated.

Thanks,
Adam

PS: I was at the Peterborough Canoe Museum yesterday, and had the good fortune of meeting Kirk Wipper while I was there. What an interesting and charming man. And what an awesome collection of canoes he developed over the years!
Who travels not by water knows not the fear of God --- 17th Century Sailor

sedges
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Location: georgia

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Post by sedges » Mon Oct 15, 2007 10:06 am

I would recommend epoxy before varnish. It makes a very durable finish and will stand up to much more abuse and last longer between refinishing..

I also recommend using fiberglass reinforcement in the epoxy if you can get a lightweight cloth. 4 ounce is overkill IMO. I use a 2 ounce cloth. Very thin, but adds a lot of strength and abrasion resistance.

Another nice thing about epoxy is having a non-glossy, non-varnish finish on the grip. Some say that varnish on paddle grips leads to blisters. I rarely find this to be true, but I have very comfortable custom grips, tough hands and a paddling style that is easy on the hands. However, I find that an epoxy coated grip area, with no varnish, sanded smooth with 320 grit sandpaper makes a real comfortable grip. Also, the varnish/blister thing may have more to do with the type of varnish. Spar=soft=blisters, polyurethane=hard=no blisters

Rick
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Location: Bancroft, Ontario

Post by Rick » Tue Oct 16, 2007 8:03 am

Adam, a paddle made from durable hardwoods (eg. maple) shouldn't need to have the entire blade sheathed in fiberglass, unless it's very thin. If you do decide to glass the entire blade, do both sides at the same time, because the epoxy can warp the blade as it cures if it's on one side only. I made this mistake on a thin, light cedar paddle and had to sand off the glass and epoxy, then flatten the blade with weights.

The fiberglass sheathing also stiffens the blade a great deal... before glassing, the cedar paddle felt extremely thin and fragile, and I had to be careful handling it. After applying fiberglass, it now seems almost too stiff, at least stiffer than I had planned for and maybe a lighter weight cloth would have been better. I used 6 oz cloth and the increase in durability and stiffness that it gave to the paddle was much more than I thouight it would be.

Glassing the bottom inch of the blade only will help to prevent splitting and reduce abrasion from rocks and gravel..

For a long-lasting finish on wooden paddles, I apply three coats of epoxy, sanding smooth after each coat and then three coats of varnish.... this is West's recommended finish, and it does seem to be more durable than varnish only.

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Adamv
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Location: Owen Sound, ON Canada

Post by Adamv » Thu Oct 25, 2007 11:27 am

Thanks fellows.

I can't get the weight of the paddle down any further, and it's still not as light as I want it. So I'm really reluctant to add more. So now I'm thinking I'll take Rick's suggestion and only sheath the lower couple of inches of the front and back of the blade with 2.3 oz cloth and just enough epoxy to fill the weave. I will put only one or maybe two coats of epoxy on the rest of the blade, and varnish only on the shaft.

Should I be concerned about a line at the edge where the epoxy ends and the varnish alone starts? I'm thinking that this transition point will be close to the transition between the blade and shaft (the point of the bend in the shaft).

Here is the unfinished paddle so far:

http://www.avoisin.com/album/paddle/index.html

Thanks again,
Adam
Who travels not by water knows not the fear of God --- 17th Century Sailor

Rick
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Joined: Thu May 27, 2004 9:23 am
Location: Bancroft, Ontario

Post by Rick » Sat Oct 27, 2007 10:46 am

Best way to judge if there will be a color difference is to test on a piece of wood... I don't think there would be much difference, since both the epoxy and varnish will wet the wood surface and darken it. Maybe depends on the color of varnish, if it's amber, there possibly could be a difference.

On my light cedar paddle, the added weight of 6-oz fiberglass over the entire paddle, plus three coats epoxy, plus three coats varnish amounted to twenty percent of the final paddle weight, so most of the weight is in the wood. I built the cedar paddle because I happened to find an extremely light, fast-growing plank of cedar, and decided to try for a light paddle with most of the strength being in the fiberglass reinforcement. Even with the extremely light wood, the reinforcement and finish didn't add much to the final weight, so I wouldn't be too concerned if you're using heavier hardwoods.

I'd paint the entire paddle with epoxy to get the added durability in the finish to help prevent scratches and darkening, and the small amount of added weight wouldn't be an issue... for me anyway.

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Adamv
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Location: Owen Sound, ON Canada

Post by Adamv » Wed Nov 07, 2007 5:53 am

Thanks everybody for the help. For those following this post, here are the results:

I glassed the bottom 4 inches of the tip with 2.3 oz biased cloth and coated the cloth and the rest of the blade with two coats of epoxy. I did not coat the shaft with epoxy. Then I varnished the whole thing.

It is almost impossible to tell where the glass starts and ends, and where the epoxied section starts and ends (just up the shaft a bit from the bend). The glass job adds a ton of rigidity to the blade. In hindsight, I probably could have shaved the blade thinner and relied on the strength of the glass and epoxy. All in all, I am very pleased with it.

Adam
Who travels not by water knows not the fear of God --- 17th Century Sailor

Rapt
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Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 2:10 pm

Post by Rapt » Thu May 08, 2008 8:38 am

Some interesting paddle making here:

http://dogpaddl.startlogic.com/index.html

I'm not a customer nor do I have any affiliation with the above company. But I have tried and handled these very light and sturdy paddles.

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