Plastic. Aluminum. Carbonfiber. Graphite. There have been many advances in canoe paddle material over the years, with the goal of building a stronger, lighter, more flexible, and more efficient paddle that gives you more speed and performance with the least amount of effort and fatigue as possible. However, in minds of many canoeists from novices all the way to traditional purists, nothing beats a finely crafted wooden canoe paddle. With advances in the construction technology of laminate wood canoe paddles, paddle makers are able to achieve a wonderful mix of beauty, strength, flexibility, balance, and overall weight.
Wood canoe paddles have been around as long as canoes themselves. The first paddles were little more than sticks and tree branches carved to form a paddle. Wood paddles available on the market today range from the traditional solid blocks of wood carved and shaped into a usable tool to laminated paddle designs.
Laminate wood canoe paddles come in various shapes and sizes to fit a wide range of paddlers and paddling styles. While many construction techniques are used, the basic concepts are the same . . . glue many thin strips of wood together to form the grip, shaft, throat, and blade.
A laminate canoe paddle offers several advantages over the solid wood paddles. First, during the construction process, the paddle can be shaped into various designs. Since the wood strips are thin, they can be easily bent without the use of steam and can be formed into many angles and shapes. This allows for new variations of paddle designs like Bent Shaft and Double Bent Shaft paddles. Bent shaft paddles keep the paddle face perpendicular to the water for a longer portion of the paddle stroke, making for a more efficient stroke.
The overall strength to weight ratio of a laminate wood canoe paddle is also an important advantage. By gluing many thin pieces of wood together, paddle makers can take advantage of multiple grains of wood with the glue barrier making a stronger bond and adhesion than the wood itself. With this process, lighter weight wood can be formed into very strong paddles. Paddle blades can be thin, allowing for flexibility and can be covered with fiberglass to add strength while maintaining very light overall weight from as little as 14 oz. A paddle carved out of a single piece of wood must be made from heavier, stronger stock in order to keep from breaking and typically weigh 2-3 lbs. Also, solid wood paddles are more prone to splitting than laminate paddles.
Beauty is also a major draw for laminate canoe paddles. By layering and using strips from multiple pieces of lumber, unique wood grains, colors, and shades can be integrated into a gorgeous work of art that not only functions with superior performance, but also is a joy to view. Laminate canoe paddles not only function beautifully, but add style and grace to your voyage.
Laminate wood canoe paddles offer the best of both worlds with the tradition and comfort of wood construction with the superior strength and new designs allowed from advances in adhesives and fiberglass. These paddles are not only a wonderfully comfortable and useful tools on the water, but also beautiful works of art that are fine enough to adorn your home or cabin wall while not on the water.