a word about wood from Bruce
the woods I use...
It's fairly strong, yet light, very resistant to splitting, and importantly - flexible.
It has amazing grain patterns, attractive, unique little flaws and red colours that deepen into rich shades over time.
Black Cherry stands up well against rot and moisture damage.
Also an excellent choice for cedar canoe gunwales, seats & thwarts.
It is not as flexible as Black Cherry and therefore not as suitable for rigourous canoe tripping. However it makes a beautiful paddle and is a popular choice for the recreational canoeist.
These are heavier woods so I carve these paddles a little thinner to try to compensate. Although these paddles will still last many years, they must be maintained and cared for properly as they are slightly more prone to water damage on the blade and tip over time than cherry or walnut.
One of my favourite paddles of all time was made
from a northern tamarack tree or larch that came from the woods around Atikokan, Ontario.
It frayed a bit around the throat from normal paddling friction so I had to varnish it regularly.
But it was very unique.. and strong, flexible and dynamic in the water.
I am using european larch now (which is grown in North America, despite its name) when I can find it clear... although it's not always easy to get.
butternut is very light weight and has
nice grain as well.
However, it's becoming very rare because of a disease that is killing the trees.
I have a Butternut paddle and I love it for certain light-use situations… not tripping though.
If I can get it, I often like to laminate a stronger species like cherry, maple or walnut on to the shaft to give it extra strength.
Again, it's usually a little heavier than Black Cherry but so striking that people don't mind the trade-off.
The wood is also rare, so this is reflected in the paddle price.
curly maple & tiger maple are other specialty maples.
I like the cuts near the maple heartwood; they can have artistic brown and greenish streaks.
We come across pieces in all woods where the grain has quite a bit of figure, is curly or wavy, or has unusual blonde or dark streaks.
This also puts them in the Specialty Woods category.
shaft laminations are recommended primarily for recreational paddles.
They are available in almost any combination of woods.
black walnut, black cherry and bird's eye maple create some favourite colour contrasts. I use the highest quality waterproof urethane glue to add these laminations, but regular maintenance is recommended.