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Thread: Fibreglassing a paddle

  1. #1
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    Default Fibreglassing a paddle

    I've got Graham Warren's book (canoe paddles) but it doesn't go into any real depth on fibreglassing. As I'm contemplating a whitewater paddle I think this would be sensible.
    Does anyone know of any better resources for this topic or have any guidance?
    Tom

  2. #2
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    I've done it - in about 1990, to revive a much loved wooden paddle that had fallen on hard times, and subsequently on WWR canoe paddles. I suggest some thin glass woven mat (test it on some scrap first, it should wet out to the point of being almost invisible) and epoxy resin. For whitewater, I'd build up the tip first, using glass strands. Either buy them as that, or pull chopped strand mat apart. The point of using glass rather than kevlar for the tip is that as it wears, it doesn't go fluffy. To build up a thickness, paint the tip with epoxy, and lay on strands of glass along the edge, ie, in same plane as the blade and at 90 to the shaft. Keep laying on glass and epoxy until it looks like it would fall off if you put more on. Let it set, repeat until you have the tip size as you want. Then let it cure, and sand it flat, parallel to the blade surface. Then laminate over the blade, one side at a time; paint epoxy onto the wood, lay the glass over it and stipple to bring the epoxy through (glass first and epoxy over can lead to bubbles). Depending on whether you want a dead smooth finish or a lighter paddle, consider another coat of epoxy once it's set.

    Do wear gloves and mask and cover your arms etc when sanding. Both the glass and the epoxy dust can be bad for you; a friend became so sensitised to epoxy that he couldn't even sit in a boat made from it without coming up in a rash.

  3. #3
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    For doing the edge, just pull at the edges of your woven glass where it has started to fray.
    Sam

  4. #4
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    Cheers.
    Would you glass the shaft and handle as well or not?
    If not, what stops the water getting under the glass at the transition?

  5. #5
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    Epoxy is pretty tenacious and leaving the shaft bare would probably be fine provided you run the epoxy a cm or two past the glass. Otherwise, varnish the shaft. Don't epoxy it, as epoxy is too brittle and a sharp pry off the gunwale can crack it, and the crack then rubs on your hand. For the same reason, I wouldn't want glass on the shaft. Hollow glassfibre paddle shafts are extruded to a high density, squeezing all the air out of the fibres, so that the outer layer of resin is well supported and resists wear better. I expect a wooden shaft, glassed by hand, would develop splinters quite soon.

  6. #6
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    Makes sense. Jamie's Big Dipper is glassed on the blade and oiled on the shaft. It seems like a good compromise.

  7. #7
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    I have built three paddles based on Gil Gilpatrick's instructions in his book Building a strip canoe. My paddles were Ash and Douglas Fir laminated edge to edge with a built up shaft. The edges as per Mr. Gilpatrick's instruction are protected by a length of cord the same thickness as the edge of the blade soaked in resin and pinned into position till it goes off. The glass fibre comes as far up as the throat and is tapered off to nothing by sanding when it is dry. The glass and resin become invisible and the whole thing is protected by three coats of varnish. I have added decorative slips of paper with my name and phone number under the glass which are entirely visible and cannot be removed. The resin soaked cord acts as shock absorber fro the wooden edge of the paddle and has so far suffered only mior chips and no damage to the wood.
    Calefactio orbis? Culus meus!!

  8. #8
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    Cheers. Annoyingly I had that book ages ago but lost it.
    I think I have a plan as to how to do it. Just need to actually get onto it.

    For fibreglass supplies, do people use the boat suppliers from the self build section or are there smaller size kits available? I can't see myself using a large quantity before it all expires so a smaller paddle sized kit would be useful.

  9. #9
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    I try to find a local supplier. Your profile says Ulverston, so I'd give Solway Dory a call and see if they can help.

  10. #10
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    That's an excellent idea. Robert @ Burnett Boats was also suggested as a potential source though I think he is more involved in exotic materials now.

  11. #11
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    I've made around five or six wooden paddles over the years. I've never fiberglassed any of them and they all get used in whitewater. As long as you don't intend using the paddles to plough up the river bed, they should be fine. I have however, coated the tip of one with epoxy resin to prevent it splitting. I also used to oil or varnish them too. But after 30 years I realise that the paddles do not spend enough time in the water to start rotting. So I don't waste time with that now.
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

  12. #12
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    I use various suppliers from the internet, East Coast Fibreglass is my current favourite along wth CFS and Easycomposites. Eah have slightly different ranges so it depends exactly what I am looking for.
    For fibreglassing a paddle blade I would suggest something fairly light, like 150-200 gsm cloth, woven roving cloth (strands alternate under/over) is easier to work with as a beginner than twill (pairs of strands under and over), but twill can be shaped better over curves - your paddle will have at most a very shallow curve so woven roving will be ideal.
    As Sam says to get individual strands pull them from the edge of the cloth - I do this as a matter of course for up to 1cm all round the edge of square cut cloth to prevent those edge strands coming out when I wet it out and developing a life of their own!

    Epoxy resins don't really go off, the hardeners may oxidise a bit and get darker but I have never had an old hardener fail to cure when mixed in the right proportions. If you don't store it in the proper temperature range sometimes the resin will crystalise but the crystals can be stirred back in with gentle heating without noticeably affecting performance. I found somewhere a Wessex resins (West System) FAQ where they said they had never left any resin for a long time, but knew of no reason that the chemistry would change over time. For most systems you can buy separate hardener (different curing speeds and purposes) so if you are concerned about darkened hardener you could simply buy fresh hardener, as I say, I have never had a problem with old hardener, and it usually cures to the same transparency.

    How hard can it be?

  13. #13
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    Brilliant cheers.

  14. #14
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    Also, most resins are not very UV protected, and the old recommendation is to us PU varnsh over the top.

    If you look for a dedicated coating epoxy they have UV inhibitors so dont need overcoating.
    In West system you can use 207 "special coating" hardener with 105 resin (just beware the mix ratio is different than when using 205 or 206 hardener with 105 resin).
    Easy composites sell thier own XCR resin (available in black or clear) which is again intended to be UV protected as a final coat - I refinished a WWR K1 with this last year and the finishe still seems good, I mean it has some scratches and stuff, but I do use it to race down rapids and sometimes make mistakes
    And yes you can laminate (i.e. wet out fibreglass) with the coating resins.

    How hard can it be?

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