Adventures With Lloyd

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Do it Yourself


How to

Carve an emergency paddle

There is not much that is more annoying than breaking a paddle on a trip. They cost a lot, are time consuming to make, and without one getting home will be a bit more interesting. Being up the creek without a paddle is one thing, being on an island or a lake without a friendly current to help you home is another. I carve good paddles at home all the time in the wood shop, but replacing a paddle on a trip will take hours so it is best to carry a spare. Even so there may come a time when you may need to make a paddle in the wilderness, like the time I loaned my extras to my room mate the same weekend I was taking a trip. Making an emergency paddle can be done easy enough with some common camp tools, an axe or hatchet, a buck saw and a sharp sturdy knife. A bit of duct tape is also good for covering rough areas on the shaft or providing a bit of extra strength. With enough time spent you can make a real beauty but for the purpose of this how to article we will just assume you just want to get home, not create a work of art. Wood selection is about the most important thing, dry dead cedar is about the easiest to work with, but often beggars can't be choosers. The time I had to carve one, I found a piece of pressure treated 2X6 driftwood so I didn't have to split a log to find my paddle blank. If you do have to split a log, make a few hard wood wedges with your axe first and once you get a crack started with the axe, start driving the wedges in. Once you have at least one good flat side you can start work.

You can mark out the paddle or trace another one with charcoal from the fire. Then saw down to the line every few inches with a buck saw or collapsible saw. Make sure the shaft is thick enough especially if you are using soft wood. You can always take more wood off later if you have to.

Next you can use the axe to rough out the paddle. The cut marks from the saw will speed this process and prevent unwanted splitting as large blocks will be removed instead of long splinters.

Using a knife you can begin smoothing out the shaft and grip. This is the most important part because your hands contact here and blisters are no fun. Pay most of your attention to the lower shaft and the top grip. Other areas can be rougher.

If you want to reduce the weight, the axe is the best thing to use on the flat of the paddle blade to make it a bit thinner. Be careful not to take off too much.

Again the knife is used for the finishing touches, always carve away from yourself. Large cuts and lacerations are absolutely no fun in the wilderness.

Remember it doesn't have to be pretty to get you home. Ugly will do just fine. This took a couple hours to hack out with an axe and a knife. With a good axe and crooked knife a good traditional paddle can be made after six to eight hours labor. An emergency paddle makes good firewood after you have made it safely home.

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