Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bending Branches

The account of the Bending Branches tour begins on the last post for River Rumble '13 - Day 4.  If you haven't seen that, you may wish to start there.

The palm-shaped grips are added to the shaft stocks about to become
the numbered Series "A" special edition paddles.

Some of the laminated paddle blades will have as many as eleven
pieces.  Here you can see the angled stub being inserted for a
bent-shaft paddle.

Once the laminates are clamped, a micro-wave oven sets the glue
in about four minutes rather than the several hours it would normally take.

The glue will continue to cure for several hours, so once they come from
the oven, the paddles are stacked overnight before being worked on further.

The paddle blades are cut out by a computer-driven router following
a digital template that insures every blade of a particular design is
accurately reproduced.  They adapted a sanding machine designed for
making hockey sticks to sand both sides of the blades at once.  Additional
bevels and tapers are added by hands trained by having done the same
skilled task hundreds of thousands of times.  Some of the blades are
then fiberglass wrapped.

The dark Rockgard epoxy edge can be seen here on the Series "A" going
all the way around the blade.  On my BB Special, the Rockgard
encompasses the tip and a couple inches up either side.  It is ruggedly
strong and protects the blade from abrasion or splitting after repeated
encounters with rocks, gravel, coral, or sand on the bottom or shore.  In
spite of some labor-saving devices incorporated in the process, there is
serious craftsmanship that goes into these paddles.

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