Design & DIY

Weekly Hack: Toughen up your canoe paddle

By marekuliasz/Shutterstock

Wooden canoe paddles take a beating. You’re not supposed to bang them against the gunwales or use the blades to fend off rocks…but hey, it happens. Sometimes it happens a lot. In that case, here’s how to rehab a chewed-up paddle, and how to toughen it up for the next smackdown.

Fix the tip of the blade For small dings and dents, use a block plane or an orbital sander. For big gouges or notches, use a jig saw to first trim off the jagged bits.

Sanding, part one Sand the entire paddle—butt, blade, and shaft—using 80-grit sandpaper. This will help remove any old varnish or weathered, grey wood.

Sanding, part two Use successively finer-grit sandpapers—start with 120-grit—to smooth the entire paddle, then use a rag dampened with mineral spirits to remove the dust. 

Reinforce the blade tip Use fibreglass cloth and polyester resin (from a kit for patching fibreglass boats) to form a protective jacket for your paddle’s blade. Wrap the bottom of the blade with a smooth piece of cloth coated with resin. Or, skip the cloth and just apply four or five coats of epoxy resin to the bottom three inches of the paddle’s blade.

Sanding, part three Sand the patched area, wipe it with mineral spirits, then top the whole business with marine spar varnish. Do at least three coats, allowing the varnish to dry before sanding in between coats.


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