Friday, September 02, 2011

HowTo: Repair an Outrigger Canoe Paddle. Part 1, Simple Repairs

For the past few months I've gotten into repairing outrigger canoe, bent shaft paddles. I started into it because my own paddle, Enzo, needed some minor work done. Mostly just some scratches and small gouges in the face and handle. Those were easy enough to repair, once someone told me how. Unfortunately, the web was less than its usual helpful self when it came to repairing paddles. Hopefully this series of entries will help with that.

Figure 1: Scratches
First round is the simple repairs. These include wood that's been exposed to water, and has started to intake water. Simple scratches (shown in Figure 1) or small dings are pretty easy to repair.

Step 1: Identify the Problem Areas
The first question you have to ask is, is the damage slight enough that you can just fix that small part of the paddle, or is it large enough to warrant stripping and re-coating the entire paddle. Most of the time if you're contemplating fixing your paddle, then its probably bad enough that you'd want to fix the whole thing.

On my first paddle, Enzo, the damage wasn't too bad. Enzo is the "Nani" model, all-wood outrigger racing paddle made by Kialoa. Unfortunately I didn't think to take pictures of the damage before hand. The damage was localized mostly at the handle ( from being stood up on the ground), the shaft ( from banging on the gunwales), and the edge of the face ( from banging into the canoe, and general wear). In our Canoe Club, it is considered very disrespectful to stand your paddle face down, so Enzo has almost always been handle down. Even with this, the tip of the face was still banged up, think how bad it would be if it stood on the face all the time!

Step 2: Sand

The next thing you have to do is sand away the varnish. I chose to use 220-grit sandpaper and hand-sanded all the rough areas. Any areas where wood has started to rot, should be sanded until the majority of the rotted wood has been removed. Be careful of removing too much wood. If the water damage looks pretty deep, it might be worth just smoothing it down, and letting the varnish penetrate through the damage. It won't look as uniform, but you don't risk compromising the structural integrity of the paddle.

Step 3: Varnish

For such simple, smaller repairs, I would suggest using a spray varnish. I used Helmsman Spar Varnish. This is used on marine craft and will work well on the paddle. Apply a thin coat on the area, just enough to cover the work area. A mistake I made was not putting enough varnish. You should put enough to coat the area, but not enough to drip. If you're not sure, err on the side of too little. This repair will require multiple coats, so don't worry if the area doesn't look the same as the rest of the paddle.

Put a coat or two of the varnish, about an hour or two apart. This will create a nice base to work with. Let these coats dry for at least 24 hours. Also, before spraying the varnish, take a slightly damp towel and a dry towel, and go over the area. The damp towel will remove the excess saw dust, and the dry towel will ensure that any water from the damp towel won't penetrate into the wood. Do this right before varnishing ( so that dust doesn't have a chance to get back on).

Step 4: Finish-sanding

At this point the area should be relatively smooth. Because these areas are high traffic, we need multiple coats to build up a nice buffer of protection. At this point take a pot scrubber, such as this. And go over the area to create an abrasive surface. This will allow the next coat to adhere better to the previous coat. Make sure you don't take off too much. Now is the time to remove any drips that might have occured, or smooth out any lumpy areas. Consider going back to a 220 grit sandpaper for big drips.

My rule of thumb is to use the scrubber until the gloss of the varnish has been removed. Go over it again with the damp and dry towels.

Step 5: Revarnish and repear

At this point you simple put another layer of varnish onto the paddle. Alternate sanding and adding a coat and let the varnish build up. On Enzo I went for about 4-5 coats total. When spraying, make sure to go "past the area". The spray should be even and consistant. Start a few inches away from the wood and spray a nice even coat. Then keep spraying an inch or two PAST the wood, before changing direction. This ensures that the speed changes do not deliver more or less varnish.

Face of the blade has been fixed.

Here are some shots of the finished product. It came out pretty well. Note: This paddle isn't the same paddle as pictured in Figure 1. I didn't think to take pictures of the damage before starting work.

 The handle still shows some of the damage left in the wood. To remove the rest of the damage would have required quite a bit more sanding. I didn't think I could remove it without significantly altering the shape of the handle. Plus I didn't want the handle to get too small.

The rest of the pictures from this repair are available in my gallery.


jackie said...

really helpful! thanks! I have a few small dings and this is exactly the information I was looking for.

jackie said...

really helpful! thanks! I have a few small dings and this is exactly the information I was looking for.

Abernathy Ohana said...

Mahalos, I really wasnt looking for this. But being a paddler with many paddles in need of repair it was a good refresher.


Tracy Stice, R(B) said...

I have repaired about 40 paddles this year from all wood, carbon fiber/wood and pure carbon fiber. My experience is that if you only have a small area that is damaged , such as the shaft because you bang the canoe on one side, then just sand that area and follow the directions in this great blog. Don't sand the whole paddle unless you really have to as you do take off wood each time and you really never get out the discoloration caused by water damage. A new trick I am trying now is to use car urethane clear coat over varnish from a really durable finish. Today, I am spraying 13 paddles using this technique. The nice thing is, you can sand and re-coat in 2 hours to really layer it on. It is toxic to spray to make sure to use a respirator. Tracy Stice, Na Kai Ewalu Canoe Club, Maui.