Home - Project Just Right
Chapter 1 - My goals and Requirements
Chapter 2 - Choosing the Boat to Build
Chapter 3 - Preliminaries, What I Did Before Starting
Chapter 4 - Setting up Frames and Building the Hull
Chapter 5 - Interior
Chapter 6 - Deck and Exterior
Chapter 7 - Topside Details
Chapter 8 - Keel, Centerboard, and Rudder
Chapter 9 - Mast, Rigging, Sails, Outboard & Anchors
Chapter 10 - The Electrical System
Chapter 11 - The Trailer and Trailering
Chapter 12 - Sea Trials and Cruising Pictures
Chapter 13 - Future Projects ... When is a Boat Finished?
Chapter 14 - Useful Information... Sources and Links
Chapter 15 - Questions and Answers
Chapter 16 - Other Vagabond Builders and Aficionados
Chapter 17 - A Few Good Ideas
Chapter 18 - Chapter 18 - Specifications and Equipment

Chapter 17 - A Few Good Ideas

How to Make a $7 Kayak Paddle

We purchased two Pygmy Kayak kits many years ago. When we finished the kayaks, we needed paddles. It occurred to me that perhaps we could construct our own paddles. I started by examining all the paddles I could find. I coerced someone to let me copy the outline of the blade shape for a paddle I liked. The blade shape was for a general purpose paddle. I selected several straight closet poles at a local lumber yard. I sorted through the inventory until I found the lightest weight poles. This was very early in the history of Pygmy Kayaks and the components were still shipped in a wooden box with door skin plywood tops and bottoms. John Lockwood, the designer and manufacturer offhandedly remarked that the door skins were particularly nice luan plywood and appeared to be glued with waterproof glue. I tested a sample of the plywood and discovered he was right. The plywood was three ply and without blemishes on at least one side and tight knots on the other. The plywood is about 3 mm thick.

Step 1. Decide if you want a feathered blade or un-feathered. I chose a 70 degree feather angle and "right hand controlled" paddle. My paddle shaft is 90 inches long.

Step 2. Cut the blade ends of the paddle shaft. This edge view shows the cuts I made.

Step 3. I cut a "reminder grip" section into the paddle shaft, particularly for the right hand.

Step 4. Cut out the blades. Here is a pattern for the blade shape I used.

Link here to download a .PDF drawing of the paddle profile. http://amateurboatbuilding.com/ProjectJustRight/chap17/PaddleProfile.pdf

Step 5. Flow coat the paddle shaft and blade with one coat of epoxy resin. Mix another batch of resin and wood flour and glue the blade to the shaft. I clamped the paddle shaft and blade to my work bench. I was able to flex the paddle shaft to give the blade surface a cupped effect. Use another batch of resin and wood flour to fillet around the shaft/blade connection.

Step 6. Cover the front and back sides of the blade with 4 oz fiberglass cloth in several steps, sanding in between coats. Be sure to remove any resin blush before sanding with water and Scotchbrite pad. Saturate the edges of the plywood as well as you can. It is very difficult to tape around the edges of the blades, figerglass tape won't work. I taped the edges with some very thin fiberglass ribbon. Another technique is to cut some strips of fiberglass cloth at a 45 degree angle to make up some diagonal bias tape to apply to the edges. If you accumulate some damage to the end of the paddle, it is pretty easy to apply a little epoxy resin. Our paddles have held up surprisingly well in use. The paddle shafts were not glassed, only flow coated and sanded. After we tried out the paddles, we eventually applied multiple coats of Captains marine varnish. We find that varnish adheres better after the epoxy has hardened for weeks or months. The drip cups were commercially available. I tried shock cord but the commercial ones worked better.

Our paddles weighed about 38 oz., pretty light I'd say. We kept the blades in natural finish but I have noticed that white blades show up better in daylight and may be a better finish for the safety consideration of being seen by other watercraft. I thought about adding a pencil sized rib in the front of the blade to perhaps cut cross flow. I like the feel of a little flex in the shaft when I am paddling. These paddles have just a little spring in the shaft. If that bothers you, I expect you could add a little carbon fiber tow along the shaft. Occasionally, a slip joint in the middle of the paddle would be nice, especially if you wanted to store a spare or paddle with a different blade shape on the deck. I opted for a simple paddle but I did notice that someone was offering a carbon fiber slip joint.

If you want to check out some great kayak kits, link to the Pygmy Kayak website. http://pygmyboats.com

Can the $14 Oars Be Far Behind

I made a pair of oars for a small dinghy using techniques similar to the paddle. In this case, I used a lightweight fir 2x2 for the oar shaft and 1/4 inch plywood for the blades. I like to taper the oar shaft from a thickest point at the oar lock to both the grip and the blade ends. I made the shafts eight sided for an interesting touch. The oars weighed about 3 pounds each. These oars used a single pin fixed oar lock but ring or horn oarlocks and leathered shafts are an option.

Here is a pattern for the oar blade shape I used.

Link here to download a .PDF drawing of the oar blade profile. http://amateurboatbuilding.com/ProjectJustRight/chap17/JustRightOar.pdf

Here are a few pictures of the oars.

The Dobler Rolon Cartop Carrier

Joe Dobler invented an ingenious cartop carrier system that allowed one person to load and unload a boat weighing up to 250 pounds. The system consisted of two parts, a car top rack and a boat dolly. Joe manufactured and sold the racks in the 1950s. The car top rack was fabricated from aluminum tubes with clever fittings to connect the tubes. The dolly used two rubber tired wheels about the size of wheelbarrow tires. The dolly folded into a compact shape for storage. The dolly had legs that kept it upright. Once on the dolly, the boat could be rolled to the waters edge for launching. The lifting tube frame disassembled and the tubes snapped onto the car top carrier for transport. The pictures below are from an ad for the rack.

Joe took me along on one of his trips. We used the carrier and it worked very well.

Unfortunately, the Rolon rack is no longer available. Before Joe died several years ago, he tried unsuccessfully to find someone interested in manufacturing the racks.

He was issued a US patent 2395173 in 1946. A copy of the patent text and drawing are shown below. Remember that a patent drawing isn't a blueprint or a set of plans to build the item, but merely a description of the unique features which are the basis of claiming patent rights. The patent has long expired so the ideas are now in the public domain.




Robert Wagenvoort's Car Topper

Every once in a while, I am surprised by an email from someone who found something valuable at this web site. Here is an email from Robert Wagenvoort in the Netherlands.

Hi Justin,

Searching bateau.com for homebuilt yachts, I was linked to your beautiful website and found Joe Dobler's lifting system. A brillant solution!

Last winter I built Jim Michalaks "Piccup Pram" and struggled with cartopping. I made a wooden version of Dobler's lift that works fine. You can find my device at: http://web.mac.com/robertwagenvoort/iWeb/Site/Cartop%20Lift.html

Thanks a lot!

Robert Wagenvoort

Netherlands, 2/17/2007

With Robert's permission, I show several pictures of his Car Topper from his web site. Check out his web site for complete pictures and a slideshow. I think this is an elegant version of Dobler's Rolon carrier that anyone could build.

Potential List of Things Which Might Help Vagabond Builders

This section will contain a few items that might be helpful to Vagabond or other boat builders. I have some work to do to prepare these items but here are a few that I might add:

Top :: Previous :: Index :: Next