ABOUT THE PADDLES
Cricket Designs makes hand-made canoe and kayak paddles for boaters who want custom quality and features and personal service at a competitive prices. Cricket Paddles are beautiful to look at but it's what you can't see that really counts. My philosophy on building paddles is very simple, do the best job I can. If I can find a way to make them lighter, stronger, more durable or prettier, I do it. I have changed to Dynel edges on all paddles except the Greenland style as it reduces the weight, improves the balance on canoe paddles and lowers the swing weight on kayak paddles, it looks better and significantly improves the durability. What more can you ask for!
I have had to increase my prices as my material costs have gone up significantly. Epoxy is up to over $120 per gallon, varnish now $50 per gallon, and my Western Cedar that I used to be able to purchase for $3-$4 per board foot is now over $7. With the price increases due to the greater time it takes to put on these Dynel edges and the steady increases in material costs, my paddles still cost just a little more than garden variety composite paddles, but significantly less than the high-end joint-damaging graphite paddles.
By the way, the graphite paddle makers upset me a bit. Back in the early days of graphite shafts there was a very limited selection of tubing available, the very stiff shafts that harm shoulders and elbows and wrists might be expected, but to have the same problems 20 years later with all the advances in graphite engineering technology and availibility is unforgiveable.
I get 20 emails a year from graphite paddle component suppliers in China. It seems that the majority of composite paddles or at least their components are made in SE asia.
What Makes us different
You may wonder why you should even consider a premium-quality wood paddle -- cheaper plastic and wood paddles are certainly available.
But do consider this: wood paddles such as the laminated Cricket Paddles, have a tough resilient flex that reduces the strain on the arms and shoulders. Premium wood paddles are designed for the most efficient paddling possible while retaining their light weight. Reinforced tips and fiberglassed blades create a paddle that is strong and durable--yet they are crafted to show the beauty of the wood. The last few years all the blades have book matched wood. I take one piece of stock and split it so that each individual piece is the same as the one on the opposite side of the blade. Is it better, probably, but it is definitely more beautiful. One of my more time-consuming steps is wood selection for the blade, at least it seems that way to me.
Don't let the lovely, finish fool you – the finish is pretty – and it's durable! To explain, I coat the entire paddle with a minimum of two coats of epoxy resin which saturates, hardens and seals the wood. Then it is topped-off with a minimum of five coats of polyurethane; wet sanded between each coat. The Honey Island Cruisers and Gemini's get a final finish of satin polyurethane that adds a richness that few other paddles have. Your paddle may seem too pretty to use and more than one have ended up as decoration over the fireplace, but the finish is that good because they are built to be used rather than constantly needing to be re-varnished.
Two things I have recently found are: First, I put the prime coat of epoxy on the blade in the morning and then wait about 6-7 hours an put the fiberglass on with a second coat. It makes for a stronger blade as the two coats combine chemically. This allows a thinner and stronger blade. Of course it means I can't put on the prime coat on at 5 PM like I used to, then come back the next morning sand them down and put on the fiberglass. So the time stretches out by an additional day or so, but the result is better.
Secondly: There seems to be a material change in either the epoxy I use (West) or the varnish (Minwax) and I now have to wait 3 or 4 days for the epoxy to completely cure before I can varnish them or the varnish doesn't want to dry. I found this years ago when trying to use Varathane – it never dried- but now the Minwax is doing the same thing. I'm may well try the Captain's Z-Spar, again an added cost, but it might work better. A chemical engineer/researcher I knew years ago explained it like two magnets of the same polarity trying to repel each other.
I have now been doing this for long enough, over 30 years, that I refuse to rush their construction any more, they will last your lifetime so the wait of an extra few days is a small price to pay.
Why should you want a Cricket Paddle?
Durability-- Designed to withstand adrenaline-powered strokes and rocks which inevitably crop up from nowhere!
Laminated Shafts Don't Break-- This is an important point when taking strong, powerful strokes. My laminated shafts are stronger than a one-piece or even three-piece shafts. Lamination, good
design and the choice of specific woods keeps the weight light without sacrificing strength. (I don't want you left up a creek without a (Cricket) paddle!).
Reinforced Tips and Edges are Tougher -- The epoxy-saturated Dynel forms the most indestructible tips and edges I have found. Premium wood paddle builders have used this material for years and several of the big-name composite paddle companies now put it on the outside edge of their blades.
Fiberglassed Blades Last Longer-- To further enhance durability, the blades are covered with fiberglass cloth and epoxy which provides high dent and abrasion resistance.
Performance-- Designed for hours of tireless paddling with a very quiet entry into the water. You have smooth, powerful strokes and good bracing ability.
Less Fatiguing on the Body--Balance is critical in touring paddles. If a paddle is well balanced, it will be less tiring over a day than a blade-heavy paddle. In fact, balance is more important than ultra-light weight for comfortable paddling over long distances. An added advantage of wood is the slight “give”or flex of the resilient shaft which reduces fatigue in shoulders and back muscles. The graphite paddle makers have yet to deal with this issue. Remember too, wood is warmer in your hands!
No Flutter in the Water--One of the basic advantages between wood and composite paddles is that the thicker, profiled wood blade doesn't slice and flutter as many thin-blade composites do, yet it is still provides the solid leverage as you power your boat forward. And, the rounded corners of Cricket Paddles allow them to enter the water smoothly and quietly. Composite paddles tend to have a spine with more dihedral, a great selling point for stability, What they don't tell you is that the water is pushed perpendicular to the blade surface, ie: to each side rather than back, so you gain stability, but lose power. The spine and that dihedral is what gives them their structural strength.
Cricket Paddles are readily customized -- most have their owner's name on them and wood selections can be tailored to the owners wishes. As shown on the paddle descriptions, other options are available.
I Guarantee Satisfaction--Our paddles carry a one-year warranty against manufacturer defects. All standard paddles have a return-if-not-satisfied guarantee. The buyer is responsible only for return shipping.
I have been making paddles for over thirty five years now and it is close to time to really retire. With the methods I use to make them, I could teach someone the methods, but not the instinct that when something just doesn't feel right you have to do “this” or “that”. In other words, when I quit they will just be unavailable. I'm the only person I know of making paddles like the Honey Islands and Gemini's for under $350.