The GEMINI IV and V series of paddles were designed for freestyle or sport paddling, but have appealed to paddlers who just appreciate a fine paddle. They are based on a combination of the Pat Moore and Craig Quimby paddles from the 1980's but tailored to our more modern canoe designs.
They are designed and built to provide the ultimate in water performance. The blade is shaped with a more squared than rounded tip and softer shoulders as compared to the Honey Island Cruisers. The shaft is tapered further into the blade than the Honey Island Cruisers with more of a dihedral shape and less shaft spine. This gives the blade a smoother in-water performance when using feathering strokes. These features also provide smoother initial catch, and allow precise paddle strokes closer to the hull.
The book matched cedar blade is shaped with a tapering diamond shape to flat at the tip making the large blades very stiff and keeping the optimal shape for smooth-in-water recovery strokes. The hard and durable blade edges are very thin (I try for under 1/8”) to help minimize the in-water resistance.
The shaft is laminated from two strips of cedar with a center strip of ash to provide the stiffness required and still be light in weight. The smaller blade Gemini V uses a narrower ash spine to give a little more flex in the shaft
The blade and shaft are sealed with 3 coats of marine epoxy for durability, with a partial layer of fiberglass on the blade to provide strength without excess weight plus a 15” long fiberglass sleeve on the shaft to provide damage resistance to the inevitable contact with the gunwale. The paddles are then finished with a minimum of 3 coats of varnish, generally 5 or 6 until it is right. The final coat is satin finish coat giving the paddle a lovely soft, rich appearance. The grip is given two coats of Watco exterior oil to seal the wood, buffed with steel wool and the finished with boiled linseed oil.
If you wonder why the Gemini IV is the larger blade it is because it was made before the smaller Gemini V.
The grip is a cross between a Canadian palm style and a football grip that is commonly seen on some of the Sawyer paddles. A Canadian palm is a constant radius curve machined into the shaft with a somewhat flattened surface, then a rounded top. The football grip that Sawyer uses is glued to the end of the shaft. I glue two face pieces on the grip then band saw and sand the final shape, coming up with I think the best of both, an easily held grip that is an integral part of the shaft. Since the grip is hand sanded to shape I can easily customize it to some extent.
The grips come in 2 sizes. The larger one which is the most popular is 4 inches wide and 1-3/8” thick with much less of a football shape. The smaller grip is about 3-3/4” and slightly thinner and more suitable for people with smaller hands
I have also made several sets of bent shaft paddles for tandem canoeists. In contrast to a normal flat back bent shaft paddle the blade is symmetrical on a bent shaft. For the freestylers I use the Gemini IV large blade. I built one by mistake using the smaller Gemini V blade. I use it extensively on our spring trips to the mellow rivers in the Ozarks with our grandchildren and it has worked wonderfully. The dynel edge and tip have protected the blade from damage. Just an altogether nice traveling paddle. I wouldn't recommend for trying to go fast as it still is a much larger blade than any standard bent shaft and would be quite tiring to use at a fast pace. Built on either a 5, 8 or 10 degree form the result is a bend of either 7, 10 or 12 degrees. For solo use I would recommend the 8 degree form to allow slightly better control strokes. The grip is a combination the sharply shaped grip from the old Blackburn Lutra Pro and my Gemini, for years I thought this was the Charley Wilson designed Cobra grip. Charley sent me a nice email informing me of my error and then sent a real cobra grip, quite different and interesting. The shaft in this case is 4 laminates of western cedar with a center core layer of ash. This is my favorite cruising paddle.
Blade: Gemini IV: 8-1/2”x 24”
Gemini V: 8”x 22-1/2”
Gemini VII: either blade
The GEMINI IV shaft lengths of 33” to 36” are recommended although shorter lengths can be made with a resulting loss in balance. Don't even ask to get one counterbalanced with lead weights. I've tried but never succeeded. The most popular lengths are 34” to 36”. Typical weight is 25 oz
The GEMINI V shaft lengths from 30” to 36”. Typical weight is 21-23 oz.
Grip: The classic Canadian palm/football grip can be left slightly oversize so that the paddler can fine tune the final shape if desired. Your choice of large or small grips
Prices: Gemini IV and V $265
Gemini VII $285
PS, Please don't break these guys, they are extremely difficult to repair due to the thin blade thickness. I have done it, but it isn't a lot of fun. If the blade cracks, but doesn't break off, it is often more easily repairable.
I have had several request to try to make a version like the old S-blade Lutra Pro. I have never figured out how to make the S blade shape and have heard very mixed reviews on its performance and now have given up on the idea.