The NORTHWOODS is a classic- sized bent shaft cruising paddle. I'll explain that. Back in late 70's, early 80's a bent shaft paddle was the same size as a standard canoe paddle of approximately 8” by 20”. Many, including mine, were 9”x20” as most people believed a large blade was needed. Even the racers used these large blade paddles.
The big change came when the foam core graphite paddles came out. The racers found out the could keep the same speed with the same or higher stroke rate of over 60 strokes per minute and keep it up with less fatigue. These new paddles came in at 8-12 ounces, much less than the more normal 20 ounces of a wood paddle. Most of the wood paddle makers then responded by making their paddles smaller, matching the graphite blade and some got their weight down to about 15 ounces.
I proceeded a little differently, it appeared to me that very few cruising paddlers used a stroke rate of 60spm; it was more like 30 when pushing fairly hard. At that rate, the small windmill paddles have little advantage. Mine slowly decreased over the years to its current 8-3/8” by 19 “ size and I've just stayed there. Last year I had one that I goofed up on the blade tip so I shortened it to 17”. It turned out quite nice and saved an additional ounce or 2, so I thought OK, for those folks who want a smaller paddle I'll call this the NORTHSTAR. Remember that since the blade is shorter, and the shaft length you use should stay the same so the overall length you want is correspondingly 2”shorter than for a longer blade paddle.
To figure the length of the paddle for the most efficient paddling sit in your canoe, hold your grip arm parallel to the water and measure the distance to the water. This gives you the shaft length, add the blade length and that is your paddle length. With a deeper boat the paddle need to be slightly longer than with a very shallow cruiser.
After all that theory, 90% of my bent shaft paddles are ordered 54” long, people just seem to be uncomfortable with short paddles.
I also make 10 degree paddles. 14 degrees has been standard over the years, but with the increased power and leverage, you lose a little control. This means in a straight keeled canoe like most Winonah's and many other touring canoes the higher angle works better. Now imagine switching to a slightly rockered plastic boat, like an Old Town Disco,on twisty river in the Ozarks, then the lower- angled 10 degree keeps 80% of the power, but makes the necessary correction strokes much easier and effective. I've made them down to 5 degrees, but below 7 you loose the power advantage of the bent shaft.
I use a 5- piece laminate in the shaft, cutting 5 strips of cedar and one of black willow. By clamping strips around a form the 5- piece shaft is quite strong. I've never heard of a shaft breaking in more than 25 years of making these paddles. The blade is made from book-matched cedar and then wrapped with a edge of dynel. The combination along with a sheet of fiberglass reinforcing give a very light, strong and damage-resistant blade. The grip consists of two walnut blocks glued to the sides with a walnut cross plate in front then shaped to fit the hand. The heavier walnut provides counterbalancing for the blade. The paddle is sealed with 2 coats of epoxy for waterproofing and then varnished.
The NORTHWOODS averages about 19 oz for a 54” length, the NORTHSTAR is about 2 ounces lighter. Types of wood vary in density so the weights may vary slightly. The darker and prettier heartwood of western cedar is heavier than the lighter wood.
NORTHWOODS- 14 degree and 10 degree lengths to 54”(Shaft length 30” to 35”)
NORTHSTAR- 14 degree and 10 degree lengths to 54”(shaft length 30” to 37”)
Pricing- $175, plus shipping.