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Cricket Designs
17530 W. Hwy 50
Salida, CO 81201
573-826-1484

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SOLO

SoloA curve blade canoe paddle for whitewater canoes.  Not a new paddle; the first ones were made over a decade ago but renamed as I recently made some breakthroughs in weight reduction and increased durability.  I didn't have it on the website as I regarded it as nothing special with almost no market, then I loaned a new version to a friend who promptly but 50 days of use on it in about 2-1/2 months and set aside his two big name carbon paddles.  I began to think I might have something.

The blade shape is pretty much the standard shape you'll see on the river, I believe it originated with Kober Paddles (in a non curved blade version) in Germany for the 1968 Olympics and has been adopted in curved configuration by most paddle manufacturers.  My version has rounded corners on the tip which sacrifices a little bit of power on the catch phase of the stroke, but also doesn't demand a vertical stroke entry for the paddler which reduces blade torquing and wrist fatigue.  This is a more user friendly, not racing oriented paddle.

With a rounded Dynel tip, it wears away gradually and can easily be rebuilt and not just be shredded like many of the composite paddles.  The size is 18” by 8” although I will vary it easily as it is hand made and have built them  up to 8-1/2” (which I felt was too big) and down to 7-1/2” which was very light and perfect for someone with less strength.

The SOLO is made one of  two constructions with the option of mixing the two.  The SD is a standard construction with a solid 4 piece shaft and black willow  blades.  The edging is the standard 1/8” Dynel and the tip is the standard 3/8” Dynel.  Shaft sleeving is a knitted Dynel sleeve.  The blade reinforcing is a 4 oz S-glass facings a great and expensive improvement to the 4 oz. E-glass most paddlemakers use.  The weight of the paddles has been running in the 28-30 oz. Range.  If you want a bombproof, but rather ugly construction, I can put kevlar seam tape on the shaft in the blade to reduce the possibility of the shaft eventually cracking.

The XL is built for lighter weight.  The shaft is a hollow core construction with 24” of the shaft hollowed out.  This saves about 1-1/2 oz of weight.  The blades are now thin strips of Western Cedar, a lighter weight replacement for black willow.  By using thin strips I avoid the bending and fatigue cracking that occurs when using wider strips of cedar.   Edging and tips are the same as the SD.  Reinforcing is a partial 1.8 oz Kevlar sheet and full 2 oz fiberglass sheet on the power face and a full 2 oz fiberglass sheet on the back face.  The Kevlar counteracts the tendency of wood shafts to crack due to fatigue and the Kevlar facing resists blade flexing.   I tried using a fiberglass shaft sleeve, but it eventually wore thru so I went back to the dynel.  Weights have been about 26 oz. 

Construction Details

SHAFT

The shaft is a laminate of 2 pieces of pine sandwiched between 2 pieces of ash.  Most of my older ones were sitka spruce  which has gotten difficult to buy around here and is tough to machine and sand. For all of Sitka's supposed superiority, none of the pine shafts have broken yet.
 
GRIP

 The grip is made from alder.  I used to make the sort of standard hot dog shape more common on the older paddles like Norse and Silver Creek, then several years ago I switched to an asymmetrical grip that designed by the late Mike Galt(a flat water canoe guru).  People look at it and say this is different, I'm not sure I like it. It takes about 3 minutes to grow on people as better than the standard hot dog and broom stick grips.  If you insist, I will make the older style grip.

Blade

Solo BladeThe blade is either constructed from willow or cedar.  The willow is an interesting wood , strong enough to do the job very well at a very light weight for a hardwood.   My other option is to use a cedar blade, it is lighter and just as strong if built properly, but in doing so loses some of its natural beauty.

I have repaired many kayak paddles with cedar blades made by one of the major manufacturers.  They use strips about 1-1/4” wide and they all crack right in the middle of the strip.  What I do is basically use a glue joint which is stronger than the wood with a wood spacer.  All my strips are no more than 5/8” wide so there are a minimum of 7 pieces on each side of the shaft and probably closer to 10.  The result of this is a very strong, light blade.
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Reinforcing

The first thing that stands out is the white Dynel edging.  It is only about 1/8” thick, but I've never seen it wear out.  Other paddle makers use fiberglass rope and other edging that is much thicker, and heavier.  No more comments needed.  The tip is also Dynel, but consists of over 30 layers of fabric, that is over 3/8” thick.  It wraps around the corner of the blade and is a true wearing surface.  The Dynel wears slowly and is very rebuild able, particularly if it isn't worn completely down to the wood.  If it does get worn into the wood it is still  repairable, but takes a few more steps and never as neatly refinished.

There is also a Dynel on the shaft.  The Dynel in a woven sleeve is thick, heavy, and tough, but really doesn't contribute much additional strength.  If you know where you wear the shaft I can put on a shorter, area specific dynel sleeve and not waste the weight of unneeded reinforcing.  Most people wear the shaft in an area only 6-8” long so I could use a 10” sleeve rather than the 18 to 20 inches that are need to cover everyone.

The blade reinforcing is where I recently made some breakthroughs.  The XL blade  is now reinforced with a partial layer of Kevlar on the power face and then  a complete sheet of 2 oz. fiberglass.  The non-power face has a partial and full layer of fiberglass.  The idea behind all this asymmetrical reinforcing is that Kevlar is very strong in tension and not very good in compression, while the fiberglass is just the opposite; strong in compression and not strong in tension.  All that is engineering speak to say that  during the paddle stroke the power face is trying to bend, placing the Kevlar under tension while the back face is being bent putting the fiberglass into compression. 

I no longer use the veneer blade tip cover shown in some of the pictures.  If you're a traditionalist I can put that on, but for longevity and reduction of maintenance would prefer not to.  Twenty years ago a full thickness veneer cross piece added additional stiffness to the blade, now I let the reinforcing do that.  In addition, when I fiberglass over the veneer only epoxy covers the wood edge of the veneer.  This epoxy eventually wears away allowing moisture to penetrate the wood and start to lift the fiberglass. 

Over the years cracking of the shaft at the end of blade  has been very common on wood paddles, this is due to the repeated bending of the blade.  Some paddle makers have tried vertical grain shafts, but that just gives it a seam for failure, I built mine with a mixed grain and it still eventually broke.  Homer King at Silver Creek even managed to taper the core so that the ash went all the way to tip. It had to be difficult to produce, and I'm not sure if that solved the problem.  So far my reinforcing system has been used 3 years now without failure  This is the best solution I've ever found. 

The SD standard  reinforcing is a layer of 4 oz S glass on each face, it is  expensive but very tough system and heavier system.  The 4 oz S-glass comes from the surfboard industry.

Sizes

The paddle normally has a 8”x18” blade.  As they are largely hand made, I can build them either larger or small on request.  I have made them from 8-1/2”x18” to 7-1/2”x17”.  Overall lengths range from 54” to 60” with most of them either 56” or 58”.

Prices:      SD                          $225
                 XL                         $250

Shipping is at cost, currently around $15.  All paddles are built to order although I sometimes have a paddle without a grip on hand so that it can be cut to length and shipped within a few days.

 



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