paddles… enhancing the beauty of nature, but not quite the way nature intended
My paddles are made from an ever increasing selection of Australian and exotic timbers. No two are the same, with variations in shape, size, decorative and functional details, and of course timber selection ensuring each paddle is a unique piece of functional art.
I tend to divide my paddle design thoughts into two components; form and function.
The style of my paddles has evolved over time, but there have been certain characteristics present from my first formative attempts, such as the use of solid timber, asymmetrical handle designs, and the inclusion of small details made from brass, other metals, and contrasting timbers.
Where possible I like to use the natural features of a piece of wood in the design of the paddle. I try to use knots, heartwood/sapwood boundaries and distinctive grain patterns in timbers such as blackheart Sassafras to create designs specific to each piece of wood.
Some style elements, such as my foray into paddles styled after knife blades, have been inspired by friends in the local fetish scene. A local Sydney couple who were commissioning a lignum vitae paddle commented favourably on one of my early pieces, the only paddle I’d made at that time with an asymmetrical tip. They saw the resemblance to a knife blade, and requested a similar tip shape for their paddle. The comment prompted me to look for some further inspiration in the kitchen drawer, and the knife shaped paddle style was well and truly born.
When I started developing my thoughts on paddle design one of the issues I saw in many other wooden paddles was that they were cut from a solid piece of timber in such a way that the blade and handle were both the same thickness. I found this resulted in either the handle being too thin or the blade being too thick for my taste.
Some makers addressed this by laminating extra pieces of wood onto the handle area to make it thicker, which fixed the functionality issue but did not fully assuage my aesthetic sensibilities. (Which is my slightly pompous way of saying I didn’t really like the look of it!) So I decided I was going to make mine from one solid piece of timber and have a handle which was thicker than the blade. As well as enhancing the look of the paddle I've found the thicker handle/thinner blade combination results in a better balanced paddle which is easier to hold and swing.
Wood choice plays a part in the function of a paddle by virtue of the variation in wood density between different species. I've made paddles ranging in weight from around 100 grams to over 800 grams. By selecting the appropriate type of wood it is possible to make small heavy paddles, large lightweight ones, or any other variation to suit the type of impact sensation desired.