Tuesday, March 12, 2013

BLOG 40. Carbon-Fiber Paddle Care

by Cliff Jacobson

This paddle is well-used. Note the silky-smooth edge, which has been maintained by careful sanding

Once you’ve used a carbon-fiber paddle, you’ll need real determination to return to wood.  Admittedly, there’s a warmth and beauty to wood that is unmatched by synthetics.  But a good carbon paddle weighs about half as much as a wood one, it’s better balanced (much better balanced!) and it is quieter in the water. That quietness is due to a knife-thin blade tip that can gouge or fracture. Hit a rock with a delicate carbon blade and tiny chunks of carbon may break off the edge which, in time, will begin to look like a hack-saw blade.  Once these tiny teeth develop they provide a pathway to greater destruction.  If, for example, the edge strikes a rock hard at a deep tooth point, the blade may fracture along the fault line.  What to do?

Before we address maintenance and repair, be aware that despite their obvious “thinness”,  carbon blades are much tougher than they look.  Unless you’re a rock bashing whitewater junkie, a good carbon stick will probably last a life time with normal use—that is, if you maintain the blade.  Here’s how:

Occasionally, visually inspect the edge for damage. Tiny teeth are no problem as long as you don’t run your fingers across them—doing so can produce a nasty cut!  Smooth the edge with medium-grit sandpaper: wear gloves and safety glasses—you don’t want to get carbon fibers in your eyes!  Most carbon blades have a fair amount of solid material on the edge, so you it’s doubtful you’ll ever sand off enough stuff to reach the foam core.

Finish to silky smoothness with 000 steelwool or wet-dry sandpaper.  The final act is to apply 303® Protectant to the entire paddle.  The 303 will hide scratches, brighten the finish and provide an ultraviolet barrier.

A gripping thought: Use  400 grit wet sandpaper to smooth out rough imperfections on the grip or shaft.  Polish silky-smooth with polishing compound or jewelers rouge. Finally, apply 303 Protectant.
Cliff with carbon-fiber paddle.  Standing on a "lump of coal"--Teddy Roosevelt Natl. Park, North Dakots
Cliff Jacobson


1 comment:

Aaron Smith said...

I agree that there's a certain characteristic of wood that could never be replaced by synthetic materials.
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