Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Making a Breakdown Paddle

After borrowing a homemade two-piece breakdown from my buddy Loft (for our Deer Creek adventure), I had the inspiration to make my own from one of my old worn-down paddles. Not only did that paddle serve as an additional backup for the group, the two halves were also used to pitch my tarp, and worked extremely well.

Pseudo tent poles on our Deer Creek multi-day

Step 1 - Choosing a candidate:
Since this was my first attempt, I decided to pick the most worn of my retired paddles, just in case. This also meant that the paddle was a little shorter than the others, so it would be more likely to fit in different boats. On that note, the finished paddle, like Loft's, would only fit in my Prijon Hercules, not my Mystic. That said, it would probably be possible to cut more of the middle section to make it fit, which I may try if I ever decide to make another.

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe...

Step 2 - Cutting the paddle in half:
This step was by far the hardest. Although there was only a slim chance I would ever need to dig into the bench three deep, we were talking about a ~$350 paddle, at least at one point in its life. Once I had come to grips with what I was about to do, it was time to cut 'er in half.

I ended up using a chop saw, which was probably the best tool for the job -- although if you don't have one, and you have a steady hand, you could probably do it with a handsaw. Since this was a bent-shaft paddle, I needed to use some blocking to elevate it as well as hold it off the fence, but still keep it square to the blade. Since I have a lot of scrap pieces of wood laying around, this wasn't a problem. Once I had the paddle shaft positioned correctly, the rest went smoothly, with the blade cutting through the shaft like a hot knife through butter.

Making the cut. Hope this works out...

Step 3 - Pre measurements:
Now that I had the paddle cut in half, I could measure the inside diameter (I.D.) of the shaft to determine what size sleeve I would need to join the paddle back together with. It appeared that Warner also uses a sleeve when they factory join the paddle into a one piece. Since you can't remove it, and since there really isn't a need to, I simply took the I.D. measurement of the sleeve. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was measuring about .010" over .875", so using a 7/8" tube would probably work great, without any modifications.

Taking the I.D. measurement of the shaft
(technically the existing sleeve)

Step 4 - Ordering parts:
Once I had the sleeve size, I went to my favorite website (from playing an engineer at work), McMaster Carr, who I knew would have everything I needed. I had already decided that I was going to use aluminum, for its cost, weight, and relative strength properties -- it also doesn't rust, which is certainly a requirement based on its use. With the specifications known, I quickly found what I needed and added it to my cart (part# 9056K73)

The next item I needed to order was a bit more difficult, since I didn't know what the heck it was called. "You know, that button thingy you press to lock/unlock the two halves together..." Well, this thing, according to McMaster Carr, is called a "Quick-Release Button Connectors for Telescoping Tubing", which I found for me after typing a couple keywords into the search box. Knowing the wall thickness and I.D. of the sleeve I had just ordered, plus the wall thickness of the paddle shaft, I was able to order the correct one, which for me happened to be part# 92988A530.

Step 6 - Wait for parts...

Step 7 - Preparing the sleeve:
A couple things needed to be done to turn the tubing into a sleeve for the breakdown. First I needed to cut it to size, and after measuring another breakdown that I owned, I determined that it should be cut to 7", for a 3 1/2" inset into each half of the shaft. The next thing I needed to do was drill holes in the side that would be permanently set into one of the halves; the reason for this is to strengthen the joint by giving the epoxy more to grab onto. After all the milling of the sleeve had been done, I smoothed over all edges with a file, sandpaper, and steel wool.

Drilling holes in the sleeve for extra glue purchase

The drilled sleeve

Step 8 - Epoxy the sleeve into one half of the paddle shaft:
Using a marine grade epoxy with a 2 hour set time, I set the sleeve into the end of the shaft ~3 1/2". Once it was in place, I removed the excess epoxy squeeze-out with a rag, and left it to dry for 24 hours. The nice thing about using the longer set time epoxy was that I didn't feel rushed during the process, plus I believe it also produces a stronger bond than the quick set stuff.

The epoxy that I used

Mixin' it up

A good coating on the inside of the paddle shaft...

...and on the sleeve

Note the epoxy "squeeze out" where the shaft and sleeve meet

With the squeeze out wiped off

Step 9 - Setting the blade angle offset:
With the sleeve/shaft glue joint properly cured, the two paddle halves were joined by telescoping the sleeve of the one half into the open end of the other. Now with the full-sized paddle in hand I rotated the halves until I had the proper blade offset, in my case 30 degrees (right-hand control). To do this I matched it up with my current paddle. Once the blade angle was set, I taped the shafts together to hold the proper offset while I drilled for the quick-release button (step 10).

Step 10 - Drilling the quick-release button hole:
Remember that part I didn't know the name of when I was ordering it? Well now it was time to drill the hole for it. With the two paddle halves together (at the correct blade offset), I clamped the paddle to my drill press using a homemade jig out of a 2x4 to center it below the drill bit. Once the paddle was aligned properly to the drill press, I drilled through one wall of both the paddle shaft and sleeve -- make sure you don't accidentally drill all the way through the whole shaft.

My homemade centering jig

Clamping the paddle in place

Drilling the button hole

Shaft and sleeve with button hole
(drilled through one wall only)

Step 11 - Waterproofing:
There is probably no way to completely keep water from getting in the shaft, but a few things I did to help prevent it from happening were:
1. Wedging a closed-cell foam plug down the shaft of each of the paddle halves.
2. Making a seam gasket out of a section of road bike tube (700c x 18-25), which could be slid over the seam of the assembled paddle halves.

My homemade seam gasket

Step 12 - Setting the quick release button into the shaft:
With the shaft drilled for the quick release button, I slid it down the shaft until it snapped into place -- pretty straightforward.

The "quick release button connector"

Inserting the button into the sleeve

The button snapped into place

Step 13 - Assemble the two paddle halves together:
Check your work by joining the two paddle halves together. You may need to do a small amount of sanding/filing to get them to go together smoothly. Once the halves have been joined, slide the homemade gasket over the seam. Voila, you're done!

Back to its original form!

Step 14 - Go boating:
Disassemble the paddle, throw it in the back of your kayak, and go boating!


  1. Yo Nate- Nice work man- looks great! To keep the water out of the shafts- just grab some cork, or a foam plug and wedge it in the shaft (you will have to pop the push-pin back out, to get the plug past it, but it will work well!


  2. Awesome!!!!! I know what i must do now!!!! Thou shalt make break downs!!!! Gracias!!

  3. Awesome!!!!

    I was just wondering how to do this with one of my old paddles, now I know and have instructions to do it. Nice work!

  4. This is awesome, and now that I'm sick of my zero degree paddle, I have a project on the horizon.

  5. Great instruction and photos! One could eliminate step 9, having to measure the offset, by putting a mark on the paddle shaft over both sides of the initial cut that you could line back up later to set the offset. This might be a little easier if you are not changing the offset of the blades. Any special tips for making a 4-piece breakdown?

  6. How is the paddle working 2 years later?

  7. Thanks for the great write up and as always you include such useful info such as part #s. You have the best WW blog, kind sir.

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  9. I called Werner and they said they hand roll their paddles so the ID could vary between paddles.

    Have you had the opportunity to measure the ID of more than one Werner?

    Do you have any advice on contingency plans for if the ID doesn't match an available tube size?

  10. No surprise that it doesn't match for straight shafts, I'm currently in the process of sourcing the right size for mine :)

  11. Nice!..

    I have been thinking about doing this for years. I have a couple of nice yet old paddles that need to ditch there 80° feather (yes I'm that old) and turn into somthing useful again. I have an Werner "Ocoee" with carbon blades and old Skypole shaft. I have been worried that I might not be able to find sleeve material as I have no idea what the ID is until I cut it in half. Any insight on the old Skypole shafts?


  12. Excellent report! Thanks a lot.

    From the link that you gave us with the parts, which one did you order? I see that there are polished, unpolished, etc.

    1. And what wall thickness. I like that there are so many options. I'm looking for used good 1 piece paddles to convert to 4 piece for packrafting. Might be a bit tricky because the shaft is not round near the ends and I might need to use a smaller insert which might not be that strong. Has anyone done a 4 piece paddle out of a 1 piece?

  13. No problem. looks like they slightly changed the part #. I've updated the link, so that it should take you right to the part I used. Hope this helps!

  14. Sweet moves, Great help on how to get it done! Thanks