Zak and Todd are two of the most unassuming, humble guys you may meet. Cousins, they both grew up in Minnesota each with a crazy love for the outdoors and a grandfather who, before they were born, carved out his own wooden canoe and took to the water. It was that canoe that inspired them build their own, and shortly after, start what is now Sanborn Canoe Co. And only a few short years later, with the help of a couple friends, they are carving some of the finest handcrafted paddles in North America. Here is a little look into their work.
How a paddle is crafted: The first step is to choose good pieces of lumber. We look for pieces that are as dark and as light as possible. Our goal is to create contrast between the various laminated pieces. The next step is to cut the lumber down to strips of different thicknesses. Then we cut them to length. From there, we lay out the wood in the desired pattern and glue it together. First the shaft is glued, then the blade and grip. Next, we cut out the blade and grip on a band saw. We then use a combination of chisels, block planes, and power planers to shape the blade. With a drum sander, spindle sander, and orbital sander we, surprise, sand the paddle. Once sanded, our artisan paddles are painted and finished. Our performance paddles have a few more steps. First, we brand our logo into the blade. Next, we epoxy a sheet of fiberglass to each side of the blade. The fiberglass is then sanded smooth and everything but the grip is coated in epoxy. Once the epoxy dries, we dip everything but the grip in varnish. After the varnish is dried, we lightly sand the shaft and apply a thin coat of varnish. The finishing step is to rub oil into the grip.
There is a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day that comes from working with your hands. In the process of making hundreds of paddles, my hands have become extensions of my eyes. I often feel imperfections in a paddle before I see them. It’s a skill you can’t teach, but can only be learned through experience.