The Phat Whale Paddle


The objective of this project was to create a beautiful, strong, and durable whitewater rafting paddle that I can use on all of my future whitewater expeditions. Portland, Oregon has some fantastic whitewater, and I am excited to take this paddle with me as I continue to explore these rivers.

Design Process

Step 1: 3D Modeling & logo design

First, I developed a 3D Model using Rhino7. This paddle has a large surface area, similar to guide sticks made by Sawyer or Werner.

Rhino's rendered view of the paddle blade

Then I designed a logo for the paddle in Adobe Illustrator. Why did I call it "Phat Whale Paddle Company?" It just felt right.

Next, I projected the logo onto the Rhino model to make sure I got the size right.

Step 2: 3D Rendering

A Keyshot rendering of the front of the paddle with the logo.

I decided to only apply the logo to one side of the paddle, allowing the back of the blade to show off the beautiful laminated hardwoods.

Step 3: Laminating & CNC processing

I purchased some scrap hardwood from a nearby store for the blade of the paddle. The shaft is made of red oak.

Setting up the laminated wood in the CNC machine. Accurate positioning is really important for flipping and processing both sides of the paddle.

The paddle after machining both sides.

The vibrations from the CNC machine cause a crack to form on the side of the paddle. Fortunately, this was easy to repair with some waterproof epoxy.

Step 3: Sanding & adding the logo

"Nice sanding action shot!"

I had some extra laminated wood at the end of the paddle, which I cut off and carved into the handle.

I used a cricut machine to cut the logo out of Vinyl.

Sticking the logo onto the paddle.

Step 4: Epoxy coating

Applying a waterproof epoxy coating to the paddle in our school spray room.

I used T-88 Epoxy, recommended by my local woodshop.

Using epoxy to adhere the hand-carved T-grip to the shaft.

Walking home with the finished paddle. I had to take a nice glam shot over the Willamette river!

Step 5: Play!!

(The most important step)

Some friends and I were lucky to catch the Clackamas River on a high water day! Lots of fun.