Paddles are craftsman's passion

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WAYNESBORO, Ga.---Bill Craven has a paddle for every purpose.

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Bill Craven planes a slab of heart pine that will be transformed into an extra strong paddle designed for use in creeks.  Rob Pavey/Staff
Rob Pavey/Staff
Bill Craven planes a slab of heart pine that will be transformed into an extra strong paddle designed for use in creeks.

"A beavertail is a good design for long trips," he said. "They're heavy and wide."

If you want something lightweight and quiet, he prefers an ottertail hewn from cypress.

Building paddles is a both a pastime and a passion for the Burke County nurseryman whose woodshop sits adjacent to the meandering tannin-stained water of Brier Creek.

"We've been down here about 30 years," he said.

The creek paddle, used for centuries to ply the cypress-studded rivers of south and central Georgia, is one of Craven's favorites.

"They're a little shorter, and a little stiffer, than regular paddles," he said. "They do a lot of things other paddles don't need to."

Creek anglers, for instance, might need a sturdy paddle to push off, or over, fallen trees, or to push a boat through shallow water.

"It's also good when you need to flip a snake out of the boat," he said jokingly.

Such paddles are made from tight-grained heart pine that rarely fractures. Other woods suited for other paddles include ash or maple.

It doesn't take a lot of equipment to make a quality paddle, he said, but it does take time. Each piece of wood is selected for straightness and strength, planed to a general shape and hand-finished. The final steps include multiple coats of tung oil varnish.

Paddle making is just part of Craven's affection for the warm glow of finished wood. Over the years, he has built boats by hand, along with bird houses, bat boxes, cypress planters and kitchen implements.

When he's not making paddles or boats to sell at sporting goods shows, he operates Twisted Oaks Nursery and keeps up with his ornamental landscaping work.

You can visit his Web site at www.blackwaterboatworks.com.

FORT GORDON DEER: Fort Gordon's Natural Resources Branch will play host to a public meeting from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 31, to discuss new antler restrictions and other rules for the upcoming whitetail season. The meeting will be held at the Signal Theater, Building 21610.

Wildlife biologist Steve Camp said topics to be discussed will include new firearms requirements, deer seasons and bag limits, a quota for does, new antler guidelines for trophy management and check station requirements.

For more information, call 706-726-0098.

WILDLIFE CELEBRATION: A celebration of 60 year of environmental science at Savannah River Site will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at the USC Aiken Etherredge Center, with exhibits and presentations on the history of the many programs at the site. A live snake, lizard and bird exhibit will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ruth Patrick Science Center.

For more information, contact the SRS Heritage Foundation, 803-226-0116.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.


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