Man crafts canoe paddles to last for generations
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It was a life-long journey that brought Fritz Orr to the point where he makes a living creating canoe paddles.
His family owned and ran summer camps. He spent lots of times paddling the lakes and rivers of the Carolinas and Georgia. Orr built canoes, and now he concentrates on the paddles.
"There's a lot of art to it and a lot of science to it. I have developed my own unique process,” said Orr from Fritz Orr Canoe.
In that process, Orr takes several different types of wood and forms it all into one product.
"I'll cut the wood into pieces and make it, and build the paddle into a puzzle,” he said.
At first, it took him about 25 hours to make one paddle.
Now he’s just about cut that time in half.
"The more I [am] sculpting the individual pieces, the more I'm finding that I am saving time,” said Orr.
Plenty of people look at what Orr does as art, but he creates that art with propulsion of a canoe in mind.
"It's nice that a large set of people do use 'em, because they are built to be felt in the water,” he said.
Recently, Orr has become intrigued by the different paddle designs used long ago by Native American tribes.
"There are somewhere over 200 different types of designs," he said.
That has inspired him to work on a series of paddles based on those designs.
"A lot of their paddles were pieces of art, and so I try to follow that tradition,” said Orr.
The main part of his business, however, remains the modern paddles using walnut, cherry, maple and other hardwoods of the Appalachians.
"I'll go through a stack at the lumber yard to find the board that's unique,” he said.
Such care is taken because Orr views what he does as building something that will retain its appeal for more than a moment.
"When I make a person a paddle, it's gonna last more than one generation,” he said.
As he crafts each paddle, his mind is on those future generations, but also on how the wood in his hands got there.
"The wood took, twenty, thirty years to grow into a tree and so it, it's worthy of taking the time to find out where the beauty is in the wood,” said Orr.