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June 7, 2006

making a mash paddle

i've been searching for a good stainless steel mash paddle for a while now and not having any luck. i found a couple, but they were always far too small and not nearly strong enough to try and stir 30 pounds of grain when mashing. we previously tried plastic, but when we were pretty much bending it in half it made us nervous. for a while now i've been using a broom handle, which is definitely big enough and strong enough, but doesn't really stir a mash that well. so when i saw this post on beeradvocate about another homebrewer considering making his own mash paddle i was quite interested. a nice hardwood mash paddle would certainly do the job, and i could make it any size i liked.

there were a couple of links given in the thread on BA (this one showing a fairly simple design that's a bit smaller than i was thinking and this one [link to http://www.hopsdirect.com/spotlight/9903/ is dead, but still available courtesy of the wayback machine] that showed some larger and fancier designs and talked a bit about wood types). that pointed me in the right direction. a bit more searching found several more (1, 2, 3, and 4). so i had some good ideas.

i figured that buying a big piece of suitable wood would be expensive, but a quick trip over to my local lumber store and i had a 4'x6"x1" piece of red oak for just over $20. not bad at all!

i decided on a rough design and did a full-size drawing on paper, making a few adjustments until i thought i had what i wanted. (i'm going to add a printable PDF here eventually in case anyone would like to do the same. if you're interested, drop me an email and i can give you the measurements or something). Edit: here they are, just make sure you print them at the original size and don't use any scaling:

unfortunately, i didn't think to grab my camera until i was done making the paddle, but i still had the scrap pieces around so i took a few photos to give you the rough idea.

the whole thing, layed out as before i started cutting.

a closeup of the bottom end of the paddle. initially i made large holes at each corner. for the inner holes you can see that i tried to make two of them beside each other, but it was quite a pain in the ass, and really unnecessary. the large holes were not really necessary either. i made smaller 1/4" holes in the opposite corner of each section and it was enough to get my jigsaw in and around the corner.

the top end of the paddle, with a nice handle that makes it easy to control and a hole so that i can hang it up when not in use.

closeup of the finished bottom end of the paddle.

and the top.

the finished paddle hanging on the wall in my garage, waiting for the next brew day.

the basic procedure i used was to draw the design out on the wood, drill pilot holes in the corners (5/8" for the big ones, 1/4" for the small ones), then use a jigsaw with a blade designed for hardwood to cutout the four center pieces and the two sides. once i had the basic shape cut out i tried using my dremel to do some rough shaping and sanding. i found that the small tool size made it difficult to get a nice even finish to the edges, so i switched to a belt sander. the belt sander made quick work of rounding out all the edges, but didn't work very well in the corners. i went back to the dremel to clean up the edges and the parts where the beld sander couldn't reach (like the four inner holes). i used a foam sanding block to smooth everything out, then switched to a piece of find grit sandpaper to finish things off, concentrating on making sure the handle was nice and smooth.

we've used it for two brew days so far, and it's working wonderfully. i'm quite happy with it and have completely forgotten about my initial search for a stainless paddle.

Posted by grub at June 7, 2006 10:23 PM

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