When I think of Sanborn Canoe Company, I think of handcrafted paddles steeped in the heritage of Minnesota’s canoe country. Their paddles take the names of some of the most scenic lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, America’s most used and loved wilderness area. And the owners are the same guys breaking their backs making the paddles. They’re the real deal that love paddling so much that they were willing to sacrifice steady 9-5 jobs to build paddles that can be trusted on long canoe trips.
As far as the paddles that they make, they do both bent shaft paddles with modern shapes and traditional paddles. They also offer unique painted paddles that not only have the perfect balance right at the paddle’s throat, but also perform great on the water. They look so great though that you’ll want to hang them on the wall as art. I can see painted paddles becoming the centerpiece of many northwoods cabins.
Sanborn Canoe Company has been a long-term supporter of PaddlingLight, and I’ve been following their progress from a small garage-based operation to one that built a wood shop for making the paddles. I’ve always wondered what a wood shop for a paddle-making company would look like, so I ask Sanborn to take a bunch of pictures for me. Not only is their shop functional, but it’s filled with small details that tell you that this is the real deal. This is the shop of people who love their work, love the heritage that they’re building on and most importantly love canoeing.
It will be fun to watch Sanborn grow. Check out their website here: Sanborn Canoe Company
I asked Zak at Sanborn Canoe Company to give me a short verbal tour of what they do. This is what he wrote back:
Minutes south of Winona, Minnesota, along highway 61, you will find yourself at the entrance to one of the many valleys fingering out from the Mississippi river. Winding back into stark green countryside is Little Tout Valley Road. And this road, that is flanked by luscious apple orchards, brimming trout streams and picturesque farm fields, leads to our corner of this green earth. Our wood shop is set in the middle of a grassy field and flanked by forest and rolling bluffs.SUBSCRIBE TO PADDLINGLIGHTReceive PaddlingLight updates straight to your inbox every time I publish a new article. Your email address will never be shared
At Sanborn Canoe Co., we are proud to handle all aspects of paddle crafting, in house. The only thing we don’t do is the cutting down of trees and milling of the lumber. All gluing, shaping, finishing and painting is done in our little shop. Each paddle is crafted by one of our craftsman from start to finish, and is branded with the craftsman’s mark. It’s a craftsman’s pride that every Sanborn paddle is a unique work of art; we get to know each paddle that passes through our hands. And each has slight differences to the one crafted before it.
The Sanborn shop is a place, not only to make paddles, but to indulge our many passions. It’s where we dream up new paddle designs, plan our numerous canoe adventures and find inspiration for new projects. It’s where we first began crafting our wooden bucksaws and honed our painting skills, employed on our Artisan paddles. On every shelf and in every corner you’ll find old tools and new tools of the paddlemaking craft, little camp kit items, maps of our past and future adventures, bows and arrows, gardening supplies, fishing tackle, large chunks of hickory awaiting some new project, rows of walnut cut into blades shapes, lots and lots of cedar cut to various lengths and thicknesses, racks of finished paddles and many other items that kindle our creative fire.
Over the winter, I asked Sanborn Canoe Company to paint a custom design on a paddle for me. I always like the colors of the U.S. Revolutionary War blue coats, so I worked with Zak to come up with a design that featured the red, white and blue of the revolutionary war uniforms in a design that sort of looked like the front of the coat. Here are a few pictures of the painting of my paddle. I have the paddle and it’s awesome. Pictures of the paddle will be in a future post.