This is the first time I’ve ever written a post about equipment. And we’re going to talk about a very basic piece of equipment: the mash paddle. You can’t do all grain brewing without one. It’s essential to mixing in your strike water and breaking up doughballs. I could have just used a big metal spoon. But I wanted one with character, so I decided to make my own.
First of all, you have to use hardwood. Softwoods such as pine are useless. They are too porous and would absorb too much liquid. My options were either maple or oak. I knew that maple would be too dense and difficult to work with (from past experience) so I chose oak. I purchased a piece of oak 26 inches long and 3 inches wide. Here at Shepody Brewery we only do 5 gallon/23 litre batches, so we don’t need one bigger than that.
The first step was to decide on a design. I saw one on the morebeer.com website that I liked, so I went with that. Theirs was made from walnut, but basically I would have the same thing, for a lot less than the US$36.95 they were asking! I printed out the picture they had on their website and used that to take dimensions off of. After transferring the dimensions to the wood blank and making a few adjustments, we were ready to start cutting. I used a jigsaw and it only took about 5 minutes until we had the paddle basically cut out.
It’s about 26.5 inches overall in length. Nine inches of that is fork, 14.5 inches is the shaft and 3 inches is for the handle. One thing I did was ensure that the hole at the top was big enough for my thumb to fit through. I found it was too small at first so I enlarged it. I like to put the thumb of my right hand through the hole and move the shaft with my left hand, but that’s just me.
I purposefully didn’t put any stain, oil sealer or varnish of any sort on it. I didn’t want any funny oils getting into the mash. The fork part is picking up some nice dark tones from the tannins in the beer. I think it cost me something like $8 for the wood and maybe about 2 hours of work, between sketching it out and measuring it, cutting, then a lot of sanding.
After the first batch or two, it required another sanding with a very fine grit sandpaper, just to remove some of the little splinter hairs that were popping up out of the wood. I’ve used it for about a dozen batches so far, and I really do like it.