Over the years, Werner Paddles has been extending the gap between themselves and the rest of the paddle manufacturers in the market. Although their masterful blade shapeand superb craftsmanship have remained largely unchanged, it seems as though the design of their ferrules (the connection point of a two-piece paddle) are ever evolving. I recently had the opportunity to juxtapose the ferrules of the most recent three generations of the Werner Camano with its adjustable ferrule system. I find it interesting to report that the subtle design changes are both for better and for worse.
For many years, paddle manufactures (including Werner) designed their paddles with simple ferrules. One half would slide inside of the other half and their connection would rely on both friction and a button-in-hole locking fixture. Some paddles were mildly adjustable in feather angle by offering a series of locking button holes to choose from (usually straight, right-hand feather and/or left-hand feather). Werner changed the game three paddle generations ago with the introduction of their patented adjustable ferrule system.
The first generation adjustable ferrule was a huge leap forward in ferrule design. It included an internal cog that prevented twisting while offering feather adjustment in 15 degree intervals. The ability to choose feather angle “on the fly” was very insightful and quite convenient as it allows for the paddler to adjust for changing wind conditions and cadence. Also, the adjustable ferrule mechanism seemed to solve the frustrating “jammed ferrule” problem that plagued most other paddles up to that point. Only very rarely have I had customers complain of their Werner paddle being stuck together (usually in extreme circumstances like without proper maintenance or copious sand in the ferrule). One tiny thing that Werner could have done better with the first generation adjustable ferrule would have been to silk screen the feather angle gauge onto the paddle shaft rather than using the stickers that inevitably come off.
I was happy to see that Werner made this adjustment on the second generation adjustable ferrule by including a silk screened feather angle gauge along with the sticker gauge. They also decided to recess the locking button to be flush with the paddle shaft for smooth transitions, comfort, and aesthetics. This second adjustment turned out to be a questionable design decision and a step backward as the flush locking button has a smaller throw than the first generation version and is susceptible to the “jammed ferrule” problem that the first generation design had addressed. Also, I’ve noticed that the spring within the button mechanism of the second generation adjustable ferrules tends to rust despite proper care (rinsing with fresh water after each use). This was not a problem for the first generation adjustable ferrule.
A bit more tweaking came with the third generation adjustable ferrule. This version (new to 2012) eliminates the feather gauge stickers entirely and relies on a silkscreened feather gauge printed on the inside of the ferrule. This gauge features a small hole that lines up with the exact feather angle on the gauge. However, the font size and diameter of the viewing hole are a bit small and make the gauge hard to read. Also, it’s too early to comment on whether or not Werner has addressed the rust issue with the spring in the third generation adjustable ferrule. Time will tell.
What would I like to see in the next generation adjustable ferrules? First, it would be nice to see a return of the original (not flush-mount) locking button as this design seemed to be less prone to the “stuck ferrule” problem seen in the later generations. Also, I really like the most recent feather angle gage but larger lettering and a wider viewing hole would make it even better. With these changes I’d be confident in saying that Werner’s adjustable ferrule could not be more perfect!