And I wonder when, or even if I will ever be good enough to tell if a modification in length, loom or blade will be better for me.
If you paddle enough you will. It is amazing the difference you feel in two paddles. It is subtle and hard to define but some just feel better than others.
One thing I have found after going through a few is I prefer a paddle length that standing up that I can just curl my fingers over. I prefer a thicker blade over a thin one. (I think it makes a better foil shape and that is why I like it better) I like a little larger than recommended shaft or loom, square with rounded corners. My blades are getting narrower the more I paddle too. Mine are typically 3 1/2" wide.
I have made wider blades and longer paddles and I end up trimming them down to somewhere close to the recommendations i started with. I haven't used the charts in a while so I don't know exactly how close to it I am, I just measure a paddle I like and use that as my guide.
All this talk about paddles has given the itch to build one. I should have shop time next week so that may be on my list. My absolute favorite had a bad spot and broke. I have been itching to laminate something up a little fancier. No ideas what design yet.