How to Build a Canoe Paddle

How to Build a Canoe Paddle
Every serious canoe paddler at one time or another gets a yen to build himself a signature custom paddle. It's not as tough as you might think. The tools are pretty basic, materials easy to obtain and assembly relatively simple, if somewhat time-consuming. Check out this simple design.
 

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • One 6-foot hardwood 2x2
  • Two 8-foot 1x4 or 1x6 hardwood planks (preferably two varieties)
  • Three bungee cords or two or three furniture clamps
  • Sander, rasp, planer
  • Band or sabre saw
  • Waterproof epoxy or marine glue
 
Step 1
Cut the 2x2 to whatever total length you want your paddle to be including blade and handle.
Step 2
Plane or sand the grip end of the paddle shaft 2x2 down to the thickness of your planks removing an even layer of wood on both sides.
Step 3
Cut two 3½-inch-long-by-2-inch wide sections from your hardwood planks. Clamp and glue strips to either side of the shaft as shown in the picture. Allow to dry and cure overnight.
Step 4
Cut the shape of the grip as shown once the grip is set. Use either a bandsaw or sabre saw to produce the shape grip you want.
Step 5
Flatten the shaft on the blade end to the thickness and length of the blade shape you've chosen.
Step 6
Cut four lengths of hardwood planks to the length of the blade shape you have chosen. Measure the blade shape from tip to where it slopes into the paddle shaft at the throat.
Step 7
Clamp hardwood blade pieces to either side. If using different hardwoods, alternate them so you have two kinds on one side and the same two in the same place on the other side.
Step 8
Glue and clamp or bungee the blade sections to the paddle shaft. Allow to cure for 24 hours before cutting, shaping or handling
Step 9
Draw the blade shape on the blade surface and use a sabre or band saw to cut the blade to shape.
Step 10
Plane, rasp and sand the shaft, blade and grip to the shape you want. This will be the most time-consuming part of the task, but should not be hurried.
Step 11
Sand the final paddle blade using increasingly finer grades of sand paper. Stain with an oil stain and marine grade varnish or clear coat. You can paint the paddle, but the beautiful wood grain will be covered and that would be a shame. Let the oil stain dry overnight before applying varnish. Apply varnish or clear coat in three or more thin coats, brushing the surface with fine steel wool between coats.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
Take your time. Work slowly and carefully. Many thin coats of varnish are better than one thick coat. For extra protection, fiberglass the tip of your paddle. It's not as pretty, but survives rough water much better.
 
Take your time. Work slowly and carefully.
 
Many thin coats of varnish are better than one thick coat.
 
For extra protection, fiberglass the tip of your paddle. It's not as pretty, but survives rough water much better.
 
Don't skip the drying and curing steps if you want your paddle to survive long-term immersion in the water. Avoid combination varnish stains. They don't protect as well.
 
Don't skip the drying and curing steps if you want your paddle to survive long-term immersion in the water.
 
Avoid combination varnish stains. They don't protect as well.

Article Written By Tom King

Tom King published his first paid story in 1976. His book, "Going for the Green: An Insider's Guide to Raising Money With Charity Golf," was published in 2008. He received gold awards for screenwriting at the 1994 Worldfest Charleston and 1995 Worldfest Houston International Film Festivals. King holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Southwestern Adventist College.

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