How to Make a Canoe Paddle

How to Make a Canoe Paddle
Canoeing is certainly a throwback type of experience. From the quiet of a peaceful lake, to the man-made power needed to navigate the water, everything about canoeing calls to mind a simpler time when technology was nonexistent. But for some, that peaceful, self-reliant feeling isn't enough. For those hearty souls, a paddle made from a block of wood and using their own sweat equity is often the perfect precursor to a long, silent trek in a canoe.


Difficulty: Moderate

Creating Your Own Canoe Paddle

Things You’ll Need:
  • Access to a jigsaw (for making the initial form of the paddle) Hand plane (to thin the blade) Rasp (to shape the throat and the grip) Sandpaper Cabinet scraper Wood oil Varnish
  • Access to a jigsaw (for making the initial form of the paddle)
  • Hand plane (to thin the blade)
  • Rasp (to shape the throat and the grip)
  • Sandpaper
  • Cabinet scraper
  • Wood oil
  • Varnish
Step 1
Select your wood. There are a variety of woods that can be used to make good paddles. Ash, basswood, cherry, maple and spruce are good hardwoods that work well for paddles. Make your selection based on how sturdy you want the paddle as well as how light you'd like it to be.
Step 2
Mark your blank and cut it with your jigsaw. A blank is simply a crude outline of the paddle. From a distance it looks like a paddle but on closer inspection you'll notice that it is simply wood cut in the form of a paddle. Patterns for blanks can be purchased on the internet as well as at some sporting goods stores. Make sure you consider the size and shape of your paddle before creating your blank.
Step 3
Shape the blade. Using your hand plane, start carving away wood from the blade of the paddle. There are a few important things to remember when doing this: A blade that is too fat will be heavy and hard to pull through the water. One that is too thin will break easily when pressed against rocks and other underwater obstacles. A good hardwood blade should taper down from the shaft of the paddle to no more than 1/8-inch thick at the bottom.
Step 4
Use the rasp to shape the shaft and grip of the paddle. For the shaft, you'll want to make the contour round so nothing sticks out when gripping the shaft. Irregularities in the shaft can cause hand blisters over time so make that shaft as smooth as possible. For the grip, pick a shape that is comfortable in your hand. Continuously check to make sure that the shape is comfortable as you whittle it down with the rasp. The handle should also be as smooth as possible for the same reasons as the shaft.
Step 5
Use your cabinet scraper and fine grit sandpaper to take out any rough or uneven spots on the shaft, handle and blade. Then treat the wood with oil and coat it with varnish to make for a long-lasting and attractive paddle.

Tips & Warnings

Be very selective when choosing your paddle wood. Look for a board that meets your criteria for size and that's free of knots and visible warping.

Article Written By Patrick Cameron

Patrick Cameron is a freelance writer with 10 years of diverse experience in consumer goods branding, promotions and retail communications. He works out of his home in Denver, Colo. He received his Bachelor of Arts in mass communication from the University of Minnesota.

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