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Thread: Help making a paddle please

  1. #1

    Default Help making a paddle please

    I'm trying to make a traditional paddle for flat water use out of a single piece of wood. The problem I'm having is finding some suitable wood. Firstly, my internet research indicates that kiln dried wood is not suitable. Kiln dried wood seems feasible to source, naturally seasoned does not. Will kiln dried work as this seems to be what I can get? Secondly, what wood to use? This is my first go and I don't have a finely honed set of woodworking skills. Cedar gets mentioned often as an easy to work, light wood with medium strength. This sounds like it would suit me. This information is often on North American websites though and the cedar seems to be different species (e.g. Western Red Cedar) than we might get here. How can I tell what type of Cedar to get? Yellow Cedar is sold locally to me (Bristol, UK). Ash sounds harder to work than some, strong and heavy (for flat water I am not too worried about strength and would prefer an easier worked and lighter wood). Poplar has been mentioned but I have not seen it advertised by timber suppliers. Thanks in advance, Alex

  2. #2


    For the first messing about, almost anything will do. Go to your local Big Box DIY store or timber merchants and have a rummage through the stock to find a few bits that are knot-free and straight grained.

    It would be worth getting hold of the book “Canoe Paddles A Complete Guide to Making Your Own by Graham Warren”

    It gives lots of history of why paddle shapes are what they are, along with tables of off-sets and patterns

    Here's one I made from a piece of softwood, a couple of bits of edging-bead and a staircase spindle ripped in half.



    Timber was ripped to size using a handsaw, planned up with a No4 Bailey then glued together.
    I made a template for the blade from the book and took the shape of the handle from another paddle
    Rough shaping was done with a jigsaw and final shaping done with a plane, spokeshave and sandpaper.

    It's had one piss-coat and a further four coats of yacht varnish.
    Last edited by bigyellowtractor; 4th-January-2018 at 10:52 AM.

  3. #3


    Thanks bigyellowtractor. I guess its time to go and get a piece of timber and give it a go.

  4. #4


    I would also strongly advocate using western red cedar for its ease of working. I can get this at my local timber yard (Totton) but I would think many others stock it.
    I have made 6 or so paddles from it and all are still in good condition and going strong. The other advantage is that when finished the paddle is relatively light. My only caution would be if you are making a paddle for white water, in which case a stronger material would be advised.

  5. #5


    Thanks. I'll try Western Red Cedar if I can get it at an affordable price. The local timber merchant only sells it in 3m lengths for 67. A big investment for a first project that might go wrong!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Cumbria, UK


    These people do UK grown red cedar.....or they did, anyway. They're down your end of the country...from my perspective anyway.

    AND they do air dried!

  7. #7


    Thanks rbm. That's very useful.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Robin Hood's Bay,Yorkshire


    I've made a few wooden paddles:-
    1st one:- Went to local woodmerchant/diy shop or wherever and bought a single bit of pine.
    Made paddle shape copied off a friend's paddle that I liked.

    Result: Worked but lots of flex as the wood was probably less than 1" in thickness. Not easy to work and get a good finish. Heavy(ish)

    However: I learned an awful lot about making a paddle, cramping, glueing adze/spokeshave/draw knife etc., etc., and what shape was possible and what shapes gave the best weight/strength ratio.

    Next ones had laminated shafts with 'Basswood' (English = Lime) bought from a timber merchant. This is easy to do using the offcuts from when you cut the paddle blank out and makes the shaft much easier to shape, and is far stronger.

    Result: Almost perfect but wasn't quite as light as the Grey Owl paddle I'd bought.

    3rd Paddle:- Made from a length of 'Redwood' from a timber merchant. Learning from my last experience I used the waste cut-off from the shaft section and laminated the shaft section before I did any more work and also glued some cut-offs in the palm grip area so I had more timber to make a better grip.

    By now I'd learned how to sharpen a draw knife properly, bought a second hand planer etc.,

    Result. Perfection: (well almost because I've made a few more since), but it's extremely light and has lasted through many whitewater paddles and adventures.

    So go buy a cheap bit of wood and distinclty aim for the 1st attempt and treat it as a learning experience - that way you won't end up being frustrated and feeling despondent. And as a bonus your wood working skills will have gone up a notch or two - all for the cost of a bit of wood, glue and your time.

  9. #9


    Quote Originally Posted by David Perry View Post
    By now I'd learned how to sharpen a draw knife properly
    Most people struggle and get frustrated with woodwork due to blunt or poorly set up tools.

  10. #10


    Thanks David. Another vote for hone skills first and I didn't realise that Basswood was Lime.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Central Scotland
    Journal Entries


    Cherry is also good. I didn't find ash too bad, it was a little harder but was ok to work with, very 'predictable' if that makes any sense....


  12. #12


    I’ve made two paddles for my kids both out of cherry which is fine to work with and a lovely colour and finish. I’ve got a large piece of cherry to make one for myself, just need motivation / time.

    Just get the book mentioned above, Watch the You Tube videos and Chechen the posts on the forum as everything you need is there.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2007


    Lime is a European version of Basswood. Very similar but not the same species.
    Western red cedar is fairly readily available in the UK. I would ask for imported from north America rather than using UK grown - the grain is nowhere near as straight or compact as it seems to grow much faster here. A climate thing I suppose. Co2 certainly did imported WRC - they had a picture of my first cedar canvas on their customer project page at one time.
    Sharp tools will make all the difference to your project.


  14. #14


    Thanks very much for your help everyone.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Eastern Canada
    Journal Entries


    I designed a recreational paddle that is regarded well in some circles and it is dead easy to make. I would use any piece of wood that is free provided it is at least 7 inches wide, 1 inch thick, and 4.5-5 feet long.

    If you want more info let me know, but basically you draw a 7 inch circle, turn that into a 16-18 inch triangle then add a shaft and a 3 inch circle at the top of that.



    They end up looking a bit like this and work in most conditions. It is my favorite design personally as it works without tiring me out in lake water and has enough width at the bottom to work in shallow moving water.

    Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug...

  16. #16


    Thanks Lloyd. That looks very interesting. On another note, your post in the canoe reviews section on the NC SP3 Prospector 16 inspired me. I bought one last month and it is as good as you say. Thank you very much. Alex

  17. #17


    I like that Lloyd. Easy to make in different sizes / proportions for kids too.

  18. #18


    I just made two quickie paddles from scrap pine.I used a piece of 4" x 1 1/2" and ripped out two 1 1/2" X1 1/2" shaft pieces and glued on blocks for the grip and blade.This was done with epoxy. Once it was dry I planed some of the excess wood off with an electric planer and traced my patten on to my blank .Cutting it out with a jig saw.The rest of my shaping I did with a small block plane and a round bottom spoke shave. The grip I shaped with a half round rasp and sand paper.Now a belt sander is much quicker but mine died some time ago. Flap sanding discs on angle grinders work great too and can shape 85% to 90% of a paddle.I always finish my paddles with hand tools before final sanding and varnishing.Basically my only costs were epoxy( which was left over from gunwale replacement) and left over marine grade varnish from the same job.Bent paddles are a bit more involved but can be made too. It normally does involve forms to laminate bent shafts.Can't post pic s yet.My paddles ended up 4 '6" x 7"wide blades with 1 1/4 "
    shaft. The post I note is a little old but it may help some one.
    Last edited by Richie144; 31st-March-2018 at 11:36 PM. Reason: Measurement wrong

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