1st project ever: canoe paddle

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Project by Bison204 posted 11-21-2012 04:58 AM 2521 views 3 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was my very first attempt at woodworking, about 3 years ago now. I still mostly work with handtools because I haven’t enough money to buy any power tools. I bought a jigsaw, and a random orbital sander, but still always return to my cheap spokeshave, #5 plane, and lately a #3 smoothing plane I picked up for 10$.
This was a gift to my grandfather, and was a nice way to learn. I build it after having read the book “Canoe Paddles: a complete guide to making your own” by Graham Warren & David Gidmark.

12 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30068 posts in 2542 days

#1 posted 11-21-2012 11:02 AM

Very nice. In the future you’ll appreciate knowing the hand tool side. You appreciate the wood more when you work it by hand.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2258 days

#2 posted 11-21-2012 01:17 PM

very nice

-- Joel

View jdh122's profile


1054 posts in 3022 days

#3 posted 11-21-2012 01:54 PM

Nice paddle. Looks like they have that book in my local public library – think I might try making one myself.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2380 days

#4 posted 11-21-2012 03:53 PM

You learned very well.
It is a darling.

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 4007 days

#5 posted 11-21-2012 03:55 PM

What woods did you use? I have not done a laminated paddle yet, they offer interesting possibilities for getting advantages from various woods.

Also, what was your finish?

View a1Jim's profile


117341 posts in 3781 days

#6 posted 11-21-2012 05:15 PM

Looks like you’ve got it all worked out.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Bison204's profile


9 posts in 2233 days

#7 posted 11-21-2012 05:44 PM

@Aerminius: the shaft is made of birch. One tip, which I learned after the fact, DO NOT BUY thicker wood than 4/4. It is a waste. Rip the shaft and 2 extra thin strips, which you can laminate both above and below the shaft/throat to achieve the desired thickness. Most of the wood on the blade is waste, so having the extra thickness in the shaft running all the way down is really quite a waste. That was my error on the first paddle.
The blade is made of red oak (never again… my cheap 10$ spokeshave and I had a heck of a time working this wood open grained wood) with strips of white pine for accent. The difference in the hardness of the wood made it very difficult to plane and shape. Birch is very nice to work with and makes a nice balanced paddle. Cherry makes an equally nice paddle.

The book is well worth it. it is very concise, although I did change a few things about the process for my 2nd & 3rd paddles. Also, if you have a convex plane, you can make beautiful leaf-like shapes on the blade by leaving a ridge/spine down the middle. Maybe my next one, if I can get my hands on a convex plane!

On all my paddles I have used Epifanes spar varnish. I put 1 layer on the whole paddle, and another 3 on the blade. The shaft and grip receive a tung oil finish after the 1 spar varnish layer, to provide a silky smooth, non-sticky feel which is gentle on the hands for hours of paddling! Check out my other projects to see 2 other paddles I made.

Good luck with your paddles!

View ChuckC's profile


843 posts in 3139 days

#8 posted 11-21-2012 05:54 PM

Great project. What kind of glue did you use?

View Bison204's profile


9 posts in 2233 days

#9 posted 11-21-2012 05:57 PM

On this paddle, I used Titebond III. On the next few paddles I’ve built, I used Gorilla Glue. I haven’t noticed a big difference between the two, except that the gorilla glue is more expensive! I think that surface prep is really the important part here.

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 4007 days

#10 posted 11-22-2012 02:21 AM

Interesting – red oak would not be my first choice, though I have recently made one out of walnut. Cherry is next on my list, having made birch for my first finished one. I have a small batch which is building up and will have to await the spring for finishing, looking forward to seeing how the maple and the walnut turn out. But I have sort of been looking at scraps and contemplating laying up a blank. I really like the way you used the grain on the birch one you made for your fiance.

I have been thinking about investing in some Epifanes for the blades – previously only used a tung oil finish for the hand feel you mention. But I have not heard of a oil-over-varnish finish before, surprised you get the same benefit.

View Bison204's profile


9 posts in 2233 days

#11 posted 11-22-2012 05:48 AM

Trust me… red oak would not be my first choice again! Thing is, at the time, I didn’t know any better and it was well priced. I learned my lesson. I also learned how to sharpen blades! I tuned up that 10$ spokeshave until it could work (albeit not well) the red oak, and then, when I moved to birch, what a delight! Do work with cherry, it makes a very distinguished looking paddle and is a pleasure to work with.
The grip on my first paddle is walnut, since I had a small piece given to me. I’m on a very very fixed income, so buying wood is usually out of the question for me, but every now and then I splurge on inexpensive hardwoods.
As for the “end grain” on my fiancées paddle, it’s not actually end grain (on the shaft I assume is what you meant). It’s the long grain, only turned 90˚ from the direction of the grain on the blade.
Epifanes is very nice to work with, and it gives a beautiful golden glassy shine. I was surprised about the oil over varnish too, but it works! I never use any commercial paddle without first applying tung oil to the shaft & grip! I got a really nice bent shaft XY paddle from Don Meany in Atikokan, Ontario when I was guiding in Quetico, and the other guides thought it was blasphemy that I would put tung oil on the shaft… that is, until they felt it. I doubt any of them don’t have a tung oiled shaft nowadays!

View woodmaestro's profile


13 posts in 2153 days

#12 posted 01-24-2013 08:09 PM

I am building one right now actually. i used maple and cherry. so far everything has gone ok.
there is a picture of it here


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