Making Greenland Paddles

Chronicle of a paddle-making day with friends

Two of my paddling buddies, Christie and Dori, joined me one Saturday to build paddles.  The photos below were taken that day, when we turned 2x4 boards into nice Greenland paddles.  A few of the last photos were taken the following evenings, when we finished the paddles.  Click any photo for a larger image.

We used Chuck Holst's Greenland paddle plans.  The basic procedure is to convert a 8 foot long boards into a 4-sided outlines of the paddle, then take off more wood to make it 8-sided, and finally rounded the edges to the final shape. 

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 Christie is building her paddle from Cypress, while Dori and I are building from Western Red Cedar.  

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We first mark the cutting dimensions on the top and bottom, then cut across the grain every inch or so down to the lines we drew.  

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Christie chips out the wood.

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The result was a very rough looking surface.  

Sometimes I wish I had a band saw.... 

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The broad sides are rough shaped.

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An electric hand planer does fast work of smoothing the board.  We take off wood until the cross-cut lines disappear.
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Almost there.  When the crosscut lines disappear, we know we're done.
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Similar marking and cross-cut on the remaining square sides.   Don't cut too deep!

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Cross-cuts ready to be chipped out.  
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Dori chips away. 
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Sometimes a hammer works a little faster than a chisel. 
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The boards begin to look like paddles now!

We leave a scrap inch on each end until the final shaping.  

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The four-sided paddle blank is now converted to 8 sides by another marking and cross-cutting task. 
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After chipping the board down to a rough 8-sided paddle, we give the paddles the first weigh-in.  We need to take off another half pound. 

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More planing....

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After planing, we have an  8 sided paddle.

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60  grit paper and a rasp are used to round the edges.

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Calipers were used to check the thickness at several points be sure the paddle was symmetrical.  The center was checked for balance.

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The paddle was wet-down with water to raise the grain and highlight problems before final sanding.

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A coat of epoxy seals the wood.

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Paddle ends are covered with fiberglass cloth for abrasion-resistance.

My paddles are finished simply with two thin coats of epoxy.  I use epoxy mostly because it makes the fiberglass nearly invisible. 

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And a final coat of epoxy is brushed on, and wiped thin with a cloth.

It is important that the paddle's surface not be too smooth, such that one's hands might accidentally slip.

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Completed paddles!  

The cedar paddles weigh 30 ounces.  The Cypress paddle weighs 32 ounces.

Paddle Size: 
These are the rough guidelines we used to choose our paddle sizes:

Total length: We used two methods, both with similar results (87" for me):  
(1) Arm held straight up, fingertips should curl over the end of the paddle;
(2) Arms held straight out to sides, paddle should be as long as one's arm span (fingertip-to-fingertip), plus the length of one's forearm span (fingertip to elbow; a cubit).
Loom (shaft) length: distance between outside of hands when arms held loosely at sides. (20" for me)
Blade width:  For a general purpose blade, I like 3.5 inches.  Hands should be able to firmly grasp around the blade for sliding or extended paddle strokes.

It was fun making paddles with friends.                                                         

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Created May 3, 2005