Anybody Make Their Own Bentshaft Paddle?

I just picked up a number of butternut boards and after my last paddle building session I’m thinking about trying to make a bent shaft. Has anyone here attempted this? I do know I need to make a “mold” out of a plank to the angle I’m after. Just curious as to how difficult this would be. Any thoughts would be appreciated.


I made a couple
But not serious canoe paddles… The ones I did were prototypes to see if I liked them for use in a kayak before i decide if i should buy a nice lightweight carbon version, since no one local had one short enough to try… I picked a shape and dimensions I estimated would work well and made the blade from leftover Okume plywood (4mm I think). Shaft and T-handle were from a leftover curtain rod. Glued together with Titebond III wood glue and epoxied over for waterproofing. I liked the shape and used it carefully a few times just to get a feel for it as I knew it was not strong. I lent it to someone and they immediately broke it paddling hard. Since I was not ready to make up my mind yet and already had the handle, I glued another piece of plywood but this time added a bit of carbon here and there (again from some leftover sheets).

By the way, the join between the handle and the blade did not fail, the blade itself failed, so a simple join glued to a flat blade is plenty strong.

That paddle came out pretty lightweight under 1lb most likely. Strong enough to roll with or paddle as hard as I like forward.

I eventually bought a carbon bent shaft that works admittedly a bit better than my prototypes but has a very similar feel otherwise, so the prototypes were worth it.

If i had to make a “real” paddle though, I can see several ways I would want to build a laminated bent paddle that would be even stronger for the same weight. For the shaft and central 1,2, or 3 strips of the laminate I could cut a curved one piece(s) out of a wider board. Laminate the rest of the blade to it. This way the shaft and blade would be a single continuous piece (or a laminated 2 or 3 layer piece) at least in the center of the paddle.

Or laminate the blade and glue it to a straight shaft cut at the right angle. As I said above for my prototype - the join is strong even if just glued as the angled surface of the handle that glues to the blade is quite big due to the shallow angle.

In all cases I would say you would be better off with some Fiberglass or carbon or Kevlar to reinforce then junction between blade and shaft, especially if the blade is made separately and glued to the shaft, as well as the blade.

I’ve never looked-up how bent shaft canoe paddles are made, so I assume there are more clever and better ways :wink:

Back in the early 70s, Howie LaBrant
described the scarf joint paddle method you are describing, in the journal of the United States Canoeing Association. LaBrant was trying to help newbies make serviceable paddles rather than being stuck with the poor selection of “affordable” stuff from retail stores. LaBrant not only set down the method, he sold high quality marine mahogany blanks almost as cost, through the mails.

I made some canoe and kayak paddles using his method. One sets up a jig with two by fours, separated by the width of the closet rod or whatever. A fence is tacked onto the jig so that a long scarf cut is made in the shaft using a jigsaw. This works better than it sounds.

Then, one cuts the desired blade shape on the plywood, and then epoxy is used to attach them.

One does not have to use closet rod. You can use square stock, such as a carefully selected length of Douglas Fir. It just means the shaft will have to be rounded as desired after it is scarfed and glued to the blade.

I used a length of ash, which just “happened” to have a five degree grain bend right where the shaft hit the neck of the blade.

I agree with Kocho that a simple glue job may tear out of the plywood layers. On my canoe paddle, I mixed epoxy and microballoons to fair in the sides of the shaft where it was glued to the blade. The end of the blade is glassed a few inches up from the tip, overlapping the end of the shaft. The blade is epoxied.

What resulted is a nice feeling (though not light) five degree bent shaft, the most “bend” that will feel right to a kneeling paddler. I use it for cruising the flats on ww rivers.

I’ve made bent poles :wink: NM

You actually bending ( laminating )

– Last Updated: Jul-14-13 12:48 AM EST –

shaft or simply setting blade @ angle to ( straight ) shaft ?

The Whiskeyjack paddle guy has some nice video. Oh and Whiskeyjack paddle guy ... Get some glove and a mask bra : )

Long ago, I made a laminating form
for 12 degree paddles, but never used it because I almost always paddle kneeling, in whitewater.

How to make a hollow bent shaft paddle
Hey Doug,

Check out this website, he sure makes it look easy to make a hollow bent shaft paddle.


Best article yet on how to make a bent shaft (and for about $20 or less even!) Check it out here:

Make Your Own Bent Shaft Canoe Paddle (With Tools You Have) -

I want to make one after I snaped a Bending Branches Viper (their strongest bent) after a months use. But I have a propensity for snaping paddles.