Anyone carve Aleution style paddles?

I have made one that is Ok, but just. The spine on the non-power face is difficult to make esp. on Western Red Cedar.
Any carving tips are appreciated. I’ve read many articles but most just say it is difficult.
Any tips you can share?

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Tom Froese

Chris Rabb

I want to make one, not buy it.

I didn’t know what an Aleutian paddle was, so I Googled it. I now know what it is and while wandering around cyberspace, found a number of links about carving them. Maybe you’ve already read these two, but maybe not:

I have one made by an former p netter
I believe he used Sitka Spruce at least for the spline

I made one from Western Red cedar. Still have to fine tune the loom size. Used two hand planes, one power planer and a jig saw along with much sand paper.

@Rookie said:
I didn’t know what an Aleutian paddle was, so I Googled it. I now know what it is and while wandering around cyberspace, found a number of links about carving them. Maybe you’ve already read these two, but maybe not:

Thank you Rookie.

Why Aleutian vs. West Greenland? I’m not qualified to discuss merits of one vs. the other, just curious why you’re interested in the one.

I’ve made three West Greenland style to date using the following as a guide, plus some of my own refinements:

I carved one from WRC and it was not hard at all. Tried Sitka Spruce and found that very hard to carve and heavier!

The tool that worked best for me was a Sureform 10" with alternating flat and curved blades.

Paddle works exceedingly well, is very light and very strong, and it captures the attention of other paddlers like you wouldn’t believe. It lives up to its reputation all around.

@Sparky961 said:
Why Aleutian vs. West Greenland? I’m not qualified to discuss merits of one vs. the other, just curious why you’re interested in the one.

I’ve made three West Greenland style to date using the following as a guide, plus some of my own refinements:

I have carved several GP. I have only made one Aleut and the guy loves it but wants one with wider blades.

I had an Aleut paddle in my hands for about 10 min a couple of years ago. It had a very different feel than a West Greenland stick. It’s far enough back that I can’t remember exactly what the difference was but there was a strong difference in feel.

Interesting. I’ll make sure to take the opportunity to try one if it ever presents itself.

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I just got one shaped and it’s ready to sand. I made it like one in a museum on the Kenai Peninsula my Nephew sent me a picture of. It’s exactly 9 feet long and the blades are 3.25" wide near the tips. I did make my ribs a bit sharper at the junction with the blades. The loom is 26" long.
I marked it at the 1/2 point and looped a string there so I could adjust it’s balance. I shaped it back and forth removing a bit of wood at a time with hand planes and now it’s exactly centered. So I’ll sand it and get a finish on it in the next 2 weeks.

I’ll post a few pics if I can get my camera to work with the computer.

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String, I am as far from a paddling expert as you can get, but I do know a lot about working wood by hand.

Sawing it out to the shape is easy. If you have no bandsaw cut kerfs down to your pencil lines about 1" apart and simply chisel them away to get the basic shape. If you do have a bandsaw it takes only about 2 minutes to saw out the shape.

Snap a chalk line down the dead center on both sides. I notch the tips about 1/16" deep with a saw to set the chalk line into You will need to re-snap the line a few times in the making.

Shape the loom oval first. It has a slight triangle shape when done, but leave that for a later part of the process.

Next make the slight convex on the side of the blades away from the ribs. The edges come away from the flat only about 3/16 to 1/4. Go from the chalk line to the edges and you’ll get a feel for it very quickly.

Now use a straight edge to mark the ribs. They taper from the loom to the tips of the paddle starting at “loom width” and going down to about 1/2" Take a plane and remove wood so your plane cuts come up to the pencil lines but do not remove them, and so the outside of the cuts make the blade edges only about 3/16" thick and you will have all the rough shaping done.

NOW…take a gouge or even a wide chisel and cut down along side the ribs and remove the bulk of the wood so the blades get thinner and end up with junctions between ribs and blades only about 7/16" thick. This is hand and mallet work, so go as slow as you need to to make the wood look good, but you need not get a “finish cut”. Just get to about 1/32 inch of final thickness.

Next take the plane and round the ribs on their tops.

Now take the plane and smooth out the upper flats you made with your chisel (I use a 1.5" wide or a 2" wide chisel for all the work) When you are as close as you can get with a block plane take a 1 foot long piece of pine 1X4 and shape one edge to the shape you want for the junction between blades and ribs. Take a piece of 60 grain sand paper and glue it to that 1X4 over that edge. When dry use the edge of the 1X4 as a shaper to make a perfect transition between the ribs and the blades.

Next shape the tips and remove the shallow kerfs you used for the chalk line.

Now come back and final shape the loom to your liking. They are already in an oval so the final shaping take little time. I make the center of the paddle and remove a bit of wood where needed to make it balance at this point.

Now you are ready to make sanding g blocks with 100, 180 and 220 grit paper Sand it to make it pretty. Going from the 60 grit to the 220 grit only takes about 1 hour because Cedar or Yellow Pine (what I use) are soft and cut fast with good paper. When you are down to 220 grit wet the paddle with water and let it dry. It will “whisker up”. Sand again with 220 and re-wet. Do that procedure 3 times.
Oil with what you like. Get an oil finish made for house exteriors and you’ll find the finish lasts very well, and is easy to touch up. I like those with Tung oil bases or Danish oils.

I hope I was able to make all the clear enough.
If not PM me and I’ll try to help.

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Aleut paddle by Steve Zihn, on Flickr

Aleut paddle 3 by Steve Zihn, on Flickr


I did not make mine but it gives a lot more power than my GP… This is both good and bad perhaps.

I like making paddles, it’s kind of a zen wood and water thing.


Kayamedic, can you tell us about the length and dimensions on your Aleut paddle?
I have not yet put my new one in the water, so I have no idea how it will feel as compared to my GL paddles and my euro-style paddles. The ice is melting off the lake now, and I think I’ll have open water in about 1 week, but so far we have had no opportunity to paddle in 2022.
That Aleut paddle above is 9 feet long and it’s blades are 3.25" wide at the tips. My loom is 26" long and the weight is 2 pounds and 5 Oz.

JohnFH, I love the look of your work. I made a Greenland(ish) style paddle for myself last year with a rib down the centers of the blades on both sides. It looks very much like the one in your picture 2nd from the right. I love the way it works for me, but it’s a bit different from most GL styles I have seen pictures of. It’s 8 feet long and the blades have parallel sided tips coming back 6" from the ends before they start to taper. The tips at the un-tapered sections are 4-5/8" wide so that’s more then an inch wider then most GL styles I have seen drawn or in photos. But I made the blades slim down quite a lot in thickness, and it weighs under 3 pounds by a tiny bit. The ribs seems to eliminate the flutter I have experienced in the other GL paddlers I made that were copied from the pictures and had no ribs. The ridge of the “flattened diamond” cross section don’t help much with the flutter and that must be controlled by blade angle. Not hard to learn and I have enjoyed using them too, but once I made the paddles with the ribs instead of a low ridge that tendency to flutter was nearly eliminated.

I expect to have much the same effects with the new Aleut paddle, but so far it’s stayed dry. The lake near me is melting, but it’s not open enough yet to go try it out. Spring came fast this year and for the last 6 days it’s been in the high 50s up to the mid 70s, but 8 days ago we had a low of -16F. So the ice was very thick only a week ago. I know fishermen who were boring holes to catch fish, and they told me their augers were going about 24" to 28" before they hit water.

That’s my reason for asking questions about details of the paddles you are making and kayamedic are using. I’ve had no chance to try the Aleut paddle yet. I have a 5Mm thick wet suit and hood with cold water booties and some paddlers gloves, but when the ice first melts I don’t know if my clothing is going to be good enough. A dry suit would be better, but I don’t have one so I may have to wait even longer to get out on the water. Boysen lake is somewhat shallow so it does warm up fast, as compared to some of the deep lakes higher up in the mountains, but the truth is that melted ice is over 32 degrees, but sometimes not a lot over. So if the water is too cold I may have to wait a few weeks more even after the ice is gone. I don’t want to get into painfully cold water in a wet suit. Where I go I can expect depths of between 10 feet to about 250 feet. In the higher lakes the water never gets really warm, but Boysen does come up to the high 50F and even into the 60s in a month or so. In the meantime I am trying to learn all I can, so please excuse my basic questions. But curiosity is eating at me.

For everyone comparing Aleutian style Paddles to Greenland style Paddles. The length and width of both paddles need to be the same or else you are not really comparing paddle shape only. {what the ridge does, what the trailing blade does, what the flatter somewhat round side does etc} To jump to conclusions about power by comparing a 9 foot paddle to a 8 foot paddle is quite a stretch. I realize that the sizes are copied from examples on the net, But drastic size differences don’t make a good comparison of design of shape.

To say a given shape has more power … well … a 9 foot Greenland style paddle would have more than a 8 foot Greenland style paddle. If you are going to make general statements of shape it would be better to isolate it to only shape. {just my opinion after seeing many comparisons of too many dissimilar dimensions} {using the sample of “one”


Mine is in the garage and it was made for me , not by me. The shaft and loom are still dependent on torso width and hand size. It is the same length as my GP though I have no measurements.