best paddle woods

I am planning to make some paddles to go with my canoe, one set would be laminated river paddles, the other will be long narrow bladed flat water touring paddles. I would prefer to make the touring paddles out of one solid piece each so that I can acheive some decent flex; although cherry would be a great choice for these, I have some beutiful walnut and was wondering about the viability of this as a paddle wood. What are the negative/positive aspects, will the comparitively open grain cause problems for prolonged use, and what type of flex can I expect to acheive? any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance, Mike

Yellow Birch, Canadian Black Cherry,

– Last Updated: May-31-05 12:34 PM EST –

somewhere down below on list Ash.

Go here to start and read it all -

Happy Paddl'n!



Flexible wood
Solid walnut or black cherry won’t give you the flexibility you are looking for and they result in heavy paddles. However, they could be a part of a laminate for such a paddle. I really like working with walnut and find it nice to carve for grips and paddle throats. Cherry with some figure can be problematic with tearout. But cherry is a piece of cake compared to yellow birch. That’s the ornriest wood I’ve worked with and its heavier than walnut or cherry. Tough as steel but use of power cutting tools will cause instant tearout. So its belt sander shaping the whole way. If this is your first paddle, I recommend staying away from yellow birch until you have built a couple first.

Some woods with a lot a flexibility are white pine, white ash, and soft maple. A solid white pine paddle would probably be a noodle - too much flexibility. Soft maple is used for springy oars for boats like a guideboat. The old time beavertails were almost always carved out of white ash.

Pick up a copy of…
…“Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own” by Graham Warren and David Gidmark. It contains an extensive discussion about woods and several different carving techniques.

We use ottertail paddles made of ash - very tough wood, comparatively light and flexible, nice to work with. Ash tends to bend a whole lot before it breaks - we use 'em for flatwater only, so can’t answer to how they’d stand up to real abuse.

Balsa … covered w/ carbon…
running for cover now.

Wouldn’t Purpleheart, paduk, and canary wood make a strong, brilliant paddle? Apologies if wood names are spelled wrong.

I have a wonderful Shaw & Tenney in ash. It’s not too heavy but it’s whippier than my laminated Cricket. The Cricket paddles are engineered structures that combine a very light cedar core with hard (curly?) maple outer laminae for strength and stiffness.

The carbon-over-balsa idea isn’t that much of a laugh. Maybe not for a WW paddle though.



I have only built a couple
but I liked working with Basswood and Western Red Cedar. Both are light and easy to work. I used a couple of thin laminations (strips) of Ash to add some strenth. I found the cedar dents and gets gouged really easy (duh) if used on the outer surface of the shaft.

The book referred to by bnystrom is very good.

Ozark paddlers tradionally carved paddles from sassafras. Light, aromatic but said to be brittle. Have not carved a paddle from a single piece but have used it as laminations. It’s easy to work and I am looking for more. good luck