Best Wood for Paddle?

I am thinking of making a greenland paddle. If cost were not a factor, what is the best wood that could be used in a one piece paddle? It would be approximately 90 inches with a 24 inch loom and on the higher end of blade volume.

With vertical grain.

Carving one right now.


Cedar is most definatly the way to go. I’ve made 3 from it and it is cheap! The only problem I’ve had is when it isn’t fence building season the big home improvement places don’t always have it in stock.

cedar. but
spruce is tougher. i cracked my light cedar paddle when i smacked it into a dock (i went under a dock at speed and swung my blade before i cleared the dock) i was able to repair it… my spruce paddle is an axe. if i got into a fight with a bear, i’d want the spruce blade.

a couple of things to consider

most folks use western red cedar, but you have to be very particular about the blank. spruce is tougher but heavier.

Brian Nystrom’s book on carving a GP is terrific.

Have fun–it is a great feeling to use a paddle you carved your self. OTOH, paddling with a GP carved by a master builder like Don Beale or Bill Bremer (Lumpy Paddles) is very nice too. None of my home carved paddles are as nice as the one’s Bill has carved. Can’t figure it out but it is true in my experience.

Yeah, cedar is the way to go

– Last Updated: Nov-21-07 5:34 PM EST –

but I do use a pine/SPF paddle most of the time just because I like the feel of it even though it is a little on the heavy side.

WOW! That is why this forum is so good
Thank you Matt. I will use the video and the print to help me get started with the destruction of a perfectly fine piece of wood. I am the mother of all hacks, I will use my hammer and duct tape as usual. JK I hope to slow down and actually make a paddle that vaguely resembles yours. Thank you again.

LOL No worries
You’ll be “hacking out” a beautiful paddle in no time.

Cedar IS nice for paddlemaking, but…
… there are a few things you might want to consider.

• As others have noted here, there are stronger woods available.

• Cedar is one of the more toxic of the common lumber species. We’ve been working with it on a job (customer supplied timbers) for several weeks now. Even using respirators or masks, having professional dust collection and ventilation, and working outside whenever possible, we feel it in our eyes and throats virtually every evening. Take a look at the following website (among others) for more information:

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use it for this reason alone, just advocating that you DO consider your lungs. Work outside if possible and always wear a mask.

• Depending on where you stand regarding Green Building, remember that Western Red Cedar comes almost exclusively from old growth forests. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe it’s a sustainably harvested species. We’ve made a decision in our shop not to purchase it.

Having said all that, I have carved a WRC Greenland paddle. The blank was supplied as part of the material in a boatbuilding class, so I really had no choice. It was a beautiful, clear, vertical grained blank which carved like the proverbial butter. A bit softer than I’d like for the way we use kayak paddles, so I’ve just decided to live with the inevitable dents and dings.

I also have another paddle made of basswood, a light yellow hardwood which I found just as easy to carve as the WRC. It’s a stronger wood, I could make the blades thinner, and I like the harder surface I was able to achieve (it burnishes quite nicely, unlike cedar which is usually a bit “splintery”). I added walnut tips and wound up with a sharp looking stick!

Just a few things you can think about. Whatever route you choose, have a great time making your paddle and an even better time using it,


I have Mitchell GPs made of …

– Last Updated: Nov-22-07 6:26 AM EST –

Santa Ana, butternut, and even walnut.

Neat laminated hardwoods, reinforced tips.

Cedar provides the best balance…
…of cost, weight, strength, availability and workability. It’s the de-facto wood of choice for making GPs.

Sitka spruce might be a superior alternative, but it’s hard to find and hideously expensive. I’ve never even found a suitable piece locally.

I guess it would depend
on it’s use and how careful you are. If you are a careful person and don’t plan on being in rough conditions then cedar is a good choice for it’s light weight and ease of carving. If you plan on using it for surfing or rough conditions you might want a stronger wood. Spruce can be almost as light as cedar and give you a very strong paddle. I have paddles made of both types of wood and switch with them depending on the conditions. I get my spruce from a small local lumber yard and the guy just wants to give me the boards for nothing. Check around your area and maybe you’ll get lucky.

Man, this is alot to think about.
As far as toxicity…I am so far gone as it relates to exposure to nasty stuff that I would be comfortable carving it from uranium. As far as coolDoc’s pics…those paddles are gorgeous, but I could no more make one of those than I could fly to the moon and they would not look like that for long. Strength is going to be important, I am 6’3" 255lbs and use my paddle to brace on the beach for entry/exit and to push off when in the shallows, say nothing of my paddling power and bracing effort. I bought some cedar yesterday but it has some slight warping. If I use cedar I may epoxy in some carbon fibre and put kevlar on the tips. In Matt’s video he measures the loom and length ,if I use his method my paddle will be 95 inches long and the loom will be 25 inches. Does this seem a little long? My Nighthawk has a 24 inch beam. Thanks for all the great advice.

Hi Brian,

Boulter Plywood, in Somerville MA, has a lot of Stika. I recently bought a rough sawn 10’ plank about three inches thick. If interested, call and see if they have it near the dimension you would want and check price. 617-666-1340


Sounds big to me
I have a friend with about the same ht-wt and we made him one like that, wasn’t good, to long. You will have a real slow cadence. You will probably be happier with a 22" loom too, you can always make the loom longer, never shorter.As to bracing on the beach to enter, the brace is just to steady the kayak, you shouldn’t be putting a lot of weight on the paddle.

The Chuck Holst guidelines for
dimensions are usually very close. At least it’s a great place to start.

If you’re tough on paddles like me I would suggest making it out of a light piece of pine or spruce. You probably won’t notice the weight, but a cedar paddle may notice yours when pushing off from shore. The boards at the lumber yard very in weight quite a bit. I know it’s difficult to find a board with suitable grain but you should also find one that feels light enough to you. The paddle in my video is only slightly heavier than a heavy piece of cedar. I also don’t have to worry about it breaking. I think if the Inuit had cedar I wonder if they would’ve used it. A broken paddle would present a major problem.

What about Sassafrass?
I’ve seen some nice canoe paddles that you could flex a couple inches, it seems light too but I haven’t compared side by side. I’m wondering if anyone has tried it?



I have used curved pieces in boat-
building and those were very strong and somewhat light. I have a ton of it on my property. Maybe I’ll try one sometime.

I love to find stuff around my house and make useful things out of it.

What’s wrong with lignum vitae?
On the serious side has ewe ever been used? Just curious because self bows are of ewe.

It sinks and you can’t make tea with it?

– Last Updated: Nov-23-07 4:51 AM EST –

Or can you?