Carving loom shoulders of a GP

The plane doesn’t cut it on this part of the paddle. What’s your technique for this spot where your hand ends up spending most of the time while using the paddle?


Consider a Stanley Surform tool
They come with flat and curved blades, and microplane makes an even better flat blade (but not a curved one for some reason.)

A rasp or microplane works well
I typically do the initial shaping with a 4-way rasp that you can find just about anywhere that sells tools. Coarse sandpaper wrapped around a dowel or stick or works too.

carving GP shoulders

– Last Updated: Apr-16-13 9:06 AM EST –

There are a number of tools that can work such as small planes with curved bottom or round bottom spokeshaves. I find them fiddly to set correctly and use.

Mostly I use curved/round micro planes, files and the "sandpaper on dowel" Brion mentions.


I did this yesterday on my latest GP. I used a sharp knife (nothing expensive – a Frosts Mora 860) and then a spokeshave.

Low-angle spoke shave
chisel and curved sole plane.

spokeshave - round face …

– Last Updated: Apr-15-13 10:03 PM EST –

...... round face spokeshave for inside curves .

the "round face" spokeshave is shown in this link 11P33.01 ... I just used the garrettwade link because it's the 1st one that came up as the example

shape with the spokeshave then to finish hand sanding you make an outside curve block of wood to wrap sand paper on

I use a file
This is probably the most important part of the paddle to me. Like you said, your hands spend a lot of time in this area. A file lets me finely tune this area until it feels good.

I use hand planes to carve my GPs…
I band saw the shoulders as in the Holtz paddle carving instructions so there isn’t much more I need to do on the shoulders other than what I do with my block plane and then 120 grit and 220 grit paper in a random orbital sander. The shoulder length on my paddles are typically 2" or less.

The bodies of my paddles are WRC which is a homogeneous material and probably easier to shape than a laminated paddle blank. I do use a rasp for some finish shaping.

I carve paddles for customers so I got my preferred technique down well. I’ll say that a well tuned band saw to rough out the paddle blank to carefully drawn construction lines is key for me and then I precisely plane the blades to exact thickness and overall size before drawing construction lines for carving. I carve blade facets with a Stanley No. 3. I carve the rolling bevels of the blade edges, rough out the loom oval and shoulders with a low angle block plane.

Hope this helps.

Rotary rasp on a router table with no
guides/fences, or a drill press in a pinch (watch the sideways torque) followed by a mini sanding drum like a dremel kit. The last GP I did, I didn’t have access to either a drill press or a router table, so I just spent extra time with a “pocket” plane and a razor blade.

Personally, I’d like to know how the inuit carved GPs without any metal tools! A lot of flint knapping, riving with the grain and using something like granite for rasping/sanding?


(maybe tools made of stone or bone? That’s all I can think of)

Thanks, everybody
Seems there’s as many different ways to carve as their are varieties of GPs and GP-paddlers.

I used what I had at hand. Carved with a knife and sanded from there. I do have a dremel, and it never occurred to me to put the rotary drum sander on it and use that. I have rasps, too, but elected not to use them because I didn’t think I could use them well on the soft cedar.

I was carving two paddles, one western red cedar, the other northern white cedar. The white had some knots, was built up by laminating 4 strips of roughly 1-inch board and sadly ended up with a knot right where the loom meets the shoulder. The knot has a split running across the grain. I was optimistic that I’d carve to the bottom of the split and end up with solid material, but the split was deeper than I had hoped. So it is like a 3/8" deep cut across a quarter width of the loom. I’m torn between keeping going with it and trying to fill the gap with epoxy and just giving it up as a lost cause. I suspect is is a lost cause, and I suspect I will try to fill it anyway. I’m bad at poker–don’t know when to fold 'em!


Gone through that twice myself.
Both times the knot ended up in one of the shoulders. I took some advice from here and continued to rough them out. Then I took hold of the knot-end blade and gave it a whip though the air multiple times…basically puting more stress on the paddle than I ever would in real life, even in doing a chest skull & forward recovery. One survived and I finished it for my daughter. The other snapped and I got a norsaq out of it.

I’m going with epoxy
Some epoxy & wood flour on the one in process. I glued up some left over pieces that had some crap edges that I was hoping would be carved away but no luck. Also two small tight knots out near the tips. I’m not too concerned about those.

choose better wood
Considering how much time we put into making a fine paddle it seems to me that choosing the best wood before starting is prudent. How much is your time worth?


Something from nothing is gratifying too
Greenlanders had to use driftwood. My daughter’s GP was gleaned from 50yo barn ruins. Recycle, eh?

but the greenlanders and aleuts were splitting their paddle blanks out of drift logs, so they knew they had good straight grain before they ever started carving.

My mistake
I’ve found you can get away having a few knots in the boards, especially if you are laminating so no single knot weakens the piece throughout. I just screwed up when I was laying out the piece, the result being a knot at exactly the wrong place.

But I do agree–get a nice piece to start with and you eliminate the risk of my screw up.

I previously made a paddle out of n. white cedar and it was exceptionally light. It became my favorite paddle, but I lost it over the winter. I had a second piece of the same material (from Andy Lee, used to post here as canoe dancing), but it had a few more knots, but I thought I could get a paddle out of it. At this point, the paddle is weighing 2 lbs, not nearly as light as its predecessor, and not significantly lighter than w. red cedar. So, not that great a loss if it doesn’t turn out. But it makes me wonder if you can get better pieces of this material, and if, in general, northern white is lighter than western red cedar. Anybody know?


My understanding is…
…that they’re pretty much the same weight, but northern white cedar tends to have a lot of knots. Western red cedar varies considerably in weight and I’ve found a few pieces that were very light. It also varies a lot in moisture content, so I try to let my wood dry for a few weeks before carving it.

I’m just speculating, but it seems that mills that produce cedar lumber don’t dry it as much as other species or protect it as much during shipment, possibly because it’s not prone to rot. I’ve found some pieces that were bone dry and others that were wringing wet in the same pallet of boards.