Construction of greenland paddle for...

an individual with no construction skills. I’m hoping that this endeavour will not be impossible to overcome. I have been dying to get my hands on a greenland paddle only having used one once. I have on website that I am going to try to work from. As for my ability to construct one… I dont know. If anyone has any links to a great website that can help me along the way OR some companies OR individuals who may have one they are selling?



step by step guide
While there is no definitive guide to making a greenland paddle, Chuck Holst’s instructions are as close as it gets. You may make various modifications from Chuck’s once you carve more paddles but if you follow these directions you will end up with a very nice and suitable paddle. I’ve made a couple and I have no wood working skills at all. (I get cut just looking at sharp things.)

A pictorial for Chuck Holt’s Plans:
Check out Ross Leidy’s extraordinary site. On the left, look for the paddle section. He provides a great pictorial for the building of Chuck Holst’s paddle.



I’m a mechanic
I dislike anything that can’t be cut with a torch or beaten into submission with a ball-pein hammer. I built a gp out of spruce, and I dare say if I can do it, anyone can! Go for it, it’s extremely satisfying.

Go for it
The Chuck Holst plans will give you a nice paddle. If you want a light paddle, western red cedar is a good choice. Try to get a 2x4 that doesn’t have any knots and it will be easier to carve. I find that quartersawn wood is easier to plane into shape. Good luck.

What about
I was looking at the link to Newfound Boatworks provided on the “Paddle shaft collet/coupling source?” thread, and noticed they have spruce GP blanks for $48. They are roughed into shape, and require only final shaping and finishing.

If anyone has any info or opinions on whether they are a decent buy, let me know. I’ve been interested in crafting a GP as well, but am short on tools and work space. The blanks look like they could make it possible, but I don’t know if they are a good design, buy, or idea.

For The Price…
it’s hard to go wrong for a first GP. Most folks end up with another based on what they like or don’t like about the first one.

It seems that the blades are in the 3.5" width range, which means you can shape down if you want after trying. It appears two models – one with a longer and shorter loom (shaft). PIck the shorter loom, since you can whittle and extend the loom if you like. You can’t make a longer loom shorter though.


PS. My first couple of GP’s were made from clear spruce. It’s a little heavier and the grain is not as fine as cedar. Other than that, keep it well oiled.

I think I just might have to try one of these out!

A problem with commercial blanks
Many of them that I’ve seen have flat sawn grain, which is not ideal for a GP. For best strength, stiffness and durability, you want a quarter sawn blank (aka. “vertical grain”). It makes a BIG difference.

It’d be ideal to find a quarter sawn blank, but for a $50 first foray into GP building, I think it should be okay. As soon as I get a better idea of what I want in a GP, I’ll certainly look into getting clear specimen of quarter sawn cedar to carve my own from scratch.

A dumb question

– Last Updated: Mar-20-05 7:39 AM EST –

wouldn't quater sawn lumber be more inclined to split along the grain at the edge of the blade? Or maybe I dont understand where the woods strength comes from. I mean quarter sawn lumber looks good but is it that much better for paddle making? Is it about looks, or strength or warpage or what?
Not being much of a wood worker, strictly knucklehead amatuer but retaining all of the fingers so far, when I go shopping for wood to make paddles I try to find a piece of flat sawn that was cut in such a way to give it a consistent grain pattern. Other than that I havent been too selective. Lately I wonder if even that is a waste of time because most of the paddles I have been tryting to build are laminated from pieces of wood less than an inch and a quarter wide. The shafts I have been making are three or more pieces. Another 4 or 6 pieces for the blades. I have been using a cedar core with hardwood accents. Seem to be light and strong but a little stiff. Are you making one piece paddles? If not, I am not too sure I would be hell bent on paying for the quater sawn. Once laminated together, I would tend to think that shrinkage and warpage would be a non issue.
Wouldn't an irregular or non perpendicular grained piece of wood be stronger for the tip of a paddle? I have been trying to get pieces of wood that dont have perpendicular grain patterns so that the will be harder to break the thinner wood at the ends of the blades. I have also been laminating pieces of hardwood to the ends but I wonder if that will prove futile. time will tell I guess. Maybe I should glass em and be done with it. I will know after this first seasons use. Hopefully the tips will still be there.
I could understand the use of quater sawn lumber for a one piece paddle.
The cedar maple mohogany paddles I have been making are costing less than 15 bucks a piece. So cheap I dont mind giving them away. I have made the last four paddles from $43 worth of wood. And if they break the complaint department will take note and adjust accordingly. :)

Guidelines for Making a GP Building/ GreenlandPaddle.html contains some good info on making a Greenland-style paddle.


A rookie experience
I made 3 one piece unlaminated paddles this winter. Two were from the same clear, quarter sawn cedar, one was from a non-quarter sawn piece of redwood. The difference was extraordinary. The quarter sawn wood was much easier to work with, and did not warp when I make the blanks. The redwood that wasn’t quarter sawn was a clear, dry beautiful piece of lumber, but began to turn into a pretzel as I roughed it into shape. Then, before carving it, I tried to straighten it by suspending a paint can from the middle to take out the warp and it broke easily right in the middle.

I wouldn’t waste the effort on a questionable piece of wood again.

As to availability of lumber. I’ve found that the people at the front desk of lumber yards don’t have nearly as good an idea of what is actually in the wharehouse as the yard workers. Don’t give up if the guy at the desk says they don’t stock what your looking for. Ask the guys in the yard. The 8’ 2x8 that I now have two beautiful, straight grained paddles from cost me $20.

I’m not a paddle maker (yet), but I have some experience with wood. Think of tree rings as natures bioengineered laminates!

Quarter sawn is much more dimensionally stable than other cuts. Also, generally speaking, the more layers (ring lines), the better. That is why natural growth is better than farm raised. The farm raised is grown as quickly as possible, and as a result has less rings that are wider. Natural growth grows slower, and has more rings that are smaller.

Tried the tung oil yesterday
On advice received here on, I left the varnish can on the shelf and used tung oil on my newly rebuilt Greenland paddle. After only one coat it looks great and the grip feels much better. I’ll put 3 more coats on over the next 3 days, then epoxy the tips.

Can’t paddle today, winds are over 36km/hr and there’s whitecaps, foam stripes and churned-up mud in the Harbour. :frowning:

Redwood GP
I was interested in the comments about redwood used for paddle construction. My experience(so far) have been just the opposite. I have built two redwood GPs, one with quarter sawn and the other flat sawn. It is much easier to work the quarter sawn wood. The redwood was clear heart wood and cost accordingly. I have used both many times and have not observed any warping or twisting. While I don’t believe they are as strong as a good western red cedar paddle,( red wood tends to be a little brash)they have given good service so far. I don’t use my paddle while entering the cockpit like many do. I know someone (who shall remain nameless, Tim) :)broke a Beal stick while getting in his kayak, so any paddle may fail if abused :smiley: Sometimes we have to use those materials available to us, thoughthey may not be the ideal.


No, it’s not about looks at all

– Last Updated: Mar-20-05 4:45 PM EST –

Flat sawn wood generally has more interesting grain that quartersaw, which ideally is thin and straight. If aesthetic appeal was the goal, I'd be using something other than quartersawn wood.

For one piece paddles, quartersawn is much stronger and stiffer than flat sawn and tends to be much more resistant to warping. Essentially, it's like a series of I-beams side by side. Your correct that splitting can occur on edges, but I've only seen one small chunk split off in a dozen or so paddles, and that one had some grain runout that caused it.

For laminated paddles, grain orientation is much less critical, since variations in stability and strength are compensated for by laminating. I still use quartersawn laminations in Greenland paddles, but it's mostly because I can machine my own stock easily, so I have the choice to do so.

You should have done the tips first

– Last Updated: Mar-20-05 4:53 PM EST –

The epoxy is not going to be able to penetrate into the wood and harden it, now that it's sealed with tung oil. For that matter, it may not bond well at all, especially if you apply more coats of oil before the epoxy. You may want to consider sanding the tips and epoxying them before you go any further.

BTW, if you mix tung oil with an equal amount of varnish, you'll get the the same type of soft, satin finish, but with much better durability. I typically add an equal amount of either turps or mineral spirts (1:1:1 ratio) to aid penetration of the first coat or two.

Yes and no
His method is OK, but his choice of woods is lousy. Douglas fir is fine for flooring, where it’s durability is an asset. However, it’s very heavy and it’s a royal pain in the butt to work with. It’s very brittle and prone to tearout when worked with hand tools, even if they’re very sharp. It also splinters readily.

If I wanted a paddle that weighed as much as a Buick, I’d choose ash or oak before Douglas fir. :wink: