Cuts of wood

I’ve decided to carve a greenland paddle and I’ve found a piece of western red cedar however, it’s flatsawn. I’m having trouble finding any quartersawn or even riftsawn pieces locally. While I am going to do some practice on the piece I have, I’d like to carve one from some premium lumber. Any ideas?

Go For It!
Good flatsawn will probably do as well quartersawn. The concern with other cuts is the willy nilly running grain will not stretch the length of the paddle. That the grain run out in the contours of the blade are the areas where you may see splits, etc.

I also think (probably just voodoo science) that if one keeps a paddle periodically oiled, that spits are less likely to occur because of less drying and seperation of the less than straight running grain.


I Am Going To
try some cherry I have. I have a few pieces of rough cut 1+" x 14" planks. I am going to plane down and glue two pieces together and go from there.


Right, Can Do The Laminated Route
with flatsawn.

Isn’t cherry a pretty heavy wood though?


Quarter Sawn
I recently went through this with some cherry. I was picking up wood to make 10 dining room chairs, and I wanted quarter sawn cherry. I’ld used quarter sawn for the buffet and hutch I made for the set. I had moved and gone to another, very good, lumber yard. They didn’t carry quarter sawn cherry. I had always thought that cut made for stronger more stable stock. The lumber yard manager explained that it made no real difference for that particular species. He said that you want quarter sawn when you work in oak because it showcases the grain. (I had read different.) Chairs came out beautiful, I won’t know for certain if he was right for another 20 or 30 years! I guess the species makes a huge difference in the kind of cut you want, it’s not as black and white as one cut always being inherently superior. (Or he was just trying to sell me some cherry.)

pro’s vs. cons
Am I to understand that a flatsawn cut can create a paddle just as good/strong as a quartersawn cut? I’ve been looking for a piece such as the one in Matt’s video. What are some pro’s and con’s of either cut?


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Flat sawn has more yeild, and is faster, consequently it is cheaper. Quarter sawn produces more stable stock, less shrinkage, warpage, twisting. Quarter sawn also accentuates those beautiful rays you get in oak. If your stock is kiln dried it isn't really as much of a concern. Seasoned flatsawn stock is much more likely to become warped and bowed and you might loose what you saved in the planer. Also, if you come accross a piece of flatsawn heartwood, it is very susceptible to splitting. A paddle is not a particularly broad piece of stock by the time you are done shaping it. If your stock is already dry and stable, it really shouldn't be a major concern. Just keep it nice and oiled when you start paddling. (If that's the finish you're going to use, I bet a nice rubbed china oil finish would be beautiful, but you'll have to touch it from time to time.) I should qualify my opinions; I've never made a paddle, but I do a lot of cabinet and furniture making. I think you should go for it with the stock you've got.

My first GP
was made from a flatsawn piece of redwood 2x4. I still use it, it is fine. Maybe not as strong as a WRC quartersawn but just don’t sit on it while entering your boat. The conventional wisdom says that a flatsawn piece will warp easier. Maybe ture of some pieces but not all.

more questions
Thanks for all the responses, help is always apperciated. I will make a paddle from what I’ve got. Also, where do I go about finding a quartersawn cut? Are they hard to find? Might I have to travel a bit or special order something like that? Thanks again.

Don’t know where you live, a good hardwood lumber yard is a wonderful thing. If you have one in your area, they should either have, or be able to get stock sawn the way you want it. (Although the little bit you’re looking for would probably not be enough to special order.) A good mill shop might also be able to hook you up. I get all my stock rough cut from one of two lumber yards in the Boston area. I think the thickness planer paid for itself with the first load of unplaned lumber I bought. You are probably going to do the rough shaping on a bandsaw? So you definitely can get by with a rough cut piece. I always print out a list of lumber acronyms from the web before I head to the lumber yard, it is very helpful to have when you’re picking through the cribs. (It’s amazing how many subtle differences there are in boards!)

Here are my two favorites:

If you can’t find anything local, you could probably have something shipped.

Good luck!

I was in lumber business
I was in the lumber business for 8 years, as Plant Manager, and Hardwood Buyer for the “Rough Mill” at a Cabinet Shop.

Quarter sawn lumber is cut that way for two main purposes.

One is for looks. Quarter sawn lumber looks different, as the grain in the face makes different patterns over flat sawn. Some people like the different way it looks.

Another reason is for lumber stability, Wood does not shrink or expand lengthwise, but only in thickness and width when cut. Quartersawn is more stable in the way it expands and contracts as it absorbs or gives off moisture.

“IF” hardwood lumber (not softwoods like Pine, etc) is properly kiln dried to 8% moisture, it will be the most stable when being used. After it is dried to that percent moisture, it will later absorb some mosture from surrounding air, but the wood itself will be the most stable from swelling, shrinking, and or warping. If it is not dried to 8%, it can cause lots of problems in use.

Good luck with your paddle carving, and I hope the above info is of some value to you.

Flat Sawn NWC vs. Quarter Sawn WRC
I just finished my second paddle from QS WRC. My first was from FS NWC. Everyone calls my NWC paddle a wet noodle because of the flex. I can bend the blades a couple of feet in either direction especially when rolling with it. It also has a slight warp when dry, but this tends to disappear after it’s been in the water 10 minutes or so. The WRC paddle is much stiffer. I can only bend the blades 1" or so. I have not used this one yet, but have been using the wet noodle all fall without any problems.

One possible way to get a more or less quartersawn piece is to find a 4x4 and resaw it on a bandsaw. My next two paddles will be from a WRC 4x4.

Have fun!


Great thread
and a great site!

I’m looking for stock to carve my first stick, and this discussion really helps. Thanks guys!


Cuts of Wood
I’m going to be the contrary and go against some of the advice you have gotten thus far. However, I am very demanding and picky on the performance, strength, and feel that I get from a GP, so my preferences will not apply to everyone.

You can make a GP out of any cut of wood. However a vertical grain paddle will be stiffer and more stable than flatsawn, all things being equal. Vertical grain puts the grain running parallel to the force on the blades – which gives you the most strength. My solid Western Red Cedar (WRC) paddles are very stiff. Most of the flatsawn paddles that I have made or used were too flexible for my taste, but this is personal preference. I like a stiff paddle not only for my forward stroke, but for some rolls as well.

I would not use any kind of hardwood for a GP – it’s fine for a canoe paddle but simply makes a GP too heavy. Save the hardwood for some optional armor for the tips or edging.

I have found plenty of vertical grain WRC boards at HD or Lowes, but you must be prepared to search the whole stack and may need to visit more than one store. You will have better luck if you use a cedar fencepost or larger stock and stay away from the small 2X4 piles.

Having said all of this, realize that it will probably take one or two attempts to make a very good GP, so you might as well start practicing on whatever you have if you just CANT find decent wood (or don’t want to make a quality blank by laminating small strips of quality wood). But when you find the dimensions that you want, use excellent lumber (which can often be found cheap if you look hard enough). Your finished paddle can only be as good as the material you select.

Greg Stamer

Greg and Sing mentioned laminating. What goes into this process? I like the idea of using 4x4 fencepost I’ll look into that as well. Thanks again.

Clamps, many many clamps.

Depends On How Wide Your

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piece is. Rip out 1.5" wide strips from your stock, turn them sideways, glue and clamp. You basically end up with a laminate piece that is now similar to quartersawn.

The thing is that most GP's have a loom about 1-1.5" deep, depending on the individuals preference. That depth runs from the loom to at least 1/3 down the centerline of both blades. Then the blades are tapered to ends as well as to the edges.

Most folks seem to like blades that are around 3-3.5" wide. So, in laminating, you'll need 3 or 4 long strips of 1"x1.5" (or 1.5x1.5") to glue together to get a rough piece from which to carve down.


PS the kerf of your ripping tool can affect how much wood you loose in the ripping process. I could probably rip a nominal 2x4" piece with a bandsaw and end up with a laminated piece that can still allow me to make a paddle 3" wide. However, if I use my table saw -- thicker kerf --I would probably the laminate piece would probably be less than 3" wide.

and really good glue

I agree with Wollyworld.
But sometimes you just build it with what you have but flatsawn has it’s drawbacks especially if you get it in an SPF or construction grade. SPF is a mass product and all boards are not equal, some are dried quite well, some overheated and dried too well and some are just some sort of crap. Through boat building I’ve found flat sawn boards with grain run out will break a lot easier than people think.

Gorilla Glue Works Great
and waterproof when cured.