Greenland paddle carving

I carve Greenland paddles as a hobby that has evolved to carving paddles for others. I’ve responded a couple times to Greenland paddle posts on this site.

I began by using the Holst paddle carving plans, band sawing out blanks and then using a block plane to carve the facets and taper the blades. The block plane is a one-handed tool that is pretty tough on my hand for as much time as it takes to carve a paddle. I reconditioned an old Stanley-Bailey No.3 plane which is the smallest two-handed plane that fits my hands. I prefer the No.3 over a spoke shave or a draw knife. I use the plane at a severe angle with the iron proud of the sole hog off material in a controlled manner The method I use allows me to deal with wood grain issues and carve accurately to construction lines.

Soon I need to replace my No.3 plane and I’m looking for some input on what others are using. Maybe I can improve my technique or the tool I’m using.


For The Rough Stuff…
…nothing beats a 4" electric planer - keep it set shallow, and it spares a lot of time and tissue damage. Once that’s chewed off the bulky stuff, a spokeshave and a small hand plane finish things up nicely - and of course, sandpaper, sandpaper, sandpaper…

Electric hand planer
I’ve been avoiding trying an electric planer with the associated noise and WRC dust but I guess I should give one a try(I sure like using a hand plane). Any recommendations on which to buy. I guess ease of planer blade sharpening or replacement would be an issue to consider.


Stanley surform plane with
Microplane blade, which is far superior to the Stanley model. Unfortunately, they make it only for the straight blade, not the curved one, but for Greenland you should only need the straigh blade. You can do fine work with this as well as gross removal, BTW. Use the 10" Surform handle that has grips for both hands.

I always enjoyed making greenland
paddles by hand until it became too hard on my hands. I found that using a power hand planer and a belt sander let me keep making paddles and it worked very fast. I really miss the quietness of using only hand tools.

If you have a jointer…
…it’s easy to use it to cut the initial taper on the blades. I find it will do all four flats in under 10 minutes. WARNING: IF YOU USE THIS METHOD, USE A PUSH BLOCK OR PUSH PAD AND KEEP YOUR FINGERS WELL CLEAR OF THE CUTTER HEAD!

What you do is:

1- Set the jointer for around a 1/16" cut to start.

2- Hold the paddle blank by the loom area with your left hand and press just the tip to the infeed side of the bed with your right hand and a push block or push pad.

3- Keeping your left hand at least 6" back from the cutter head, lower the blank down, but keep the center of the blank up off the bed slightly so only the tip is touching the bed.

4- Make a pass over the cutter and it will take just a small cut off the tip. Each successive pass will take a longer cut.

5- After 3-4 passes, you can check the angle and raise or lower the paddle in the center until the cutting angle matches your layout lines for the taper. Be sure to check both sides to make sure you’re cutting evenly across the width of the blade.

6- Continue until you reach your layout lines. If need be, you can reduce the cutting depth once you get close to the layout lines, so you can be more precise.

7- Repeat for the other three tapers.

Once this is done, I cut out the profile on a band saw, then switch to hand tools for the remainder of the shaping.

If you already have a spokeshave, I think you owe it to yourself to give it another try. A well tuned spokeshave cuts rolling bevels better than any other tool and used properly, it doesn’t require you to grip it firmly when used with a pull stroke, so it can be easier on the hands than planing (at least with a block plane). I also find that it’s equally easy to work on the left an right sides of the blade, which can be awkward with a plane if you’re not ambidextrous.

The key, as with any edged tool, is that it has to be properly tuned and very sharp. I keep one set for rough cuts and another for fine, finishing cuts.

Electric hand plane

– Last Updated: Dec-27-12 8:25 AM EST –

I have a Harbor Freight electric hand plane and I think I paid something like $35 and they are less expensive now. I didn't know if it was going to work well for GP carving so I didn't want to invest much money. Well, it works great for roughing out a blank and the HF planer works perfectly.

Don't get too close to finished with it because you can destroy a paddle easily but for roughing out a bank from a 2 x 4, you can do it in 15 minutes.

My next step is the belt sander with ultra coarse paper. After that I go to the plane, spoke shave etc.

From what I’ve read here I need to give a hand held power planer a try and find that expensive spoke shave I bought for another try. I’m not sure how the rolling taper along the the length of the blade would work with a jointer/planer but I’ll play with that too.


Or you could just “man-up”

What r fiends 4

Late answer. Electric plane again.
My Father-in Law gave me a Craftsman that is years old but works great for roughing, then I use a rotary sander for semi-finishing and finally hand sand.

The jointer is only used for…

– Last Updated: Dec-27-12 7:38 AM EST –

...the initial taper of the paddle blank. I do the rolling bevels by hand with spokeshaves. I suppose you could try it, but it would be risky (you can't use the blade guard) and it seems like overkill. I find shaping the rolling bevels to be one of the more enjoyable aspects of making paddles, as it's where you really get a feel for the wood.

love those long ribbons of cedar
Jig saw and a good jack plane. Then a smaller plane and sander.

Greenland Paddle Carving
I carve Greenland paddles and have sold several in North America and Europe. I used to use an old spoke shave my grandfather left me and a smaller No. 64 Stanley Spoke shave to shape my unique soft shoulder. I recently purchased a large Veritas spoke shave but I still use the No. 64 Stanley. The only time I use a plane is to flatten out the cuts made with a spoke shave.

The Veritas spoke shave is a great tool for making Greenland paddles


Power tools=cedar dust-be cautious

– Last Updated: Dec-27-12 11:15 AM EST –

As one of the many who have become allergic to cedar dust, I must emphasize use all caution. Use a good dusk mask, connect a shop vac. to the power tool if used, then take a shower and wash clothing.

I still make WRC paddles using a band saw to rough out the blank (wearing mask) and then procede with only hand tools. The little to no sanding is done standing upwind and outdoors while wearing a dust mask. With those cautions I still make WRC paddles. So old soon, so smart so late.


spoke shave, WRC dust
I recently bought a Veritas spoke shave (not the large one) but got impatient with how much slower it was than my No.3 plane (I admit I probably didn’t try with the spoke shave enough to develop the necessary skills). I’m holding the plane at such an angle that I’m using only a fraction of the sole length, maybe 3" which allows me to follow the changing taper along the blade face.

My paddle blade edges and tips are clad with white ash and I am using a low angle block plane on the rolling taper of the leading edges.

I also react to the toxic WRC dust and have just started using a Mirka 5" electronic random orbital sander with dust collection. The Mirka backup pad smooths the carving marks very nicely but raises the grain of the WRC where there is grain runout.

Thanks again the the input.

alternate construction
Although I do a lot of wood working, I opted to make my greenland paddle out of foam then covered it in a carbon sleeve. I glued a couple of layers of the blue foam (used for home contruction), then shaped the paddle with a belt sander and final hand sanding. Didn’t take but an hour, I then encased the foam in an expanding carbon sleeve (with epoxy) I did three layers of carbon and got a 20 oz paddle. Cool thing about those sleeves is that you don’t have any seams.

cedar dust

– Last Updated: Dec-29-12 12:36 PM EST –


I forgot to mention the last step I take to avoid cedar dust allergic reaction. After finishing any session of paddling making that involves power tools (band saw or very limited sanding) I then take off the dust mask and swab out the nostrils with a wet Q-Tip. Surprising the dust that sometimes gets under the mask.


I use
a power plane for the rough shape, and a low angle block plane for the final shape.

I am in the process of making my first wooden GP but your method sounds interesting.


Went the carbon route because I couldn’t find ddcent cedar stock locally. It cost me about $75 in materials but the paddle is bullet proof. Could easily have reduced sleeves/weight but I didn’t know that when I started. These sleeves work like a Chinese finger trap, just pull the ends and it consticts to the shape of the foam blank. It was a fun project