Greenland Paddle Choice

I agree, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense. Feathering was originally added to paddles to make it easier for whitewater racers to clear gates without hitting them with the upper blade. It migrated to sea kayaks from whitewater. The only reason it works is that it’s used with a “control hand” that always orients the paddle, regardless of which side you’re stroking on. Because your control hand position changes between left and right strokes, feathering is necessary to properly orient the blade on both sides.

With an unfeathered paddle or a Greenland paddle, you don’t use a control hand. The paddle is held loosely and hooked with the fingers of the pulling hand and cradled in the pushing hand. Unless conditions are rough, you don’t even need to grip the paddle.

On the subject of shoulders, the paddles in the picture have pretty small shoulders. Here are some other examples, some of which have more pronounced shoulders:

The two short paddles in the center are what is commonly called a “storm paddle”. but that’s another topic.

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Bnystrom, nice selection, and each is an example of pure beauty. What is the purpose of the carved pattern in the paddle on the left side of the picture. It looks like a thin flat on a diamond ridge that opens to a wider flat. Is it just a more decorative way to transition from the loom, to a triangle, to the flat of the blade, or does the ridge have a specific purpose to control flutter. I planned to make that pattern on my next project because I like the flow. My paddle is like the model on the right, because it was easier to shape and maintain symmetry.`

That was my first paddle, which was made with Chuck Holst’s instructions. I found the carving process to be unecessarily complex and I didn’t like the end result. The blades are too flat and the shape is inefficient, but at least it was a starting point. That’s the reason that I explored other shapes and developed my own process, which ultimately led to my book.

I also learned what not to use for finishing from that paddle, which prompted me to research finishing products and settle on a 50:50 mix of pure tung oil and varnish. It’s a gorgeous piece of uncommonly dark and figured cedar, but it’s just a “wall hanger” now.

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Good advice. I do like the appearance and almost attempted but preferred simplicity. Which is your favorite for paddling?

My pure tung oil was delivered yesterday. Do you have a favorite type of varnish or a brand? Is pure tung oil less than adequate.

Pure tung oil makes a really nice finish, it’s just not very durable. However, it’s easy to maintain it by simply applying more when it wears off. An oil and varnish blend produces a similar look and feel, but holds up better.

My favorite varnish to blend with it is a natural varnish like Epifanes, but even polyurethane varnish will work, though I increase the ratio of oil to 60:40 when using polyurethane.


This has nothing to do with paddle making, but I thought some here might get a kick out of this gift from Mother Nature that I found in my back yard:

With all the burls, I thought this tree might produce some interesting grain, but I had no idea that it would be this amazing inside! My next woodworking adventure is going to be bowl carving (not turning) and I’ve already started buying tools. It’s also a good way of using some cherry and locust that would otherwise become firewood. Part of this log will also be turned into lumber, as well.


Oh man! Priceless. Is that cherry? Bark is very rough.

Bnystrom advised me on the first GP I made. Bryan, glad to see you are still advising beginning paddle makers.

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Jyak, it’s “ambrosia” maple. For those not familiar, the Ambosia Beetle infests maple trees and bores holes in them. The pith of the tree grows into the holes and fills them in, resulting in the dark figure in the wood. I looked around online, but didn’t see any other examples with this degree of figure. The roughness in the bark is due to burls. It will be interesting to cut into them as well. Nature is truly amazing!

String, I’m just trying to do my part and spread the GP love. :wink:


String, I went from skeptic to interested. Don’t know if I’ll like how the perform, but it’s fascinating learning about the paddle, new techniques, and researching the tools. It’s a great stress reliever for the dead time in the winter. I’m sure it will be in my inventory.

Just turn, it is easy and you don’t need electrons…

That would still be a lathe. With or without electric. I just hear him mention Roy Underhill’s treadle lathe… I saw him use it…

Brian, Underhill also did an interesting show where he carved a bowl-like platter with a hatchet and hand scorp. It was clever, and I seed to recall that he took half a log and carved with the sit side down and the bark facing up. That is how he carved the bowl, from the bark side. Definitely want to see it. You can call it a miniature dugout kayak.

Love to see that cut. I’ve been working with curly maple. Incredible wood. I wonder if that burl will result in birds eye.

I’ve already watched several videos on carving that style of bowl and I’ve split a cherry blank to work with. I just received a Gransfors Bruk carving axe and picked up a couple of large bowl gouges. I have an adze on order that should be here next week. Once I get my feet wet on this one, I’ll start looking at what I can do with the ambrosia maple.

I’m a bit concerned that I’ve completely hijacked this thread, so we should probably get back to our originally scheduled program…

Well Brian, let’s bring it home. Paul mention in jest about using an ax to build a paddle. I believe it’s feasible, and took it as a challenge to show how far along the process can go with just a broad hatchet.

Since you have more experience with paddle making, do you think you could test your ax on the wood you harvested, and let us know how well it handles. If you show the results, I think it could be instrumental in demontrsting how to apply the ax in making a paddles. Count me in. I’m curious if a Swedish carving ax has an advantage over a typical broad hatchet. If you can show me a bowl made from an ax, I think I could figure out the paddle part. This was the box Underhill’s guest built with an ax to trim panels. We have too many tools.

`a bowl, I think I can figure out the paddle.

I don’t see why it wouldn’t work and I’m pretty sure that the Inuit used stone and/or bone axes for shaping paddles before they gained access to metal tools.

In the last pic above, you can see that the axe blade is ground like a chisel, flat(ish) on one side and beveled on the other. Mine is similar and I hope to give is somewhat of a workout over the weekend, as I need to hew the bottom of the bowl blank flat. That would be a good approximation of tapering a paddle blade.

I did “cheat” a bit today and used a band saw to square up the ends of my bowl blank. I could have used it to cut the bottom too, but I really want to learn the axe technique.

Hopefully, I’ll still be typing with all ten fingers afterward… :wink:

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I like the looks of the carving ax. I love my broad hatchet. As you realize. The flat is for squaring round stock. I agree, the inuits didn’t do the shaping with a Veritas Block Plane. My goal is to make a balanced paddle. I’ve done enough hand tools to last a lifetime. Keep your fingers intact and looking forward to seeing the bowl.

Can these paddles be purchased?

Wow! For a second there I thought that there was a rectangular paddle on the left - it was just the edges of the two closet doors!