Greenland Paddle Shaping - blade ends / middle spine

Nice looking paddles. I’m leaving in a little bit of a rib transition on the one I am shaping tonight.

From competing in Greenland I can offer that the “racers” quite often prefer sharp edges and tips for speed, but the “rollers” prefer rounded edges for easier control underwater.

I like sharp edges, and make sure that the tips have the same “sharpness” as the blade edges. Too sharp, however, and the edges are uncomfortable to hold and are much more prone to damage.

Greg Stamer


I like sharp edges. Makes for a smoother quieter stroke. If the edges are so sharp that they bother and feel uncomfortable, but you still wish to have sharp edges and tip.

One thing that works is to make the paddle blades slightly narrower, so that the edges {width} is less than as wide as your grip. This lets the blade , when extended and griped, settle , not at the finger joint, but between joints where there is some meat.

Then adjust the amount of grip / force of the paddle by either length of paddle or length of parallel sides.

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Thanks, Dave Smith made beautiful paddles before he retired from the biz and I love this one, with the alternate laminations of light and dark cedar. He made them with vertical laminations too, sometimes interleaved with Douglas fir, which he said made a stiffer paddle. This horizontally layered one has just the right feel for me. It does look a lot better with the scratches sanded off and a fresh coat of tung oil and varnish. Since we are looking at a run of rainy days here maybe I will get to that this week. Kind of embarrassed to have my favorite paddle looking so grotty…

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Better grotty than if it looked pristine cause it means you use it!

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I also made my first paddle using Chuck’s instructions, but developed my own method after that, which ultimately ended up in my book. While I am grateful for having his instructions to get me started, I found that the “V” that he recommends for the ends of the blades is somewhat counterproductive. It’s much easier to achieve a smooth lenticular blade cross-section () if you carry the central ridge to the tip. As you discovered, the “V” tends to create a thin, flat tip that’s more prone to flex and flutter. A lenticular shape with thin edges and tips produces smooth water flow, increasing lift and “bite” during the stroke. It’s also less prone to flutter and quieter. That’s actually what Chuck shows in the cross-sections at the end of his instructions, so it’s really a matter of what’s the best way to get there.

3 Likes is amazing, the influence that one man, with one rendition of a Greenland paddle from a sample of one area, has so influenced the perception of what a Greenland paddle should be .

Had people used Harvey Golden as the man to emulate for paddle making shapes, paddles would be a lot more diverse.


Or how about a paddle picture taken by Greg Stamer when he was in Greenland with the first group of outsiders invited to the Greenland competition. {this paddle doesn’t conform to the Chuck Holst diagram and is styled more from an earlier date of stealth hunting with harpoons.

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This tip design is much easier on the shoulders than the design seen most today.

To test tip shape against each other I made two paddles to start with. Both paddles had the same lay-up, were the same length and width, same loom length and ended up one tenth of an ounce difference. I used the mold for the one to make the plug for the other…with the only modification being a slight change in the tip.

I even colored them the same so as to not be biased by liking one color sceme over the other.

The slightly tapered tip , for me, won over distance…less fatigue and smother entry and exit. Looking at them you can hardly tell any difference, but can feel the difference when using them.




I also noticed that if you look back at pictures of historical pictures of greenland paddles they are all quite diverse. I mentioned there was a folk museum in Iceland that has a huge wing dedicated to boats and seamanship. The curators didn’t know much about kayak paddles and had a huge collection all on one wall, many were obviously Greenland type paddles but not much like the styles that seem popular by commercial companies recently. I’m trying to get my photos off of my google drive but not having a lot of luck. The other thing I like to change is the abrupt shoulder cut with a right angle or close to it. I found when tyring to use the thing in surf this actually hurt my hand and there doesn’t seem to be a need for it, the smooth transition to the different shaped part of the paddle seems more ergonomic for me.

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The GP I use most often has a distinct diamond shape to the loom and upper half of the blade. I find that the flat of the diamond pretty much cants the blade automatically. It lays nicely against the knuckles of my hands. Edges and tips are pretty thin….about 3/16” and edged with hardwood.

Castoff; I’d be really interested to know how you make your edges with Gflex. Do you create a sort of “form” over the edge to contain it to the edge?

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I’m not Castoff, thank goodness, but I apply the epoxy and hang the paddle straight up. It results in good end coverage with a bump in the middle.
It increases the turbulence and adds .0002 mph.
Please discount that sentence.

I use the G-flex 655 thickened epoxy adhesive. It comes in two tubes. You squeeze out equal parts and mix for at least two minutes. If you get bubbles, they are hard to get out of the mix. When mixing try not to stir. I have “tiny bubbles” in mine that is how I know. I don’t think it hurts anything but the appearance.

The epoxy is somewhat like toothpaste, but a tad thicker. Maybe more like PeanutButter. apply it proud along the edges. When it hardens, I file and sand it even. I set the paddle horizonal with the blades horizonal and rotate them 180 degrees every minute or so. In about 15-20 minutes they should have thickened enough not to sag much. Once they don’t seem to sag, I then turn the blades 90 degrees, so they are vertical. Check back over the next few minutes to make sure it isn’t sagging. Heat will speed it up.

Just don’t
lick the stirring stick.
It only resembles peanut butter.
If you make the mistake, quickly gargle with vinegar.


I like my ottertail canoe paddle which tapers at the tip. My next GP will be tapered at the tip.

The taper on the tip doesn’t have to be as drastic as on a ottertail canoe paddle. Don’t take it as far back so your grip area isn’t on the taper or else your hand will want to slip of the end when doing extended paddle rolls etc. A little bit goes a long way and gives more than you would expect.

Here is a picture of three different paddle shapes. The first is what most people are familiar with. Widest point at the tip and a taper from shoulder to that point.

The second has widest point at the tip and then parallel sides for a bit…then a taper to the shoulder.

And the third is a tapered tip, some parallel side and then a taper to the shoulder.


Who does that? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything steeper than a 45 degree angle, which is what I typically use for my personal paddles.

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I probably described it wrong, but it was an abrupt cut from the loom to the place where your fingers actually rest when paddling . When I was making my first paddle someone sent me a link to guy (Cape Falcon? I don’t have the link anymore) who makes kayaks and paddles, and suggested I follow his design which is a bit different than what I am following now.

Anyway with the current paddle I did a smooth transition and I stuck to keeping the tips a bit thicker since I am worried about the wood splintering; I can thin them down more later if I want. We are having 15-20 kt winds, and I’m waiting for a calm day to try it out.

I love Cape Falcon’s instructions. I even bought his Greenland paddle PDF. But nothing compares to Brian’s book, really.