Making a Greenland Paddle with Hand Tools

Wow, it took awhile to get Episode 5 up. I’ve had some other projects around the place that needed attention. In this episode I do the rough shaping on half the paddle, but I’m uncertain if I’ve done it correctly.

If I’m not mistaken, you’re using Chuck Holst’s directions, correct? If that’s the case, you’ve misinterpreted them. If you look at Figure 7, Step 2, he tells you to taper the blank from the full thickness (~1 1/2") at the loom to 1/2" at the tips. This is done by planing the wide sides of the board flat and straight from the end of the loop to the tip. Personally, I prefer to leave more “meat” in the blades and only reduce the blank to 3/4" at the tips, but it depends on how flexible you want your paddle to be. You don’t do any shaping of the edges or curving of the surfaces until you have the blades tapered, flat and straight.

You can still salvage the blank, since there’s plenty of wood left. First, you need to draw a centerline across the end of each blade. This is usually done at the beginning when the board is still rectangular, but you should be able to fake it. The ends on your blank look somewhat rough to draw on, so you may want to trim them a bit with a crosscut saw to provide a surface that you can easily mark. Once you have the centerlines across the ends, mark parallel lines to establish the thickness you want your blades to be at the tips (1/2", 3/4", etc). The next part is going to be tricky, since you’ve rounded the edges and you no longer have flat surfaces to draw on (what Chuck calls the “narrow faces”). Start planing at the tips where you have a lot to remove, gradually working your way back as you reduce the tip thickness. Make sure that you’re creating a flat surface that’s parallel to the lines you drew on the ends of the boards. As you work your way back, use a straightedge like a yardstick to make sure that the surface you’re creating is flat in that direction as well and that the taper looks like it will meet the end of the loom at the same time it meets the lines you drew on the tip. What you’re doing is removing the long wedge of wood that you can see in the Step 2 drawing.

As for tools, you want to use the longest plane you have for this step, as that makes it easier to create flat surfaces. If you happen to have a Stanley #7 or #8, that would be ideal, but if not, don’t sweat it. There are lots of instructions online for assembling and adjusting planes like your #4, so as long as it’s still sharp, you should be able to get it back in action.

You want the board to be clamped at around waist level for best control and maximum comfortl. Put something under the tip of the blank to support it; it doesn’t matter what as long as it keeps the board from flexing and moving (a sawhorse, a chair with a bucket on the seat, a stack of books, whatever it takes). That will make everything much easier.

Work on getting one side done and post a video. Once you get the technique down, the other three sides will be easier.

I hope this helps.

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Excellent advice, as usual. I arrived at that method with some advice and a bunch of paddles made.
PS. My initial impression of your project was that you have over thought and over engineered it. But you have also been having fun.

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Yes, I am using the Holst’s directions and what you’ve described makes perfect sense, both what needs to be done and how I missed a step! Given all the mistakes I’ve made in this series I have no idea how I made my first paddle correctly! I must have done more paying attention and less winging it. LOL.

I love the tip about supporting the far end. I may even go back to my workbench for this. The problem with that is that I can only plane to the left on my workbench, it is way to wobbly. (And yes, I need to fix that!)

I do have some long planes, I’ll get to use them.

And I did a video call with my father-in-law last night, I can adjust the #4. I’ll hopefully get our vaccines soon and then he can come over and play, that would be fun.

Thanks so much for your help!

LOL string, I always over think and over engineer things. That is my nature! :- )

I understand. I worked with process and design engineers for decades.
" There comes a time in the life of every project when you have to fire the engineer and get it done."

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Thanks for posting Part 5! Fun to watch. I am glad you got the plane sorted out, but as you will probably find you need to sharpen the planes and spokeshave after some use, and you seemed hesitant to remove the chip breaker, I thought these might be worth your review:

(223) Sharpening and Setting the Bench Plane | Paul Sellers - YouTube

Spokeshave - Paul Sellers’ Blog

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While I like Paul’s videos, I strongly recommend using a sharpening jig for anyone new to the process, regardless whether you’re using oil stones, water stones, diamond sharpeners or sandpaper. It takes the guesswork out of the process, creates consistent edges and reduces the likelihood of screwing up a blade. I’ve been sharpening all kinds of cutting tools for decades and I still prefer to use a jig.


The first thing my father in law taught me was how to sharpen. I use a Veritas jig and it really takes the stress out of it and really recommend it. One cool trick I found was that he uses both sandpaper and a hone. He wanted me to go to the hardware store and get some plate glass for a nice flat sanding surface. I really didn’t want something that can break into a million pieces on my workbench, so I went to the flooring section of my local big box hardware store and bought exactly 1 marble floor tile. I think it was $2.

I have a lot of sharpening equipment, but I use the Vertitas jig by far the most. It’s a great tool.

@NotThePainter and @bnystrom Do you both use the “Veritas Sharpening System” jig, or the “Veritas Mk. II”? I’ve been trying to decide if one of these jigs are worth the cost for me, or if I should just consider one of the cheaper “Vise-type” guides.

I currently only own a cheap block plane and two chisels. I’ve been watching to try to find a good deal on some kind of a bench/jack plane but no luck so far, so I don’t own much that will ever need sharpening and don’t end up doing much woodworking at all right now, because I don’t have a good space for it. I’d love to do more but hard to justify a new house for that. :wink:

My own plan to try a Greenland paddle basically got delayed until it gets warm enough for me to be able to work outside. So probably still 6-8 weeks away.

I recently purchased one of the inexpensive jigs as a first step into the process. It works pretty well with plane irons but required a fair amount of file work to hold a chisel properly. If you do get on of those you will also want to make a jig to set the length of extension to set the angle.

I’ve only used it once, with my father-in-laws supervision. But I’m pretty sure it was the original one, not the Mark II.

Do you have a basement? I just plug in an electric heater an hour or so before I go downstairs, that takes some of the nip out of the air.

I’ve got the MKII, with the add-on camber roller. I also user their grinder rest for rough-grinding plane irons and chisels. I really like the Veritas jig and I think it’s well worth the money, but frankly, there are more basic side-gripping jigs that you can get for under $20 that will do the job, too. In-fact, Lie-nielsen put out a video several years ago on how to use an inexpensive jig to sharpen their very expensive plane irons. I’m not sure if it’s still around or not. They now make a very expensive jig of their own, so perhaps that video has gone away. I have some inexpensive jigs and can attest that they work fine, albeit perhaps with a bit of tuning. There are videos online on doing that, too.

Here’s the link to the Lie-Neilsen video: Sharpening Plane Irons Part 1: Honing the Micro Bevel - YouTube
Note that you can use the same method with other sharpening media.

Digging around in my sharpening tools, I found my original Veritas MK1 jig and angle guide. I haven’t used it in a while, but as I recall, it works quite well.

Over the years, I’ve picked up quite a bit of sharpening gear cheap at yard sales, estate sales and on Craigslist. You’d be surprised what you can find.

I have a basement but it’s part of our fully finished living space. There’s not really an area that I could partition off and fully contain the dust and stuff.

Not of much use at the point where you are now, but finding a good hand ax and learning to use it as a fine cutting tool can really change the way you approach projects. I had a chance to visit with a master bowyer in Sweden a few years ago, and he encouraged me to get a good hand ax and practice on scrap. After a few years experience, I suspect traditional paddles were made from hand axes and draw knives, but I just make them for fun.

A bit off topic I admit, but has anyone experimented with a GP in a solo canoe. If so, what dimensions did you settle on, how did you derive them and how did it work?

Once in a while I will use a long double blade to get to windward in a solo canoe. I might like to use a GP for that. I once picked one off a rack and tried it, but it was way short and I thought lacked power.

If I get any encouragement, I will get back on topic and think about making one.


pgeorg, three GP style paddles are working very well for me in my 12 ft. Bell Bucktail (as well as in a CD Kestrel 140 kayak). One of them is 76 inches, the other is 84” and the 90”. I like the 90”, especially for performance, but eventually it will be shortened. But all three are useful as they are.

The 90”, being a very low angle paddle, keeps the paddler (and the inside of the hull) dryer. But slightly slowing the cadence while paddling with the shorter paddles accomplishes the same thing.

I like the 76” paddle for maneuvering in small mangrove patches or tight areas near shore. It isn’t exactly a storm paddle. And the technique being used to paddle with it isn’t exactly a storm paddle ‘shuffle’. It is something that just seems to suit me, comfortably, effectively, in a pack canoe designed for a double paddle. The next short GP may be slightly wider nearer to the tips to be a little more effective for maneuvering the pack - but so far these paddle are ok. They are comfortable.

One question I like to ask myself, before starting a new paddle, is - what do I wish for that’s different than what these are doing now or how they feel? Then start drawing lines on a new chunk of wood😉

Hope this helps.

Thanks Canoedoc, that is helpful. I am a bit of an odd duck in that I prefer to solo small tandem canoes. My favorites are just a couple of inches wider than your Bucktail which would suggest a slightly longer paddle than you use. I wonder, can you provide me just the blade dimensions of the large 90" paddle you have? I would use that as a starting point and then flesh out the rest of the dimensions.


Happy to…
Blade length 35” (shoulder to tip), blade widens to a width of 3 1/2” just before rounding of the tip…
Mark L.