Making a Greenland Paddle

This past weekend my wife and I paddled the Keweenaw Peninsula for the first time with our friends Dave and Kathy and son Tom, who all paddled with Greenland paddles. I tried their paddles during the weekend, and found each one handled differently for me. Their paddles were all quite different from each other too! I always thought there was some secret formula that had to be adhered to in the construction of these little sticks. Dave emailed me some directions on how to build a paddle, and after being frustrated for a half an hour of reading, I threw the plans on the floor in my shop and just got started.

Overall length, loom length, width of blade and loom, and you’re good to go pretty much. The directions said these dimensions were all personal for each paddler. So armed with this info I started drawing out the paddle on my $23.00 western red cedar 2X4 I purchased at a specialty wood supplier. The first cut through the band saw was a little scary, but it was all down hill from there. I used a band saw, a power planer, belt sander, a real sharp, low angle, 6" block plan, and an orbital sander. After a couple hours of cutting and planing, and an hour of hand sanding my stick was done. I soaked it under the hose to raise the grain. Then I let it dry before sanding again and putting the first coat of tung oil on.

The next day I took my little paddle for a test.

I love it! Maybe the loom will be a little shorter on the next one, and the inner 1/3 of the blade a little thicker, but it paddles like a dream.

I guess my main reason for posting all this is to try and help people to get started on making a paddle, if Greenland is the way you want to go?

It sure aint rocket science! Read what you can about how to choose the right dimensions for your body type, and it really helps to try someone elses paddle too. And you certainly don’t need all the power tools I used. They just make the job go faster.

And for any of you paddlers out there with shoulder problems, I’d really consider a GP. I’ve had surgery four times, and this is the most effortless way to paddle as far as cruising goes.

Looks Great
I’ve made about a dozen of the things and they still take me a couple weekends each. I use a bandsaw, jack and block planes, spokeshaves and shaving horse, followed by a little sanding.

There’s something really satisfying about using a paddle you made yourself, or watching a friend enjoy one you made for them.

is the name of my first GP, I just put the first coat of oil on it yesterday after a couple hours of on the water practice with it. $12 for the 2x4 Doug fir and an unknown amount of time as I pulled tools out of storage and got them into condition.

The loom runs off center to one side and one blade is much more symmetrical than the other. There is a gouge from a draw knife and tear outs from the plane. 6" of one side of one blade is almost sharp, while the rest is the desired 3/8. As its creator i see every flaw, and in fact, named it Kindling almost before the first cut was made.

Everyone who sees it thinks it is beautiful.

But it works! I had to use my old paddle for a short trip last night and i hated it, why have i spent 3+ years using such a beast? Into the wind it increased paddling effort, and the blade in the water created a heavy load for these old bones to endure.

Kindling II is being laid out now, tools are ready to go, and judgement and experience in their use is much improved. It is also fir, kiln dried because it is a better quality than the other stuff. Eventually i will use more interesting woods, redwood and spruce come to mind, and, of course, the ever popular Western Red Cedar.

There will be no Kindling III, after than the paddles will have a more poetic name. how does Wings of an Angel, or Gossamer sound?

its been a load of fun, and rewarding as can be, you should give it a try.

Since I paddle a canoe,I’ve been
informed that I can’t make a GP correctly,but 2 of the people I made them for love them.