Making an Algonquin Guide paddle

-- Last Updated: Jun-27-08 6:01 AM EST --

I'm putting this over here on the advice board so it will be archived in case anyone is interested in building a homemade paddle.

Last year at Raystown Mike McCrea donated a large slab of walnut that just begs to be made into a traditional Northwoods paddle. Elmo brought up the subject of what ever became of it which encouraged me to get to work.

I spent this morning before going to work laying out the design with my favorite blue woodworking pencil. When I got home from work I ran it through the band saw and smoothed out the rough edges so I can start shaping it up tomorrow night. All work on this one should go quite fast since there is no laminating to do on it. I'll post photos and progress here so you can see how it's done and answer any questions.

Interestingly I found a sad face hidden in the blank. Hopefully it will get happier as the shaping progresses goes on, just one reason I enjoy working with wood.

Shop pics here...

Thanks. Looking forward to it. nm

Wow, N.T.
Lookin’ forward ta seein’ dat masterpiece come ta life. Ah’ like de little “face”.


Following Along

Having a personal connection to the material on this job, I will be following your progress.

In fact, maybe I’ll follow along in the shop. Though I lack a favorite blue pencil, I do still have some pieces of walnut that my son overlooked (he just took the longest, straightest, already planed to .75" pieces). Maybe I’ll see if I can cut a blank, catch up to you, and follow-along, hands-on.

Before I get started, can you tell me what kind of tools and supplies I might need? Walnut, check. Non-blue-pencil marking device, check. Band saw, check. But if we need anything exotic, like Tupperware, damn, I’m SOL.


Not sad…
He’s just a little tired. :wink: Should make a great “whimsical” face on your paddle. Hope it stands out when you do the finish!

I love wood in general and walnut

Yeah, yeah…
Especially the air-dried western PA stuff. Makes the KD look like cement. NT’s board looks nicely suited to the project. Makes me wish I had more time for making shavings.

You will need
And it’s not really much but patience and practice helps greatly. Your plank dose not have to be perfect and can even be warped to some extent because you will be removing most of it, however a straight shaft about 1&1/8" x about 1&1/4" for oval or 1&1/8 square really helps. A design, I usually look around the Internet for pictures of interesting paddles. I’ve been known to print, enlarge, and scale the print so I can transfer shapes to a larger pattern. But most times I freehand draw one side of a blade shape then cut it out to use as a pattern for both sides of the paddle. Looking at other peoples paddles helps too.

Tools I use are Table saw (for riping strips on a laminated paddle) clamps for holding work or gluing, a strong bench, band saw is nice but a saber saw will work. Most important is the belt sander that I’ve gotten quite good with using with that paddle in one hand and the sander in the other, but you must be aware that this tool can cause considerable damage to you (and a good shirt) if it grabs you. 3 different grade belts 50 - 80 - 100, the 50 removes a lot of wood fast so don’t get carried away. For final shaping a 1" piece of dowel rod used to make a grip and sanding block to block sand the blade and shaft. A broken sander belt it fantastic for turning the square shaft round or oval. I’ll shoot some photos of that. A bench mounted vice is a great help too in all phases of paddle making but clamps work as well.

There will be lots of dust so work outside if you don’t have a shop and a good vacume.

Some people use only hand tools and I respect that but I don’t have time to sit and whittle a paddle with draw knives and crooked knives. I usually have 15 to 20 hours in a completed paddle from start to the last coat of varnish.

more later.

////nightly update////
Got the groceries in and hit the shop. I started on the blade first. why? Because at this point the shaft of the paddle is still square which makes it easier to clamp and orient and line up everything making sure the grip and blade are on the same plane. you can turn the blade edge up and check how close to the center line you are getting as you remove material to shape the paddle. Drawing center line is important on a one piece paddle because you don’t have anything to go by like you do on a laminated paddle. The blade is getting very close to being taken down to the final thickness. But I’m a little tired and want to rest up so I’m good to Finnish it up in the morning.

The sad face seems to turning into the shadow of the face of tiny Saw-Wet owl, the smallest owl in eastern North America.

shop photos:

Wake up! time to go to work…

Well it’s done except for the varnish
I been at it since 5:30 and as I thought it went pretty fast, I found a 36 grit sanding belt that did the initial shaping pretty dern fast. First coat of varnish is on and drying. I’ll post pictures later after I get all the sawdust out of the shop and off of me.

I don’t mind sanding at all, but…Pics
it’s the mess you have after that kills me. It takes me as long to clean up the shop as it dose to make a paddle.

This paddle has some wild looking grain and iridescent colors after applying the first coat of varnish. The center of the blade is heartwood from a branch that was growing out of the trunk of the tree. Love it!

Time to go down to the depot and get some more foam brushes for varnish. This paddle will get at least 2 more sandings and 3 coats of varnish. The grip will be oiled.

Shop pics:

Nt, another FINE piece of work
That looks like a smooooooth entry and underwater recovery stick. Is the grip symmetrical? The one pic makes it look a bit canted forward. What length is it from the grip to the throat?

Nice job and the wood grain is really sweet.

Yes Symmetrical
I was holding the white card behind the grip trying to get a good photo but photos don’t do it justice, It’s got a lot of nice rounded curves like a fat bottom girl. Definitely a work paddle. I bulbed the end for pushing off of rocks an such. The paddle is a long 62" blade is 29.5 x 7.5 as it should be for the type of paddle it is.

Color change in this piece of wood

– Last Updated: Jun-29-08 1:12 PM EST –

Check out the irridesence in this paddle when photographed first from one end then the other. One shows a light color, when you move to the opposite end it turns very dark, same side of blade. Pretty neat...

And last photos of completed paddle with oiled grip and 3 coats of varnish.

Like a cat’s eye.

Gorgeous piecee of wood!
And you done good with it!

Exactly that’s it ,Chatoyance

– Last Updated: Jun-30-08 5:50 AM EST –

Perfect description, just like Cat's eye gem stone I've seen this before in fiddle back maple and tiger birch used in gun stocks. I also have a walnut storm paddle that exhibits this but nothing like this particular paddle. there is a cluster of very small knots all across the blade that in a certain light remind be of looking at the Orion nebula through a telescope. I wool-ed out the paddle again last night to fill the grain depressions and put a 5th coat of varnish. The flatter the surface becomes the more prominent the Chatoyoance appears.

If I can get the sun to come out here, not likely today, I'll try and get some pictures with a good lens.

Oil-based finishes…
…help to bring it out. Dye stains won’t hurt but, pigment stains tend to muddy the effect and water-borne finishes just flatten it. Nice job, N.T. Be sure and let us know how it feels in use. Weight?

As usual NT a job well done. That hunk-o-roughcut sure had some inner beauty waiting to come out.

See you soon