shaving a paddle

I have an old beavertail club of a paddle. I am toying with shaving the blade to thin it out and thinning the whole paddle overall. I normally use a bent shaft ZRE so this project is strictly an excuse to get away from dancing with stars and what ever excreta is playing on the idiot box.

My initial thoughts are to spoke shave the blade then disc sand it before working on the shaft with a spoke shave. My primary concern is keeping the blade consistent front to back. I am going to be using an old shopsmith for the disc sanding and a spoke shave. any suggestions ? (if I had the cash I would just buy a free style stick from DogPaddle and be done with it)

Just eye it
I’ve just eye balled the Aleutian paddles I’ve carved.

If you really want to you could use a drill with a stop collar (or a piece of tape) to indicated the depth that you want to plane down.

Spoke shave and block plane. Hand sand. Don’t use the disk sander on the shop smith.

a random orbit sander works very well

– Last Updated: Jun-04-13 7:27 AM EST –

....... I'd agree about not using the Shop Smith for the sanding .

You should find it easier to control the sander in your hand , it's movements and cutting actions to bring the blade to your desired shape , rather than moving the paddle across the stationary disc on your Shop Smith .

I've redefined blade shapes and thicknesses using the random orbit sander and it works very well . I have a Dewalt 5" that is my favorite .

Perhaps think of it like this . Just as you wouldn't want to drag the paddle across a stationary spoke shave ... same with the sander .

You can bring that blade down very thin and glass it for reinforcement strength , becomes very light and fine edged .

I bought an old "very used" Fir paddle . Wanted it for the blade . Reshaped and glassed the blade as above , built a new Cherry shaft for it , reused and shaped the palm grip ... turned out fantastic , it's a winner at 59" .

Excellent advice so far.
And a good project. I had a BB paddle that felt “clunky” and blade-heavy and I operated on it just as you propose.

As previous posters have advised, stay away from the disc sander. Spoke shave, block plane, and a good quality cabinet scraper (well-sharpened!) are the tools of choice.

Don’t hurry the operation. Take a bit off, sand the wood, and oil it with Watco or some other penetrating oil. Then go paddle.


I concentrated on reducing the overall area of the paddle, and creating a foil so it would recover smoothly underwater. The result is a paddle that pleases me far more than the off-the-shelf model, is quiet in the catch, and sculls smoothly. I put quite a few hours into it, but that is the difference between a stock $100 BB and a custom stick. Not that the finished result is Dogpaddle quality, but it is good enough for this old lillydipper.

Have fun!


Spokeshave and
If you have a sharp spokeshave, that’s the tool. A small sharp block plane works well also. Just watch the direction of the grain so that you don’t pull a hunk out. I make canoe paddles and I don’t sand except for the final finish…so little that I do it by hand.

Your eyeball will be good enough to judge the symmetry…laying a straight edge across the blade helps.

The right tool
Unless you are a racer that sits and switches, you will likely end up with a paddle that is better for you than the $200 bent shaft.

I am a low life no good pond scum sit and switch paddler. I am just trying to see if I can make this

club a paddle that actually be used. The whole thing is just too brutish to try any of Marc’s left handed cross bow double to the rear right flank hut moves…

I wonder if you could cut groves along
the back side of the paddle blade to reduce weight without reducing the strength of the blade, sort of like fluted rifle barrels.

A question only a kayaker would ask!

Ponder this…Which is the back side of a beavertail paddle?

  • whatever on the “no disc sander”.
    Who uses one of those things anymore, anyway? :wink:

    Spokeshave. If you have one, a drawknife may speed things up. If you have no scraper, you can use a piece of cut glass. The only power tool I might resort to for this project is a belt sander or a portable jointer plane. Things will happen fast with either.

I had access to a stationary belt sander
when I wanted to repair a Clement paddle that had snapped straight across the middle of the blade. Using a clamped block to stabilize my hand and to keep the blade pieces at a horizontal angle, I was able to shape a 2.5" scarf joint across both ends. When the joint fit pretty tight, I used brass escutcheon pins to help keep the pieces in place while I epoxied them together.

The result was excellent. Of course I had to re-glass the blade faces over the joint, this time varying where the glass ended so the blade would not snap again. If you look at the blade up close, you can just see the fairly faint line of the joint. Also, because I chose to reverse the end piece, the longitudinal lamination lines of the spruce don’t match up across the joint.

If a paddle one wanted to thin could be held at a very low angle, under good control, a stationary belt sander might make wood removal go faster.

Though I have a curved spokeshave, I’m not sure how I could control it for material removal. I also have a scrub plane, and with very careful, conservative setting, it might be useful.

Ken, a better solution in some ways is
to have a foam core, which will be nice and stiff, and lighter than a back-grooved blade. And there are complex, compound kayak blade maneuvers where a grooved back face might be a problem.

A Werner solid blade is typically so thin that there’s not enough depth to cut grooves. Thicker blades, like my Mitchell, have wood cores faced with cloth, and grooving would destroy the integrity, leading to the lateral parts of the blade breaking off under strain.

OIl ?
Can I get away with linseed oil?