Shortening canoe paddle

I have a couple of good wood canoe paddles that I never use because they are way too long. Does anyone know a good woodworking technique of reducing the shaft length of a canoe paddle?

Logic tells me that it would be best to try this as close to the grip as possible. What would be the best type of joint? I am thinking of some kind of tongue and groove formed perpendicular to the blade and handle.

Tee or Bullet handles are the easiest.
Go to a canoe shop and look at the paddles with tee and bullet handles. Look at the ones that are obviously slipped onto a round shaft. If you can do any wood work at all this project should be quite easy.



Shortening canoe paddle
I’ve never done this but I have thought about it.

I agree the best place to make the joint would be just below the grip.

A finger joint would probably provide the maximum glue surface area. You could also bore from the end of the grip into the center axis of the shaft after the glue up and insert a dowel to reinforce the joint.

Good suggestions
Mick makes a good point in that it would be easier – and stronger – to cut the shaft off and replace the grip with a Tee grip than to shorten the shaft by cutting off the grip and then reattaching it. To convert to a T-grip you would cut the paddle shaft off at the desired length, carve the end of the shaft into a tenon and then prepare a grip with a mortise to match. The grain on a T-grip should always run perpendicular to the grain of the shaft. I’d recommend you just run the mortise and tenon all the way through the T-grip and wedge it in place with a contrasting wood. You’ll want to be sure to run the wedge at right angles to the new Tee grip to avoid splitting the grip.

That being said a Tee-grip is best used for serious whitewater as opposed to cruising/touring (if you’ve ever tried to palm roll a Tee grip you already know why).

Regarding your original question about the feasibility of shortening a shaft and re-using the existing grip: Yes, that can also be done. It won’t be as strong as the Tee-grip, but would probably be reliable enough if you do a really good job of it and it might be more useful to you (if you prefer palm grips). To do this you would cut a very l-o-n-g splice joint called a “scarf” joint. A scarf is simply a long tapered cut. I would say the scarf should be a minimum of at least 8 or 10 inches long – the longer the better. I’d also recommend that the scarf run from side-to-side rather than from front to back (less stress will be applied side-to-side). This would be a bear to cut and fit and just as hard to clamp.

I’ve had good results using Titebond III waterproof glue for nice precise joints, but the gap filling properties of epoxy would probably work best for this type of joinery.

After you’ve gone through all the maneuvers to shorten the shaft via scarfing or by making a Tee-grip you’ll then need to refinish the entire paddle of course.

To me this sounds like a lot of work… Only you can decide if it’s worth it and if your woodworking skills are up to the challenge. Might be nice to have a couple of long loaner paddles “just in case”.

No “joint” as you both are talking, but

– Last Updated: Dec-18-05 7:38 PM EST –

a hole in the tee or bullet handle that the reduced diameter shaft slips into.

This way the shaft takes most all of the stress. The handle is only there to adapt the shaft to the hand.

If you make a joint below the handle as you are mentioning the joint takes the full force of the stress.

I would much rather have a handle what slips over the shaft on almost any trips as this type of joint is so very much easier to repair out in the woods.

In fact I have a composite white water paddle with a composite handle that is NOT attached to the shaft by anything other than the friction of the hole in the handle being driven down on the tapered shaft. Works great. Did not know it was not glued on for the first 5 years and many, many long days on rapid rivers.

What will work and what will not is easy if you just look at the problems logically and use the KISS system.

Keep it simple and problem free on the river!



Corrected the mess I made. That was bad! Typed it quickly on the way out the door. Bad!!

Shortening is easy. Lengthening is more
challengining, but I have done it.

don’t try to save the grip
cut the shaft off to the desired length. Use a plane to flatten the opposing sides of the shaft and glue on 1x3" “wings” (I use epoxy). Then fashion your new grip from that. I used red cedar wings on a basswood shaft and it looks very nice.

I hate T grips BTW. A pear grip will slide into your hand on the change over without having to adjust it, a T grip will not.

jjoven’s right
It’s easy. I’ve done this a few times. Cut the paddle to length and shave the round sides of the shaft flat, you can even shave them to a point so long as the sides are flat where you glue on the pieces to make the new grip.

you can laminate several pieces together and build up the grip any way you want. It may take several days before it’s ready to shape but it’s not hard to do.

I did one once using a dowel
I cut a piece about four inches out of the shaft up close to the top, and then used a dowel.

I ended up with the match slightly off, but after some sanding it matched up pretty good.

I still have the paddle and it has been used quite a bit.



Even more…
…good suggestions.

Seems there’s many ways to skin a cat.

Amazing what a guy can do with a belt sander for instance.

What ever method you use
you need to use the proper glue, of which you have three best choices:

Thickened epoxy, use epoxy resin, not polyester resin(that is the stuff you get at loews or HD).

Get West System or System 3 epoxy, and wood flour for a thickener. System 3 has a great epoxy user guide, for free. This requires mixing two parts in the correct ratio. 100% water proof. If you do a scarf joint, this is the best choice.

Polyurethane glue, such as Gorilla Glue, some call it one part epxoy. This stuff foams as it cures, but it is not really gap filling, it requires no mixing as does epoxy, but requires a tighter fitting joint. The foaming action also means that it will come out of the joint aand require clean up, not as hard as epoxy. Requires mineral spirits to clean up when uncures. If you get it on you fingers, and you will, it will turn brown and stay there for a while. 100% water proof.

Titebond III, a one part glue, also not gap filling, and requires a wood to wood fit for max strength. Also very thin and runny, but a little goes along way, because the joint should be tight. Cleans up with water when uncured, can be sanded when cured to clean up. But, it is easier and faster to clean up with a damp rag when uncured. The cleanest and easist to use. 97 % water proof.

All three of the glues will be stonger that the wood, if the joint is a clean tight joint.