Tool order recommendation - paddle makin

I’m new into the woodworking and paddle making world. I have (on the way) a lot of used hand tools to get me started in exploring this new land. But I’ve found myself doodling advanced laminated paddles. I know that I need to master the basic skills of shaping before investing too much into making laminate paddles. But I’d like to see the future and plan accordingly to what tools would help to make the best paddles.

Some of the laminate patterns I’ve drawn up use very thin and long pieces. I know I’m going to need something to get these pieces flat and smooth. So I’m pretty sure that a jointer and/or planer is something that would be of great help. But how thin can they go? Is 1/8 -> 1/4 inch to thin?

I’m also going to need to cut some big pieces of wood down to usable size. So say cut a 2-3" x 6" x 10’ piece in half to get me two boards that are 1-1.5" thick. Would a band saw be the best for this? Then running it through a planer?

The only power tools I have now are a cheap circular saw, hammer drill, angle grinder, and a pencil sharpener.

So to summarize my blabbering, what tools should I put on my list and in what order? I have access to some of these tools, but at times that are difficult for me most of the time. I’ve yet to use them, and I’m sure that will provide me with the knowledge to make some better decisions. But what tools would be the most versatile? Band saw -> jointer -> planer?

I appreciate all advice and thoughts as well as tool recommendations!


A table saw, jointer and planer are considered the “basic three” power tools for general woodworking. However, for paddle making, a band saw is more versatile. It’s not as good for ripping long strips as a table saw, but it will do the job. A band saw excels at cutting out profiles and other curves.

A jointer is designed for squaring up rough-cut stock and creating straight edges on uneven stock. It can also be used for tapering and I use it for that when making Greenland paddles (I explain the technique in my GP book).

Planers are very useful for making laminations, as they ensure that you have even thickness and smooth mating surfaces on the parts, which make for clean, tight joints. Most planers will only go down to 1/4", but you can get around this by using a “sled” or “carrier” piece to hold thinner stock. For example, to make a 1/8" lamination, you can take a piece of 3/4" thick stock and place a piece of thin stock on top of it, then run it through a planer set to 7/8". It’s a good idea to adhere the lamination to the sled with double sided tape, or at least put an end stop on it so the two pieces can’t slide in relation to each other. If you use tape, be sure to compensate for the thickness. Also, choose your wood carefully. Brittle woods like douglas fir can be downright dangerous to work with in thin sections with power tools, as they can literally explode into fragments. I’ve had this happen when using them on a router table. Unless you really need smaller laminations, I’d stick with 1/4" or larger.

Lamination layout tools

– Last Updated: Jan-25-07 6:33 PM EST –

Table saw with a quality rip fence, jointer, portable planer that has no snipe, dust collection; in that order of priority. It's a big investment for making just a paddle or two (about the cost of a good boat), so you should be sure you are serious about woodworking first. Best to do a none laminated blank to see if this is really what you want to do with your time. Also be careful of sawdust. Cedar is a common lightweight wood used in paddlemaking, but cedar dust can cause sinus irritation and allergy if you aren't careful. If you have a woodworker's guild in your area join up and save your money for something else.

Agree with both above
Many good points in both posts above.

First a wee bit of nomenclature that may help you in the future. Anything we use to alter our world can be called a tool. In the world of woodworking big tools that plug in (such as table saws, etc) are referred to as “stationary woodworking machines” or simply “machines”. Hand held tools that plug in are called “power tools” and simple human-powered tools are called “hand tools”. Hand tools that have a sharpened edge (like a block plane or spokeshave) are called “edge tools”. I thought getting some of the terminology right at the beginning of your quest might help you…

Bnystrum said it well and I believe most woodworkers would agree with his suggestions regarding the machines many find most valuable when starting a shop. I’d buy a table saw, a jointer and then a planer – in that order. I’d follow those with a band saw, though a jig saw would work for paddles at first. As time goes by a drill press would be nice (for general woodworking, not paddle making in particular). Specialized machines like lathes and a mortiser may come in handy as you advance in to other areas of woodworking. As has been suggested you’ll want a dust control system before very long – especially if you work “nasty” allergic, acidic or toxic woods like cedar, walnut, many rain forest woods, etc…

One of your single most important shop features will be your bench. While this does not have to be an expensive European model with the fancy end and side vises you will need a flat surface to work on. You can make your own or buy one, but don’t forget to allow for one. Obviously you’ll need some place to call a shop as well. Again, this doesn’t have to be an expensive stand alone building – a corner in a garage or basement will do.

Good points were made by DM about the cost of all that equipment in regards to making a paddle or two. But if woodworking becomes a hobby for you the machines are well worth owning. …many woodworking tools and machines are worth having around just for home repair, other DIY projects, etc… Personally I’m sure I would find being “shopless” almost as bad as being homeless… - Randall