What wood for greenland paddle

Iam going to try and carve my first greenland paddle in the next few weeks. I see alot of choices in the pdf and video i downloaded for differant wood.

Iam looking for the lightest wood. No idea what wood is the lightest. I dont know didly about wood. Lightness, durability stiffness.

If I like the greenland paddle maybe i will buy one out of carbon fiber next summer but first want to see if i like the greenland design before i spend alot of money. Carving one seems like the way to go.

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light wood
western red cedar is a standard choice but very soft.

Alaskan yellow cedar is another good choice but hard to find

spruce has a high stiffness to weight ratio and tight grain and relatively knot free.

I’d make your first one from the most knot free piece of western red cedar you can find.

2 x 4 tester
You might want to just try carving one out of a straight-grained 2x4. It will certainly be heavier than what you’ll finally want but it would give you the carving practice and allow you to experiment with different lengths and loom widths. I enjoy mine but only because it fits me really well.

A friend of mine made it for me and, from what he says, they aren’t all that hard to carve. So, you’d be able to experiment with a longer 2x4 paddle, then cut it down and mess with it until you have the dimensions you like - THEN spend the money for the really good wood.

Cedar Works

– Last Updated: Dec-12-11 3:24 PM EST –

I've made a couple of western red cedar, and it's fine - soft, for sure, but I coat the blades with a couple of layers of epoxy resin, which helps protect it. If you want it a little wider than the usual 2x4, you can always laminate a few waste scraps onto the blade area, creating extra width, or buy a 2x6 and cut accordingly (save the scraps!)

The best wood I've used, but very hard to find here, is eastern (also called northern) white cedar - a little tougher, and it seems to have more 'spring', which I like. Spruce is a very strong wood per unit of weight. Do a few with different materials, and you'll very likely find there's no need at all for carbon fiber...

White pine
A decent clear white pine 2 x 4 is cheap and easy to work with. Rip the 2 x 4, router a channel in the handle area, and glue it together with one piece flipped 180 degrees (of course the channels have to be done correctly to allow this). The paddle will not warp, will be light enough, and it won’t matter much if you have to throw it out and start over.

Mine’s an Aleut, but say advice.
I used Wester Red Cedar. Excellent results and easy to carve, plus whatever softness they’re all referring to has not been a problem with mine. It’s ridiculously light too! More experienced paddlers with carbon fiber paddles are always positively shocked at how light my wooden paddle is.

White pine, I’m told, is a good cheap alternative to start with.

Balsa wood
It is the lightest I know of and very easy to carve.

Rowing shell hulls used to be made
of western red cedar, and while a few were lightly glassed, most were merely spar varnished, and they were hard enough for repeated contacts with smaller river trash. I also have tight grained sitka spruce and redwood lying around, and of the three, the redwood seems the softest by a bit.

Western red cedar
is a very light wood that is a top choice of wood for greenland paddles by many paddle makers. It’s light, has good water resistance properties and is very easy to carve. Spruce is a very good choice for a stronger paddle that will be a little bit heavier. Look for a board that’s straight, light, no knots and is quarter sawn. Quarter sawn lumber will give the paddle greater strength and makes carving easier. There are many different designs of Greenland paddles so it’s not fair to yourself to judge all Greenland paddles from one particular design. I had to make a few paddles and try many different greenland paddle before I found what works best for me. Enjoy the journey.

Tuktu Paddles has a great
description of characteristics for several types of wood. Chris also makes great paddles. (There’s usually a picture of mine on his storm page.)

Also if you want to buy Tom at tandjpaddles.com has great prices and is extremely easy to deal with. His paddles start at $120 and I had mine two weeks after I ordered it. Great workmanship and it seems almost criminal that I haven’t had it in the water yet.

Good Luck


Thanks everyone
Looks like Western Red Cedar is most popular. The video i have says it might be easyer to get a 2 by 12 and then cut a 2 by 4 out of that so you can get it without any knots. I guess trip to lumber yard will determine how large a peice i need to get.

It will be interesting to see what it weighs in at after carving. Iam only 5’8" tall so its not going to be a long paddle.

I didn’t find this so easy to obtain from lumberyards. I was fortunate that one had a few left over from a flooring or decking job and those were by design “clear” grade quarter sawn pieces.

Sometimes called "verticle grain"
or “VG” grade.

Wood for GP
All good advice, except for the balsa wood. Balsa is easy to work with, but would break at the first stroke. Cedar can be found at the local store, but you will have to look at a lot of it before you find an acceptable piece.

Some places specialize in quality WRC, but it is a more pricy. I have found suitable cedar at Lowes and Home Depot for around $10, but it takes lots of searching. I recently found some beautiful wood for 2 paddles at a specialty shop for $35 for both.

A much better bet than a 2x12
First off, you shouldn’t have to buy a 2x12 just to get a decent 2x4. Knots aren’t all that common in red cedar and the bigger concerna are grain orientation and straightness. Vertical grain (the end of the board looks like this: ||||||||| ) is superior to flat grain, IMO. The grain needs to runs straight from end to end, but it’s especially critical that there is no grain runout in the loom area. Otherwise, you paddle will have a short life.

If you can’t find a suitable 2x4, look at 4x4s. The symmetric shape doubles your chances of getting the right grain orientation, since you can resaw it in either of two planes and end up with two paddle blanks. Worst case, look at 2x6s. You’ll have some waste, but it’s a lot less than with a 2x12 and a LOT cheaper.

I had to lam up two boards
Oddly, though I live on the West Coast, I had difficulty finding WRC. When I did find it, all I could get was a couple of nice 1"x4"s that were leftovers from a flooring job. So I used Titebond III after much research. Later I had to lam on a thin piece of basswood to the loom, just to get that last 1/4" I needed for my hands. It all worked absolutely great with a 4 coat Tung Oil Finish (Watco) job. And it has absorbed zero water, even where the finish is worn off.

first paddle
first and second paddle: straight grained pine no knots at any decent lumber store. cheap and light enough

On your third, go to a cabinet or specialty lumber yard and spend 30 bucks for really nice straight grained western red cedar. by this time you have invested $60 bucks and have three nice paddles. You have had enough time in between carving to test and see what YOU like in a paddle.

can’t beat it.

buy Brians book.


Greenland paddle wood
I make and sell Greenland from rare old growth Western Red Cedar. It is one of the lightest and most beautiful woods around at 32 pounds per cubic foot. I have paddled 22 naughtical miles in a day with a WRC Greenland Paddle and still had energy to spare. (I’m 68 years old). I’ve made paddles as light as 23 OZ. but typically they come in around 26 to 30 oz.

As for carbon fibre - cold - very cold, meaning devoid of any warmth and colour.

How does one find your paddles?
I’d like to see what you make. Do you have a website?

Western red cedar
is a very easy wood to work. WRC doesn’t have hard/soft grain patterns like douglas fir so it’s easy to carve, plane and sand. WRC is a rot resistant wood and also toxic. Please read about WRC toxicity and take the appropriate precautions.

Good luck.