Your favorite paddle making tool?

Spoke Shave
My favorite is an old no-name spoke shave I bought at a barn sale in the Finger Lakes, $10. It has an adjustable shoe, letting you vary the cut. It looks much like a Stanley #53. I find it lets me tune the cut depth for the varying grain of a piece of western red cedar.

A close second is a Stanley 60 1/2 low-angle block plane. It’s fun to prospect for these vintage tools on eBay.


Angle Grinder
Angle grinder with a blending pad. I’ve since bought a new plane but the angle grinder worked very well for rapid shaping.

Power tools for paddle making

– Last Updated: Nov-11-12 6:48 PM EST –

If you choose to use power tools for paddle making, the power hand planer is especially effective in Greenland paddle making. Random orbital sanders are effective in making smooth surfaces but produce copious amounts of dust.

One should be aware of the danger of power tool dust. Red cedar is especially dangerous for developing allergic reactions, but all wood dust is potentially dangerous to lungs. If you use power tools, or sand much, buy a high quality dust mask. Use it religiously, change clothing and shower every time after finishing and throw clothing into the laundry. Last, swab out your nose with a wet q-tip to get the dust that snuck under the mask. I wasn't so advised or so smart years ago. I now have a mild allergy to cedar dust from days spent in a wood canvas canoe repair shop 20 years ago (so old so soon, so smart so late).

I now choose to minimize the use of power tools to reduce dust exposure, preventing my WRC dust allergy from becoming any worse. I also saver the quiet, greater safety, and enjoyment of using sharp quality tools to accomplish the same product that power tools would. Being retired, the somewhat longer time needed to use hand tools instead of power tools isn't a problem.

Following the above recommendations, I can, and do make WRC paddles with no allergic reaction, using hand tools and minimal hand sanding.


I do my sanding outside which
mostly alleviates the dust issue.

…using too many power tools takes all of the fun out of paddle making. I do use a band saw to cut the blank to shape and a jointer to make the initial taper on the blades, as it saves time in roughing out the paddle. However, I prefer hand tools for the shaping and sanding. Making cedar shavings is very relaxing and gives me a feel for the character of the wood. The small amount of hand sanding required afterward is when the real magic happens and the stick becomes a paddle. I like to feel that transformation taking place.

No.3 Stanley plane, block plane
I’ve carved many Greenland paddles, about 75. I use a vintage Stanley No.3 smooth plane after I band saw the blank to shape the paddle. I used to use a low-angle block plane for this but the No. 3 is easier on my hands. I set the iron proud of the sole and hold the plane at an angle to hog off material. I use the low-angle block plane to shape the leading edges of the blade and achieve the paddle’s final shape.

75!!! Wow.

75 paddles
Others may have had this experience…

Carve the first for yourself and have it critiqued by an experienced Greenland paddler. Carve a second with improvements and then a storm paddle. Carve a third from a laminated blank. Carve one for your paddle buddy and his wife, then for the local pro shop owner, his manager and the instructor you take lessons from. Members of the local paddle club ask about your paddles and commission you to carve them custom paddles. The local pro shop owner suggests carving a few to display and sell in his shop.

My new hobby is carving Greenland paddles for others. It’s not really profitable but enjoyable.

electric plane
Dare I say “electric”?

I can rough out a blank for a GP in 10 minutes using my electric plane. Then I switch to spoke shave, plane, rasp, sanding etc.

Hodtay, I am up to 10 paddles.
The ones my ‘customers’ like best are the Aleuts. I suspect that is because they feel and act like Euros.

Electric plane

– Last Updated: Nov-13-12 9:42 AM EST –

Hi Jay,

When I said above "the power hand plane is especially effective in Greenland paddle making" I was referring to the electric plane. There are many ways to skin the cat. Using much more expensive power machines, one can make a paddle very fast using a band saw and a jointer, finishing with a block plane, spokeshave and random orbital sander.

I choose to use hand tools, for the reasons stated in post above. It's certainly not the only method or the absolutely "best" method: each paddle maker can choose their method for their own reasons.


Paddle tools
I like block planes and jack planes. I have had good success gluing wood pieces together, especially white ash, walnut, mahogany and WRC.

Same Story
I’m approaching 40 paddles - pretty much the same story. Glad I’m not trying to make a living at it, but it’s fun.


electric plane
Jay what kind of electric plane do you use?

My electric plane is an old Craftsman
I inherited from the same guy who gave me the draw knife.

Block plane
Low angle. and a table saw.