How to Make a Canoe Paddle

Made properly, a personalized canoe paddle is beautiful, strong, lightweight and functional.

| July/August 1984

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    To begin construction, use a band or table saw to cut the two boards.
    ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    This sturdy, beautiful canoe paddle is a joy to use!
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Canoe Paddle Top and Side View Diagram
    Grip pattern.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Taper the blade's thickness from 7/8-inch at the throat to at least 3/8-inch at the tip of the paddle.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • Canoe Paddle Blade Diagram
    Blade pattern.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Draw the patterns on the glued-together wood strips.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Shape the grip so that it fits your personal taste and feel.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Once the completed canoe paddle is sanded and finished, it resembles a work of art.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

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  • Canoe Paddle Top and Side View Diagram
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  • Canoe Paddle Blade Diagram
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For centuries, the canoe has been an economical, reliable, and swift means of transportation and recreation. Many enthusiasts attribute this long history of service not only to the small boat's durable design but also to its simple method of propulsion: the canoe paddle.

Not just any paddle, however, will do the job. To generate maximum performance and enjoyment, it must be strong, lightweight, and properly fitted to the individual canoeist. Unfortunately, many mass-produced versions lack the surface area necessary for power. They break under stress, and they aren't nearly as comfortable to use as a customized paddle that conforms perfectly to an individual's height and grip.

Lovely and Lightweight

You can solve these problems by making a quality, personalized paddle. For materials, you'll need only one 1/2" X 6" X 72" board of hardwood (such as oak, ash, walnut, or hickory) and one 1/2" X 6" X 72" board of softwood (such as poplar, redwood, or Sitka spruce—don't use yellow pine). Almost any lumberyard stocks these woods.

To begin construction, use a band or table saw to cut your two boards into the size strips shown in the Image Gallery chart.



Now, starting with the 1/2" X 1" X 72" strip of hardwood at the center, lay the pieces of wood side by side, alternating hardwood and softwood, and on edge, so that the 1" width serves as the paddle's thickness. The three 72" strips will extend the entire length of the paddle; they'll become the shaft and form the center of both the blade and the grip. The 30" strips at the bottom, on either side of the three center strips, will form the rest of the blade, and the 4" pieces will make up the grip.

Before you actually position the shortest pieces, however, you must find the correct location for the handle in relation to your height. While standing, measure the distance from your chin or shoulders to the floor. This measurement is approximately the right paddle length for you. If, however, you prefer a longer or shorter paddle (whether you sit or kneel in the canoe can make a difference, for example), feel free to adjust the length accordingly.






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