Ken's Kayak Pages

Greenland Style Paddle

A rewarding 4-evening project . . .

Click on a thumbnail for a larger image

gpad01.jpg (66876 bytes) To begin, I've determined the following basic measurements from guidelines based on my body and kayak width dimensions - Overall length, 84", maximum paddle width 3-1/4", loom 18".  Construction starts with two 1x4 Western red cedar boards.  I have cut them to 79", and glued them together to form a straight, strong 2x4 using epoxy thickened with 1/64" milled glass fibers.   To view some enlightening information as to how to design and use Greenland Style Paddles view

Chuck Holst's great instructions in PDF format

gpad02.jpg (60265 bytes) These are 3-1/2" x 3" x 13/16" blocks of ash.  I milled 3/16" wide x 1/2" deep grooves into the end that will attach to the cedar plank, to provide abrasion resistance at the tips of the paddle.   If you have never worked with ash, it is some tough stuff, and should provide lots of protection.  The slots could also be easily done on a table saw, but I only have a radial arm saw at the moment . . . That is just unsafe for a cut like this!
gpad03.jpg (53418 bytes) I cut corresponding tongues onto the ends of the long cedar blank using my radial arm saw, pretending my blade was a dado. The grooved ash tips fit snugly onto the cedar tongues.
gpad04.jpg (48143 bytes) Here's a trial fit of the tip to the blank.   It will be glued with epoxy thickened with milled glass fibers.  The reason the tip is thinner than the cedar blank is that the composite blank will be tapered to 1/2" at the tip, and the ash is actually 13/16" thick - Plenty thick enough after trimming.  The reason the cedar has to be 1-1/2" thick is because the finished dimensions at the handle and blade roots approach that dimension.
gpad05.jpg (71199 bytes) The "Work Ethic" has taken over . . .   Sharpening my jack plane, I start to create lots of curls of cedar once again.   The trim lines have been pencilled on the sides of the blank, and all that is required is arm effort to plane the blank to fit.  When I finished this end of the blank, 1/2lb of wood had been removed . . .
gpad06.jpg (75812 bytes) A closer view showing the scribed lines on the blank, and the attempt to plane away enough cedar and ash to follow those lines.  The "Main Plane" is my old Stanley jack plane, and I follow up to trim the surface to spec with my Record low-angle block plane.
gpad07.jpg (71657 bytes) One paddle has been tapered in the thickness plane, when the other end is completed, the blades and loom in the next plane will be bandsawed into shape.  It doesn't look quite like a paddle yet, but it's getting there . . .
gpad08.jpg (92989 bytes) This builds great arms . . . "plane until you drop" . . .  Great for preparing for arm wrestling with your buddy.   Shaping a paddle leaves so many shavings, and when you consider that each shaving is one one arm sweep.  And we have yet to begin . . .
gpad09.jpg (36643 bytes) Now it's time to shape the paddle in another plane.  I have drawn the lines onto the blank and it's ready for the band saw. 
gpad10.jpg (45237 bytes) Here it has been sawn to rough shape.  Some planing along the edges to true up to the marked lines will make it ready for the next step.
gpad11.jpg (20151 bytes) A quick look at the tongue and groove joint securing the ash tip.
gpad12.jpg (34731 bytes) The blank looks like a mosaic of lines after measuring and drawing all the bevel lines.  I don't think there is a square inch of paddle without these lines.  If you don't like to measure, scribe, and plane this is not your project.  If you like these activities, you'll love it!
gpad14.jpg (43614 bytes) After a bunch more planing, I have carved the blank to the scribed lines in all dimensions.  Surprisingly, I was able to do all carving with my 6" Record low-angle block plane.  I thought I'd need a spokeshave for sure on some of the "inside" bevels.  The paddles are very angular at this point, with lots of hard lines, per Holst's plans.
gpad15.jpg (42806 bytes) This is the first paddle end rough planed & sanded to shape with #60  paper & block.   Essentially. all the sharp angles are planed & sanded to smooth curves, and the various angular sections are blended into nice flowing contours.
gpad16.jpg (40793 bytes) I went through progressive sandings of 60, 120, 240, and 400 grit paper.  Then came the application of varnish with a rag.  The grain is outstanding after 2 coats, and the tongue & groove assembly of the ash tip to the cedar paddle stands out nicely in this photo. 
gpad17.jpg (58517 bytes) A more laid-back view of the assembly after 2 coats of varnish.  Two more coats will be applied, and then this paddle will be put into service . . . It still looks like a stick . . . 8^)
Finished all-up weight of this paddle, after a total of 4 coats of varnish, turned out to be 1.7 lbs.

Return to Kayak Home Page