Hand Made Canoe Paddles, Anyone Making Them ?

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Project by fredj posted 07-24-2013 02:18 PM 2743 views 2 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When I made the 1st two paddles (they have T-grips) bent shaft paddles were unheard of in the deep south. I was a novice woodworker and a hardcore flat water paddler. The 1st two had the shoulders of the blades cut down to make them move faster in water. The 3rd is a better design, and has book matched western red cedar in the blade. The light colored wood in all three is white spruce, the other woods are black walnut, ash, and mahogany. The bend is 14 degrees, and was glued up over a form. The “Power Face” of the blades were flattened on a joiner. All other shaping was done by hand with spoke shaves and sandpaper. Does anyone else here make paddles ?

-- Fredj

13 comments so far

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3574 days

#1 posted 07-24-2013 02:38 PM

Very nice paddles. They will last a lifetime.
I still have a cypress paddle I made back in the late 1950’s when I was a a young kid.
It is a wall hanging decoration in my shop now…but it has seen many years of hard use in our pirogues.

View Francois Vigneron's profile

Francois Vigneron

263 posts in 2585 days

#2 posted 07-24-2013 03:18 PM

Hello Fredj. Nice paddles. I had never heard of the 14 degrees bent, but it does make sense.

I did build two of them out of maple a few years back. I’ll try to take some photos and I’ll post them. Mine have a straight shaft. They are both narrower at the tip and shoulder. Making them narrower at the tip is an old native american trick to reduce the noise and splash back when you hit the water. As you already know, narrower at the shoulder improves movement in water. Glad to know we are not alone :)

-- Francois Vigneron, Gif-sur-Yvette, France & Altadena, CA

View fredj's profile


186 posts in 2084 days

#3 posted 07-24-2013 03:19 PM

Thank you Greg. I love cypress, and the 1st boat I paddled solo was a pirogue, in St Tammany Parish. The two oldest have already seen more than 35 years of use. I use my carbon fiber paddle bent shaft on flat water now, and a Kevlar and carbon fiber straight shaft on whitewater. By the way I like you boxes.

-- Fredj

View fredj's profile


186 posts in 2084 days

#4 posted 07-24-2013 03:52 PM

Hey Francois, the 14 degree bend makes the paddle much more effective in moving a canoe trough the water. The “elbow” points to, the rear, so as you paddle you are still pushing the hull forward at and near the end of your stroke, where as with a straight shaft you are lifting water and slowing the boat down. Most people when they 1st see them think you turn them the other way.

-- Fredj

View GerardoArg1's profile


988 posts in 2260 days

#5 posted 07-24-2013 05:43 PM

Hi Fredj! I´do paddle some time ago. In my begining at woodwork. I´paddle in a kayak too, so do a aleutian paddle for me. Nice work. Like the hand made too. Congratulations!

-- Disfruta tu trabajo (enjoy your work) (Bandera, Argentina)

View FaTToaD's profile


394 posts in 3407 days

#6 posted 07-24-2013 07:07 PM

Just got back into canoeing so this is definitely on my to do list. I’ve been curious about the bent paddles, I’ve seen them advertised but have yet to use one or even see one in the wild. If it works as good as you say I’m going to have to make one and give it a try.

A question on construction, what did you use for glue and finish? I was thinking Titebond III with a poly finish. I’d like to hear what you did. Thanks for the post!

-- David

View fredj's profile


186 posts in 2084 days

#7 posted 07-24-2013 07:58 PM

I used a powdered glue that has to be mixed with water, but that was before Titebond II or III, which I think would work just fine. I’d use a spar varnish for anything outside. I put a 4 oz. fiberglass on the blades, but you can come out lighter and almost as strong without it. A palm grip is an improvement over the T grip, and a bit more work.

David, bent shaft paddles great for flat water, not so great for whitewater. Also they need to be a good bit shorter than straight shaft paddles, you use a short choppy stroke and push down with the upper hand rather than pulling hard with the lower hand. I got into them due to canoe racing, which is what lead to their development. But they are very popular for day to day paddling. And I’m about to ramble on way too much about paddling and this a lumberjocks not canoejocks.

-- Fredj

View RobertT's profile


70 posts in 3047 days

#8 posted 07-25-2013 01:28 AM

I just made two oars last summer when the water got so low an outboard was useless. They have served me very well and only invested about ten dollars in them.

View firefighterontheside's profile


19786 posts in 2123 days

#9 posted 07-25-2013 01:53 AM

I’ve never made a paddle. I used to work in the boundary waters back in the 90’s off of the Gunflint Trail and the Cache Bay Ranger’s husband used to make the most beautiful bent shaft paddles I’ve ever seen. He had a company but I cannot remember what it was called. I believe his were made largely from white cedar. I had never seen bent shaft paddles. I asked him to make me a straight shaft paddle and he said no because he did not believe in them.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View bladedust's profile


210 posts in 2532 days

#10 posted 07-25-2013 02:01 AM

Nice paddles. I made 27 of them last year for a Boy Scout High Adventure trip…..well the boys actually made them and I just designed and facilitated the build.

It was a lot of fun, especially watching the boys get glue all over the place and the personalize them to their own liking.

It was a great source of pride for them to paddle a week with their own self made paddles. We used a 15 degree bend so we could cover a lot of ground….eh, water.

Maybe I’ll post pictures tomorrow.

-- ok, is it cut once measure twice, cut twice measure once???? I know....I'll just keep cutting until it's long enough.

View doubleDD's profile


8130 posts in 2309 days

#11 posted 07-25-2013 03:04 AM

The days of the paddle are over for me, but I will miss them. Nice job on these. It would be interesting to try them.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 2413 days

#12 posted 07-26-2013 09:03 PM

Interesting. I recently made a new friend in town that is a woodworker. He is building his own canoe. I will have to share this with him. Looks cool

View Danpaddles's profile


573 posts in 2578 days

#13 posted 07-30-2013 01:33 AM

Nice work, Fred! Do you race USCA classes? One of the fellows on the river today is a past Nat’l champ, well, close to it, I think he had third a couple years back in his age group. Another good friend won his age class last year- Terry Pontius. Pont helps me teach canoe class every year.

-- Dan V. in Indy

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