Canoe Paddle #3: Up the Creek with a Finished Paddle

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Blog entry by Bagtown posted 03-10-2012 04:18 PM 13005 reads 2 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: On to the shaft Part 3 of Canoe Paddle series no next part

So, here we go.
This will be the final chapter to this series.
When we left off the paddle blade and shaft were somewhere between roughed and semi finished.
The next step is a little slower. At least for me it is.
The handgrip.
Excuse the poor photography, but here is what were starting with for the handgrip.

You get the idea. We’re starting with just a roughsawn blank.
I think if I had been a little slower and used just a little more care at the bandsaw stage, then I wouldn’t have spent quite as much time at this stage. Which is ok with me because I’m obviously doing this for enjoyment. Not to go into high production.

So Here’s a shot of this handgrip beside one that I did 10 or 12 years ago out of a piece of a pallet. I think the pallet one is maple. I’m going to do something similiar but maybe a little bit nicer lines on this one.

So I’m using mostly a round profile coarse rasp at this stage and you can see that I’m removing material down in the inside curves here.

Holding the paddle in the right place can be a challenge sometimes. In order to use the rasp in the direction of the grain, sometimes you hold it in different and odd ways. In this next shot, this was the only way that I could figure to hold it. I then got on my knees and worked on the handgrip from there.

You can see the shape progressing in the next shot. I still need to hollow out the corners a little more, but you see the top starting to get rounded as well.

A top view.

Now is when you want to go and dig in the bottom of your tool box and get out that four-in-hand that you never knew what to do with. This is the kind of work these were built for.

Now the shape is pretty much there, and I’ll keep taking the paddle out of the vise and holding like I’m paddling with it, and back in the vise and refining it until it feels right to me.
Now I’ll start with the scrapers. You can see with just a swipe or two the scraper does a nice job. Just make sure it’s sharp.

Just to give you an idea of what I meant in the last chapter about paddles that flex and are alive. I like at least this much spring in my paddle.

So, my handgrip is pretty much where I want it to be so I start working my way down the shaft sanding as I go.

Sanding down to the blade.

At this point we’re getting close to being finished. So I need to take precautions to protect the wood.
I’ve got a towel wrapped around it in the vise. You also notice a clamp further along the bench. I put the end of the paddle under that clamp and then when I put pressure while working on the other end, it stays in place.

Using a sanding block and fairing out the edges. Just running the sanding block up and down the edge of the paddle and working my way around the edge from one face to the other creating a radius as I go.

Again, protecting the almost finished work while clamped in the vise.

Hard to see here, but I’m running my hands around and up and down the shaft feeling for corners. When I find any I mark them with a pencil, red in the case, and then come back and sand them down.

After I sand to 220 grit. I go over everything with 0000 steel wool. If you have any little nicks or gouges left, You’ll find them pretty quick with the steel wool.

Things are looking pretty good at this point.

The next thing I do is spray the whole thing down with water.

I let it dry for a couple of hours. What the water does is lift all the little fuzzy bits up off the surface. A quick final sanding after that and it will be ready for finishing.

Before I put the finish on I give it a light rub with a tack cloth to get any micro debris.

So, I put two different finishes on my paddles. The first one is on the blade only. I use spar varnish on the blade.

I put 3 or 4 coats on the blade, in between coats I rub it down with 0000 steel wool.

On one of the steel wool rubdowns I ran my steel wool up the shaft and over the handgrip, and noticed it wasn’t quite finished. You can see a small nick here that was originally from the bandsaw.

So back to more sanding.

I don’t have a picture of it, but before I started putting the finish on the top half of the paddle, I sanded the dry top edge of the spar varnish and feathered it back into the wood above it. This way when I start oiling the shaft, I don’t have a line there. If I didn’t do this then that line would annoy me because it will be underneath my lower hand when paddling. Picky, I know, but I might as well make it so I don’t have to think about it when paddling.

So pretty hard to show, but here’s how I use tung oil. I just pour a small amount into my hand and then rub it into the bare wood until there seems to be no liquid left. I hand rub it for a bit more, then let it soak for 10 minutes. After that I use a clean rag and rub off the excess and polish it. I leave it to dry for at least 4 hours and then repeat the process over again.

Before I’m done I’ll probably have 7 or 8 coats of tung oil on the shaft and 3 or 4 coats of spar varnish on the blade.
Every winter or spring, it’s nice to give a light sanding to the shaft and reapply some tung oil. I wouldn’t refinish the blade unless it really needed it.
It occurs to me now, that some of you might wonder why the spar varnish on the blade, and the tung oil on the shaft. Well, a canoe instructor years ago taught me this, it allows the blade to be pretty much waterproof, and allows you to have a better grip on the shaft of the paddle. I prefer the oil finish for the same reason, and up until then had just oiled my entire paddle. If you pick up a wet paddle that came from the store and try to hold on to it while you’re traversing some rapids, you’ll see the difference.I know if he buys a paddle from the store he’ll strip the finish from the shaft and apply a tung oil finish.

Well, I think this pretty well wraps this series up.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below, or send me a message directly through the site.

Also, if anyone is interested, this paddle will be in a silent auction next month here in Sackville at the Rotary annual wine tasting. So come and bid. :)


Mike in Bagtown

-- Mike - In Fort McMurray Alberta

5 comments so far

View Richard's profile


11310 posts in 4152 days

#1 posted 03-19-2012 06:02 AM

Hey Mike:

NO Comments?? I can’t believe that!

I’ve been through a few “Build Blogs” ...... Not one of them had as much Detail and Photos as your’s does.

Great Blog!! Great Build Buddy!!

When I worked for the NCC in Ottawa the head Architect had built 2 Strip Canoes. Just starting his Third. I was helping him a LOT! (Wanted to Learn How) It was called a “Puddle Duck”. 14 Feet and a Tad under 50 Lbs. Strongback, Ribs (Stations), and about 80 Strips of Cedar 1/4”x3/4”x about 10 Feet Long. Fiberglass In & Out etc.

Turned out Real Nice. So I bought the book he used “Building A Strip Canoe” By “Gil Gilpatrick”. Half Size Rib Patterns in the book and an Envelope with Full Size Patterns for Four of them in the back.

That was over Ten Years ago …....still ain’t built …LOL… Maybe one of these days.

NOW I’ve also got the Paddle Build to go with it!!



-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View Bagtown's profile


1743 posts in 4849 days

#2 posted 03-19-2012 07:45 PM

Thanks Rick.
I’ve had a few books on canoe building for probably more than 10 years, and I have yet to build one.
One day.
This build blog is a real interesting process to go through.
Always stopping to take pictures, and thinking in my head what to say to go with the pictures.


-- Mike - In Fort McMurray Alberta

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 3959 days

#3 posted 05-14-2012 11:09 AM

Thanks Mike I enjoyed the lessons.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4460 days

#4 posted 05-14-2012 11:30 AM

great build tutorial mike

always something new to learn

thanks for that

now i just need to do this
before i go up the creek again

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View CFrye's profile


11278 posts in 2959 days

#5 posted 10-09-2015 01:59 AM

Hi, Bags! For whatever reason, a paddle is on my To Do List. Probably a laminated one, though. Thanks for taking the time and effort for this blog. I learned a lot.

-- God bless, Candy

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