April 15, 2013

How to Build a Canoe Paddle

A guide on how to build a lightweight laminated canoe paddle

Tonight a good friend and I started building a canoe paddle. We have been talking about this project for almost two years and tonight we dug in. We are building a ~54″ long paddle with a paddle surface of roughly 6″x24″ out of Cedar. Once the milling of the paddle is complete we will be fiberglassing it for additional strength and beauty.

We started by cutting a 7/8×3-1/2″x12′ into two 7/8″x1-1/2″x12′ strips. From the 1-1/2″ strips we cut two 60″ pieces that will become the shaft and handle (the shaft pieces are trimmed down at the time of glue up to the necessary height for the canoeist). These two pieces will run all the way down through the paddle. We then took the remain 1-1/2″ material and cut it into 24″ sections while grading out large open knots that would compromise the strength of the paddle. We made a total of six 24″ strips. The drops (scraps) from cutting the 24″ pieces left us with some perfectly sized, and clear of knot, pieces to use for the handle.

Below you can see the strips of cedar arranged and ready to be glued.

Cut Paddle Strips

Cut Paddle Strips Close Up

Learn more

Day 1 How we cut the Cedar strips for our lightweight canoe paddle.

Day 2 How we glued up Cedar strips for our lightweight canoe paddle.

Day 3 How I planed the Cedar strips for our lightweight canoe paddle.

Day 4 & 5 How I shaped the blank canoe paddle for our lightweight canoe paddle.


3 responses to “How to Build a Canoe Paddle”

  1. Noel says:


    loved seeing how you did this. I want to make a paddle for my son. Could you email me the dimensions of how to make the jig please?

    Kindest Regards


  2. Nathan says:

    The dimensions for the jig depend on how thick you make the paddle. The primary dimesion is the 4.6* slope of the paddle blade from top to bottom. Many of the other dimensions are based off of the slope. Keep in mind that the slope dimension is relative to the type of paddle you are making. The 4.6* slope I used for this paddle may not be correct. I have not been able to use the paddle in the water yet nor have I been able to route the second paddle. What I know right now is that the edge of my blade is too thin for the Cedar wood I am using. I should be able to correct this on the next paddle (which has the same dimensions) by changing the depth of the router bit. Once I succefully prove this I will post again with dimensions and what-not.

  3. Nathan says:

    The thickness of the blade has not been an issue after 4 years of usage in rocky flat water paddling. I did fiberglass the entire paddle though, so definitely keep that in mind.

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