July 6, 2014

Building a Lightweight Canoe Paddle – Shaping

With the canoe paddles planed down the time came to cut the shape of the blade. My buddy and I went to work tracing the shape from another paddle we had onto our paddle blanks. Once traced we headed to the bandsaw to cut the blades and handles shape.

Canoe paddles cut out

Next came the difficult part: Making a taper down the length of the blade while taping off toward the left and right edge to create an apex on each side of the blade. After researching many ways to perform the necessary cuts including using a hand plane, a power hand plane, a jointer, bandsaw (need a bandsaw that can cut large enough), CNC router, or a table saw I decided on using a router. The router with jig option delivers precision with a quality finish from the cut marks left behind. This should ensure repeatability in making multiple paddles and minimize the time spent sanding.

Routing the Blade

My inspiration for using a router to create the necessary profiles was from Bob Bear’s website on making a canoe paddle from a single log. He demonstrates a router jig he made that he calls the Router Box Profiler. I built my own take on his jig that I like to call the Canoe Paddle Profiler.

Canoe Paddle Profiler

Canoe Paddle Profiler - close upThe Canoe Paddle Profiler is a pretty simple jig. The paddle’s blade is fixed to the floor of the jig. The router moves back and forth upon a carriage that forms an apex. The carriage itself rides along a sloping track. To operate the jig you simple chuck-up a fluted or spiral cutting bit and proceed to run the router up-and-down the length of the blade (upon the sloping track) while motioning the router back-and-forth (on the carriage).

I will post more details on building a Canoe Paddle Profiler after my buddy and I route the second paddle. There are likely to still be a few adjustments to the final design.

Canoe Paddle Profiler Results

Routed Canoe Paddle Edge Routed Canoe Paddle

More Photos of the Canoe Paddle Profiler

Next Steps

Next up we will round-over the edges of the paddles and start sanding the entire paddle to the final shape. From there we will move into finish sanding and to fiberglassing.

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.


18 responses to “Building a Lightweight Canoe Paddle – Shaping”

  1. Marc Charron says:

    Hello. I would like more info on your version of the paddle profiler. Excellent idea and I would love to build my own. Thank you

  2. Nathan says:

    What questions do you have about the Paddle Profiler?

  3. Brian says:

    Hi Nathan,
    Id love some general dimensions of the Jig.
    What is the fall/ slope down the length of the paddle 1/2″ to 3/4″ or so ?
    And the slope / dimensions of jig from side to side ?
    Looks great & thank you !!

  4. Marc Charron says:

    Do you have specs on how to build your version?

  5. Andy May says:

    I’ve built a profiler based on your design. How did you determine the angle along the length of the paddle blade so that the blade end was “thin” relative to the shaft end? How did you secure the paddle in the jig so hat both sides were identical?

  6. Nathan says:

    Awesome! I would love to see photos and hear (*read) about any other challenges or concerns that came up.

    I based the angle on a professionally made paddle I had. I laid a level across the shaft and paddle blade and measured the amount of “drop” there was from the level. I did the same thing to get the side-to-side slope of the blade also.

    I tacked pieces of scrap wood around the shaft and blade to the jig. Basically it is a friction fit. I will see if I have some more detailed photos I can post tomorrow.

  7. Nathan says:

    If I recall the slope is about 5*. The tip of the blade at the center is about 5/8″ thick.

    Thanks Brian.

  8. Nathan says:

    I will be posting detailed information in the future. Since this is a hobby, it falls low on the priority list unfortunately.

  9. Nathan says:

    I added more photos of the Canoe Paddle Profiler at http://nathanhein.com/2015/12/canoe-paddle-profiler-photos/ .

  10. Marc Charron says:

    Thanks Nathan. Looking forward to it.

  11. Chadwick says:


    When you flipped the paddle to do the other side, did you need any additional support since the first side wasn’t flush with the bottom of the profiler?

  12. Nathan says:

    I did not need additional support on the underside after routing the first side. The stop blocks and the quick grip clamp on the shaft was enough hold down power. When routing I am not applying any downward force. The weight of the router is enough yet also light enough that it does not press the paddle down.

    I did not think it would work either when I initial went to route the second side. I thought it was going to fail majorly. Thankfully it did not.

  13. Pat Reddy says:

    Hi Nathan…going to attempt to build something similar very soon. Thanks for the great information. Quick question…what size bit did you use for the cutting? Is it just a plain straight bit? Thanks!

  14. Nathan says:

    Yes I used a 3/4″ straight bit. Size the width of the bit accordingly to the power of you router. Lower power smaller diameter. More power larger diameter. I used a 1.5 horse Porter Cable 690 which was able to handle the 3/4″ bit in soft wood well.

  15. Pat Reddy says:

    Thanks. Working on building the jig now. I think I’m going to build 2 – one to get the taper from the shoulder to about 1/3 of the way down the blade and another for the bottom 2/3 – where it will just be flat. I think that Bob guys jig handled this, but it seems very big and cumbersome. I prefer to just build 2 of yours! Pat

  16. Nathan says:

    Having two different angles over the length in is a great idea. I will likely try that on my next paddle.

    My newest version of the Canoe Paddle Profiler, aka “version 2”, has an adjustable platform so the angle down the length of the blade can be adjusted for different paddle sizes/shapes.

    Paddle Profiler 2

    For your use case Pat, one could also route part of the blade with the new jig set at one angle and then readjust to a second angle for the remaining length of the blade.

  17. Pat Reddy says:

    I’m not sure I follow you, and I can’t see what you’re referring to in the picture (can’t see the adjustable piece). The router mount ( I call it a sled), with the up/down track, is the main thing I changed. I want most of my paddle to be flat. I suppose I could just angle the side track for X inches then flatten out – thus only requiring a 2nd non-angled sled. But then I , too, want to create a jig that can be used on various paddle sizes.

    In typing this I am now considering 2 parallel side tracks. One fixed and level and one with an adjustable slope. This should accommodate any blade length and throat angle/thickness. Still haven’t figured out a way to make the sled angle adjustable – to handle different paddle widths.

    Thanks for he replies. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

  18. Pat Reddy says:

    Should have known I’d reconsider as soon as I posted the last comment! Parallel side tracks sounds good, but the sled can’t be made to transition from one to the other. And… I now see your sloping platform – the whole paddle mount. I’d consider that if I didn’t want a flat paddle. For now, I think I’ll just build side tracks for each paddle I make and key them with the router so I can slide them in and out of the frame.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *