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Make Your Own Greenland Paddle


Making a West Greenland Paddle PDF (57 KB) ~ by Chuck Holst

Note that many consider that this is the “definitive” description if carving one out of a 100×50 (4″x2″). See the NZ method if you want to save trees and money.

Making a Greenland Paddle ~ by Matt Johnson. This is a 32 minute YouTube video by Matt Johnson.

Making a Greenland Paddle ~ by John Caldeira

Making a Carbon Fibre Greenland Paddle ~ by Duane Strosaker

Making a Greenland paddle NZ method (716 KB), a PDF of the method shown below and shows how to minimize wasteage. If you don’t want to read the PDF, the full article is here –

Making a Greenland Paddle – New Zealand style

~by Sandy Ferguson

An extended version of this and added pictures can be seen on the SeaLand site.

The following describes how to make a paddle reasonably easily and with as little wastage as possible.

This could be your first Greenland paddle in which case these dimensions are a good start point and once you’ve tried it and used it a little, the next one can be tailored to your specific requirements. The KASK handbook has some details in the section by Kerry Howe and this uses some of his suggestions with specific dimensions.

Tools – a panel saw, about $10, plane or surform plane, a wide blade chisel but not essential, and a work bench with a vice or a B&D Workmate. Sandpaper, 60, 80 and 180 grit. An orbital sander but not essential. Lots of plastic “C” clamps made from 60 mm and 40 mm pipe. An angle-grinder with flapper disks makes fairing the tips easy.

Some tools including an angle grinder with flapper disk, 2 flapper disks, chisel, surform and Stanley planes and a roll of sandpaper

Some tools including an angle grinder with flapper disk, 2 flapper disks, chisel, surform and Stanley planes and a roll of sandpaper

Materials – cedar plank, kwila offcuts (~ 50 mm of decking), epoxy (about 100 ml). SS or brass wire if tips are fitted.
A 2.2+ metre length of western red cedar, 80-90 mm x 20 mm. The piece I got was actually 19 mm and though 90 mm wide, I made an 85 wide paddle. Finished paddle length described here is 2200 mm and the cedar part is 2150 mm long with 25 mm kwila tips. If you don’t want to add tips, allow for extra cedar unless you actually want a shorter paddle. I am 6′ (183 cm) tall so if you are a bit shorter, the loom could be a little shorter and the blades adjusted to get a length equal to your height to the start of your fingers (fingers will curl over end of paddle) with your arm straight up. This is a reasonable start point, The next paddle can be trimmed as you feel necessary.

Construction – Mark out the shape, blades 800 mm long, width 85 mm at the ends, 40 mm at the inner where they meet the shoulders. Each shoulder 30 mm long and loom 490 mm. The shoulders can be 20 mm if you wish a greater transition angle. If you want to make a storm paddle, the loom will be 200 mm or the length over two fists side by side and probably the blades shorter by 80 mm each. I’ve just done a 30 mm shoulder to get round a knot otherwise I’d probably have gone for 20 mm shoulders.

So, my lengths are –

Blade 800 mm, shoulder 30 mm, loom 490 mm, shoulder 30 mm, blade 800 mm.

The widths are –

End 85 mm, end of blade/start of shoulder 40 mm, loom 32 mm, narrow end of blade 40 mm, other end of paddle 85 mm.

The loom cross-section dimensions I used are about 32 mm x 40 mm and we will get that (almost) 40 mm thickness by laminating the cut-offs, 10 mm on each side of the paddle on the sides that are the “flat” of the blade. Actual finished dimensions were 32 mm x 37 mm, thinner than the preferred 40 mm due to the 19 mm plank thickness and the saw blade thickness when splitting the 19 mm. This loom might not suit you. It shouldn’t need to be any bigger (thicker) so can be made smaller. My looms are rectangular, some prefer an oval. I’d suggest trying rectangular and rounding things as you prefer.

Cut out the shape of the paddle, keeping each cut-out piece on each side of the paddle in one piece. The saw can be made to go “round” the curve enough not to loose too much wood. Mark the mid thickness all round the edge of the paddle and a centre line on each side. Take each of the offcuts and split these (saw them) so that you have 4 equally shaped pieces.

The side pieces have been cutout and the bottom one has been split.

The side pieces have been cutout and the bottom one has been split.


Two split pieces have been glued together by what was the outer edges of the plank. They have in turn been glued to the paddle. In the middle they are much wider than the loom and this will be cut off after the glue is set. Note the clamps used and weights where clamps can’t reach.

Now to the shaping. Mark at the ends of each blade, 12 mm blade thickness in the middle tapering to 6 mm at the edges. When finishing, those straight lines will actually be shaped as curves to make symmetrical foil section shapes and the edges of the blades reasonably sharply rounded. Clamp the loom and start planning, from the end of the shoulder to the tip and also shaping the curve of the blade. You have 4 surfaces to do this to. Take the edges down to no thinner than 4 mm. The laminated pieces will be planned back from the tips by about 300 mm as the blade is tapered down. Once the shape starts to approach the finished size, use sandpaper. An orbital sander, if you have one, speeds the operation but if not, hand sanding with 60 grit should take the wood off reasonably quickly.

The paddle has been shaped and it is just possible to see the glue lines. Note that the pieces glued on are now shaped back by at least a third of the length of the blade.

The paddle has been shaped and it is just possible to see the glue lines. Note that the pieces glued on are now shaped back by at least a third of the length of the blade.

If tips are to be fitted, cut two 25 mm lengths of kwila. I dowel the tips so while the wood is still square, drill 3 holes. I use brass or SS wire, about 3 mm diameter. You can get from marine shops, SS 3 mm threaded rod which would be even better as the epoxy will grip the dowels. Drill the holes a little bigger than 3 mm, 4 or 4.5 mm. Also drill the holes in the ends of the paddle. As the dowels don’t need to be a tight fit, accuracy isn’t tight, they’ll be surrounded by epoxy. Mark the tips so that you know which one goes where and which way up. Mark the curve of the foil of the blade on the drilled ends of the tips and draw a curve for the shape of the tips. A full semicircle shaped tip will take more wood and be heavier than the suggested 25 mm long tips. Roughly cut the curve of the tip and then shape. Here I use an angle grinder with a sanding disk (flapper disk – disk is flat and the sanding pieces are like petals of a flower). Also roughly shape the foil section of the tips. Glue the tips on.

Kwila tip glued to cedar blade

Kwila tip glued to cedar blade

Finish the shaping of the paddle and tips. Coat the paddle with either boiled linseed oil (probably preferable), Tung oil or raw linseed oil and turpentine 50:50 mix, using a rag or paper towel. not bundled up in a rubbish bag as it is possible for them to burst into flames so I’ve been told. Leave for a day or so to dry and sand again with 180 or finer sandpaper and re-oil. It will need sanding a few times to get it really smooth. I sometimes take a sheet of sandpaper with me when I go paddling with a new paddle. Stop and have a cup of coffee and give the paddle a quick sand.


KASK's aims are to:

1. Promote and encourage the sport of sea kayaking
2. Promote safety standards
3. Develop techniques and equipment
4. Deal with issues of coastal access and protection
5. Organise sea kayak forums around the country
6. Publish the Sea Canoeist Newsletter and the KASK Handbook