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1st paddle (AKA a Paddle from Scrap?) plus a wood glue discussion

Aug 10, 2018
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Blairsville, PA (about 30 mi E of PGH)
I've been having issues getting the strips consistent for my Raven build & it turns out that the bearings were shot on my shaper. New were ordered (arrived Saturday in fact) but, while it was down, I figured I'd take the opportunity to try my hand at making a paddle.

Leftovers from the first build included a large(ish) piece of Aspen from when the cant was squared and, being the outermost part of the log, the grain was really flat. I think that means that the resulting paddle would pull against the grain resulting in the strongest possible paddle which is probably important since Aspen is not a terribly strong wood.


I didn't have a pattern but I figured this was primarily an exercise in shaping anyway so a useable paddle would be a bonus. I used my aluminum / plastic Bass Pro Shops paddles as a pattern, free-handing the grip to a more traditional shape. The piece was too short to use the longer paddle but was longer than my shorter paddle so I used the shorter one & put the extra length into the blade.


I traced around the paddle, cut it out on the band saw and tried planing it with the mini plane that I used for the tapered strips on my Freedom solo. The plane seemed to get clogged very easily so I switched to the horse shoeing rasp and found that it didn't work particularly well either. I did find that it sanded well and I started on the oscillating spindle sander but the deck was getting in the way. (it works well for things like the grip though)


Next, I decided to try an angle grinder with flap discs. I didn't have much variety so I made a quick trip to Harbor Freight and came back with a 24 grit carbide cup and flap discs in 36, 80 & 120 grit. The 24 grit carbide cup really made short work of the excess wood and the flappy discs worked well to smooth everything out but either my speed across the work surface was inconsistent or some parts of the wood were softer than others (perhaps both?). I started to notice some inconsistent thicknesses in parts of the blade and along the shaft.

I'm reasonably certain that I can keep working on the consistency as I thin it as far as I dare (although I'm unsure where that threshold lies) but I'm open to suggestions. I can, and probably will, borrow a belt sander but is there a better way?

There's still a lot of material to remove on the shaft and grip but I'm also wondering about the blade. It seems huge and I'm wondering if I should reduce the length or width or both. I'm pretty optimistic that I'll wind up with more than a wood shaping experiment and the larger blade would move more water but I'm thinking that I'd also tire more quickly. Current dimensions are approx. 8 inches (20 cm) wide and 16 in (40.6 cm) long (to where it starts to narrow to the shaft... is that the "throat"?)


I'll need to do some more blade shaping anyway as it seems to taper more gradually from shaft to blade on the top of the above picture than it does on the bottom. I find the top to be more pleasing so I'm figuring on tracing it & then transferring the line to the bottom w/ carbon paper. Maybe there's a better way to do that too... 🤷‍♂️
I'm also wondering about the blade. It seems huge

Current dimensions are approx. 8 inches (20 cm) wide and 16 in (40.6 cm) long (to where it starts to narrow to the shaft... is that the "throat"?)

The throat is where the blade blends into the shaft, which would be at 22.25" on your ruler.

That is a big blade, about the dimensions of a whitewater paddle. Touring paddles that are 22" long to the throat are usually about 6.75"-7" wide. To get less blade area you might want to narrow the blade, or begin the shoulder taper to the throat at less than the 16" mark—or both—or cut two or three inches off the bottom of the blade, which will obviously shorten the paddle.
Thanks Glenn. I'm not sure what I'll do with it yet but I think I'll trim it down a little (admittedly, I suppose I could try it as is and cut it down later).

I also realized my error earlier in that I believe that am not pulling against the grain using this board. (I think I'd have to be quarter sawn to get that). Any way... I'll keep pecking at it, see if I can make it reasonable and, hopefully, learn something for the next one. (probably that piece of 5/4 Sassafras 1x7 that it's laying on in the last picture)

I'd like to have a better pattern for that so, if anyone has any suggestions I'm open to them. (Is there a Canoecraft equivalent for paddles?)
Thanks Alan. I've ordered it and will give it a read before going further. (I replaced the shaper bearings the night before last so I'm hoping to be back on the boat soon any way and that takes priority IMO)
Way to go!

When I made my first paddle this year, I found that a good bench plane was invaluable for controllably thinning down the blade and a spokeshave really useful for doing medium cuts such as shaping the shaft into an octagon and then taking off those edges . The finger plane can be a handy finishing tool, but I wouldn't expect to take off a lot of wood with it.

For patterns, I second Alan's suggestion on "A Complete Guide To Making Your Own Paddle" by Graham Warren and David Gidmark. The patterns in it were my guides to making my Ottertail paddle. I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Keep watching your centerlines!
All of the paddles I have made in the past 15 years ha e come from Warren and Gidmark's book. The grinder with flapper wheels is a really good tool that most people overlook, probably because it is so messy. It is very fast though. An electric power planer is a really great tool for bringing the blade down too. I use a small block plane and a spoke shave for the shaft. Your spindle sander is ideal for shaping the grip. Blade size is subjective, yours looks pretty simiar to what I usually use.
Well, I got a copy of Warren & Gidmark's book, picked up a small block plane & a couple of spoke shaves, took the spindle sander and angle grinder outside and got back to work. I clamped the paddle to my picnic table and I like the spoke shave. It did great taking off thin shavings and only gouged a little. The block plane was a different story. No matter where I set the blade depth, it just seemed to want to gouge so I paid a visit to my woodworking friend for a tutorial. (Blade needed sharpened & I need to learn to read the grain of the board.)


With that remedied, I started cutting off any wood that didn't look or feel like a paddle in whatever way it could be removed.

The spindle sander, horseshoeing rasp and sandpaper were the primary tools for the grip and I kept making it (gradually) smaller & rounder until it felt good and spun well in my palm (I tend to flip the paddle over nearly every stroke when I'm paddling).


I used the spoke shave, the rasp and sandpaper strips on the shaft until it felt round, sliding my hand along the shaft and whittling down any places that felt thicker than the adjacent areas. There are still a few nicks where I gouged it, either with the plane or the spoke shave but I'm not too worried about those. They smoothed out with the sandpaper so my hand glides easily over them and I'll (hopefully) have a lot more nicks / dents in the paddle before I burn it.

Incidentally, burning it almost happened prematurely when I clamped the blade to the table to work on the shaft & noticed a crack running straight up the middle of the blade. I should have taken a before & after but I didn't. I clamped it so the crack was spread open, poured Gorilla glue in from the top & pushed it into the crack with my thumb. I then clamped it, made sure I had glue pushing out on both sides & allowed to to dry for 2 days. Seems like it'll work.

I kept thinning the blade trying to get the paddle balanced but I didn't want to go too far as the Aspen is not a very resilient wood and I'd like to actually have a useable paddle. I got as close as I thought I dared and it doesn't seem terribly blade-heavy (and I may need to cut the blade down after I try it out anyway)


The keen observer may notice that my yard, (unlike the neighbors) is unshorn. Honestly, I thought about mowing but decided against it as I was busy with the paddle-making. The grass will still be there next week and this makes the neighbor look like a better groundskeeper... pretty thoughtful of me, I think)

My final step in shaping was to clamp the shaft to the table & sand all the edges round. That, in my opinion, serves two purposes: it should increase strength as a radiused edge is less likely to break than a sharp edge and (maybe more importantly) it erases the reference lines so that the casual observer won't easily see where the blade is uneven.


I've decided to oil the paddle instead of varnishing it as I suspect that I may be trimming the blade a little if it survives Canada this summer. Overall, I feel that it went well and I'll follow the guidelines in the Warren & Gidmark book on future paddles instead of just winging it. I'm really optimistic about the shaft length & the shape of the grip so I'll probably duplicate both on the next paddles. Plans are to have a Sassafras beavertail and a Cherry algonquin before pointing the Ranger North in 6 weeks.
I went to the local hardware today & ordered a quart of Watco (or teak oil... I can't remember which we decided upon); $20 (US) per quart or $70 a gallon. When I asked Dan how much coverage he thought I'd get from a quart, he drolly replied "about a 1/4 of what you'd get in a gallon". Perfect... I told him not to quit his day job just yet. Oil will be in Thursday & I told him I'd grab it Saturday after work.

I'm fairly certain that it'll cover more than one paddle and I've got lots of wood so I grabbed a rough cut Cherry 1x8x10 from the stack in the barn and took it to the canoe shop. I like the feel of the Aspen paddle's grip & shaft length so I used it as a pattern and I think I can get 3 paddles out of the board.


I laid the Aspen paddle on top of the Cherry, laid out the cuts with a square and used a circular saw until the blade touched the top edge of the line. I then finished the cut with my pull saw, flipped it over, connected the lines on the other side and finished cutting the blank.


I then traced around the Aspen paddle's handle, drew a center line to measure the offsets onto the blank, plotted them directly onto the wood (I know I should make a pattern from plastic or 1/4 inch lauan but I didn't) and soon realized another benefit of making a pattern. The blade of the beavertail is quite a bit longer than the blade of my Aspen paddle and I allowed for extra length but I eyeballed it about 3 inches shorter than the book calls for. I think I can gain an inch or two by shortening the shaft but the blade is going to be a little shorter than the book calls for.

It was a bit weird getting the points plotted as the measurements are listed in 32nds of an inch and I hadn't done that much math in awhile.


I also didn't initially notice that measurements were every 2 inches, not every inch, so I had extra lines. I found that, by laying a pencil on the next line to be plotted, I could more easily keep track of where I was while I looked up the next offset.


I used a flexible ruler to connect all the plot points & cut reasonably close to the lines with the band saw.


Next step is to clamp it to the picnic table and attack it with the angle grinder, etc. (when & if it ever stops raining here).

I finished work on Friday with an hour or so til dark so I hauled the spindle sander out to the picnic table and worked a bit while I grilled supper in the firepit. I'm not gonna lie, I love the spindle sander for shaping the grip


It also works well for sanding flush with the lines and I had both done by the time the charcoal was ready.


I measured the mid point & used a spare larch strip (at 3/16th of an inch, it's pretty flexible) to mark the center line then clamped the blade to the table and started on the shaft. I didn't measure the diagonals like Warren & Gidmark advise (I'm very much an "ish" kinda guy) so I used the spoke shave to knock off the edges of the shaft & eyeball an octagon shape, used the rasp to smooth the shaft and blend the octagon into a round shape and then sanded the grip & shaft with 120 grit plumber's emory.


By the time supper was done, the grip & shaft were feeling good & I was ready to start on the blade.

Today I took the cut-off pieces and glued them to a 3/16 inch strip of White Oak that I had for making laminated canoe seats (I glued up Sassafras / Oak seat rails also but that's another thread). I ran a thin line of glue on both surfaces to be glued, spread them out with scrap (of Aspen in this case but it doesn't matter) and clamped it together to dry. I think it should be a good length for an ottertail but I also think a jointer is high on the bucket list for me. I think I'll get a good bond but it would be better if the Cherry edges were smoother.

Very cool, thanks for sharing.
Using your hands to as measuring tools works very well, especially to judge smoothness.
Gorilla Glue is good stuff, but not permanently waterproof. I used it to repair an oar blade. It lasted a long time, then one day the edge just fell off. Those oars got used several times a week for about half the year.
Gorilla Glue is good stuff, but not permanently waterproof... then one day the edge just fell off.
Crap. Was that the Gorilla wood glue or regular Gorilla glue? I used the wood version but now I'm wondering if I should have epoxied it. Granted, a paddle failing in the middle of nowhere makes for an interesting plot twist in the trip report but it's one I'd like to avoid if possible.
Crap. Was that the Gorilla wood glue or regular Gorilla glue? I used the wood version but now I'm wondering if I should have epoxied it. Granted, a paddle failing in the middle of nowhere makes for an interesting plot twist in the trip report but it's one I'd like to avoid if possible.

In case you missed it in another thread, here is a PDF article from Fine Woodworking magazine in which various wood glues were scientifically tested at Case Western Reserve University for strength on various wood types and in various joints. Gorilla Glue came in last.


  • Glue Strength Comparison.pdf
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Since Gamma said he used Gorilla wood glue he should be in good shape since that appears to be just a standard PVA glue.

On that other hand it does not appear to be waterproof....

Since Gamma said he used Gorilla wood glue he should be in good shape since that appears to be just a standard PVA glue.

On that other hand it does not appear to be waterproof....

"Gorilla Glue - The Toughest Glue On Planet Earth"

A marketing hype name and marketing hype phrase, which sound mostly like hooey to me. I want Godzilla Glue.

I didn't realize that there is a non-waterproof PVA Gorilla Glue and a waterproof polyurethane Gorilla Glue. The latter is what was tested and came in last. Waterproof Type I PVA glue came in first overall, the brand being Titebond III. System Three epoxy came in a close second but at a significantly higher cost.

What glue do builders usually use on strip canoes?
For the most part Glenn it doesn’t matter what glue is used to glue the strips because it ends up encapsulated in epoxy.

That now seems obvious. I suppose a better question, then, would be what glue the makers of laminated paddles usually use, at least those who don't fiberglass and epoxy their blades.
To me, if it’s going to get wet I use epoxy. The cost of epoxy is cheap compared to my time, even when I’m working for myself. Plus I always have epoxy in the shop, probably 3 or 4 different kinds depending on the demands of the job.