Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own
Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own

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Not Available Online
Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: by Graham Warren and David Gidmark
Audience: Trade
Specs: 40 color photos, black and white line drawings, plans and photographs throughout, glossary, sidebars, further reading, resources
Pages: 176
Trim Size: 8 1/2" x 11" x 7/16"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20010303
Price: Select Below

Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own

A complete guide to making, caring for, decorating, and using, canoe paddles. Illustrated throughout with photos and line drawings, it is ideal for the beginner woodworker as well as the skilled wanting to experiment with desing and technique.

This book combines practical woodworking technique with practical canoe use experience... [It] covers every single aspect of canoe paddle building.
-- Sawdust and Shavings

Despite the growing interest in making paddles and canoes, it can be difficult to find reliable information on that craft -- except for this book. First published more than a decade ago and having sold 35,000 copies, Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own is the ultimate modern guide to the traditional craft for both the how-to beginner and the skilled woodworker.

In Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own, longtime canoeist and woodworker Graham Warren provides detailed information and guidance to make a canoe paddle that will be used with confidence and cherished for generations.

The book is thoroughly illustrated with photographs, line drawings and plans with measurements for:

  • How to make a paddle having a single blade, a bent shaft, or double blades
  • How to protect a paddle with oil or varnish
  • What to look for when test-driving a paddle
  • How to decorate a paddle
  • How to care for and repair a paddle.

The authors include an appreciation of the evolution of the paddle plus a special chapter by renowned canoe-buuilding teacher David Gidmark which celebrates paddle-making in the native tradition.


Graham Warren has been building wood-canvas canoes and paddles since 1991. His articles on canoeing have appeared in many journals.

David Gidmark teaches canoe building in Wisconsin, New York, Tahiti and Quebec. His previous books include Building a Birchbark Canoe and Birchbark Canoe: Living Among the Algonquin. Gidmark and his wife live in Maniwaki, Quebec.


Introduction: Make your own paddles!

With the right instruction, even the very young can learn how to make their own paddles

Interest in paddle and canoemaking is today perhaps at an all-time high. Canoeists are fast rediscovering the intense satisfaction to be gained by creating their own equipment rather than merely adopting the often rather soulless stuff to be found down at the canoe store.

Fashioning a paddle is a small enough project that it will not cost the earth or devour all your spare time. On the other hand, the subject is sufficiently deep that it will provide a lifetime opportunity to develop your woodworking skills, to experiment with various designs or to research the rich historical context of the craft. When you make your own paddles, you are immediately connected with the roots of canoeing, roots that stretch back hundreds, even thousands of years. Indeed, in the past, probably few canoeists did not also build their own boats as well as paddles.

Taking the time to learn paddlemaking skills will ensure that you get exactly the paddle you want -- a perfect fit, the blade area that you need, created with a wood that you particularly like -- and all at a fraction of the price you pay for a store-bought paddle. And once you have mastered the basic skills, there are many directions you can take. You might want to progress to power tools and synthetic materials in the quest for the lightest or most efficient paddle. Or you might want to go in the opposite direction and recreate the native skills of paddlemaking with an ax and crooked knife, using wood that you have harvested yourself. Why not go on to make a range of paddles to suit all moods and water conditions or build a collection of native paddles, authentically decorated, to form a beautiful and unique display?

At first glance, a professionally made paddle might seem like the kind of thing that only a master craftsperson could produce -- and then only after years of practice. This is simply not the case. Even with modest woodworking skills, you should be able to get good results first time out. In a short while, you will gain a very different perspective on most commercial paddles: Why don't they balance properly? Why is the finish so poor? Why are hardwood paddles nearly always warped?

Creating something beautiful in wood evokes real satisfaction. If you have previously practiced home woodworking limited within the confines of the straight line and right angle, you are in for a liberating experience. Although you may initially find the move away from the security of the ruler and set square a bit scary -- like a first trip into the wilderness without a guide -- it will ultimately become a delight. You will soon find yourself navigating through the wood freely, guided by touch and light.

Making a beautiful paddle is not that difficult. Forming its graceful curves is a technique, not an art. In fact, with quite straightforward methods, you can get your tools to cut intricate curves as surely as any basic geometrical shape. You just need to be aware of the capabilities of your tools, learn to break down the complex paddle shape into a series of simpler ones and work not haphazardly but to a system.

Anyone can make a good paddle, and Canoe Paddles will show you the way.


Make your own paddles!

Chapter One
Diversity: Evolution of the canoe paddle
Prehistoric paddles
The evolution of North American paddles
Tribal variation and adaptation
Fur trade (voyageur) paddles
Identifying native North American single-blade paddles
Paddles from other cultures

Chapter Two
Design: The inner workings of a canoe paddle

Chapter Three
Woods and Adhesives: A guide to choosing your materials
Grain direction
Choice of species

Chapter Four
Tools: Select your level of technology
Tools for marking out
Clamps and holding things steady
Tools for carving
Tools for finishing
Power tools
Homemade tools and jigs

Chapter Five
Paddle making Basics: Making a single-blade paddle
Preparing a one-piece blank
Making a laminated blank
Bandsaw and thickness planer
Laminating checklist
Marking out
Designing your own blade
Cutting out the blank
Adding carving guidelines
Making flexible templates
The keys to paddlemaking
Carving a single-blade paddle
Using a spokeshave
Critical sighting points

Chapter Six
Adding Power: The bent-shaft paddle

Chapter Seven
Twinning Up: Double-blade paddles

Chapter Eight
When Wood Meets Water: Oil or varnish protection for your paddle
Looking Good: Decorating your paddle

Chapter Nine
Care and Repair: Welcome to the real world
Performances Characteristics

Chapter Ten
Origins: Paddlemaking in the native tradition
Text and Photos © David Gidmark
Paddle woods
Making a paddle
The crooked knife

Chapter Eleven
Paddle Plans
Key paddle dimensions
Traditional beavertail
Sugar Island
Whitewater paddle
Sugar Islet- bent-shaft paddle
Double-blade paddle
Child's beavertail
Paddles for children
Patterns for grip templates
Scalloped guide grip
Tip and throat templates

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