How To Build A Kayak Paddle

Need to know how to build a kayak paddle? Building your own kayak paddle is a lot of fun, even if you’re not an experienced woodworker. A hand built double bladed paddle, properly stained and varnished with the natural wood grains exposed is a thing of beauty and something to brag about around the water hole.  The project is a lot of work, but well worth it.

Materials

  • Two  or three 1 inch or less thick hardwood planks of different woods
  • One 10 foot 2 x 2 ash, hickory or other suitable hardwood
  • Power sander and/or planer
  • Rasp and/or draw knife
  • Bungee cords or furniture clamps
  • Sabre saw
  • Gorilla Glue or strong epoxy-based wood glue
  • Oil wood stain
  • Marine varnish or clear coat.
  1. Step 1 Decide how long a paddle you want. This will depend on your style, whether you paddle high, low or somewhere in the middle. The shaft needs to be long enough for the blades to be fully immersed when you take a normal stroke. Find a kayak dealer that will let you check out some samples for yourself.
  2. Step 2 Cut a 2×2 hardwood shaft the length you determined in step 1.  Rasp and sand the shaft round to within 30 inches of the ends.  Leave the last 30 inches at the ends squared.
  3. Step 3 Decide what blade length you want. Twelve to eighteen inches is average depending on your paddling style. Low and medium styles work best with longer blades, while high styles may use shorter and wider blades.  Cut hardwood strips the length you want. The strips can be wider or narrower if you want more layers across the blade. 
  4. Step 4 Arrange strips on either side of one end of the shaft. It’s a good idea to cut some of the strips so the grain runs in different directions from the other strips for added strength.  Glue the edges of the strips and two opposite sides of the shaft end and clamp them all together to form a rectangular blade at the end of the shaft.  Wipe off wet glue that squeezes from the joints.  Allow the glue to cure 24 hours.
  5. Step 5 Repeat this at the opposite end of the shaft only this time attach the blade so it is turned 90 degrees from the other blade so the blades are perpendicular to one another. Glue, clamp and leave for a day.
  6. Step 6 Use a sabre saw or band saw to trim the blades to the shape you want. Next use a rasp, draw knife, planer or sander to shape the blade and blend it into the shaft.  The blade needs to be thinner at the edges and thicker at the center to strengthen it. 
  7. Step 7 Sand the whole paddle smooth, the stain and varnish. Use multiple thin coats of waterproof marine spar varnish or a waterproof polyurethane clearcoat. Allow to dry thoroughly between coats.  Polish the kayak paddle to a high sheen with surfboard wax.

Tips

  • You can protect the tips of the blades from damage, wear and water absorption by folding a piece of light fiberglass cloth over the tips and coating with fiberglass resin. The fiberglass resists impact damage, swelling and cracking.
  • Before installing the blades, slide two rubber drip rings onto the shaft. These are hard rubber gaskets that catch water from the blades above the throat so it drips off the paddle outside the boat.

Warning

  • Don’t use one step varnish stains or furniture varnish.
  • Use marine specific clearcoat or varnish.
  • Use waterproof glue.
  • Stain and varnish in a well-ventilated area


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