Instructables

Making a West Greenland style Kayak Paddle

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Picture of Making a West Greenland style Kayak Paddle
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The following is the process of building a West Greenland style Kayak Paddle, designed to your personal dimensions and based on an Inuit design that evolved over thousands of years.  This is a paddle bred for speed, endurance and stealth.

Buying one of these can cost from $250 to $500, I made mine out of a $13.70 piece of cedar from a big box store.  This is not a quick process, it's a lot of measuring and hand work.  Although, after finishing my first one, I can't imagine paying someone to do it for me.

When I started doing some research I found that “wooden kayak paddle” is kind of broad, i.e. there are literally hundreds of variations, this is just one. These instructions are based off of Chuck Holst’s great work.  Definitely recommend reading his pdf before you start to gain some better understanding of how this style of paddle evolved and how it was traditionally used.

First off, I’m no expert. I had the desire to build myself a Greenland style paddle and I documented the process to help me learn and thought I’d share. I also made a couple of mistakes and thought I'd share those too. There are some great sources of information and videos but I wanted to gather what I found into one step by step tutorial.

Since there are a lot of curves on  very long and narrow board, that has a very uniform texture, it is hard to photograph so that you can see them.  To help document this build, and to get a better understanding myself, I've included some images I created using Google Sketchup.
 
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Step 1: Tools Used

Picture of Tools Used
These are the tools I used for this project.
  1. Hand Plane
  2. Yard long metal ruler
  3. Speed square
  4. Jig Saw
  5. Pencil
  6. Sandpaper
  7. Tung Oil
  8. Steel Wool
  9. Carving knife
  10. Clamps
There are some substitutions you could make and I've made notes where appropriate.
Paddle2See6 months ago

That sounds a bit wide...I believe the loom dimension should be from the outside edges of your index fingers when your arms are relaxed at shoulder width apart. That's to allow your outside three fingers to wrap over the top of the blade and give you more feedback on what the paddle is doing. That said, I have made a fair number of these paddles for myself with significant variations in the dimensions and found that I was able to move the boat with all of them - sometimes I had to adjust my paddling style though.

rentmej (author)  Paddle2See6 months ago

This was one of the reasons I took the plunge and made my own paddle and later Skin On Frame kayak (based off of nativewater's Instructible). The fact that everything from kayak to equipment is built in relation to your personal dimensions and the conditions you are dealing with.

For me the loom length feels spot on. However, it really depends on the type of kayaking you do and kayak you have. My SOF kayak came in at just over 19' (misread a step) so it's quick, but a bear to turn, but I love hopping in a lake and going in a straight line for an hour or two.

If you are thinking of taking the plunge and following crazy people like Paddle2See, nativewater and me understand that there is no "universal" way of doing this, just what works for you. Luckily this is a fairly cheap hobby to build your own equipment for (paddle was about $20, kayak about $200). Also, yes I've got all my notes for my next kayak...

AZNdude3 years ago
Hey, i noticed that you had your article on the front page, congrats!
I have a featured article to, but it won't show up on the front page, and the featured article posted after me is. Can you help?
Thanks!
Love this, I made one similar a couple years ago, I added a couple of notches near the blade to act as drip stops. Nice work!
rentmej (author)  potatomansoup3 years ago
Great point on the notches! When I was looking at historical paddles I saw a couple with a "ridge" near the shoulder of the loom and I saw a couple that used leather to braid a ring in the same spot, both acted as drip stops.  Also, when you look at modern "European Style" paddles they often include a ridge as a drip stop.

Personally I was torn as most of the info I found on "Modern Greenland" style paddles didn't include a drip stop and focused more on the different styles of paddling and being able to move ones hands fluidly across the entire length of the blade.   I'm still new to this and only have gone out in nice (aka warm) weather but know a couple of people who are out on days where it is sub zero and could see where this would become more important.
Andsetinn3 years ago
I find all those calculations much easier when using the metric system. Nice work. :)
rentmej (author)  Andsetinn3 years ago
Great point and it would also make it more universally accessible. I'll start looking at making the conversions.