After acquiring a small boat to do some fishing this summer, I realized it would be wise to keep a couple of paddles in the boat. There was absolutely no way I was going to go out and buy some paddles, so it was time to make a couple. After a tiny bit of research, I learned that there are a few ways to go about making boat paddles. I decided which technique I would attempt, and here it is.
Step 1: Prepare Your Wood
I used scrap wood that I had laying around, mainly old pallet wood with a few scraps from other places. I set up the fence on my table saw to the width I wanted my pieces to be, then I ran my scraps through to get a bunch of pieces of uniform width. Then I set them all out and found the way I wanted to glue them up.
Step 2: Glue Up!
With all the pieces set out the way I liked, I broke out some wood glue, making sure to get the waterproof kind. I glued all the pieces together and clamp them up nice and tight. I let that sit overnight to make sure it was ready to go before I proceeded.
Next I used a paint can to draw rounded corners on the top of the paddles, and a ruler to draw a taper where the paddle head meets the handle. Then I used my little bench top band saw to cut along those lines. You could just as easily use a jig saw for this.
Step 3: Thinning Out the Paddle
So, on a paddle, you want the center to be the thickest part, becoming thinner all the way out to the edges. I drew lines on the sides to give me a goal of how thin to make each side. Next I used the table saw (you could just use a circular saw) to cut a grid all over the paddle head. This allows you to very easily use a chisel to pop off each little square of the grid. It's a very fast way to remove a ton of wood.
Then I came back with a planer to smoothed everything out a bit. After it was pretty much to the thickness I wanted all around, I came at it with a belt sander and took it down even further, and finally started smoothing everything out.
This is when it finally starts to look like a paddle and you start getting excited about taking it out on the boat.
Step 4: Finishing Touches
For the handle, I just added a couple of little blocks to each side with glue and clamps, then cut out a little free hand handle shape. Nothing fancy.
Rounding over the long part of the handle really proved to be the trickiest bit. What ended up being the most effective technique was to use a wood rasp to knock off all the corners and remove the bulk of the material. Then come at it with a hand plane to smooth it out a bit. Finally, go over it all with a sander to actually make it smooth.
Then sand the whole paddle. And when you think you've sanded enough, sand some more. Sand, sand, sand.
I finished my paddles with some protective finish that you put on decking. It's supposed to really hold up against the elements, so I figured it would be a nice fit for these paddles.
I've been using these paddles every time I've taken my boat out this summer and they are holding up very nicely.
Third Prize in the
Outside Contest 2017