Kayak Greenland Paddles

Wooden kayaks probably should be paddled by wooden paddles. After building my first kayak, I set out to make a Greenland style paddle. A dozen paddles later, I am still building them. The paddles are quick to make and very rewarding to build and use. Two resources are of great benefit.

First is Chuck Holst’s very informative pdf with full instructions on construction and use of the Greenland paddle. He also has instructions for making a storm paddle. Matt Johnson has put together a free video detailing this construction – Carving the Greenland Paddle.

Secondly, Brian Nystrom has produced a great book (really worth the price!) on making Greenland Paddles. He offers great tips on every aspect of the construction and finish. Order it online here.

The current collection and evolution of building styles from R to L. The left most is a storm paddle. All paddles are made of western red cedar. The laminated paddles also contain ash, walnut and basswood.

Tip protection is important. The right three are fiberglassed. The first two have an epoxy tip while on the third I wrapped a 1/4" walnut strip around the tip. The three black tips are epoxy with carbon filler. The two on the right are unfinished, but will also have black epoxy tips. Before I oil the shaft and blade, I paint on one coat of epoxy at the tip. After finishing the loom and blade, I then paint on two additional coats of epoxy mixed with graphite powder.

A view of the blades. The first three paddles on the right are all solid WRC, but differ greatly in color and weight: the second weighs 38oz compared to 26oz on the third.

Chuck Holst's plan calls for a gradual taper on the loom (seen on the right) while Nystrom's plans uses a more abrupt taper between the loom and blade (seen on the left). The verdict is still out on my preference.