Possibly the best thing about sea kayaking is, it doesn’t cost much. Both the kayak and paddle can be built by hand at a fraction of the price of store-bought selections.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Things You’ll Need:
- Jigsaw Small block plane Cabinet sander Sandpaper Wood oil Varnish
- Small block plane
- Cabinet sander
- Wood oil
Find a good piece of hardwood. Ash, basswood or spruce are three types of wood that are especially good for creating a blank for a paddle, because they’re all fairly light and yet strong. The best place to find the lumber you need is at a hardware store. Depending on the size of your paddle, pick a board that’s straight (without warps) and without knots.
Create your blank. Use the jigsaw to cut the general shape of your paddle. If you’re comfortable with free form, mark your board and make the cuts. You can also find patterns online (see Resources below) or at stores such as REI that provide the outline to make a proper blank.
Use your block-plane to carve out the blades and shaft of the paddle. This allows you to whittle down the shape and thickness of the wood so that the blank looks more and more like the finished piece.
Take off all rough edges and protrusions with a cabinet scraper or similar device. Having rough edges on the shaft of your paddle makes it extremely uncomfortable to grip for long periods. The key is to get the shaft as smooth as possible before you begin to apply the sandpaper.
Apply sandpaper, coarse grit to fine, until the shaft and blade of the paddle are smooth and completely without protrusions. Once you have a paddle that feels good, apply oil to protect the wood and then a coat of varnish.
Tips & Warnings
- Paint your paddle any color you like. It makes the paddle more festive, and what you gain in weight is made up for in extra wood protection.
- Be careful when using the plane that you don’t make the blades of the paddle too thin. Blades that are too thin have a tendency to break when encountering either submerged or shoreline obstacles such as rocks. A good blade should taper down to no less than 1/8 inch at the bottom.