There are plenty of sources on the net to guide the newbie. The two I relied on included Chuck Holst's guide on the Greenland Paddle and Matt Johnson's Video on the topic. Most sources recommend carving out of 2x4 cedar obtained at a home building store, but I wanted to dive into making laminated paddles and figured this would be relatively easy since the blade shapes are quite narrow (under 3.5 inches) and simple in shape.
I started off with a trip to Century Mill for some new stock. I ended up getting some maple, poplar, and walnut pieces jointed and planed into 1 1/8th strips. I chose this dimension because this is also the size for my canoe paddle shafts and wanted to have some for intended laminated canoe paddles down the road. I also scored some very affordable walnut and maple pieces by rummaging through their "shorts" pile...discarded pieces cut from other stock. In many cases, these were perfectly suited to rip into strips to form blade or grip areas. At up to a 70% discout these were great deals on otherwise "discarded" wood.
After getting the strips home, I selected the best one (a 90 inch Yellow Poplar strip) for the core and begun measuring & using the walnut strips for the blade sections.
There a many debates about the best adhesives with most people siding with epoxy. But given that this was my first attempt, I didn't want to get jugs of the mixing formulas in case the experience was a bust. Also, epoxy cures so hard that it can blunt hand tools quickly so I opted for a waterproof polyurethane glue (Gorilla Glue) that seemed appropriate for water-based application like a paddle.
After measuring the strips, I clamped each side of the paddle by vertically stacking them and applying clamps to the flat surface of the granite tabletop on the balcony (covered in wax paper to prevent any drips from supergluing to the table). After the 24 full cure time, I clamped the other side in the same fashion. Within 2 days I had finished the laminating process and begun to cut the rough shape of the blades with the trust hand saw and the blank was ready for shaping.
Shaping the blade was a breeze after working on the larger, irregular shaped canoe paddles. A simple cambering process and general tapering of the blade resulted in a paddle I was quite happy with. Carving the shaft (loom) of the paddle followed the same logic as a canoe paddle, except I used a rasp to slightly angle where the walnut blades met the poplar core, resulting in tiny "shoulders" where one grips the paddle during use.Most sources also mention rounding the tip into a semicircle shape, but I felt that the whole angular and linear shape of the paddle would be broken by this, so I left the edges straight.
On my 2007 Arctic Trip, we sea kayaked twice...once quickly spotting a solitary ringed seal and then a second time visiting an Arctic Tern rookery on tiny offshore island...now that was amazing! The terns are one of the most graceful and acrobatic birds I've ever seen. They "nest" on the island by simply laying well camouflaged eggs on the bare rocks. Eventually, they hatch into even more camouflaged chicks and we had to literately watch each step on the island for fear of stepping on them by mistake, all the while their protective parents would dive bomb and miss striking our heads by mere inches. I decided to decorate my inuit style paddle with an Arctic Tern burning on one blade and an Inukshuk symbol on the other to comemmorate my trip to Nunavut.
The completed paddle sanded down
Arctic Tern burning on one blade
Inukshuk burning on the other blade
Decorating the wall before varnishing and test run in the spring
May 5/08 UPDATE: This paddle has now been varnished. View it here.