cedar kayak paddle shaft

Making euro and Greenland paddles.  Using Western Red Cedar for the greenland, and was planning to do the same for the euro (scooped blade design, from New Kayak Shop book).  I was wondering if cedar is too weak for this application, I see stronger woods recommended in many books but at the same time I have already dropped $25 on the woood and glued up the blank.   

I'm 6'2", 200# and I paddle hard at times.

Would some selective fiberglass reinforcement be a good idea?

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RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

To clarify-the cedar is for the shaft only.  Plywood blades.

RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

I've been watching this with interest to see if someone with paddle making experience will jump in...I think that cedar is a fairly porous wood, which makes it good for fibreglass because it readily absorbs resin. I don't think using it for a shaft will be a problem as far as strength goes, assuming you're making a one inch or so diameter shaft. The problem might be in sealing off the end grain so the shaft doesn't absorb water over time, which would make it heavy and perhaps more flexible than you'd like. So perhaps you might try fibreglassing any exposed end grain. Just a thought.

RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

Hey all.  I was waiting to see some more posts on this topic too.  But nothing....when I started to make my paddle I came across a few style options for the shaft.  Not many people discus fiberglassing the shaft, but some people don't like a wood shaft at all due to breakage.  Some people say that is paddling in surf that they fear breakage.  Below is a site that shows a hollow shaft with no glass just resin on the shaft and glass on the blades.


On the other hand, the site below shows a laminated wood shaft.  This is what I went for.  I also wrapped the shafting carbon fiber and then resigned it.  Also glassed the blades as shown.


I have noticed some flex in the shaft, but no concern of breakage.  My friend is making the hollow version.  Once finished we will do a comparison.

Any other thoughts out there?





RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

I recently made two hollow shaft SUP paddles using the "birdseye" method detailed in the link Chad E mentioned, above. My first attempt utilized 5/8" and 1/2" strips (to form an oval shaft. It's about 1.75"X1.25" in cross section. Even at 7' long the shaft was very solid and feather light. I didn't feel the need to glass the shaft, though I did glass the blade and its joint to the shaft. This shaft felt a bit on the thick side, so I made a second using 1/2" and 3/8" strips. The cross section is closer to 1.5"X1" and the shaft had a suprising degree of flex. Even after glassing it has more flex than the unglassed, larger shaft.

Relevant to you: I made the paddle and then made a decision on glassing. My completely amateurish guesses at the need for glassing have proved non-fatal. Both paddles are in good shape after a lot of abuse. So why not carve your paddle and see. Some folks appreciate a "real wood" feel to a paddle- something you lose to glass and resin. You might take finishing the paddle one step at a time as you assess its strength, performance, and feel.

Good luck,


RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

Thanks for the replies - I didn't get anything the first day or 2 and had given up..

Regarding the absorption issue, all the instructions I have ever seen for Greenland paddles seem to cite Western Red Cedar as one of the best choices.  They say you can use it unfinished, or use a rubbed oil finish.  This would tend to seal the end grain.  The euro paddle is epoxied together and I plan to fiberglass the blade edges and then varnish.  

The reason I was concerned about the euro paddle is that they are a lot grabbier in the water than a greenland paddle, with a longer lever arm as well - all of which would (I think) tend to put more stress on the handle right near where I grip it.  I think I'll play it by ear as to whether to add any reinforcement in the way of epoxy/fiberglass.  

BTW, my first iteration of a paddle shaft used douglas fir, which is much stronger.  However, I have learned from experience that it is nearly impossible to cut a gradual curve in fir and sand it to a fair curve - due to the alternating bands of light/dark wood, which are incredibly variable in hardness.  The dark bands are seemingly as hard as epoxy, while the light bands are like Balsa wood.  That's what led me to try cedar - a nice uniform, fine-grained wood. 

Since I have the fir one so far along anyway and had already cut out four paddle blades, I'll make both (fir and cedar shafts) and do a head to head comparison. I'll report my findings here.

RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

Great tutorial! Thank you! If you would like to go further, I found some interesting information on this website:  www.nauticexpo.com/boat-manufacturer/kayak-paddle-2407.html

RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

   I hava made many greenland style paddles from red cedar. I finish then in tung oil. every few years I re-oil them. They are great and I have never had one break. It is a soft wood, so they get dented a little if dropped. But since I oil them it is no big deal.

The cedar should be plenty strong enough fo the euro style paddle. You mentioned plywood blades - the area to be careful would be how you attach the blades to the shaft. I think that could be the weak link in your paddle. The wood is plenty strong for the job.

Making paddles is fun. I have made six and they are all great, and all slightly different to paddle with. I have also made a canoe paddle from a Yellow Poplar 2"x6" that was a little narrow bladed, but fun to paddle with.


RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

I recently carved my first Greenland paddle out of western red cedar. I definitely want an oil finish. For those who used tung oil, did you use 100% pure oil or one of the oil/varnish blends? If 100% tung oil was used, did you thin it with mineral spirits before application? I prefer the natural look rather than use varnish or epoxy.


RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft


I used 100% pure tung oil. I did not thin it. Just rubbed it on with a rag. gave the oil a 10-20 minutes to soak in and rubbed off any extra with another rag. After the first couple of paddles you might need to oil it again. Then once a year or two or three. A slightly cheaper oil is walnut oil from the grocery (tung is a nut from Asia).

Tung oil, like walnut oil, and pure linseed oil(which might turn dark) are all self-polymerizing - like epoxy and polyurithane, the oil with oxygen will form long polymers, Naturally! very cool. All though, the reaction causes heat. Not measurable on your paddle (becuase the oil is spread out, like the epoxy on your boat), but beware of the oily rags! balled up, they can self-combust. 

The solution is to hang them open to dry, or better yet, wash them out with soap and water immediately after using.

Have fun with your paddle! Home made paddles are the best.


RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft


Thanks for the information. How long do you reccommend waiting after oiling before the paddle gets wet?



RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

   The same day or the next day.

RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

 Great! Thanks. 

RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

Cedar is nice and I have a Greenland storm paddle made out of it for my spare paddle, but my paulownia paddles are slightly easier to construct and are much lighter.  They weigh less than some carbon fiber shaft paddles I have.  I may try to make a curved euro style paddle with some wider paulownia wood that I have as an interesting challenge.   

RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

   I have made many of push poles out of white cedar 21 ft and longer. I am currently working on 2 kayak paddles where I cut a push pole down to the shaft length. I will then epoxy and varnish. I have never had a push pole come back broken. Its also not a solid piece, the way they are made its a hollow center.

Anyway my two cents

RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

 If you follow the designs for a traditional Greenland kayak paddle, you will be fine with red cedar.

My friend and I made paddles together at the same time.  We both used red cedar.  I stuck with the traditional Greenland design with a three and a half inch wide blade.  My friend went creative and made a five and a half inch wide blade

Both uf us fiberglassed the tips of our blades only. I coated my loom (shaft) and blades with tung oil varnish blend and my friend used linseed oil.

The finished results were that my traditional Greenland paddle was lightweight and sturdy.  My friend's paddle with the wide blades was springy.

In use, my traditional Greenland loom felt robust and it held up well.  

My friend's paddle loom (shaft) snapped the second time he used it.

In my opinion, a traditional Greenland paddle made of cedar really is ideal and hard to improve, but improvements and personalization and experimentation are all part of the fun of the DIY experience. 

RE: cedar kayak paddle shaft

How about a carbon shaft? (And blades, for that matter?)


I built this last winter, and helped a friend build another this summer, after he tried mine. This paddle uses a bunch of other people's ideas, such as the blade profile from Michael Storer, and the blade construction (sort of) from Sam Rizzetta , and my own shaft design. This is a bouyant blade design, and is lighter than anything I've seen commercially advertised. Using it after using a heavier paddle just gives you a silly grin- it's so light, and the paddle just jumps out of the water after each stroke.

The shaft design should be adaptable to other paddle uses, even greenland if that's your thing. There's a guy sort of making them this way, but he uses just sleeves for the blade and shaft, which I think is non-optimal. Structurally, you want an 80/20 mix of lengthwise to crosswise (diagonal) fibers, whereas sleeves have all the fibers run diagonally.

This shaft starts with a 1.25" square x 8' length of foam- almost any foam, but the pink or blue stuff from the hardware store is better than the white bead stuff. Don't want a whole sheet? -the 2x4 or even 2x2 "project panels" can be ripped and joined end to end with Gorilla glue, no problem.

I shape the long foam blank so that it is round in the center 18" or so (you could later fit a take-apart ferrule in this section), then transition to a 1 1/8" x 3/4" oval for the two ends. Shaping is done with a 80grit sanding block, and surform tool. It goes very quick.

Next, cut some 9oz carbon uni into 4" strips, 4 pieces, 8' long. Wet them out on a plastic coated table, trying to leave the last inch dry, and transfer them to the blank, alternating the side that is left open by the wrap 180 degrees back and forth, so that the extra material at the ends is on the short surface of the hand grip- the 3/4" face.  When they're all on, wrap the dry ends with a few wraps of tape to keep them sort of in place. This uni carbon tape will cost about $45, much less if you shop around.

Next get one of Soller's sleeves, sized for the 1 1/4" shaft, using 3k tows (their lightweight sleeve, $2.74/ft.), and slide it dry over the uni-covered shaft. It will be a wiggly noodle at this point, but just kep gently milking the sleeve over the wet unis, pushing the sleeve rather than puling it, until it covers the whole length, with 2-3 inches lose on each end. You may need to bunch it into the middle so you can re-arrange the unis that shifted while the sleeve slid over. You're using slow epoxy (right?) so there's plenty of time.

Have a hook ready on your ceiling, at least 9' off the floor. C-clamp one end of the lose ends of the braid, and hang the shaft by putting the clamp over the hook overhead. With double-gloved hands, somewhat aggressively milk the sleeve some more, to get it pulled pretty tight over the shaft. Mix 2-3 oz. of epoxy and brush it onto the sleeve from the outside, then get a bunch of c-clamps (F-clamps, whatever) and clamp them to the bottom loose tail of the sleeve. These are weights now. Continue milking the sleeve up and down, working the epoxy into the weave and letting gravity take up any slack as you push it toward both ends. Wipe away any dripping epoxy, and then go over the shaft quickly with a heat gun to pop the bubbles. Try to hold up a straight edge to the shaft to make sure it is hanging straight.

Let cure overnight, trim the ends, and go about building the blade shapes of your choice.

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