Canoe Paddles

This handmade canoe paddle from "Parks and Recreation" actor and talented woodworking hobbyist Nick Offerman is the perfect weekend project for experienced woodworkers.

The best canoe paddles are as lightweight as possible but still have the strength to cut through all kinds of bodies of water. When selecting the wood for your paddle, be sure to consider the difference between hardwood and softwood: Hardwoods can be shaped thinner and have more strength but are heavier. Softwoods, as the name implies, can be damaged more easily but are lighter and easier to use without fatigue.

What You'll Need


  • Wood plank
  • Pencil
  • Existing canoe paddle
  • Band saw or jigsaw
  • Sandpaper
  • Block pan
  • Spokeshave
  • Rasp
  • Epoxy, varnish, or oil


  1. Measure the distance from the ground to your chin: This will be your paddle length. Select an appropriate wood plank, approximately 1 1/4 inches thick and at least 6 to 7 inches wide.

  2. Draw a centerline down the length of your plank. Use an existing paddle as a template: Center the paddle on your plank and trace the outline on one half of your centerline. Flip the paddle over the centerline and trace again, to ensure symmetry. Cut out paddle outline on a band saw or with a jigsaw. Using sandpaper, clean up the cut so that all edges are smooth.

  3. Draw another centerline down the edge of your cut plank. Use a block pan to taper one face of the blade, from shaft end to the tip of the paddle. Shape blade from center spine down to quarter-inch edge. Using a spokeshave, sand with 80-grit to refine the blade shape. Repeat for other face of blade.

  4. Finish with epoxy, varnish, or oil.

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