Northwoods/Guide style grip - why so narrow in side profile?


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I've been reading up on paddle making and am considering taking the plunge and trying to make my own. I've started paddling quite a bit standing up, so I'm intrigued by the idea of a longer paddle with a Northwoods/Guide staged grip.

I have the Graham Warren/David Gidmark book on paddle making. Their profile template for the Guide grip is very narrow just below the rounded end when viewed from the side, and the photos on Shaw & Tenney's website for their Northwoods paddle shows the same taper ( I've never used one, but my understanding is that the point of the staged grip to to allow a hand position from the side as opposed to the top for the Northwoods stroke, and for 'choking up' on a longer paddle when sitting as opposed to standing. It seems to me that if you're gripping the handle from the side, you'd want it thicker and nicely rounded over like the top of the grip, not narrow like a blade that will dig into your hand more. Am I missing something, either about paddle design or the Northwoods stroke hand placement?

Related, why does the grip have scalloping as it tapers down the shaft instead of having it smooth like in the Shaw and Tenney Maine Guide paddle ( )? Seems like the scallop forces you into one of two positions, whereas a smooth taper allows for infinite adjustment?
Last edited:
Go for it and experiment with grip shapes. A paddle is a pretty personal thing and what works for one person may not suit another. Your post seems to indicate that you understand the various approaches. It only remains for you to discover what suits your paddling style. What suits a Free style paddler may not work for white water or long distance paddling. I have made several Northwoods paddles right from Conover's plans but find that I personally prefer an old fashioned ottertail design with a comfortable grip. So hopefully you can have fun making different styles and find out what suits you best. BTW the scallops give you three different hand positions that you can find by feel.
Because it is wide, the pressure is spread over the palm. If it were thicker, it would be too heavy, off-balance. And, tradition.
Thanks, both of you, for the replies. Makes sense - sounds like I have some experimenting to do!
When using a Northwoods grip you are not encircling the grip. Your thumb is kept along side your fingers, not under the grip area.