Router jig for paddle-making


Unrepentant Canoeist
Looking at back issues of Wooden Canoe, I see "A Router Fixture for Machining Canoe Paddles," Issue 111, June 2002. Since I'm suffering from similar aches & pains as the Author (Arnie Spielbauer), I'm very intrigued. ("What a drag it is, getting old".... who sung that?) Not sure I want to dedicate a whole table for this effort... my shop is not dedicated to paddle-making... but I'm thinking about developing the idea to suit the paddle-making that I do. Has anybody worked with this concept? Figured out any improvements? Or is it already perfect?

As much as I enjoy the "sherf" of my spoke shaves (it's a lot like the "sherf" of a paddle in the water....), the bursitis in my shoulder is screaming for Light Duty... The Luddite in me may have to take a Temporary Medical Deferment.

Oh... puppy poop! :mad:
Router jig

Ah, the Stones.... was thinking Eric Burden & The Animals... Please pass the ice pack, and some of those "Vitamin I" aka ibuprofens, thank you... (got a smilie for pain?)

I've seen duplicators like that, but I'm not looking to duplicate given paddles... need something with more flexibility, to create the cross-sectional shapes of paddles in a variable mode, depending on the needs of the client. Suppose I want an ottertail paddle with a shorter blade... etc. The rig in the article might work for that?
different strokes

Sure it will, these are bascially like gunstock duplicators/carvers, all you would do is move your piece during the work, for example when one end is done then re-jig your master to elongate or shorten the remainder of the work. Then you could mix and match blades and handles and so on.
Last edited:
I run a full-time woodworking business and own a number of routers. They are indeed the ideal tool for many operations. That being said, I find them obnoxiously noisy, dirty, and slow, especially in removing large amounts of material, and I use them as infrequently as possible. Rather than spending the time and money to build a large specialized jig (and I have built and used similar devices), why not try removing all of that material using your bandsaw? Carefully make your layout lines, plan the cuts, tilt the table appropriately, and make the tapering cuts using a fence or, better yet, a single point guide that is aligned with the cutting edge of the blade (see any book on re-sawing). If you plan the sequence out well you can get the material down to reasonable dimensions in just a few minutes. You may find it advantageous to cut all of the tapers while the blade portion of the blank is still in board form, then cut the blade outline afterwards.

Another option is to invest in a small portable power plane. (Makita makes a good one). You can use it just like a hand plane, but it is faster and much quieter than a router, producing curly little shavings rather than dust. With a little practice you can become quite creative and flexible. Watch your lines as it will cut fast. Also, learn to be aware of where that blade is when you set it down.

I would buy 2 - 3 cheap 10 ft. 2X6's and use them to practice. You may even end up with a decent paddle, but you have gained skill and lost very little in experimenting. I find it to be a lot of fun, especially when I'm not worried about producing a finished product. Don't try to fix the mistakes, just go ahead and do the next cut. Then throw that one in the firewood box and start another.

Should you decide to make the router jig shown, make your router sled with vertical, straight 1X3 rails on the top of each long edge with the router set in the U-shape trough. It will be much more rigid and accurate.

Most of the rigs I've seen have used laminate trimmers in place of routers, with appropriate heads. Not familiar at all with these unfortunately.
Router jig

A band saw would work well... if only I had room for one! Lack of space is also why I'm hesitant to build an entire dedicated table.

I looked at power planes this weekend, thinking along the same lines. And I could squeeze one into the shop. The router jig would be more controlled & reproducible (side-to-side, face-to-face), and could be set up to do some concave surfaces. A power plane may be able to do concave surfaces, if I run it at an angle to the paddle shaft. Theoretically...

If I do build the router jig, the framing will be aluminum extrusions. The scrap pile here at work has some amazing stuff in it, which I can get for the price of recycled material.

Bouncing ideas around is always good...
Another option for thinning the blade (hogging off lots of material) is to use a jointer. Because the infeed and outfeed tables are offset, a taper is created simply by taking multiple passes. The final shaping is done by hand with a spokeshave, belt sander (across the grain for course material removal), plane (power or hand) and finishing off with scrapers and/or sandpaper.
Of course, this method still requires some manual work.
Here is what I've worked out after about 1000 paddles:

-draw out the pattern around the centerline
-bandsaw (or even jigsaw) the blank, leaving the tip square.
-draw the centerlines.
-use a jointer to taper the blade (5minutes)
-secure the blank in a vise, and use the electric plane (I, too, like the Makita), to establish the cross sectional taper, leaving a consistent width at the edge. (5 Minutes)

This gets off the great bulk of the wood that is not the paddle blade.

Then I secure the blank in the vise and go at it with an angle grinder with a 24 grit disc. If you're less confident, use a 36, 50, or even 80. Yeah, it makes a lot of dust, but it doesn't last long. Unless you're doing a lot of paddles... (20-30 minutes)

Then I carve the grip, same way. (5-10 minutes)

The I use a router with a round-over bit and get the shaft round/oval. (2-3 minutes)

Then shape the transitions. Take a bit of time to fine tune things, and then you're ready for sanding and finishing.

The detail work the makes a paddle great adds a lot of time, but the bulk wood removal stages actually go pretty quick.
One word of caution about the hand held power plane. I have a DeWalt and found that I had to tune it by securing shims under the sole plates to make sure that both plates are parallel. It's a bit like tuning a hand plane, but not near as much work. I made the mistake of assuming the plane was properly set up out of the box. I kept getting snipe and finally checked the sole with a straight edge and discovered the two plates were not parallel. Properly adjusted, it works very well for hogging off lots of material when you're shaping the paddle blade.
grinder advice

Useing a 4 1/2 grinder is the way to go with a flapper disc on it. They do make a ton of dust so a respirator and a good dust collection system are a big help. You can really give the paddles a personal touch with a simple grinder after they are cut to shape. I just make a pattern out of a simple pine 1x10 or 1x12 pine for my blades to get the shape after that a set of calipers to make sure the thickness is uniform. After you get it the way you want it sand it and finish it. It doesn't take long at all and a light hand at first is suggested. Good luck
Lots of good thoughts -- many thanks!

The angle grinder idea stirred up the ashes of what used to be my memory.... Anybody ever use one of these?
Seems like it would hog off the wood quickly enough, but might have some control issues.

I also may try a Microplane drum, mounted in the drill motor.

just make sure if you're gonna use one you have your kevlar codpiece on...


  • lancelot.jpg
    24.3 KB · Views: 757
Sounds like the voice of experience. :eek:

The Microplane drum works well enough. I'm working in short bursts, so as not to overheat it. There is a spare (sharp) sleeve in the toolbox, for when I drop the ball... It doesn't make airborne sawdust; the chips are big enough to fall roght away, so no respirator needed.

I think the power plane might leave a flatter overall surface, & be better for initial mass stock removal, then go to the Microplane for concave surfaces & such. A band saw would sure be quicker & easier, though.
I've looked at those chainsaw cutters, but never actually used one. Scares me.

I'm also concerned about its ability to be precise. I like to work to fairly fine tolerances with each step. I don't like using the 4.5" grinder discs for the same reason, you end up using the edge too much, the 5" ones have just that little bit more flat to them to make them better to control.

Paul: Bandsaw, jointer, electric power plane, grinder (24 then 100 grit), router, RO sander (100 then 220 grit) light hand touch up for transitions, done.

A basic paddle should be done in about an hour.
An HOUR?!?!?!? Holy Crud, you're way more efficient than I am.

But then I've been doing this with the spokeshave, mostly for poops & giggles, and to keep me off the streets... a very different perspective!

Before I can get a bandsaw, I need to build a shed, to get all the extraneous junk out of my shop. Bicycles, lawn mower, snowblower, shovels, rakes, & various implements of destruction will have to find a new home. Wonder if our local tech college has Open Shop sessions... will have to look into it. I know there's one about an hour's drive from home (when there's no traffic).

I like your attitude. I do the same thing. I have a shop full of power tools, but more and more I'm reverting to the Neanderthal approach to woodworking. l love my hand tools and don't mind the extra time involved. Since your main complaint is the problem of aging and exertion on sore muscles and joints, I think you would find that just the addition of one of those power planes like the Makita or DeWalt would go a long way towards preventing sore muscles and joints.

Keep shaving wood and enjoy the ride!
If you really want to save your back and create a pair of identical paddles, Sears Craftsman now makes a CNC machine for the home shop that costs a mere $1,800.00. It doesn't look like it takes up much space either. Only $900.00 a paddle, go for it. (You might as well order a nice production plastic canoe from them while you're at it.) :D Hands, fingers, and spokeshaves are also tools. You just have to decide on the level of automated technology you are willing to accept for the project.