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Greenland Forum

Carbon fiber Aleutian paddle
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I have the Lee Valley curved squirrel-tail palm plane. It was given to me as a gift, specifically for use making Aleutian paddles. Simple tool but high quality, and perfect for the job carving out the concave curves on the blade.

Highly recommend.

I think Lee Valley also sells cabinet scrapers. The curved ones are pretty effective and cn be ground to match any curve you want. If sharpened on a 45 degree they remove wood fast. You do need a real hardened burnisher as well.
Lee valley has two little squirrel tail planes. I have the flat one but the curved bottom one may be worth a look. Made in Canada to.
Like most curved tools, it is not as easy to sharpen. The steel is laminated and is great to sharpen. That being said, Japanese plane blades are really thick so there is alot of "bevel Edge" surface to act as a guide/rest while sharpening. The curved bed (fore and aft) lets you control the depth of your cut as well as plane on non flat surfaces. When I bought this plane, many years ago, it was a whimsical "that's a wierd plane" purchase. I don't use it often, but when you need it you will use the hell out of it as it is pretty versatile.

That is a beautiful tool John, seems like it would make quick work of it.  It looks difficult to sharpen, though I would imagine similar to a gouge but scaled up.  I was wondering if there were a western equivalent in a spokeshave, having an double straight/curved (for outside radius) spokeshave in my collection, I only found one picture reference.  There are quite a few draw knives for larger scaled hollowing,

I think that the result of my research into this is that the crooked knife seems to be the most direct approach with the least amount of 'tool' (efficiency?) required to accomplish the inside curve.  It requires a similar skill set than any of the other approaches suggested.  Seems to be originally formed with beaver's teeth (the first experts;) by the Cree first nation, apparently  shifted to modified European knives when they became available.  I would be interested in how they would remove the temper then reharden them after bending.

I enjoyed all the different approaches suggested, nice to see such diversity in making.

On 10/15/2020 12:49 AM, John Huber ( wrote:
I use a plane like this, it works wonders for hogging out maerial as well as carving ridges in paddles:
I have had luck using a powered hand planner 3” wide. This allows forming the ridge in the center sort of a diamond shape and tapering to the flat blade. I rough cut the shape using a bandsaw, then plane to shape using an electric powered hand planner. I use a file and sandpaper to finish. Not traditional as using all hand tools but a bit quicker for time constraints. I use Tung oil as the finish. Several coats and it has a good grip but still easy to slide your hands into position and is easy to touch up.

Hi Dan, the simplest and most efficient hand tool to do that is a round wood rasp, like a file with pointies instead..

after, you can finish with sandpaper wrapped around a dowel.

On 10/14/2020 11:56 AM, Dan Hunter ( wrote:
I’m using a curved chisel and small hand planes
Crooked knife.

Does anyone have suggestions for hand or simple power tools to make an Aleut paddle?  Or plans?    I am stumped as to be able to make the ridge down the middle.  Dan Hunter

Sent from my iPhone

That was my wood choice for carving paddles John, though Greenland style, both for it's extreme lightness and as a relatively soft wood.  Excellent workabilty with well sharpened tools.   It was not dent resistant, not so much an issue, I imagine reasonably strong, but as I mentioned before, I had used a shear fiberglass epoxy coating.  this was for additional strength and durability rather than water resistance.

The best part of the wood was that I found it to be dead straight  and stable, from a 2x4 through all the cutting and carving reductions (unusual in kiln dried wood).  I got to pick knot free from the selection, but that seemed to be easier than what I find for typical 2 bys- knot free seems to be very resinous in that selection.

I am a bit obsessive about sharp tools (I use a Japenese whet stone trio), and it did seem to dull blades as fast as any hard wood, I imagine there is a proportional silicone content.

I wonder what sort of minerals would harbor in driftwood in times past and it's affect on cutting tools?

On 10/13/2020 11:00 PM, John Henry ( wrote:
I did find it interesting that the Aleut Kayak Paddle "FNM#228 in the Finland National Museum, Helsinki", was made of western red cedar. Being rot resistant I can see it being a decent choice of wood for a paddle.
I'm interested in paddle design and making also

I am always interested in seeing the results of a made paddle, knowing why you picked the particular design, and anything encountered that either helped or hindered completion.  I have made quite a few with stylistic shifts, mostly in the loom to fit my hands and shoulder width, sticking as much to tradition in the paddle area.  I found that a slight spine in the transition area between the loom and the paddle helped tremendously for indexing, as an example.

I would be interested to hear your results, or anybody else with their construction,  gabriel

On 10/13/2020 12:21 PM, Mark Loyacano ( wrote:
Glad it worked out for you. I have made a few now.
Quoted Text

Get friendly with the pro staff, let them know what your looking for, but more important, why.
I'm a carpenter so I deal with all the local yards, and when you show them a picture of a traditional paddle. they don't have an issue with letting you pick through the piles or pulling a nice piece for you when they see one.
I have found some really nice stuff at the local lowes

Thanks so much for this excellent advice. Shopping yesterday for something to start GP#2, I showed the yard manager a photo of #1. He just smiled saying he didn't know that a 2x4 could be made into a paddle - then told me to look all I want (...just don't leave a mess).

Thanks again,
Mark L.

Well spoken Brian.   Defining 'authentic' is the has always been the purview of a power elite and has mostly served to value early and ancient artifact in their own collected coffers (museum and collections) while devaluing current production by the culture, often defined to just souvenir status maintaining economic positioning by said culture.

This is an important critique (postcolonial) that has been in discussion and debate among museums for the past thirty years, numerous books written, resulting in the deaccessing and return of many objects to the original culture of the makers.  There is also a recontextualization by historians of many of the narratives of the past.

I think it is important to realize, as we make these objects, as we have the benefit of many advantages that access provides, and our understanding of what is authentic is limited at best.


On 9/15/2020 10:13 PM, Brian Nystrom ( wrote:
The people who invented the kayak weren't dogmatic about it, they just used what they had available. When they got access to mast hoops, they adopted them for cockpit coamings. There are examples of kayaks built using all kinds of "non-traditional" materials. When dimensional lumber became available, they used that. Rifles replaced harpoons. They're pragmatic, which is pretty much a necessity in a subsistence culture.

Also, keep in mind that they probably weren't making paddles from wood as soft as western red cedar and yet they still reinforced tips and edges with bone, again, because it's what they had available. I wonder how many of them still do that today?

When you think about it, it's pretty bizarre for Americans to have a "purist" attitude toward Greenland kayaks and paddles, when Greenlanders don't. It's great that they're preserving their heritage and traditional skills, but WE have no right whatsoever to opine about what's traditional or not.
I use pure oil, nothing else.

If the people that invented kayaks didn’t need epoxy and varnish, I’m sure I don’t
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