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Step 3 - Making the Shaft and Handle

Making the shaft and handle of your Stand Up Paddle is the most involved step in the process and has five parts to it.  In this step you’ll 1) rip the shaft to 1 1/8” square (and save the 1/4” off cut for later use); 2) cut a taper on one end of the shaft where it will attach to the blade; 3) drill a hole where the handle will attach to the shaft; 4) round off the shaft and handle; and 5) remove and shape the ends of the handle so it is comfortable in your hand.

The first part of this step is simple.  Rip the shaft to 1 1/8 inches square on the table saw.  The off cut should be 1/4 inch thick.  Save this for use when making the blade, which is detailed in Step 4.


The next part of Step 3 is to cut a taper on one end of the square shaft.  The taper is where the shaft and the blade will be connected to each other.   Most Stand Up Paddles are offset with anywhere from 10 to 14 degrees of taper.  10 degrees is very common.  This is most easily done while the shaft is still square.  It’s much easier to handle while still square so the cut ends up being exactly perpendicular to the laminations which makes your paddle look much better when it’s finished. 

To cut the taper, start by laying the shaft on its side (i.e. with the laminations oriented in a horizontal fashion).  Again, the taper should be cut exactly perpendicular to the laminations.  You can do this with a taper jig that is made for use on the table saw or you can do it by hand.  If you’re making the cut with a jig on the table saw, simply place the shaft on the jig and carefully run it through the saw, cutting the taper on one end of the shaft.

If, on the other hand, you are going to cut the taper by hand, find and mark the angle that you want to cut using a protractor and a straightedge.  Or, instead of using a protractor, simply measure 6 3/8 inches from the end of the square shaft, make a mark and draw a diagonal line between the mark and the opposite corner of the shaft.  This will produce a 10 degree angle ONLY IF THE SHAFT IS 1 1/8 INCHES SQUARE.  

After marking the angle on the side of the shaft use a square to extend a line down the front and back of the shaft from each end of your angle line.  This will give you a guide for your saw blade to follow as you make your cut with a hand saw.  Take your time making this cut and follow your cut lines carefully so the taper is as straight as possible.  This will insure a good bond when the blade is attached and it will insure that your blade is straight, flat and square to the shaft.

Now that the taper has been cut, turn to the other end of the shaft and use a Forestner bit to drill a hole where the handle will eventually be attached to the shaft.  Again, this hole is drilled now because the shaft is much easier to handle while it is still square.  Stand Up Paddle shafts typically range from 1 1/16” to 1 1/4” in diameter.  I like to make them 1 1/8” so I use a 1 1/8” forestner bit to drill the handle hole. The finished handle should be about 3 1/2 inches across, so measure down from the end of the shaft at least 1 3/4” (half of the total width of the finished handle) and mark the center of your drill hole.  Drill only half way through the shaft in the center of the same side of the shaft as the taper. 

Next move on to rounding of the shaft.  The method described here makes use of a router and router table to round off the shaft, however, there are a number of ways to accomplish this task that don’t require a router.  Check the links page for links to other sites that describe alternative methods that you may want to try.  To round off the shaft install a 1 1/8” half round bit in your router and set the depth so the bottom of the bit is flush with the router table.  Take several passes on each side of the shaft, increasing the depth of the cut by a small amount with each pass.  I usually take five passes on each side of the shaft to avoid tear-out.  Use great caution as the shaft approaches round as it can become difficult to hold flat as you feed it through the router.  GO SLOW.  TAKE YOUR TIME.  Keep your hands and fingers away from the router bit.  USE A PUSH STICK AND FEATHER BOARDS to hold the shaft flat as you pass it over the bit.  Use common sense safety techniques.

Alternatively, a 9/16” roundover bit can be used.  If you use a roundover bit you’ll need to make four passes over the router instead of two.  Set your feather boards to hold the shaft firmly against the table and the fence.  Make one pass, then roll the shaft 90 degrees and make another pass.  Repeat two more times and the shaft will be round.  To make the passes as clean as possible and with minimal tear out from the router bit, go slowly and focus on keeping the square part of the shaft pressed firmly against the router table and fence.

Now separate the handle from the shaft.  Do this by simply cutting the handle off of the shaft.  Make sure that the hole that you previously drilled is in the center of the handle.  Now round over the ends of the handle using sandpaper and a sanding block.

Finally, sand the shaft and the handle smooth.  In some cases you may need to start with a hand plane before moving on to sanding with 60 or 80 grit sandpaper and progressing through 120 grit, 180 grit and finally 220 grit sandpaper.  The shaft and handle should now be smooth to the touch and have no flat spots.


Now let’s move on to Step 4 - Making the Blade

© Gary Mastry II 2013