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Greenland and Aleutian paddles?


Jul 1, 2021
Shoshoni Wyoming
Has anyone here ever used an Aleutian paddle? How do they compare to a GL paddle?

I can see a trade off, in the fact that the Aleutian blade has a flat side which would probably make it a bit better for sculling, but the trad-off is that it’s not used the same on both sides so the loom would have to be made in a way you could know which side was facing which way at any time 100% by feel.
I don’t know what shape the loom should be on the Alaskan paddle. Rounded triangle? If so, the point of the triangle should face either the flat or the ribbed side, but I don’t know which.

Still, making one with a laminated rib and laminated loom would be quite easy for me, so maybe I should make one and try it out IN ADDITION to making a new Greenland paddle and just see what I like.

It’s not all that time consuming for me to make the GL paddles. My last one was ready for sanding in 2 hours from the time I first started it. The time waiting is in the finish work after sanding. The coats of Tung Oil take only 10 minutes per day with wet-sanding, and so the "time’ is just what it takes for the finish to harden up. If the skies are clear I can apply a coat every day, and it usually takes only about 4-5 coats. If cloudy it can be one coat every other day.

My next GL paddle I intend to make too big, and probably too long.

I can then trim it down a bit at a time until I get exactly what I want. Once I am done with the reduction in size I’ll do the final finish.

The two I made so far are too short and I feel the blades should be a bit wider and longer from tip to the loom… I am learning how to use them, but I sure can’t get very close to my forward speed with what I have now, (standard spoon bladed type) but maybe I did them wrong.
Too short means my arc of the strokes are smaller then my Euro Paddle, and with blades only 3" wide I am not catching as much water either. If I make the blades 3.5" to 3.6" wide, and longer, coming back to a shorter loom, and them make the whole thing 8 feet long I can trim it back for length and width both. I know my looms are longer then I like on the two I already made. I would like to make my loom about 4" and maybe 6" shorter on the next one. In doing that it also makes the blades longer so I’d catch water clear up to my hands.

Anyone out there that has used both would be someone I’d love to talk to.

The Alaskan natives have have used their style for many years and so I assume they know what they want, but I want to know WHY they prefer that shaping.

Learning about all these things is a LOT of fun for me.
I have both, and use the Aleutian the most. It has an egg shaped loom that fits my hand best when using the ridged face as the power face (made by Novorca). I recently tried the flat side as the power face and it had more catch - didn't pull through the water as easliy - which was one thing I didn't like about my Novorca. So now I can use the flat face when I want more power or speed and the ribbed face when I have a long day and want to stress my tendons less.
I have greenland paddles as well, and prefer them for rolling. I also carry a storm paddle as an easy to access spare paddle for Surge Narrows surfing.
Regarding surface area of greenland paddles, a few people make the sides parallel for a foot or two near the tip, and then taper the remainder. Also, the stroke is different with a GP, normally you submerge the blade almost completely before pulling on it. And most people cant it a bit to reduce flutter - you can find more info online.
Nootka, I see pictures of Aleutian paddles with the rib going about 1/2 way down the blade and others with it coming almost to the end. It also looks as if the edges are only about 1/4 thick and maybe even a bit thinner. Can you comment?
I set a micrometer to 1/4" and dragged along the blade. Novorca GP & Aleutian the blades are 1/4" thick between 1/8 & 3/16 in from the edge. Northern Light Paddle is the same. These 3 are carbon fibre. My diy wood GPs are 1/4" thick basically at the edge of the blade. My wood GP from JoeO is also thick, but it is meant for surfing at Surge and is extra sturdy. I also have a wood Aleutian and it is similar to the carbon fiber paddles.
Length of rib I don't know about. Maybe ask Harvey Golden who would know?
Also, the stroke is different with a GP, normally you submerge the blade almost completely before pulling on it. And most people cant it a bit to reduce flutter - you can find more info online.
The cant is to make it work like a Wing paddle. To give "lift" in the direction you are going and as the blade moves away from the kayak due to body rotation. The distance moved outwards isn't far but we are talking water, not air for wing type lift.

This means an Aleutian paddle has to be the right way to work properly, flat aft, curved forwards.

The body rotation, outward moving of the paddle means you can't get flutter.

What is the mention of "ribbed" side? The cross section of the blade needs to be aerodynamic (hydrodynamic) in shape to work efficiently. Note, efficiently as any shape will work... sort of....
Here's an arctle by David Zimmerly:


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Wow John, those attachments are great. I just learned more in 20 minutes then I could have dug up myself in 2 years.
:) Thanks so much.
I'm happy to help.
Thankfully, my interest in things Greenlandic and Aleutian was 'just a phase', as my mother used to say. :)
But the files are still in my computer.
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Thank you SZ and John,
I just started puttering around making another Greenland paddle with hand tools a few days ago and think I will try making an Aleutian paddle next.

I index all my paddles so I know exactly where both my hands are on it just by feel.
sofsu, if you's like a few tips on old fashoned wood shaping tricks, I can probably give you some very helpful advice. I make gunstocks to earn a lot of my living and I know a lot of cool tricks to make semetrical shaping fast and easy. If you'd like, PM me and I can probably help you with some ideas.
Thank you for that SZ,
I think I am good for now.

I do have a woodworking background plus a retired master boat builder and myself may be doing a project together soon anyway.
I was admiring his boat and it turns out he was admiring my kayak.

However I would love to try building a crossbow some day and if it turns out I may order a stock from you.
The ribbed paddle is not actually an Aleutian. It's my idea of some sort of cross-breed. The ribs are on both sides and they go from loom width to only 1/8" wide and they taper from the size of the loom's oval to about 3/32 high. But they do keep the paddle from fluttering.
The weights of the 2 paddle are 2 pounds 13 OZ for the pine GL. And my cross-breed (made from poplar) is 3 pounds even.
The Cross-breed is 8 feet and the GL is 7 feet, 7 inches.

I made one from Red Cedar for a friend a while back and it came in a bit under 2 pounds.

I am going to make an aleutian paddle soon in true form. I see from the specs of the old ones they are long and a bit heavy. Many oif them go over 4 pounds and some are 9 feet long. But for slow strokes they are said to be easy to use. They float super well so you don't have to lift them as much when you get the circular rythem going (Or so I am told. I guess I'll find out. )