Eleven thousand years of canoe paddles!

A unique source of design ideas

 for the paddlemaker.

Measured offsets and detailed historical background for:

• contemporary designs

• classics (such as Chestnut, Peterborough, Rushton)

• world paddles (North and South America, Africa, Australasia). Some low-area native designs are also given as enlarged versions suitable for today’s canoeist

• stunning paddles unearthed in archaeological digs from around the world

• extensive bibliography


Design and performance

• how paddle designs might have originated from shapes in nature

• design elements related to handling characteristics

• explore paddle shape and performance; the book includes “families” of contemporary beavertail, ottertail and Sugar Island designs of a set surface area; also given is a series of designs based on a beavertail morphing into an ottertail.  Blade-edge length, and area : perimeter ratio data is included

• experiment with pulling power; a classic paddle design is given in a range of different surface areas

• how do the surface areas of paddles from around the world compare?

Paddlemaking throughout history

Get a much deeper appreciation of paddlemaking by seeing how ancient paddlemakers followed their craft:

• bone, stone and metal tools for making paddles

• the wide range of woods used, and why

• sources of pigment for paddle decoration

Now includes 25 extra paddle designs, an expanded version of "Why Are Canoe Paddles the Shape They Are", and a detailed review of the evolution of paddles over the last 11 000 years

Canoe Paddles: a complete guide to making your own

100 Canoe Paddle Designs

Available from Amazon

This book has been described as the Paddlemaker's Bible

Graham Warren and David Gidmark

Second edition


Making Canoe Paddles in Wood

Graham Warren

Feb 2023. Raven Rock Books




Traditional techniques

This little book contains a detailed review of the design parameters relating to performance of a canoe paddle. It also gives full details of how to make one-piece and laminated paddles together with fascinating historical information on the origins of the paddle designs featured in the book:

Northwoods (Penobscot)

Malecite St. John River





Sugar Island

Western Cree

Hudson Bay voyageur

North West Voyageur


Plans are included.

By Graham Warren. Published 1997.  Raven Rock Books. 84 pages. 8 x 5.8 inches .   ISBN-10: 0953035204  

UK customers: buy the book for £10; including postage.

Non-UK customers: buy the book for £14.00; including shipping.

“This is one of the best wood-working books of any kind I have read. Lots of detail and many tips”

About the book

About a year after the publication of my book, Making Canoe Paddles in Wood, David contacted me with the idea of collaborating on this new project. He had been working on such a book for quite a while, but felt blocked, and welcomed a little input from someone making paddles using contemporary techniques, to complement his material on paddlemaking in the native tradition. The challenge was to make the new book suitably different from Making Canoe Paddles in Wood. I set out to write a more focussed "how to" book, in contrast to the first book which is discursive in style, containing anecdotes, paddle lore and historical notes on the paddle designs described.  The books contain different sets of paddle plans.

My section of Canoe Paddles took four months to write, from September to December 1999, and 2 months to illustrate. The line illustrations were drawn using CorelDRAW! 7. Most of the paddle illustrations were scanned from photos or tracings of the original paddles, so they are quite accurate.

I took the cover photo perched up in our large ash tree with the paddles arranged on the ground beneath me. We scoured the garden for every scrap of wood to make the background. Just after the photo was taken, I slipped from the icy ladder but managed to catch a rung with one hand as I swung underneath, with the camera dangling from the other. During the same cold spell, we had to break ice on the Caldon canal to get the overhead shot of the Peterborough. You can also see the cold reflected in the pinched and blotchy hands that appear in many of the photos.

I succeeded in getting photos of all the family into the book, mostly close-ups of their hands whilst making paddles. The picture in the Child's Paddles section is of my daughter Sarah, age 7, still smiling (just) after a canoe trip across Scotland from Fort William to Inverness under difficult conditions.

The expanded edition appeared in 2015, and includes a colour section of design ideas. Making the paddles for these photos and taking the pictures occupied an intense six-week period during August-September 2014.

Explore Scotland's Wilderness Waterways by Canoe Published Jan 2022 on Apple eBooks and Amazon Kindle. The most detailed book available on canoe tripping in Scotland; 530 pages of tips, techniques, route-maps, historical information and 10 accounts of trips ranging from the Great Glen to the Maree-Fionn-Fada Circuit. Extensively illustrated.

Click here for full details

Explore Scotland's Wilderness Waterways by Canoe: a guide to paddle-and-portage-style canoe tripping.

Graham Warren. 2022 ISBN 9780953035236

This book takes over where most books on canoeing techniques end. It advocates striking out from the standard paddling routes further into Scotland’s breathtaking waterscape, linking lochs, rivers and streams in classic ‘paddle and portage’ style, in search of challenge and adventure. Although based on the author’s extensive experience of paddling off the beaten track in Scotland, the specialised techniques and customised equipment described apply equally to the more challenging type of trip in any region. As a taster of the rich store of information in this intensely practical guide, you will find tips for choosing multi-use gear, plans for making your own lightweight stoves, hints on finding campsites in unpromising terrain, ways of pitching your tarp to create a stable shelter in windy and tree-less areas, and how to load packs to maximise accessibility. Throughout the book there is an emphasis on learning for yourself, progressively developing independence and sound judgement, minimising your impact on the environment in Scotland’s threatened wild landscape.

As well as advocating the exploration of Scotland’s wilderness waterways, this book also takes the reader on a parallel exploration into the long and eventful history of canoe travel and the lore of the explorers and voyageurs of the classic Canoe Era in Canada. Much of the expertise gained by generations of paddlers in their birchbark and wood-canvas canoes is still relevant today. An awareness of the colourful story of canoe travel adds so much to the ‘feel’ of our own canoe trips. The book will take you deeper into this emotional appeal of wilderness canoe tripping by exploring such ideas as psychological responses to the landscape, the special lure of islands, and the relationship of today’s canoe tripping to the lifestyle and legends of the first people to travel through pristine landscapes by canoe.

The ideas and techniques presented in the first part of the book are brought to life in a series of ten stylish and detailed accounts of canoe trips into the wilder regions of Scotland. These accounts clearly bring out what it feels like to actually be there, traversing the wild by canoe. The stories are enlivened by many, often humorous anecdotes of similar situations and difficulties encountered by the canoe-borne explorers whilst establishing a network of canoe routes right across Canada.


Graham Warren

Now available from Apple books