Understanding the properties of different wood species helps a project to be durable, functional and, visually appealing. I make paddles from a variety of materials. Some species are well suited to paddle making, some are not, and still other species are suited only for specific applications in paddle making.
The information in this website is the best composite of data we were able to collect. We welcome your input and any comments or information that you can contribute to the development of this site. I hope that you will find this information helpful in selecting and identifying wood species that are appropriate for a paddle or any project you are undertaking.

Species Descriptions

Green lightA green light indicates the species may be used in any paddle application as described below. Availability and renewability is good and the cost is at the standard rates quoted on our site.


yellow lightThe yellow light indicates the species should be used in moderation due to cost, availability or suitability in paddle making.


Red LightA red light indicates that the species is suitable for only a very specific application or is not suited to paddle making. This may also indicate the species is from environmentally sensitive forests.


yellow light
Alaskan Yellow Cedar

Description: Chamaecyparis nootkatensis- Alaska cedar, Alaska cypress, Alaska yellow cedar,, Nootka cypress,, Pacific Coast yellow cedar, Found in coastal forests from southwestern Alaska to northern California. The sapwood is narrow and slightly lighter than the bright, clear yellow heartwood. It has a slight odor best described as "raw potatoes". The wood is moderately heavy, soft, fine textured, straight grained, easily worked and durable. It is rated as moderate in strength, stiffness, hardness and shock resistance the timber of Alaska cedar is readily worked by both hand and machine tools. In lumber with a wavy grain, there is a tendency for the grain to pick up in planning and molding. Alaska cedar is rated as resistant to very resistant to heartwood decay. Used locally for interior trim, furniture, small boat hulls and canoe paddles, dock decking, carving, cooling towers, framing, furniture, heavy flooring, marine piling, molding, musical instruments.

Recommended use: We use this species for blade tips and edges in our Pattit. It may be use to make solid single blade paddles or as a laminate in a Greenland paddle. Paddle of this species will be slightly more expensive than those made from other materials.

Availability: Very limited, limited renew ability , we will provide this species in the future only when salvage lumber is available.

Green lightAmerican Ash

Description: Fraxinus Americana- The American ash is native to northern temperate regions of the globe. The sapwood of ash is light brown, while the heartwood is brown to grayish brown. It has no characteristic odor or taste. Ash is straight grained, heavy, hard, strong, stiff and wears smooth with high shock resistance. It machines well and glues moderately well. Ash is classed as slightly too non-resistant to heartwood decay. Ash is commonly used in handle stock, baseball bats, un-upholstered furniture, flooring, millwork, hand tools and, sporting goods such as canoe thwarts

Recommended use: as a thin single layer in a Greenland paddle to add strength or protect against abrasion on the edges of a paddle. This is suitable for hardwood tips. Ash makes a nice solid canoe paddle.

Availability: Widely available from renewable sources.

Green lightAtlantic White Cedar

Description: Chamaecyparis thyroids- Atlantic white cedar is native to the Coastal Plain of the eastern US from central Maine south to northern Florida and west to southern Mississippi. The sapwood of Atlantic white cedar is narrow and white, while the heartwood is light brown with a reddish or pinkish tinge. The wood has a characteristic aromatic odor when freshly cut and has a faint bitter taste. It is light weight and has a fine texture and a straight grain. It is moderately soft, low in shock resistance and is weak in bending and endwise compression. It is very resistant to decay, works easily with tools, shrinks little. .Atlantic white cedar is rated as resistant to very resistant to heartwood decay. Historically used in poles, shingles, wooden ware (tubs, pails & churns) and lumber and ship building.

Recommended use: although not well suited in a solid paddle this species is a perfect laminate layer in any Greenland paddle. This species is very light and flexible but very soft and you may want to add protective tips and edges to a paddle of this material. This species is very decay resistant and looks beautiful. We use Atlantic white cedar in most paddles. This is a species grown and harvested and milled in our bioregion.

Availability: Moderate available, from local renewable sources

Green lightBasswood

Tillia Americana- The natural range of American basswood is from New Brunswick to southeast Manitoba and, south to Oklahoma and east to North Carolina. The sapwood of basswood is white to cream, while the heartwood is pale to reddish brown, with darker streaks. When dry, the wood has a soapy odor. The wood is soft and light, with a fine, even texture. American Basswood works easily with tools, making it a premier carving wood. Rated as slightly or nonresistant to heartwood decay. Uses: Lumber, veneer, plywood, carvings, pulp, decoys, fiber products, furniture stock, mobile homes, shade rollers, signs, toys, sporting goods, wooden ware, and novelties.

Recommended use: Great as a laminate in any Greenland paddle or in solid canoe paddles.

Availability: Moderate available, from renewable source

yellow lightBirch

Description: Betula spp.- Birch is found principally in the northern and eastern United States. Yellow Birch is the source of most birch lumber and veneer. The wood of yellow birch is heavy, hard and strong, All Birch has a fine, uniform texture. Yellow birch is difficult to work with hand tools and difficult to glue, but easily machined. Yellow birch has white sapwood and light reddish-brown heartwood. Rated as slightly or nonresistant to heartwood decay. Yellow and Sweet Birch lumber and veneer are used principally in the manufacture of furniture, boxes, baskets, crates, wooden ware, cooperage, interior finish, and doors.

Recommended use: may be used for hardwood tips or as a thin strip to protect the blade edges from abrasion.

Availability: Widely available from renewable sources

Red LightBloodwood

Description: Brosimum Rubescens, also called Muirapiranga, Satine Rubane, Cardinal Wood, is found in the Amazon basin and the Guiana's. The heartwood is blood red in color and ages to a deep brown color. Lacquer extends aging to help preserve red color.  High bending and crushing strength. Medium stiffness and resistance to shock, but tends to splinter and has low steam bending characteristics. Blood wood is hard and heavy although it can be worked nicely you will need to sharpen your tools before and after working with this species. Blood wood is durable, stable and very rot resistant. Common uses are Cabinetmaking, furniture, decorative inlay, turning, veneers.
Recommended use: Hardwood tips and decorative strips.

Availability: A tropical hardwood of limited renew ability, we purchase it as scraps from boat builders and cabinet shops to limit our environmental impact.

Green lightBlack Cherry

Description: Prunus serotina- American Cherry, black wild cherry. Cherry is found in the eastern half of the United States, from the plains to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. It also occurs in high elevations in Mexico the sapwood is light yellow, while the heartwood is brownish with a greenish tinge, darkening upon exposure to deep reddish brown with a golden luster. The wood has a mild, aromatic scent, but no characteristic taste. It is of medium density, firm, and strong, with a fine, uniform texture. The grain is generally straight.

Recommended uses: Makes great hardwood tips on a Greenland paddle. This may also be use in horizontal 5 layer lamination as the outer most laminated on the loom. Cherry makes an exceptionally beautiful solid wood canoe paddle and is great as a laminated in any single blade paddle.

Availability: Widely available from renewable sources. This species is grown, harvested and, milled in our bioregion.

Green lightBlack Walnut

Description: Juglans nigra -American Walnut, Black Walnut.  Black Walnut is native to the eastern United States, from southern Minnesota east to, New York; south to Florida, west to Texas.. The sapwood of black walnut is nearly white, while the heartwood is light brown to dark chocolate brown, often with a purplish cast and darker streaks. The wood is heavy, hard, and stiff and has high shock resistance. Black walnut is straight grained and easily worked with hand tools and by machine. It finishes beautifully and holds paint and stain exceptionally well. It also glues and polishes well. Rated as very resistant to heartwood decay–one of the most durable woods, even under conditions favorable to decay. Uses: Furniture, fixtures, cabinets, gunstocks, novelties, interior paneling, veneer.

Recommended uses: Makes great hardwood tips on a Greenland paddle. This may also be use in horizontal 5 layer lamination as the outer most laminated on the loom. Black Walnut makes an exceptionally beautiful solid wood canoe paddle and is great as a laminated in any single blade paddle.

Availability: Widely available from renewable sources. This species is grown, harvested and, milled in our bioregion.

Red LightBubinga

Description: One of several species Guibourtia arnoldiana, also called benge, Guibourtia ehie, called ehie or ovangkol  and, , Guibourtia spp. All called bubinga all from West Africa and varying in color greatly from red to brown and yellow. Benge is yellow, ehie is gold to brown, bubinga is pink to brown with black or purple stripes. Ehie is course in texture while  bubinga and benge are fine textured. All types are hard and heavy woods that work well with sharp tools. These are moderately decay resistant species. Common uses are flooring and furniture

Recommended uses: Hardwood tips. Currently not in use.

Availability: A tropical hardwood of limited renew ability, we purchase it as scraps from boat builders and cabinet shops to limit our environmental impact

Red LightButternut

Description: Juglans cinera- Butternut is native to the eastern United States from Tennessee and western North Carolina north to southern Ontario and Quebec. The narrow sapwood of butternut is white to light brown, while the heartwood is chestnut brown with red tinges. The growth rings are distinct, with a marked difference between the size of the early wood and latewood pores. Butternut is similar to black walnut, but lighter in color and weight. It has no characteristic odor or taste. Butternut generally has a straight grain, works easily with tools, and takes a rich, lustrous finish. Rated as slightly or nonresistant to heartwood decay. Butternut is used in lumber, furniture, boxes, crates, mill work, and veneer.

Recommended use: may be used as a secondary material in Greenland paddles or as a primary material in single blades, this wood is very attractive when finished but is not as durable as many other species.

Availability: Low availability from renewable sources. We do not stock this species unless we happen across a nice log.

yellow lightEastern Red Cedar

Description: Juniperus virginiana- Eastern red cedar is native to the eastern half of the. Eastern red cedar has thin, white sapwood, while the heartwood is red to deep reddish-brown. The sapwood may be in stripes, alternating with stripes of heartwood. The wood is moderately low in strength and stiffness, but it is high in shock resistance. It shrinks little during drying and is good dimensional stability. It is easy to work by machine and has moderate hardness. It can be brittle, but has good and gluing properties. It has tight knots, which can add to the beauty of the wood. The heartwood is highly resistant to decay. The scent of the wood is said to be a natural insect repellent. Eastern red cedar is used in fence posts, chests, wardrobes, closet linings, pencils, carvings, pet bedding, furniture, flooring, and small boats Oil from the wood (cedrol) is used in the manufacture of perfumes and medicines. It is also used for Christmas trees.

Recommended use: This species can be brittle and is always very knotty. Eastern red cedar should be used for its appearance not it structural quality. When finished it can look amazing. Because of the difficulty in working this species additional charges may be added to an order.

Availability: Widely available from renewable sources. This species is grown, harvested and, milled in our bioregion.

Red LightLacewood

Description: Also called, Silky-oak, Australian Silky-oak, Northern Silky-oak, Queensland Silky-oak, selena, louro faia, comes from Australia. The heartwood is reddish brown and course textured turning brown with age. On quarter saw pieces large “eye” are visible on this straight grained lumber. Reasonable good working ability with sharp tools. (A reduced cutting angle increase workability.) Slight resistance to wear and moderate decay resistance. Commonly use in decorative veneers and specialty items and priced very high in the USA. This wood may cause respiratory problems when cut always wear a mask.

Recommended use: As a thin decorative veneer in any paddle. Its is very cool looking but you should be seated when I you get your price quote!

Availability: A tropical hardwood of limited renew ability, we only have this when a small piece finds its way across my path. I once saw a piece that was part of a shipping pallet and salvaged it for a paddle.

Red LightMahogany

Description: The name mahogany is used to describe several distinct kinds of commercial wood. American West Indies mahogany , Swietenia mahagoni, was the species used as early as the 1600’s in Europe for furniture making because of its beauty and work ability. African mahogany, Khaya spp. , is similar in appearance and quality and is used in fine furniture as well. Philippine mahogany, Shorea spp. , is third lumber variety to adopt the name mahogany and is the most common variety to be found on the market often referred to as luan.
African mahogany, Khaya ivorensis, is found on the coastal belt of the high forest of west central Africa.  Closely related K. anthotheca, is an inland species native to drier climates in the area and less widely distributed.  The heartwood varies from dark brownish red to pale pink and has an interlocking grain and texture is course. These species are moderately decay resistant. These species are used in cabinet and furniture as well as in boat building.
American Mahogany, Swietenia mahagoni, also called true or Honduras mahogany, ranges from Mexico south to Bolivia. Heart wood is pale pink or salmon to a dark reddish brown. The grain is usually straighter then African species. The grain varies form fine to course, and the wood is considered decay resistant, nicely workable and stable. This species is used in all fine wood working including boat building and musical instruments.

Recommended use: hardwood tips.

Availability: Moderate available & low  renewability

yellow lightMaple

Acer saccharum- sugar maple, found in most of North America,. Maple lumber comes principally from the Middle Atlantic and Lake States. The wood of sugar maple and black maple is known as hard maple; that of silver maple, red maple, and box elder as soft maple. The sapwood of the maples is commonly white with a slight reddish-brown tinge; the heartwood is light reddish brown, but sometimes is considerably darker. .Hard maple has a fine, uniform texture, turns well on a lathe, is resistant to abrasion and has no characteristic odor or taste. It is heavy, strong, stiff, hard, and resistant to shock, and it has large shrinkage. Sugar maple is generally straight grained but the grain also occurs as "birds-eye," "curly," and "fiddle back" grain.. Maple lumber sometimes has olive or greenish black discolored areas known as mineral streak or mineral stain, which may be due to injury. Maple wood stains well and takes a high polish. It is intermediate in gluing and has low decay resistance.

Recommended use: Hardwood tips and as a laminate in a single blade paddle.

Availability: Widely available from renewable sources.

yellow lightOak

Description: Quercus spp.- The sapwood of oak is white to very light pinkish brown, while the heartwood is light to reddish dark brown. Oak wood has a course texture; it is heavy, straight-grained, hard, tough, very stiff, and strong. Oak wood has good working properties. It machines and glues well.. Oak finishes well, but shrinks considerably. Oak is commonly used in ships, railroad crossties, timber bridges, tannin dyes, fuel wood, hardwood dimensions and flooring, furniture, veneer, plywood, barrels, kegs and casks (white oak group), truck and trailer beds, mining timbers, containers, pallets, boxes, paneling.

Recommended use: Hardwood tips..

Availability: Widely available from renewable sources

Red LightPadauk

Description: also called,  Mbe, Mbil (Cameroon), Ngula, Bosulu (Zaire), ranges from central to tropical West Africa and grows in  dense equatorial rain forests, often in small groups. The heartwood is vivid orange to red when freshly cut darkening to a purple brown on exposure. Texture coarse; grain straight to interlocked; lustrous; faint aromatic scent when freshly cut. Sawdust may cause respiratory problems. This is heavy and hard wood that is difficult to tool.

Recommended use: Hardwood tips

Availability: A tropical hardwood of limited renew ability, we purchase it as scraps from boat builders and cabinet shops to limit our environmental impact

Green lightPine

Description: Pinus spp.- there are a lot of different types of pine each a bit different however Ponderosa Pine is a lumber species. Botanically, ponderosa pine belongs to the yellow pine group rather than the white pine group. The heartwood is yellowish to light reddish brown or orange and the wide sapwood is nearly white to pale yellow. It is straight grained and has moderately small shrinkage. It is quite uniform in texture and has little tendency to warp and twist. Widely distributed throughout the Rocky Mountains and mountains of the Pacific coast. . It also grows in northern Mexico. Ponderosa pine is not durable unless treated with a preservative, under conditions favorable to decay. It is rated as slightly to nonresistant to decay. Ponderosa pine is used mainly for lumber and to a lesser extent for piles, poles, posts, mine timbers, veneer, and railroad crossties. The clear wood is especially well suited for millwork, such as window frames, doors, shelving, moldings, sash doors, blinds, paneling, mantels, trim, and built-in cases and cabinets. Lower grade lumber is used for boxes and crates. Much of the lumber of intermediate or lower grades goes into sheathing, sub flooring, and roof boards. Knotty ponderosa pine is used for interior finish. A considerable amount now goes into particleboard and paper.

Recommended use: may be used as a primary material in any paddle.

Availability: Widely available from renewable sources

Green lightPoplar

Description: Liriodendron tulipifera- southern yellow poplar, tulip poplar, tulip tree, tulipwood, white poplar, Found in most of the eastern United States. Yellow Poplar sapwood is white, sometimes with green or grey to black stripes, while the heartwood is usually tan, it can range from greenish brown to dark green, purple, black, blue and yellow. The wood is straight grained, uniform in texture and moderate to light weight. Yellow Poplar has a reputation of being one of the easiest of all hardwoods to work with hand and machine tools. It works well in planning, turning, gluing and boring. It holds stain and paint well. Poplar is used for lumber, veneer, pulpwood, furniture, plywood, interior finish, dimension stock, gunstocks, musical instruments, toys, novelties, hat blocks, sporting goods, pallets, shipping crates, slack cooperage, and particle board.

Recommended use: may be used as a laminate in any paddle or to make a solid single blade paddle.

Availability: Widely available from renewable sources

yellow lightPort Orford cedar

Description: Chamaecyparis lawsoniana- Lawson cypress, Oregon cedar, Oregon cypress, Port-Orford-cedar, Port-Orford-cedar is native to a narrow zone near the Pacific Coast from southwest Oregon (Lane County and Coos Bay) south to northwest California (Mad River and locally in the Mount Shasta area). The sapwood of Port-Orford-cedar varies from nearly white to a pale yellowish brown the heartwood is yellowish white to pale yellowish brown. The wood has a fine, even texture and the grain is even and straight. It has a characteristic odor (from volatile oils), described as "ginger like" and a bitter, spicy taste. It is moderately light in weight and is stiff, strong, hard and somewhat shock resistant. It shrinks slightly when dried, with little tendency to warp. It works well with tools.. The heartwood is highly resistant to decay. It holds paint and polishes well. It weathers to a light gray, with a silvery sheen, without checks.: Port-Orford-cedar works well with tools. It is rated as resistant or very resistant to heartwood decay. Port Orford cedar is used in arrow shafts, storage battery separators, Venetian blind slats, sashes, doors, interior finish millwork, mothproof linings for boxes and closets, boats, matches, general construction, water tanks, bridges, dock planking, railroad ties and mine timbers.

Recommended use: May be used as a laminate material in any paddle however, it  is of limited availability and when available priced slightly higher then other cedar species.

Availability: limited available, limited renew ability

Red LightPurple Heart

Description: Peltogyne spp, also called amaranth, ranges from the Brazilian Amazon to Mexico. When fresh cut the wood is brownish grey but turns a purple color when exposed to light and  air for a few days. Over time the wood turns dark brown. This is very strong heavy wood. It is very difficult to work with any tools and dulls tools fast. It is very resistant to decay. Always wear gloves when working with this species as you can get some nasty splinters. The dust from the wood is toxic always wear a dust mask when cutting as with all wood species. Common uses are in heavy construction and as for use in pool cues and as accents in  fine wood working.

Recommended use: Hardwood tips

Availability: A tropical hardwood of limited renew ability, we purchase it as scraps from boat builders and cabinet shops to limit our environmental impact

Red LightRosewood 

Description: Dalbergia stevensonii also know as  Palissandre du Bresil (French), Jacaranda de Brasil (Spanish), Cabiuna, Caviuna, Jacaranda (Brazil), ranges are scattered in the eastern forests of Bahia and southward to Espirito Santo and Rio de Janeiro and inland to include Minas Gerais.  Because of long-time exploitation, the tree has become very scarce in the more accessible regions. Other similar species of India rose wood are also marketed. For this reason we seldom use this species unless salvage wood is available. Heartwood is brown to violet irregularly and conspicuously streaked with black. Grain generally straight; texture medium to rather coarse; luster medium; fragrant rose-like odor, taste distinctive but don’t try it again always wear a dust mask when working with wood. Works very nicely, some specimens may be too oily to take a good polish. Very resistant to decay.
Commonly use in fine wood working

Recommended use: If you want a heavy paddle you can't afford and want to feel bad about cutting down the rain forest this is the species for you!.

Availability: A tropical hardwood of limited renewability. We only have this in stock when we are working on musical instruments.

yellow lightSitka Spruce

Description: Piecea sitchensis,  also called British Columbia sitka-spruce, coast spruce, great tideland spruce, Menzies spruce, silver spruce, western spruce, yellow spruce. Sitka spruce ranges from southern Alaska (Kodiak Island and Cook Inlet) , along the coast as far south as northern California. The sapwood is a creamy white to light yellow, while the heartwood is pinkish yellow to brown. The wood has a fine, uniform texture and generally has a straight grain. It is moderately light in weight, moderately stiff, moderately soft, and moderately low in resistance to shock. On the basis of weight, it rates high in strength properties and can be obtained in clear, straight-grained pieces. It can be worked easily (when free of knots). It has a low resistance to decay and is resistant to preservation treatments under pressure, but can be treated by a water diffusion process. Thin panels of Sitka spruce are highly resonant, making them desirable for piano sounding boards. Common uses include lumber, pulpwood, sounding boards for high quality pianos, guitar faces, ladders, components for experimental light aircraft, oars, planking, masts and spars for boats, and turbine blades. Working with fresh cut lumber my cause irritation wear protective clothing and a mask.

Recommended use: We don’t use it because we can’t get it very often but it is fine in most paddle making applications

Availability: Moderate available, renew ability unknown

Green lightSpanish Cedar

Description: The term Spanish cedar refers to a group of 6 or more species in the Cedrelo genus that are distributed from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. Spanish cedar is one of the few tropical trees that are ring-porous. The heart wood varies from white to pink, the texture is usually coarse and uneven and has a non interlocking grain. The wood has a distinctive odor ( cigar boxes are made of this species). Although not high in strength, it is straight grained and rot resistant and works well. Common uses are boat building, plywood, furniture, humidors, and decorative accent work. This is a species related to mahogany.

Recommended use: Makes a great looking laminate in any paddle

Availability: Moderate available, renew ability unknown

Red LightTeak

Description: Of the family Verbenaceae , Tectona grandis L also known as Kyun (Burma), Teck (French), Teca (Spanish). Is  Native to India, Burma, Thailand, Indochina, including Indonesia and is extensively cultivated in plantations within its natural range as well as in tropical areas of Africa and Latin America. Heartwood dark golden yellow, turning a dark brown with exposure, often very variable in color when freshly machined showing blotches and streaks of various shades; sapwood pale yellowish, sharply demarcated. Grain straight, sometimes wavy; texture coarse, uneven (ring porous); dull with an oily feel; scented when freshly cut. Dust may cause skin irritations. High resistance to water absorption. Easily worked with both hand and machine tools and dresses to a very smooth finish if tools are kept sharp. Commonly used in Shipbuilding, joinery, furniture, flooring, carving, cabinetwork, paneling, turnery, fixtures requiring high resistance to acids.

Recommended use: Use teak in any paddle application when your are tired of using your money to start campfires or as a shammy to polish your car and want a new way to throw away cash.

Availability: A tropical hardwood of limited renewability.

Green lightWestern Red Cedar

Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) grows in the Pacific Northwest and along the Pacific coast to Alaska. The heartwood of western red cedar is reddish or pinkish brown to dull brown and the sapwood nearly white. The sapwood is narrow,. The wood is generally straight grained and has a uniform but rather coarse texture. It has very small shrinkage. This species is light in weight, moderately soft, low in strength when used as a beam or posts, and low in shock resistance. Its heartwood very resistant to decay. The timber works well with both hand tools and machine operations. Western red cedar is rated as resistant to very resistant to heartwood decay. Western red cedar is used principally for shingles, lumber, poles, posts, and piles.

Recommended use: May be used in any paddle as a laminate or to make a solid paddle.

Availability: Widely available, renew ability becoming more limited.

Source data for this page came from: United States Forestry Service

For more information about Wood properties and uses visit USFS. Forest product research labs wood hand book


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