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PH: 250-842-0216
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P.O. Box 418
Hazelton, BC
V0J 1Y0


Hummingbird design by Marie Smith

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The 'Paddle' Tutorial

Materials List

The base supplies needed for fixing a bentboxThe materials needed to begin making a paddle are few and inexpensive. For this exercise we have provided a list of supplies that our artisans prefer using.

  1. B. C. D - use 100, 220, 280 and 400 Grit Sandpaper
  2. Johnson's Paste Wax
  3. Masking Tape
  4. Weldbond Glue
  5. Dust Mask & Safety Glasses
  6. Sanding Block
  7. Mechanical Pencil & Eraser
  8. Red & Black Paint (Acrylic) Paint
  9. #000 & #6 size Paint Brushes
  10. Ruler
  11. Tracing Paper
The Paddle Template

To make a paddle, you will need a paddle shape cut from cedar. If you already have a paddle kit, skip to the sanding stage of instructions. Otherwise, enlarge and trace this pattern on cedar and cut. Remember, work safe and put on safety gear.

You can enlarge this pattern to whatever size suits you.

Also, there are alignment marks in the pattern to assist you with proper dimensions. Don't be afraid to change the pattern and make it yours; remember, this is your paddle.



This method is the 'wet sand method' popular with native artists. Essentially you start sanding using coarse sandpaper, graduating to finer sand paper until your wood product feels like silk. Then you apply a damp rag to your paddle to 'raise the grain' of the wood; sand this down again and you will have a super smooth surface.

Very important: When sanding cedar, always protect yourself by using dust masks and protective eye glasses.

1. Begin by sanding with 100 grit paper and sand all imperfections off the surface of the wood. Check to see if you are done by running your finger along the surface of the cedar and check for roughness. When the cedar is perfectly sanded, graduate to the 240 grit, the 280 grit, then the 400 grit sandpaper. Take care not to rush the sanding process and you will notice the cedar getting smoother as you progress. Don't be afraid to shape your paddle as shown in this example.

2. When you are done the 400 grit sanding, take a moment and feel how silky smooth the cedar feels. Now you are ready to wet the paddle by wiping the sanded cedar down with a damp rag; allow the cedar to dry completely (1/2 hour). Don't panic if your cedar feels very rough when dry, you will sand the surface again with 400 grit sandpaper only until your cedar is back to feeling like silk. The wet-sand method is done to prepare cedar surfaces for painting by raising the grain before you paint (avoids the wet paint raising the grain and leaving a rough surface on your finished project.

A photo showing how sandpaper is divided.Tip: tear your 7 by 11 inch sandpaper into 4 pieces using the straight edge of a ruler. Don't wreck your scissors.

Tip: use a piece of wood as a sanding block. Wrap a piece of sandpaper around the sanding block and start sanding.


Please, for the purposes of this tutorial - you must provide your own design. If you are using one of the YHY Paddle kits you can use the design provided.

1. Begin by tracing your design onto tracing paper. When tracing move your pencil in short strokes back and forth. The objective is to build up a nice layer of lead from the pencil for a good transfer.

2. Flip tracing paper over so that your pencil lines are face down against the cedar - make sure the design is aligned before you tape securely to the surface. Commence tracing.

When tracing, do not press heavily with the pencil as you do not want grooves indented into the cedar. Instead, use short pencil strokes, back and forth.

3. When you have traced a small section. Peel back a corner of the tracing paper so you can check the quality of tracing. If you can see the design easily, continue. If the design is hard to see, you may have to retrace your template with heavier lead lines.

Note: for demonstration purposes we have exaggerated the traced lines on bentbox picture.


  • The better you can see your traced design, the easier it is to paint.
  • When tracing is done, but before you remove the template - peel back a corner of the template and double check that you have traced all portions of the design. It is better to catch this now, otherwise you will be trying to line your template back up to traced design; or having to sketch in the missing section.


Before painting, ensure that you are clear on what you are painting red and what you are painting black.

Note: You have worked hard to sand a silky smooth surface. Take a moment to protect these surfaces by putting your paddle on a towel or wrap the underside with paper.

Paint the red parts first; then black.

Note: Before painting, use scrap paper to cover portions of the bentbox design so your hand does not rub off the pencil lines.

3. We strongly recommend investing in a set of nice quality brushes as inferior brushes will impact negatively on your work. The two sizes #000 and #6 work well for all our painting projects. Also, the acrylic paint from a tube comes in the consistency of toothpaste. You will need to mix paint with water.

If the paint bleeds out while painting, then you have added too much water. However, if your painting is lumpy, then it is too thick and needs more water.


1. We like using either Johnson's Paste Wax or Blue Label Paste Wax. Follow the directions on the can.

Essentially, you smear on a nice coating - wait until dry (2 hours minimum) then buff your paddle to a nice shine.

A picture of Tyler wearing protective eyeglasses, mask and gloves2. Although it is tempting, avoid using varathanes. Gitxsan artists like to use as natural a material as possible.

Please remember your safety gear. At all times, read the safety labels and take precautions.

Congratulations! You now have a beautifully crafted bentbox made by you.