Design & DIY

15 fantastic ways to upcycle old canoe paddles

two paddles used to make a picture frame

In an ideal world, canoe paddles would spend their lives doing nothing but “dip dip and swing,” but most of us have one or two (or more) tucked into a corner of the shed or garage that simply aren’t being used. Tired of having them fall over with a clatter every time you walk within arms’ length? Turn them into something useful! Here are some great ways to use old canoe paddles that don’t involve throwing them in the fire pit.

Child’s name room decor

Photo by Etsy

Nothing like getting them started in the canoeing mindset nice and early. A painted canoe paddle with inexpensive letters is a great way to decorate a child’s room that won’t seem immature when they get a little older.

Whimsical curtain rod

A super-easy way to add a unique touch to a room. Just make sure your curtain rings are large enough to fit around your paddle.

Nifty distressed headboard

Take a two-by-four, nail paddles to it, mount on the wall. Voila—a unique headboard. The more shades of weathered wood, the better. Or you can spruce up the paddles with a coat or two of glossy paint.

Muskoka chair with a twist

Take the traditional back off a Muskoka chair, replace it with paddles, and you’ve got a seriously cool cottage chair. Just make sure to sand and varnish the paddles so your guests don’t get splinters.

Picture hanger

The family that canoes together stays together. Show off your family’s love of the great outdoors with a canoe paddle, some inexpensive hooks and some butcher’s twine. Frames that are equally as weathered as the paddle will help create a cohesive look.

Wall decor

A little sanding and some glossy paint will turn your old paddles into sculptural wall hangings. Chevrons are particularly popular these days, but don’t feel like you’re limited to stripes—try vines, waves or feather motifs to bring the outdoors in.

Paddle towel rack

A paddle mounted on handrail brackets makes a perfect towel rack for a cottage bathroom. Add a coat of varnish to the paddle to avoid damage from moisture.

Coat rack

Depending on your wall space, you can hang your paddles vertically or horizontally. Whatever you choose, this is a great way to help corral coats and other hanging items.


If you’ve got books on canoeing (or even if you don’t) they’ll fit perfectly on this simple bookshelf made of two paddles. Cut off the curved end of the paddle so the shelf sits flat on the floor.

Picture frame

These are old oars, but there’s no reason this idea couldn’t work with canoe paddles as well. This is one project where you don’t have to be super careful—the more weathered and rough the frame and the picture wire, the better.

Stair railing

If you’re able to affix it firmly to the wall, a paddle (or two) makes a great handrail for a set of stairs.

Stair railing, part two

If you don’t want to use a single paddle as a railing—and you’ve got A LOT of paddles on hand—trade out traditional bannister supports for paddles trimmed down to size.

Wall vignette

Whether you choose to personalize it or not, a paddle makes a nice, shabby-chic addition to a gallery wall.


Take two canoe paddles, add two cross-pieces (bonus marks if you carve out handles on both ends), mount a mirror behind and voila—a mirror where you can check to make sure your Tilley hat isn’t crooked before you head out on the lake.

House number

Here’s a great way to bring the nautical theme outdoors—simply paint a paddle, add some numbers in a contrasting colour (so they’re nice and visible) and your guests will know you take your paddling very seriously.