Design & DIY

Rack up clutter with this DIY paddle tree

Rack made from paddles holding swimming accessories By Yvonne Duivenvoorden

This project gives old paddles and oars that are too cracked and worn for boating a second life on the waterfront as an all-purpose lifejacket rack. It’s a perfect hang-up for all those cottage PFDs and other odds and ends scattered around the dock, waiting to be tripped over or blown by a gust of wind into the lake. If it’s a conversation piece you are looking for, just bring the rack inside and use for coats during the winter months.

This project uses a complete oar as well as both ends of four paddles, plus the handle of one more, so not much is left for kindling. We found a beautiful, rustic oar and kept it in its original condition (hardware, peeling paint, and all); it became our inspiration for the rest of the project.


1 old oar

5 old or broken paddles

8 x 2” deck screws

5 x 1” deck screws

Robertson screwdriver

1/8” drill bit

Outdoor wood glue or exterior construction adhesive




Handsaw and mitre box or electric mitre saw



Rack made from paddles with canoe
By Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Step 1:

Salvage. We didn’t have to go too far. Almost every cottager we asked had a few feral oars they were happy to part with. Marinas are also great places to find castoffs. Look for one with a square shaft.

Step 2:

Sizing the oar. Oars come in a variety of different shapes and lengths, so consider where you want to place your rack and cut it to the appropriate height – ours is 5’10” tall.

Step 3:

The base. Cut the bottom 13” section of blade from four separate paddles. If your oar is longer than our prototype you may want a larger base for stability (ours is about 2’ x 2’).

Clamp a blade section to the oar, being careful to keep it square. To avoid splitting the old wood, drill pilot holes through the blade and into the oar using a 1/8” drill bit. Work around the oar one blade at a time. You’ll have to stagger the position of the pilot holes so the screw tips don’t collide inside the oar. Next, attach each blade to the oar with two 2” deck screws and glue, as seen in the photo below.

Base of paddle rack
By Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Step 4:

The hooks. Using an electric mitre saw or a handsaw and mitre box, cut a 4” section from the handle end of five paddles at a 20° angle. With the paddle ends held in a vice, drill pilot holes down into the cut end. Drill corresponding pilot holes in the blade of the oar, staggering them according to where you want your “hooks”. Finally, attach each paddle handle with a dollop of glue and a 1” deck screw driven through the oar blade and into the handle.

Step 5:

Finishing. To achieve the finish shown, we used two tints of paint. The appropriately named colours are Benjamin Moore “Georgian Bay” (dark blue) and “Northern Sky” (light blue). Cover random areas of the paddles and hooks using both colours and a sponge brush to create a mottled effect (make sure to leave lots of nice wood grain showing). For the finishing touch, gently hand sand some paint off to achieve a worn look. Our old oar didn’t need any antiquing; we simply left its worn paint as is.

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