A paddle is enjoyable to use when it is the right size and has the right fit for your handgrip, two things that are hard to get from a store-bought paddle. When making your own, not only can you get both of these requirements, you also achieve a sense of great satisfaction. Since all the shaping can be done with hand tools, making a paddle is a pleasantly quiet weekend project.
Few tools are required for making a paddle - a plane, a spokeshave (or drawknife) and a chisel. A standard paint scraper is a nice extra for smoothing out the handgrip. Although you can use power tools, half the fun in making a paddle is watching it take shape as the shavings fly off the blank.
Woods suitable for paddle making include cherry, spruce, maple, pine, butternut and ash. The wood you choose can dictate your paddle's shape. With hardwoods you can obtain a paddle with a wafer-thin blade, while softwoods require a thicker blade surface. A basic paddle shape is shown below, but you can easily adapt it to suit your needs. You can widen the blade or square the tip off - whatever you wish. You may even laminate different species together.