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Venetian Paddles

Paolo Brandolisio is one of the few remaining makers of traditional Venetian oars and oarlocks for gondolas and other Venetian rowed boats.

Last year, out of curiosity, I took a couple of my old worn Greenland paddles down to his little workshop close to San Marco, and asked him if he could make me a replica, if only a bit shorter, sharper, smoother …

Within a week he passed me a paddle, from his doorway on the canal behind the workshop, so I could give its try. It was absolutely brilliant, even if it was just a trial cut made of whatever sticks had littered the floor of his shop.

Paolo is truly a great craftsman, and an artist.

He has by now started a small production of beautiful Venetian kayak paddles, which can be bought directly from his shop, where you can also find many other things, like miniature oarlocks and carved ornaments.

Paolo’s paddles are made from a variety of wood, depending on where it goes on the finished paddles, just like each bit of a gondola is made of a specific type of wood, for the correct degrees of weight, durability,stiffness and water resistance.

They’re not only high quality paddles, they’re little works of art and history, embodying a thousand years of wood working traditions.

Paolo currently makes three different models.

The basic paddle is made of one single piece of wood, with inserts of hard wood to reinforce the edges of the blade.

The paddles I have are made of more pieces of wood, to make a light, stiff and yet durable paddle. The paddles are all individual, but usually made of light wood in the middle, reinforced by inserts of hardwood along the edges and tips of the blades.

Lastly, Paolo can paint the paddles on the same designs as gondola paddles are often painted. This makes for some very Venetian souvenirs to take home for display, or use if you can get yourself to do it.

I now have three of his paddlers, some of the very first. They’re now as worn as the ones I brought him a year and a half ago.

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