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How to Make a Pickleball Paddle

Close-up shot of pickleball paddle and ball.

Pickleball is a fun and engaging sport. When it comes to paddles, there are a multitude to choose from. They can be made from wood, graphite, carbon fiber, or fiberglass.

Sure, you can buy a great pickleball paddle, but you can also make your own. This honors the history of pickleball, and allows you to customize your paddle on a budget.

History of Pickleball Paddles

Athlete demonstrates the pickleball ready position for the paddle.

Before we get into how to make a pickleball paddle, let’s take a moment to learn about the original pickleball paddle. The first pickleball paddle was simply a modified ping pong paddle. These weren’t great for the game, because they often broke during play.

Enterprising players soon began making their own paddles out of wood. These paddles were thicker and larger than a ping pong paddle, and quickly became popular. They offered more power and durability.

Eventually, innovation made its way to the pickleball paddle. The first modern paddle was made from composite materials used in Boeing aircraft. The paddle introduced by Arlen Paranto provided a lighter weight paddle, without sacrificing durability.

Over time, other features including edge guards and honeycomb cores were added. Today’s paddles feature different materials for the surface and the cores. In fact, choosing the right one can seem overwhelming.

If you want to go back to a simpler time, or simply want an inexpensive pickleball paddle, the wooden paddle of days gone by can be made at home.

Making a Pickleball Paddle

Pickleball Paddle on a white background.

You can make your own pickleball paddle with these simple steps. You’ll need a few tools and materials, but it’s not a difficult process. Throughout the article, we will talk about the IPF guidelines.

However, the USA Pickleball Association doesn’t allow homemade paddles in sanctioned tournaments, according to Rule 2.E.5.

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1. Choose Your Material

The first step is choosing your material. Wood is recommended. It’s inexpensive and easy to work with.

However, if you are brave enough and have the correct tools, you could also make one from aluminum. When it comes to wood, the choice is yours. Plywood is the most common material, but any type of wood can work.

The International Federation of Pickleball, or IFP, states that the material should be rigid and non-compressible. Stringed rackets or other styles that produce a trampoline effect are not allowed.

2. Choose a Template

Next, you’ll need a template for your paddle. You can find a basic template at Pickleball Central. You can adjust the template to fit your needs, or design your own template.

When choosing you paddle dimensions, you’ll need to consider the IPF rule book. They state that the most common measurements are 8″ wide and 15 3/4″ long. The total length and width of the paddle shouldn’t be more than 24″.

You should also consider the thickness of your paddle. There are no regulations on thickness, but most paddles are 3/8″ thick. You’ll also need to consider the desired shape of your paddle when choosing a template.

The standard paddle is square shaped. It’s considered the most  balanced. This paddle offers a greater surface area at the top of the paddle, which can be helpful when reaching for shots.

However, it’s less aerodynamic, which can slow speed slightly. Elongated paddles are typically narrower and longer. It provides a greater reach and power, but may offer less control.

Oval paddles are more aerodynamic. This offers greater speed. It provides a bigger sweet spot, and allows you to put more spin on the ball.

Of course, it also offers less surface area when you are reaching for the ball.

3. Attach the Template

Next, you’ll need to transfer the template to your paddle material. The easiest way to do this is to trace the template with a pencil. You can also attach the template to the paddle material using glue or spray adhesive.

If you use this material, you’ll need to remove the template later in the process.

4. Cut the Paddle

Building contractor worker using hand held worm drive circular saw to cut boards on a new home construction project.

Now you are ready to cut the paddle out, based on the template. You can use any tool you have available, as long as it will cut the material you’ve chosen. It should be easy to cut accurately.

5. Sand

You’ll need to sand your paddle. If you attached your template to the paddle, sanding is one way to remove the template. You can also remove it by soaking it in water or adhesive remover, but sanding is usually the easiest way.

Regardless, you’ll need to sand the paddle after cutting. This includes the face, edges, and the handle of the paddle. You can use a sander, or sand the paddle by hand.

Since the paddle is relatively small, either option will work well. If sanding by hand, consider using a sanding block for flat surfaces. A rough face may hinder your shots, and rough edges can cause minor cuts or splinters, so you shouldn’t skip this step.

Sanding will also make the finished product look better and more professional. Regulation states that the surface can’t be rougher than 40μm peak-to-valley. If you use plywood, it can be very difficult to meet this standard.

However, you are unlikely to use your diy paddle in tournaments, so you don’t have to worry too much about this aspect.

6. Handle Options

You’ll need your handle to be thicker than the paddle itself. There are two ways to accomplish this. You can use another piece of wood you have on hand to create a handle.

An old hockey stick or similar material makes an excellent handle. Cut the handle material to the needed specifications. Cut a slot in the paddle handle.

The handle material should fit inside this slot. Use wood glue to attach the handle. You can further secure it with a screw on each side.

Again, this is out of regulation. If you plan on playing for fun and bragging rights only, this is fine. Once this is done, you can add a finishing material.

Tennis tape, hockey tape, and even duct tape can work well. You can also use the standard template, and attach foam or wood to the handle with adhesive. Then, use a tennis grip to finish the handle.

Tennis, hockey, or duct tape can also be used to finish the grip.

7. Optional Wrist Strap

If you’d like to add a wrist strap to your paddle, you can do so easily. The easiest method is to use a screw hook. Simply screw the hook into the end of the handle.

Then, add string or a similar material to make the strap. The other way to do this is to drill a hole through the handle. You can then thread the string through the hole, and tie it into a loop.

8. Decorating Your Paddle

Pickleball Paddle and pickle ball of court.

Now, you are ready to decorate your paddle. If you are following the IPF rule book, there are some regulations you should be aware of. The rule book states that the hitting surface can’t contain holes, indentations, or rough texturing.

Tape, reflective surfaces, and any features that may provide an advantage are also prohibited. Even if you aren’t concerned about keeping your paddle regulation friendly, you should follow these rules. You don’t want to decorate your paddle in a way that gives you an advantage over other players.

This would remove some of the fun from the game, and certainly goes against the spirit of the sport. As long as you are within the IPF guidelines, you can decorate your paddle anyway you like. You can use paint, stickers, or even a picture of your boss.

How to Make a Pickleball Paddle? (FAQs)

Is  heavy or lighter pickleball paddle better?

Lighter and heavier paddles have their advantages. Lighter paddles give you more control, but less power. Heavier paddles sacrifice control, but provide more power.

Is Pickleball Paddle Thickness Important?

The thickness of your pickleball paddle is important. There are no regulations on the thickness of the paddle. It’s been found that a thicker core provides more consistency.

This may also hold true for the thickness of homemade paddles. However, thickness also affects weight. A thicker paddle will weigh more than a thinner paddle.

Is a wood paddle good for pickleball?

Wooden paddles are ok for pickleball. They will not offer the high performance of paddles made from other materials. However, they are inexpensive, durable, and user friendly.

If you play as a hobby or are just starting out, a wooden paddle is fine.