WEDNESDAY IS HOMEMADE PIZZA NIGHT at our house. Everybody likes different toppings, so we each make our own personal size pizza. My favorite is hot Italian sausage with tomatoes, mushrooms and mozzarella. Making pizza is especially easy with ready-made crusts, and you can bake them right on the oven rack.
As a home pizza specialist/woodworker, I decided to create my-own paddle. Restaurant chefs use similar paddles (called “peels” in the trade) to efficiently slide pizzas in and out of their ovens. Making my own paddle was fun and easy, and using it makes me feel like a proper pizza chef. Now I just need the proper chef’s hat!
All you need to make your own paddle is a board for the handle and wide blade, a couple thin strips for accents, a 12″ planer, and a simple shop-made tapering sled. The completed paddle measures 11-3/8″ x 24″, the perfect size to handle 12″ pizzas.
Starting with a 3/4″ x 6″ x 24″ board, rip a 1-3/8″ strip from one side to create the handle (Photo 1).Then use the wide off cut to make the blade pieces. Mark the centerline and draw a small radius at each end, on opposite sides. Then make a single S-shaped bandsaw cut to create a pair of pieces with one rounded (outside) shoulder and one transitional (inside) shoulder.
Cut the paddle’s three main pieces from a single board. First, rip the handle. Then bandsaw the remaining section into the two side pieces. after marking radii on opposite sides of the centerline.
Rip a pair of 3/4″ x 1/2″ x 14″ maple strips to accent the walnut blade. Position all the parts for assembly. You can’t use biscuits or dowels to help with alignment, because the blade is going to be tapered, so make sure the parts are flat. Joint all the edges and then glue and clamp the assembly(Photo 2).Before tapering, plane the paddle to 9/16″thick.
Add accent strips between the handle and the sides and glue the paddle together. The wide part that holds the pizza is called the “blade.”
The sled is simply a base with a tapered platform that holds the paddle at an angle as it passes through the planer (see Fig. A).The platform consists of three long rails that taper from 3/4″ to 0″.To make consistently tapered rails, tack together three 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 24″ blanks, using double sided tape. Bandsaw the long taper and smooth the cut edge by sanding. Then pull the rails apart.
Glue the front stop to the leading edge of the base. Glue the tapered rails to the sled’s base with the tall ends butted up against the stop. Glue the front support strips between the tall ends of the tapered strips. These strips support the front edge of the paddle while planing. Lay the paddle on the sled and frame the handle by gluing blocks on both sides and behind. This frame correctly positions the paddle on the sled.
Drill and countersink a hole in the end of the handle. When the paddle is finished, you can use this hole to hang it on the wall, but for now, use it to screw the paddle to the sled for added security (Photo 3).
Install the paddle in the tapering sleel. Secure it by driving a screw through a hanging hole drilled in the end of the handle.
Start planning (Photo 4),feeding the blade end first. Take light passes to avoid tear-out. Continue until the tip of the blade is 1/8″ thick. Round the corners on the leading edge of the blade. At the top end of each accent strip, extend and fair the transitional curve from the blade piece to the handle. Round over the sharp edges and make the handle comfortable to hold (Photo 5).Use a sander or block plane to bevel the leading edge of the blade to 1/16″ thick, or slightly less, so it’s easy to get under the pizza (Photo 6).Finish sand and add a coat of food-safe mineral oil to beautify and protect the wood.
Taper the paddle using the planer. Take light passes until the blade’s leading edge is 1/8″ thick.
Ease the handle’s sharp edges to create a comfortable grip.
Round the front corners of the blade and bevel its edge to slightly less than 1/16″.