Paddle finishing advice sought

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Aug 20, 2013
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In rural coastal Carolina I came upon this paddle for sale in a breakfast/bait store where the local outdoorsmen gather. It is unfinished, pine I believe. Creek boats are used here to get into the swamps and I'm pretty sure this paddle is to be used for that purpose.

Using what I have on hand, I'm inclined to treat it with some tung oil and then epoxy the tip.

Is this a bad idea, or should I be doing something else?

And yes, I'm clumsy. This was the best I could do trying to include a photo.
 

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Joined
Feb 1, 2013
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Hmmm....almost looks like an oar with that thick shaft and lack of a grip. Your treatment would work well, it is the preferred method for many with one piece paddles. People usually debate between oiling or varnishing, with proponents on both sides. I often completely cover mine with a thin layer of epoxy and then varnish it, but oiling is simple, and you just need to re-oil every once in a while.
 
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Oil has little long lasting water protection unless applied much more than once a year. My oiled gunwales require weekly reoiling. I now use marine spar varnish on all my paddle blades. Shafts are oiled at the grip and about six inches along the shaft above the neck of the paddle. I like the feel of oil better. Others don't.

I don't see the need for lots of epoxy..maybe at the tip and edges. My creek paddles are covered in 2 oz glass and varnish. Five coats of varnish on the blade.
 
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All my paddles are carbon so it may be a bit of apples to oranges but I wonder if people would like the feel of a varnished shaft/grip better if it was wet sanded with fine sandpaper. I love the feel of my ZRE and ONNO shafts but didn't like the feel of my Epic when I got it. The ZRE and ONNO shafts are wet sanded, the Epics are glossy. The wet sanded shafts (about 1600 grit) aren't rough but they give a soft feel that, while not slippery, slide through the hand nicely. They actually feel like they give more grip when wet.

The glossy Epic shaft seemed to grab onto your skin more and I thought it was more prone to causing blisters. It also turned slippery when wet. I wet sanded the shaft with 1600 grit, which took about a minute, and was much happier with it.

Alan
 
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Interesting. I believe I'll wet sand the shaft and grip of a new Grey Owl and try it out before I do the oil thing.

Sandpaper currently soaking...
 
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Great! I'll be interested to hear how it works out for you. I never bother soaking the sandpaper. I either dunk it quick or else wet the surface I'm sanding. If it starts to dry just spray on a little more water.

Alan
 
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I was just thinking about this and wondering if 1600 was what I really used or not. I thought maybe I better do a google search and see if I could find a grit recommendation. Lo and behold the first search result was an old post of mine on Pnet that I forgot I'd even done. Seems 800-1000 is the most commonly preferred. So if 1600 doesn't do the trick you might try a little coarser.

Be careful when buying sandpaper. Some papers have a "P" in front of the grit, especially the black wet/dry stuff sold in town here. This is a fancy schmancy European grading that is slightly different from ours. If I remember correctly P600 equates to some something around 350 in our "normal" sandpaper.

Alan
 
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toronto
generally i use hardwood paddles -- i oil the shaft, usually with linseed/turps and work it in with wool socks, steel wool and sometimes paper...it builds up a nice silky glossy patina, tho it does darken the wood in the wear areas...the wood absorbs the oils so you get a deep penetration that resists chipping and other areas where water can get in. I spar-varnish the blades, and nowdays use urethane adhesives to treat any splits dents and bumps at the tip...

For softer woods like pine....or spuce or cedar...i'd be leaning towards a good spar varnish all the way up, tho you may want to leave the grip oil only...and yeah -- if you do go varnish on the shaft and grip -- go over it with some super-fine sandpaper, or steel wool when you're done...makes a big difference as Alan Gage has suggested...
 
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I owned an autobody shop for quite a few years that specialized in restorations thus I've a couple decades of hands-on experience with wet sanding :)

Just finished my paddle using standard (CAMI) 600 wet/dry on a medium density hand pad. Slicked her right up resulting in a very nice silky feel. Much less sticky than the plastic feel of the varnish finish.

Why I never thought to do this before is beyond me. I've always just stripped the shaft and grip of a new canoe paddle and went to work with the oil to replicate the feel of my Greenland cedar kayak paddles.

I'm thinkin' I'm going to like this quite a lot in terms of comfort and durability. I'll get to try it out Friday when I take delivery of a nice new Magic.

Thanks for the suggestion, Alan.
 
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I owned an autobody shop for quite a few years that specialized in restorations thus I've a couple decades of hands-on experience with wet sanding :)

Never mind then. :)

Just finished my paddle using standard (CAMI) 600 wet/dry on a medium density hand pad. Slicked her right up resulting in a very nice silky feel. Much less sticky than the plastic feel of the varnish finish.

Great! Hope it feels good on the water too.

I'll get to try it out Friday when I take delivery of a nice new Magic.

Awesome! I think you'll like that boat. If I had to get rid of all my boats except for one, and that's quite a few boats, the Magic is the one I'd keep, no doubt about it.

Alan
 
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Many thanks!; some nice ideas to ponder. Based upon suggestions I'm inclined to varnish at least the blade. Can I assume once you choose a finish liquid, barring major work, you are committed to that that for good? Next stab at the photos.

Opinions welcome - stain it first, or not?

Creek Paddle1 (2).jpgCreek Paddle2 (2).jpg
 
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Pine takes stain unevenly unless you first seal it. What are you making for a grip? I wouldn't worry too much about this paddle. Its a good piece to experiment on. Sanding will take off varnish if you don't like it. and this paddle is well not a piece of art. Look at the shoulders.. the slope is not equal and the corners at the tip have different radii. It might be an opportunity to even things out with a rasp or plane now.
 
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Thanks for the info on varnish; it's good to know I can retreat if I don't like it.

You're right in not worrying about the paddle - it cost me $10. Seemed a stunning price - I would expect to pay close to that for a length of 1X6 to start with. It is more of a curiosity piece, than something I ever expect to use much, or at all.

I hadn't considered a grip...I'm likely to leave its as is. Partly to preserve authenticity, but not doing more appeals to the slacker in me. But it is unfinished - it deserves that - after all someone did take the time to craft it.
 
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Well I have no idea how you are going to hold it or its orientation in the boat. So I have no input where to varnish or oil.. Frankly I don't know how that tool is used. Maybe you have a picture of it in use?
 
Joined
Jan 8, 2014
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Once you find a paddle, varnish the blade and oil the shaft and the grip. Sand it and stain it any way you want. The epoxy on the edge is helpful for river paddling and maybe for traveling in shallow swampy country where you might be pushing off the bottom or trees.
 
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Nov 29, 2012
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southwest Indiana
Like memaquay, I have taken to bright finishing wood (both canoe trim and paddles) using a couple of coats of low viscosity epoxy (I use System Three Clear Coat) covered by about 3 coats or so of marine varnish. It seems to me to result in a more durable finish than varnish alone, and yields a cosmetic result equivalent to using 6 or 7 coats of varnish.

I agree with yellowcanoe that oil finishes are not very durable. I have used a wide variety of "penetrating oils" on the gunwales of my whitewater canoes, on which a bright finish would likely get quickly scratched up, and found that they really don't penetrate much at all. After one or two runs the gunwales have bare spots where my hand has rubbed against the rail.

It has been said that varnished finishes on paddle grips and shafts are more likely to raise blisters. I have never found it to be so, but lately I have been experimenting with oiling the grips of a couple of flat water paddles and I agree that it has a nicer feel. I have left the shafts varnished, however.

If you want to use this oar as a paddle I think you would find it a lot more functional if you add some type of a grip. I wouldn't worry too much about ruining its authenticity. It doesn't appear to be any heirloom. You can make a functional T grip out of a short length of pine dowel a little bigger in diameter than the top of the oar shaft. Just decide what length shaft you want, cut it to length taking into account an inch or so of shaft that will go into the dowel grip, drill a hole in the side of the dowel the diameter of the oar shaft, and bond the two together using water proof glue or epoxy.

Before finishing the blade with either oil or varnish, I would try to sand the areas of discolored wood down to clean wood, if possible. Otherwise the discolored areas will still be visible beneath your finish.
 
Joined
Feb 1, 2013
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Ontario
You could always use it as is without adding a grip but it would take some getting used to. There are museum paddles which lack a defined grip and some photographic evidence of their usage too. Just wouldn't fit within the guidelines of modern paddling technique...

Here are two examples in the American Museum of Natural History
10_19.jpg

Catalog No: 10 / 19
Culture: OJIBWA
Locale: LAKE HURON AND LAKE SUPERIOR
Accession No: 1869-90-70

50_6501.jpg

Catalog No: 50 / 6501
Culture: IROQUOIS
Country: CANADA
Dimensions: L:126 W:6.3 H:2 [in CM]
Accession No: 1907-8

Here's a photo of an Ojibwe family using some...
Ojibwe+Family+Bark+Canoe.jpg

Ojibwe Family in Bark Canoe (1880s)
Source:http://www.ojibwe.org/home/epsd6_photos.html
 
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Merci to Murat for the excellent photos. It looks like grips on the top of paddles came later in the evolution of paddling.
 
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