• HAPPY INTERNATIONAL MUD DAY!

What oil to use on a bare paddle shaft?

Joined
Apr 10, 2021
Messages
34
Reaction score
7
Location
Northern Vermont
I have grown to be a little annoyed by the friction I feel on my varnished paddle shafts. My Sanborn has an oiled grip, but varnished shaft. I've gone ahead and sanded the shaft down to bare wood, leaving 6" or so of the blade end varnished.
went to the local hardware store intending to pick up a can of Watco Exterior oil... no luck. Suggestions on what to use on the shaft?
 

Glenn MacGrady

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 24, 2012
Messages
2,664
Reaction score
946
Location
Connecticut
There are a few choices.

I've mostly used Watco Teak oil on gunwales and paddle grips, which is the type of Watco recommended for exterior wood. (The Danish is for interior.) I recall seeing the material data sheet for Watco years ago and recall it is a mixture of linseed oil, varnish and some dryers. So, there's a bit of varnish there.

Years ago, Dagger Canoe recommended dex olje oil for gunwales, which I believe is also some sort of blend. I don't recall ever noticing any great difference from Watco.

I began using boiled linseed oil (BLO) a few years ago, until I read that is very susceptible to mold when exposed to water and will turn black. But I know paddle makers use BLO.

Pure tung oil is preferred by some on grounds that it is resistant to mold and is waterproof. Also food safe. More expensive than BLO.

Badger Paddles has their own brand of oil, which is pure hempseed oil. Also food safe.

 
Joined
Aug 11, 2014
Messages
56
Reaction score
13
Location
Upstate NY, south of Rochester
I've gone to using flat varnish on the grip and shaft, gloss on the blade. The flat varnish provides a feel that is quite similar to oil but IMO seals the wood better. I've found that Helmsman, spar urethane seems to hold up as well as some of the more expensive varnishes that I used to use. It's availability in spray cans is a bonus.
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
836
Reaction score
307
I've switched to using Badger wood oil (pure hempseed oil) almost exclusively for wood trim and wood paddles since it's easy to use and works great and it's non-toxic.


One of my favorite paddle shops used to sell "Gunnel Lotion" which was just 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 mineral spirits, 1/3 distilled white vinegar. It works great too. You'd want a bunch of light coats but it's super easy to apply.

Watco may be the most durable but I think it's also the most volatile/toxic and in my experience it can take a long time (weeks) to cure and even still I think the finish may feel more natural with one of the other options above.
 
Joined
Dec 1, 2012
Messages
455
Reaction score
219
Location
Altoona, Pennsylvania
I've been using Badger Oil on my paddles too. My first Badger paddle was a digger model ordered with oil finish. I liked the feel so much I ordered the oil with the next paddle. Not sure that there's any other way to get it.

Barry
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2011
Messages
6,873
Reaction score
858
Location
Raymond, ME
I am a varnish person too so no input from me. Varnish is hard to apply correctly. First coats have to be thinned and then a total of five coats with appropriate grit sanding grit applied between each coat. Finishing with 600 grit. If you are in a humid place sometime this is a problem. Oiling is less long lasting and has to be done more frequently which may suit others better. Watco used to have a really good oil but there are so many Watcos out there now I am confused.
 
Joined
Apr 10, 2021
Messages
34
Reaction score
7
Location
Northern Vermont
Most helpful; my thanks to all. Just got back from a magical few hours' paddle; used the Sanborn pre-oiling: think I'll sand down another four inches or so. Toss up for me now between Tung oil (which I have, but I don't know if it's pure) and Watco Exterior finish.
There certainly are a bunch of different Watco's; Northstar suggests the "Exterior", which is what they use on their wood trim. Neither local hardware store here carries it, to my surprise, but Northstar does. I'll think on it for another day, probably not much noticeable difference between the two in use.
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2021
Messages
412
Reaction score
200
Location
Florida
Can one apply Watco oil on a paddle previously treated with BLO? Or must you stay with whatever oil has been used previously? Not that I want to change, I’m just curious.

Both Bruce Smith and Fishell use BLO.
 
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
633
Reaction score
501
Location
The Hereford Zone along the Mason-Dixon Line
I was going to reply to the paddle maintenance thread, but Glenn’s mention “I recall seeing the material data sheet for Watco years ago and recall it is a mixture of linseed oil, varnish and some dryers. So, there's a bit of varnish there” reminded me that what I use is a similar DIY oil mixture.

I use a mix of 1/3 each turpentine, boiled linseed oil and real spar varnish, labeled “Arkay” oil after the guy who introduced me to that handy DIY mix. Spar varnish itself is just a mixture of oils, resin and solvent.

P4080002 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I got it out to treat some wood and realized that it had gotten light on the turpentine. When I had dribs and drabs of spar varnish or other oils I had been dumping them in the can. The can isn’t just those three ingredients; the is some tung oil and even the last bits of some gunwale guard in that mix, and mixing in other oils has had no ill effects.

Of note, at one point I had a solidified hockey puck of spar varnish and added it to the can, where it eventually dissolved; good use for the dregs of old spar varnish.

I use that mix on paddle grips and wood gunwales.

PA270059 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I varnish (or urethane) on paddle blades and shafts, but that oil mix feels silkier in hand on a grip than varnish.

That DIY mix darkens the wood, but works well. The most recent use was for a couple logs. We have a hardwood chopping block near the woodpile, and another log used to elevate the shepherd’s crook bird feeder.

P4130027 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Those shepherd’s crook things are nice for seed and suet feeders, but poorly designed. Meant to be staked into the ground they have a tendency to topple over in strong winds and, worse, the feeders are within a squirrel’s leaping range even with the cone in place.

Plugging the prongs into drilled holes in a log resolves both issues, but the logs eventually rot. Four or five coats of “Arkey oil” on each end later the raw wood log when from untreated this

P4080001 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

To this

P4130024 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I like that it soaks into the bark for a couple inches, should be good ground protection for the bottom.

Turpentine and boiled linseed oil are relatively inexpensive, and the leftover varnish or other oil dregs are essentially free.
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2021
Messages
412
Reaction score
200
Location
Florida
Mike, does the turpentine essentially replace the paint thinner or varsol? As in, thinning properties only? Or does it still have some oils?
 
Joined
Nov 29, 2012
Messages
589
Reaction score
153
Location
southwest Indiana
I don't generally object to varnished wooden paddle grips and shafts but I do have a couple of paddles I have used tung oil on. In one case I oiled only the grip and in another the grip and shaft. Pure tung oil produces a nice finish and feel but requires multiple applications over a period of weeks to get a really nice result.
 
Joined
Jul 6, 2021
Messages
633
Reaction score
501
Location
The Hereford Zone along the Mason-Dixon Line
“Mike, does the turpentine essentially replace the paint thinner or varsol? As in, thinning properties only? Or does it still have some oils?”

Pure gum spirits turpentine is, according to the can, “Nature’s Solvent”

https://www.sunnysidecorp.com/produ...its Turpentine,paints, varnishes, and enamels.

I was advised to increase the proportion of turpentine in the mix for the initial coat on untreated wood so as to provide better penetration.

For paddle grips and wood gunwales I like that it can be rubbed on, and rubbed in.
 
Joined
Jun 12, 2014
Messages
3,496
Reaction score
693
Location
NW Iowa
I know you're past that point but another option is to wet sand the varnished shaft with 600 or 1500 grit sandpaper. It's a much better feel than a glossy shaft, which I also dislike.

Alan
 
Joined
Aug 7, 2019
Messages
289
Reaction score
146
Location
Williston, VT
We have a couple of Fishell cherry paddles which came with an oiled finish. I've maintained the finish nicely with garden variety BLO, no thinner, from the hardware store. I wipe on a thin coat everywhere and then hang for 30 minutes. Excess oil drains to the blade tip where the thirsty end grain soaks it up. I finish with a wipe down with a paper towel.
 
Top