First Greenland paddle


I’m nearing the end (I think) of making my first GP.

I was wondering what finishes people are using and how they are finishing them.

I like working with wood but don’t seem to have too much time this year - in the past I have made spearguns and finished them with cabinet scrapers and then West System slow cure epoxy. On the handles I’ve 0000 wirewooled this for a matte/satin finish and left the rest shiny.

I’ve heard that Tung oil is used and also danish oil. I have both and also beeswax.

This is my fist paddle so am willing to experiement a little to learn - have never used oil so might go that route.

I heard that you can raise the grain with a damp cloth and then scrape/sand again to get a super fine finsish…

Any help would be good - also the main thing : is there a free video outlining the GP paddling style ?! I have never used one :slight_smile:

Thanks Edward

For me…
It took a great many product trys before I found something I liked.

Danish oil just did not work for me. It is really a wood finish for furniture & as such did not hold up well at all outside.

Tung oil holds up o/k, but it’s really closer to varnish (it my even be a type of varnish) so the paddle seemed pretty slippery when wet to me.

What I wound up using on all my subsequent paddles which worked really well for me was a product called Penofin (short for ‘penetrating oil finish’) that I had around. I use it to seal my porch which is Brazilian walnut (really hard stuff) & it did a fantasic job at that thru harsh northeast winters.

The type of Penofin I use is really made for hardwoods but it works extremely well on western red cedar, it takes a few more applications than the type made for softwoods, but it holds up much better. I don’t know why it does, but I was told it is because of the rosewood oils in the hardwood type finish.

Applications are easy, you just brush some on, let it sit for 1/2 hour, wipe off excess, let that soak in for a little while. Re-do until you achieve the desired finish.

Never feels slippery & doesn’t rub off on your hands.

I use the ‘natural’ finish version (again for hardwoods) which really shows off the wood grains, I get many compliments regarding their appearance.

So after spending a small fortune on many potential paddle finishing products, I already had the answer in my own back yard.

Oh yeh, before I apply any finish, I liberally coat 3" of the tips of the paddle with a 2 part epoxy (which can be colored), this prevents damage & splitting.

It sounds like…
…you didn’t use 100% tung oil, but rather one of the “tung oil” finishes like Formby’s. Most of them are actually wiping varnishes (thinned varnish) and some contain no tung oil at all. That’s why the resulting finish was similar to varnish.

If you use 100% tung oil, you end up with a thin, soft, matte finish. You can’t get a glossy finish with pure tung oil.

That said, my favorite paddle finish is a 50:50 blend of pure tung oil and varnish. The resulting finish has the same look and feel of a tung oil finish, but it’s more waterproof and more durable. I prefer to use a natural varnish like Epiphanes in the blend, but polyurethane varnishes will work too.

You might want to check out: .This topic is also a regular on the forum. Bryan modestly didn’t mention his book. Here’s a review:

If your paddle is cedar
Wetting it will raise the grain a bit for preparing a really smooth finish. For me I just use Formby’s Tung Oil (semi-gloss or satin). I like a finish that isn’t truly waterproof. I beat up my paddles pretty good and with the Tung Oil finish water can soak back into the wood and rebound dings.If your paddle isn’t cedar you may want a more watertight finish. With a hard waterproof finish dings are there forever and refinishing a beat up paddle is quite a bit harder to do with epoxy. I do epoxy the tips though as mentioned above and I’ve had to refinish a few and it really sucked.

paddle finish

You didn’t say what wood you are using or if it is solid or laminated. If it’s solid red cedar, there are many choices.

You can leave it unfinished. It will turn gray and may need light sanding periodically. The skin on frame folks seem to follow this approach most and say it gives the best grip. Red cedar doesn’t need a finish, just be sure to get it very smooth to avoid blisters. Resand or scrape it a few times as water raises the grain.

There are many oil finishes that have been used- everyone has their favorite- near pure tung oil is mentioned most frequently. I like Daily’s Sea Fin oil which is one of the modified teak oils. However, I can’t say it’s any better than the other 5-10 brands out there, and it is hard to find.

Some coat with a light finish of epoxy- they think it hardens up the wood surface slightly (red cedar dents easily)- then put a few coats of oil over the epoxy.

It has been suggested to me to fiberglass the paddle with 3 oz glass and this will reduce tip damage and denting. I haven’t tried this.

After a few months of frequent use you will find yourself accepting the small dents and accepting the paddle finish looking somewhat ratty or you will be touching up the finish frequently. Depends how anal you are and how much you enjoy wood finishing vs. paddling. Over time many accept somewhat ratty and touch up/refinish once a year.

If you push off bottom much with paddle, consider protecting tips with epoxy. Always put epoxy on bare wood before oiling paddle as epoxy doesn’t adhere well over oil.


Minwax® Tung Oil Finish

– Last Updated: Dec-07-06 1:15 AM EST –

Tried it out of curiosity and have been very happy with it. Whatever's in it (it's an oil/varnish blend - not a wiping varnish*), it works well. Quick and easy. Seems to perform a lot like what Brian describes with his custom blends.

Brush or wipe on, let sit 5 minutes, wipe off excess and buff with a rag. Needs 2-3 applications on a new paddle, then a refresh in a week to a month, then again a couple months later, less frequently thereafter. Since it's so quick and easy to do this is no big deal.

* - Some relevant finish info here:

An excerpt:

"What the Finishing Manufacturers Don't Tell You
Common brands of finish that are wiping varnish:
Formby's Tung Oil Finish
Zar Wipe-on Tung Oil
Hope's Tung Oil Varnish
Gillespie Tung Oil
General Finishes' Sealacell
General Finishes' Arm R Seal
Daly's ProFin
Jasco Tung Oil

Common brands of finish that are oil/varnish blends:
Watco Danish Oil
Deft Danish Oil
Behlen Danish Oil
Maloof Finish
Behr Scandinavian Tung Oil Finish
Minwax Tung Oil Finish
Minwax Antique Oil Finish
Velvit Oil
Behlen Salad Bowl Finish
Behlen Teak Oil
Watco Teak Oil"

I always coat my GP’s completely with Industrial Formulators G2 epoxy .This is a high viscosity epoxy and it goes on thick enough to provide excellent waterproofing and resistance to dents.

The reason I prefer this method is because I like to apply detailing,artwork and sometimes wood inlays so I need the maximum water protection.I sometimes make protector tips and edges from ash or from epoxy tinted black or white.When all this is done I apply 6 coats of marine urethane to cover the artwork and provide UV protection.This is just my preference because I like them colourful and kind of fancy rather than plain. The wipe on oil methods described by

B Nystrom and others are fine if you want a plain paddle with minimum maintenance.

It’s most important to get the size and loom/blade root shape that will fit your hands but that will come as you experiment and make a couple more or reshape the ones you already have.


Second the Minwax Tung
I second Greyak’s preference for Minwax Tung Oil - it needs renewing once or twice a season for a heavily-used paddle, but it gives the grip and feel that I like.


Thanks for the references

– Last Updated: Dec-07-06 7:19 AM EST –

The two lists are quite informative.

One big difference between buying an oil/varnish blend and making your own is price. It's much cheaper to do it yourself, as the commercial products are relatively expensive. With wiping varnishes - which are simply thinned varnish, you're paying a lot for thinner and getting less varnish.

Still, the small cans are handy and the products are well-proven. You just need to know what you're actually getting so you know what type of finish to expect. I was very disappointed when I bought Formby's thinking I was getting tung oil, but ended up with a varnish finish.

I have a bunch of Watco kicking around from other projects. One of these days I'll have to try it on a paddle.

Here’s a shameless plug
My website, should be up and running in the next 24 hours. I’m just waiting on my hosting service to give me the OK to upload it.

Smith’s Penetrating Epoxy will work on

– Last Updated: Dec-07-06 8:42 AM EST –

oiled wood, but it is very expensive and very toxic. It cost $100 a gallon last checked. None I know will use it inside.

I do not think I would try using it on recently oiled wood. I have successfully used it on wood oiled several months before.



Chekc out Matt Johnson’s wonderful vid

Edward_K, Matt Johnson (who replied to your thread above) has a splendid 30 min video, linked above. I will likely not even be making my own GP, yet I enjoyed the video very much to learn about them through watching Matt make one.

Good luck.

Wiping varnishes are great

– Last Updated: Dec-07-06 4:25 PM EST –

You cannot build up layers of pure Tung Oil it must be wiped off or it doesn't dry very well. These "wiping varnish type of Tung oils" can be left on and layers built up for a thicker more durable/pretty finish.

This is one of those things that there are many good ways to go about it. Some guys scrape the surface and leave it finish-free which sounds good to me too.

I prefer a 50-50 blend
of minky whale oil and caribu scat. Don’t accept the inauthentic materials named above.

Greyak, how’d you get that little “R”?

50/50 mix vs. 1/3 1/3 1/3
hey bohemia,

Instead of your 50/50 mix, you should try blending 1/3 urine from the hunter/gatherer to the 1/3 minky whale oil and 1/3 caribu scat. You will find this mix dries better.


Thanks, greyak
Thanks for posting the link to the article on finishes. Lots of good info in it.


I think if you put a “&” followed by the letters “reg” and then a “;” without spaces and without the quotes it will come up as the ® .

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