Greenland Paddle Finish

I’ve just made a Greenland style paddle out of western red cedar. I’ve made them before, but never used any sort of finish. I’m considering tung oil to see what it’s like. Has anyone tried this on cedar, and is it worth the effort? If anyone has used it, do you have any advice for application etc.?

Lots of coats
I used tung oil on my GP – apply liberally, let sit overnight, wipe off excess. Repeat until there is no more oil being absorbed into the wood. Mine took 4 or 5 coats.


Thanks-- What does it feel like? Is it smelly when dry?

Tung oil works, but it’s soft
It has a nice feel, but it’s not particularly durable. I prefer to use a 50:50 blend of tung oil and varnish, which has a similar feel, but is more durable. It’s applied the same way; wipe it on, let it soak in for a few minutes, then wipe it off.

BTW, when you buy tung oil, make sure the container says “100%” or “pure” tung oil. The “tung oil” finishes you find at Home Depot are not pure tung oil and some of them don’t even contain tung oil! What they are is thinned varnish or oil/varnish blends which are better described as “wiping varnish”. You’re paying a lot of money for cheap thinner added to the product.

That’s good to know
That’s great advice, I wouldn’t have known to look for that. It was suggested that I use japan drier. Has anyone used this?

Don Beale uses teak oil
for whatever that’s worth. It has kind of the consistency of a laquer/oil mix. You brush it on, let sit for about 30 minutes, then wipe, if I remember right (I’ve touched up with it.) It still dries with some low gloss laquer look to it. Not too slipery, but certainly not as high grip as say just a stain oil.

Paul S.

Japan Drier
You don’t need Japan drier. For the first coat of oil (boiled linseed or real tung oil) I mix it 50% with gum turpentine (for better penetration) apply, and let soak overnight. For subsequent coats I use less and less turps, until I am using only oil, and WIPE OFF THE OIL BEFORE IT DRIES. After the first coat, if you wait till morning to remove the excess oil, then you will have a gummy mess.

As a general rule, for a new paddle, I’ll apply a single coat of oil per day for a week, then once a month, then once year or so. You don’t need to follow this religiously but this gives you some idea of how often you oil. If you enjoy to oil as I do, this will not be a chore at all.

That said, a WRC GP needs no finish at all.

Greg Stamer

On my paddle, Don Beale had the
following to say.

This paddle is finished with a mixture of two parts boiled linseed oil, one part spar varnish, and two parts paint thinner. Periodic refinishing is recommended but not necessary. Cedar is a soft wood, and will dent easily. Dents or scratches which do not penetrate into bare wood are considered normal wear. Dents or scratched which penetrate into bare wood should be sanded lightly and oiled.

BLO has driers in it already
It’s no longer actually “boiled” or heated, unless you get partially polyermized linseed oil, which is pretty expensive and not something you’d be likely to find locally. The driers (mainly cobalt) accellerate the curing process. Tung oil doesn’t need driers.

Greenland Paddle Finish
I use Watco Danish oil on my paddles. It provides excellent wet grip, is easy to finish, and re-finish. Just wipe it on, let it soak in for 30 minutes, and apply a second coat. If there appears to be excess, wipe it down in about 15 minutes. You can recoat with a single coat whenever needed.

Normally I use only Watco, but in the Link below I added some Epoxy for a bit of surface strength on a breakdown paddle and at the Ferrule connection to better grip the plastic tape used to stop paddle rotation.