How much oil for a greenland paddle?

I’m running a paddle-making workshop. I want to give the participants oil to apply to the paddles after they leave the workshop. How much does it take?

A good question is, “what oil?” I’ve always used Watco on my paddles but isn’t tung oil or linseed oil industry standard?

So, what size bottle and what oil should I be giving these good paddlers? I’m thinking two-ounce bottles, but is that enough?


Oils and such
I prefer tung oil to linseed, but pure tung oil is harder to find and considerably more expensive. For paddles, boiled linseed oil is fine. I’ve never seen either one in 2 ounce bottles, but that’s enough for a couple of coats on a typical paddle. The first coat takes a fair amount, but subsequent coats take much less.

My personal favorite finish is a 50:50 blend of pure tung oil and spar varnish. It provides the same look and feel as oil alone, but with better durability.

Minwax, Formby’s, Watco and other “tung oil finish” products are actually wiping varnishes, often with little or no tung oil in them. Most of them produce too much gloss for my taste, but if you’re willing to buy and few and test them, perhaps you’ll find one that you like.

I see most of the usual vendors have the tung finish products that, upon closer inspection, are not tung oil, but maybe have some tung oil in it.

Actual real tung oil is hard to find. I just ordered some Amazon pure tung oil from Jamestown Distributors. Hope it comes in time.

Thanks for the tip, and I have a question. Is the tung oil/varnish mix stable, so that if I mixed some up and put it in small bottles to give out, it would hold up for at least a few weeks?


boat soup
Look up “boat soup” on Google. There are various recipes.

Linseed and Turps
I’ve used a mix of boiled linseed oil and turps (3:1) for paddles, canoe gunnels and brightwork for years - works for me

Yes and no

– Last Updated: Mar-22-16 9:18 PM EST –

To preserve any oil or varnish finishes, you have to keep them away from oxygen, as they cure by combining with oxygen from the air (they don't dry like paint or shellac). The best way to do that is to keep them in a sealed container with as little air in it as possible. Products like "Bloxygen" can help, but you can't expect that the people you're giving the finishing products to will have it handy. OTOH, if you're only giving them a couple of ounces, they'll use it pretty quickly. Worst case, losing a small amount of finish isn't the end of the world.

BTW, you can use polyurethane varnish if you don't have a natural spar varnish handy. I just up the oil-varnish ratio to 60:40.

I love the scent…
…of linseed oil and turpentine, but from a performance standpoint, adding turps doesn’t do much. It may promote a bit more penetration in end grain, but that’s about it.

you can always go naked…
You have received some very good answers. To provide a different perspective, no finish at all is required on a Greenland paddle. Wet the paddle, let the grain rise, sand, let dry and repeat, until the grain no longer rises (which could cause blisters). Although I usually oil my paddles, no finish is required and there’s not enough end-grain for the paddle to soak up a noticeable amount of water. Many paddles are not oiled in Greenland, that said some paddlers still use seal skin gloves there, that imparts oil to the paddle.

For something different, try “boning” the paddle, rub the surface with a smooth bone, shaft of a screwdriver, etc. This compresses the fibers and makes the surface tougher. Any baseball player worth his salt used to “bone” his wooden bat, for the same reasons. If you do want to apply oil, bone the surface after you oil, otherwise the oil has a harder time to penetrate the surface.

Greg Stamer

Coconut Oil of Course!
Can’t beat the price too. I simply use a couple sheets of dry, fresh off the roll, paper towels to periodically polish up all my wooden paddles.

Linseed oil is usually the source for spontaneous combustion.

Paddles emerging
I had 10 members of my local kayak club over for paddling carving. It was fun watching paddles emerge from the blanks.

It’s always amazing me to realize how some people are good at some things and not others. One person quickly marked-up the blank per Holst’s step 4, had cedar shavings flying in no time, and was done in a couple hours. As he was departing, another person was just finishing their mark up. Another guy bolted. Just walked away and left his blank clamped to rail. Was it something we said? I will have to catch up to him and see what happened. 3 people walked away with paddles ready go, 6 more left with chunks of wood that are getting real close to paddles. It’s been fun watching the paddles come out of the 2x4s.

I passed out little bottles of 60/40 Tung/poly. Sadly, I had a hard time finding bottles–had to go to a couple stores and ended up with a mongrel assortment, some 6 ounces into which I only had enough oil to fill them half way. Half air. Not good. I urged people to use the oil soon. We talked about getting the paddles wet, sanding them when dry, wipe on oil. We also talked about no-finish and boning. Crude jokes that teenagers would think, but not say, were cracked.

We made a date in May to go out paddling with the new GP sticks. It will be interesting to see the finished sticks. Likely, some of the sticks will be taken home and placed in a corner from which they will never emerge, but I hope to see a goodly number of them oiled and on the water!

Thanks for the advice. Coconut oil? Who’d a thunk?


two other options
I last finished my WRC GP with Behandla wood finish that IKEA sells to condition their butcher block counters and table tops. I was so impressed with how it worked on my kitchen surfaces I figured it would work well on the paddle and it did. Behandla has both linseed and tung oil in it, but I don’t know in what proportions.

I need to sand down the paddle again this season and plan to try another product, Howard Feed’n’Wax, which I have been using on my wood outdoor furniture for a couple of years, with excellent results. It contains no linseed oil but has beeswax and orange oil as well as unidentified “petroleum distillates”. My experience with treating teak, cedar and rubberwood outdoor furnishings with it has been very good – it penetrates quickly, does not leave a sticky or oily film, and sheds water brilliantly.

Linseed oil is perfectly safe…
…as long as you don’t leave rags soaked with it balled up. When you’re done applying the oil, spread the rag(s) out on the ground so the oil can cure overnight. After that, you can safely toss them in the trash.

Spontaneous combustion can happen with a variety of oils, linseed just gets the most attention, probably because it’s the most common oil used as a wood finish and it’s typically wiped on/off with rags.

My oiling rags
- usually paper towels - hang on a tree outside for a couple of days before they go in the trash. They often don’t go into the trash bag until the night before trash day. I tend to be cautious as I’ve seen several, fortunately small, fires started by paint booth filters that had not been fully submerged in water.

Sounds like a candidate for gunwales.