Oil for wood gunnels

I need some suggestions for oil for the wood gunnels on my Shearwater. Thanks Jim

Check W/Swift
At least on some of their boats Swift (this is a Swift Shearwater, right) has used exterior varnish on their gunnels. My Shearwater had varnished gunnels, but the seat materials and thwarts are oiled apparently. The varnished gunnels didn’t take oil well at all but the other wood surfaces do.

I’ve used both “Outdoor Oil” from General Finishes via WoodCraft Store and Watco oil. I prefer the Watco. Both have some UV screeners in their formula.

Haven’t tried olive oil, but I’ll sure give it a try, maybe on an upcoming kneeling thwart job.

Just say no to cooking oils

– Last Updated: Feb-14-05 1:04 PM EST –

I admire MC and really respect his boat knowledge but please don't use an unprocessed oil like cooking oil! They are not intended for use unless they are heated (in a frying pan for instance) and will spoil.
Boiled Linseed oil, tung oil or "Watco" are the things to use. They are processed for external applications and have centuries (boiled Linseed oil) of proven use.
Boiled oils for marine and exterior applications have driers added to them so applying them is made easier. Raw oils (even raw linseed oil) takes days to dry properly and does not have the lasting effects of properly treated wood oils which is exactly the thing we are looking for. Good finish, lasting protection and healthy wood.

Boiled Linseed Oil
DavidH hit the nail on the head.

As a former wood shop teacher and furniture maker here’s my two cents worth: The primary ingredient in many oil finishes is linseed oil. As David said “Boiled” linseed oil has a drier mixed with it to hasten drying. I’d suggest buying a small can of boiled linseed oil and a small can of turpentine. Mix the two together in roughly equal parts and you’ll have enough oil mix to re-oil your rails for many years.

Directions are about as easy as can be. Rub out any rough spots with fine sandpaper or better yet a fine Scotch-brite type pad. NEVER use steel wool, especially on wood surfaces that will come into contact with water. After you have the surface smoothed to your liking flood on the oil mix with just about anything (rag, paper towel, brush – whatever). Let it set-up for a few minutes then wipe off ALL excess – rub it hard like you made a mistake and you want to rub it off. Walk away and come back in 30 minutes or so and rub it all off again (don’t just smear it around rub it OFF). Use a paper towel or clean cotton rag for the rubbing. The oil that penetrates is what gives the protection. Immediately after you’ve rubbed off all the excess oil mix dispose of the rags safely – oil soaked rags can and will spontaneously combust. Put your oily rags in the woodstove or in a bucket of water. If you really want a rubbed finish that has good luster repeat all of the above after waiting a few days. Simple as can be. The above directions also work for most “off the shelf” oil mixtures. If you want to spend more money (but not get any more protection) buy a can of Watco or Decks de folly or whatever.

Olive oil? Well, it’s cheap… But I’d find it hard to believe it would offer any water protection at all. Tung oil on the other hand is super expensive, yet offers almost no water resistance either. People think it’s gotta be the best because it’s costs more – wrong.

The old wood shop teacher has spoken. You are of course welcome to ignore me just like some of my students did… ;^) -Randall

Yeah Tung Oil doesn’t exactly
waterproof wood. But I think that’s a good thing. Things like epoxy that get chipped will hold water in the wood, Tung Oil allows the wood to breath but stops rot if you keep a good coat on it. My paddles get coated maybe every two years. The only real damage I’ve seen on my paddles is where water gets up under the epoxy (near the ends) and doesn’t dry.

Neither does linseed oil
Both of these finishes can be classified as “breathable”. For that matter, I use a 1:1:1 blend of tung oil, varnish and turpentine on my paddles and even that doesn’t trap water the way that using straight varnish or epoxy does. It’s significantly more durable than either oil alone.

wear gloves
Whatever you use, most products have heavy metals or other things you don’t want in contact with your skin. So, wear protective gloves!

Arkey is right on
Having owned a wooden sailboat years ago with a lot of brightwork we use Spar Varnish on the topside but when we hauled it out we covered the bottom with a mixture of Turpentine and boiled linseed oil and this took care of the bottom for the winter against the ravishes of being out of he water for a few months.

I am sure the same mixture would take care of any wood surfaces on a canoe with little time put in. The only thing I would change is to rub out with burlap instead of cotton and do give it two or more coats.