Paddle sanding Question...

I posted this in the Discussion Boards but thought it might be better suited for here…


I inherited a couple old but still decent paddles…the only issue is the amount of dinging and generally crappy varnish left on them. I’d love to sand them down to wood, seal them then revarnish in a nice cherry stain.

However, even the coarsest(60) sandpaper’s not doing it…Should I go to steel wool first then, work back up to a fine paper.

And…how best to revarnish?

Any ideas would be appreciated…

even courser paper
I have refinished and repaired dozens of paddles over the years. Getting off the old finish is always the hardest part of the job. I use 50 grit sand paper wrapped around an oval piece of ethafoam(stiff, but a little soft). I clamp the shaft in a vise with wooden pads and adjust it so the blade is over my bench. Good support under the blade is essential so you can really bear down when sanding. The oval shape of the pad presents lots of options to match curved surfaces on the paddle. The shaft can be stripped fast with a rasp.

If an oil-based spar varnish has been used your paper will clog up pretty fast. I keep a brass bristle brush(cleaning supplies) handy to brush the sticky varnish powder out of the paper when needed. This saves you a lot of sand paper.

Again, clamping and supporting the paddle so you can bear down hard is the key. You get a workout, but you’ll get it done.

Why not
use paint and varnish remover?

As someone who has built and
finished cherry furniture, I react against cherry stain. If your old paddles are softwood, you may find that the stain causes nasty contrasting areas.

I often watch Norm on New Yankee Workshop, and one of my frustrations is how he will make something out of cherry, walnut, or mahogany, and then will slather stain all over it until the wood is almost hidden. This last week he made something out of cherry and surprised me by using only an oil finish.