Painting a Wood Greenland Paddle?

Greetings All,

Soon to be embarking on creating a greenland paddle. The first one would be for someone more into colors than the natural wood finish…ideally something that would match her fiberglass kayak - yellow w/ red trim…thinking for the paddle, maybe yellow with a red strip down the middle…

Was thinking painting the paddle then coating with a few coats polyurethane would be the way to go? If so, do I have to use marine epoxy paint, or could I get away with some Krylon? For the Polyurethane, pretty much whatever from Home Depot should be ok? better recommendations?

From reading a few threads - it looks like I would need to do atleast 4-5 coats of the polyurethane? with the last coating followed by some sanding/000 steel wool on the loom for some grip?

4-5 layers of polyurethane should make the tips fairly resistant to damage? Any idea how much more the paddle with weigh with this much polyurethane?

A wood question - the big box stores near me only seem to stock “white wood” in the 2x4s and larger (no cedar to be found) - would this wood be ok to use?

Thanks in advance!,


Don’t buy mystery wood at the big box store. Find a real lumberyard and get Western Red Cedar or Sitka Spruce.

Use stain or aniline dye for coloring.

Finish with oil or spar varnish.

White pine would work, if you can find a clear piece, possibly to cut out of a 2x6 or bigger, if you don’t get lucky with a 2x4. Fir would be heavier.

See if you have any specialty wood vendors. There’s a place near me that sells clear redwood 2x4s for about $26. Sounds high, compared to a $4 stud, but, it’s pretty cheap, for a new paddle.

wood is the foundation…
If this paddle will actually be used, rather than be a pretty wall-hanger, or “prop”, you need quality wood. The wrong wood or cut can warp, can be too flexible and can be too heavy.

Most people look for western red cedar or spruce, with vertical grain (if you place the board on its face and look at the end of the board, the grain will look like |||||||. Ideally the grain, that will look like pinstripes, will run from one end of the board to the other. If the grain runs diagonally and exits near the loom, that can lead to a break. Very small knots in non-critical places can be OK.

You CAN find good cedar at your local box store, but you will probably have to visit a large number of them. I have had most luck looking at the 4 X 4 cedar posts. Assuming you find a clear one with good grain, and have the means to shape the stock, that might be your best bet. If you have a quality lumberyard, visit them and ask to look at the clear, vertical grain western red cedar.

You can find information on making a GP on the Qajaq USA website at .

Greg Stamer

Thanks Everyone - paint/finish question?
Thank you for everyone chiming in!

I will for sure try to find a decent pine or red cedar with the proper grain now…will see if any of the smaller lumber yards have any…guess transporting Cedar down here is costly (in South Florida), hence its lack of availability at the big box stores…

As for the painting/finishing question - an pointers?

Thanks again,


I have gone through 3 home depots in my area in the past and looked through 50 2x4’s to come up with maybe 3 cedar boards I would use. Had better luck with 2x6’. The lumber yards I called would get them for me if I wanted but I had to pay up front sight unseen. have fun hunting.

Don’t Do It
No paint. No epoxy. Just a light coat of tung oil or fake tung oil to give the wood some color. When you park your paddle on the deck a hard surface scratches the hell out of the gelcoat. Oiled wood doesn’t.

A hard varnish or paint finish will also be more slippery to hold.

A suggestion
The warehouse home improvement stores have clear 1" pine boards. Consider gluing up two clear pine boards face to face to make your paddle blank. You might consider the more exotic western red cedar for your second paddle.

Consider using Watco Tung Oil (a combination of oil and varnish I think). Watco is available wherever wood finishes are sold and is easy to use. Just follow the instructions on the can.

If you have access to a table saw and a band saw you might consider gluing up and carving a laminated blank.

Good luck.

Rough Grain Western Red Cedar?
Greetings All,

Found a specialty lumber yard - unfortunately the times they are opened are times I am at work…so checked out 3 big box stores tonight…one of them had Western Red Cedar, but it was called “Rough Grain”…looking at it I could see quite a few of them had splintered edges (2x6s) - is there such a thing as normal/fine grain Western Red Cedar? - Or is this the wood to use (providing I fine one with a good even vertical grain)


– Last Updated: Sep-25-12 5:56 PM EST –

Is the right wood type to use, believe me! Rough grain as you describe it- rough edges - is not the issue. Straight grain throughout and no "runouts" is the real challenge.

A 2"x6" is going to be cut down to a 3.5" width, so you can afford lots of crap on the sides that will be cut off anyway.

I found my WRC at a lumberyard that was carrying it for floor boards, so laminating up two 5/8" thick 4" wide boards worked like a charm, using Titebong III glue. Much less to carve and cut off in the end. Saved work and worked beautifully.

Laminating will also help with warping
Especially with pine, you will likely get some twist over time if you do not laminate. WRC seems a lot less likely to bend on you.

Polyurethane for floors might work as coating, but it won’t be as hard and wear resistant as epoxy. Also, not sure how UV reistant that would be - with sun exposure it might turn yellowish (as most epoxy would too). So you would want to finish with a UV resistant coat - varnish.

I’ve seen some painted paddles and they can look great if done well, if color is what you want. Also, consider that you can tint the coating rather than paint: you can have two options - to show the wood grain in color or to completely cover the wood and show smooth colors. Your choice…

My two bits
1. Pick out a good piece of straight grained wood - I’ve used spruce, cherry, alder, cedar. I don’t usually get my choice of wood type…I buy the best grain available. I wouldn’t bother carving a paddle until you find a good piece of wood if I were you. You’ll need 5/4 or thicker to avoid having to laminate to get the correct shaft thickness. I’ve used both tightbond III and gorilla glue for laminating with good results.

2. I like oiled finishes. They get smoother as you use the paddle and it is easier than a varnished finish to touch up scratches and dings. I use varnishes only when I work with very soft woods like yellow cedar. I am happy with boiled linseed oil although others use tung or their own mixes.

3. I have had very good luck using artists acrylic paints for decorative designs. The thinner type that comes in plastic bottles works best. It comes in dozens of colors. I’ve used it with oil and varnishes and had no problems.

Paint choice?

For this option, would want to cover the wood grain and just have the smooth colors (to manyan atrocity…I know…)

For the paddles you saw that were painted in smooth colors - they had a varnish/polyurethane/clear epoxy on top? Do you know if it matters if I use an epoxy paint vs some cheapo krylon spray paint (easier to come to a closer match in colors)- when I use a varnish/polyurethane/clear epoxy on top?


I am on my 8th paddle and 7 were made
by laminating the clear 1" X 4" boards from HD. All that takes is some good glue and a few clamps. The boards are $9 each.

don’t do it part 2
a hard finish like polyurethane or varnish frequently leads to blisters. On most women’s hands the skin is frequently thinner and not as callused as a men’s hands would be, so the likelihood of blisters is greater.

That area of skin between the thumb and forefinger is often prone to blisters.

Keep the loom oiled, at least.

If not, encourage her to wear gloves (fingerless or otherwise).

I don’t know how the ones I saw were don
If you seal the smoothly sanded wood with primer, then paint some enamel or automotive paint, that would cover the wood grain completely. Then a few layers of polyurethane for bump protection, then finish with some automotive clear coat for UV resistance if the poly is not already UV stable. It will be quick and easy. Not sure how it will hold-up over time or when banged against the boat or rocks.

Spray vs brush?
Thank you all for your inputs!

Would it be better to use a spray vs brush for the polyurethane/varnish/epoxy? This is my first time with the stuff, don’t want to over do the layers, or worse yet have dribbles…

Can anyone comment on the outdoor spar polyurethane/varnish by Rustoleum, Cabot or Minwax - all are in a store nearby me…



Go Back to the Top
mintjulip has the right idea. If you do like he says your paddle will feel right and look right. Just add a little color to a nice wooden paddle. Much better than turning a GP into a big, loud, plastic-feeling, plastic-looking thing.

I know I know. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Here Ya Go
It’s uh… pink. But it doesn’t look glossy and plasticky.