Preffered tung and polyurethane?

-- Last Updated: Oct-18-12 7:15 PM EST --

Howdy. I'm preparing to doll up my paddles and wanted to ask what oil and poly is preferred by the experts. I have a Sanborn Gunflint (oiled not varnished) and a Bending Branches Explorer (varnished) and wanted to ask if there is a preferred brand of tung oil (for the Sanborn) and polyurethane (for both) and if I should I treat these two paddles with the same care or should I do things differently because of the finish on them? Also, do you recommend a grit number for sanding? The manufacturers' websites don't seem to be in resonance on care of their paddles. Thanks for any info.

Unless you buy pure tung oil…
…you have no idea what you’re getting. “Tung Oil Finish” products (Formby’s, Minwax, etc.) are generally wiping varnishes and may contain little or no tung oil.

If you’re trying to match the original finish, contact the manufacturer to find out what they use.

We use Tung on the gunnels, but
I wouldn’t use it on a paddle.

It gives a beautiful satin finish, but it is not sturdy like polyurthane.

If it was me, I would use either poly or a good grade clear marine spar varnish.


Linseed oil
I use straight boiled linseed oil on my paddles - not just the grips, but the whole thing (I make my paddles). The first coat is applied hot and kept wet for 2 hours. After that it is wipe on. Repairing nicks and scratches is much easier than with a varnished paddle - since you don’t actually do much of a repair, you just wipe oil on it.

There’s lots of recipes out there for tung/linseed combos…seems to all work.

Your paddle will also “wear” every trip you make…they do acquire some character.

tung oil and poly varnish
OK I may not be doing this the best way but I do it this way with good results each year.

I go to the any place that sell paint to get Helmsman Spar varnish in a spray can. I sand down the varnish on the paddle with 200 grit until it is smooth and spray on a coat of spar varnish on the paddle and the shaft.

On the handle I sand off all the varnish and put on pure tung oil. you may have to hunt around some to get it. Other oil products are not quite as good and some oil is not even oil but wipe on stain/varnish/oil mixture. In a pinch any oil will do, even vegetable oil, but tung oil is better. It you use the paddle three times a week it gets enough oil from your palms to keep from drying out.

I also use Helmsman Spar urethane.
Very good and tough finish.

I appreciate the info. As you could probably guess, I am new to treating “real” paddles. When I was a poor starving college student a few years back, I only had basic, cheap aluminum Carlisle paddles (which are now great for pushing off!). Now that I am a poor, fairly well-fed, college graduate I have the two I use now (one bent, one straight). I also found the recent thread on the general info forum about wood finishing(I don’t really even read that forum much as it is usually non-paddling oriented). I’m really paranoid about treating the Gunflint well as I love the look, feel, and weight of it (and for me a $125 paddle is a major investment). Thanks for all the advice.

For the truth about wood finishing…

– Last Updated: Oct-20-12 8:07 AM EST –

...pick up a copy of Bob Flexner's book "Understanding Wood Finishing". He cuts through all the BS and mythology and explains how various finishes actually work, and what applications are appropriate for each product. Armed with that knowledge, you'll feel much more comfortable about refinishing and maintaining your paddles.

from an old woodworker
I’ve used just about every wood finish ever sold and my choice by far is Varathane outdoor water-based urethane. It is the easiest to use, produces the best results and is very easy to repair. It dries to the touch in minutes, so it doesn’t collect dust like slow drying solvent-based finishes. It also does not amber. It does take several coats, but that is not a problem. Yes, it can be applied over some oil finishes, but that might be a matter of experimentation. I use this finish on all of the furniture and cabinets that I build. I’ve also used it on most of the paddles I’ve built.

Varathane Premium Spar Urethane …

– Last Updated: Oct-20-12 10:08 PM EST –

..... excellent expansion and contraction properties , which means less chance of developing cracks in changing temperature conditions . Call it "stretchier" if you will .

I like the Varathane spar product better than say the Minwax spar for just that reason .

Not sure about the crystal clear spar Varathane has , so since I don't know how well it handles the expansion/contraction thing (which is what a spar varnish/urethane is all about anyway , plus the UV inhibitors) , I can only advise the standard "Varathane Premium Spar Urethane" , for things like exterior use and marine things like paddles . Besides I prefer the deepening of tone as it ages as opposed to a crystal clear (some call that a slight ambering) .

The Minwax spar seems to have a tendency to chip/crack out much easier , or at least that's my experience (strickly speaking of the "spar" products) .

Varathane has quit a number of finishes for differnt type applications such as floors , furniture , etc ... so don't grab the can because it says "Varathene" brand , It must say "Spar" , either the "Premium" (what I know) or the "Crystal Clear" (on your own there) ... Spar Urethane .

ps., ... 4 coats is correct on new wood , perhaps 2-3 on well sanded previously finished projects .

pss., ... "pure" Tung oil , a minimum of 4-6 coats rubbed out each coat , then the occasional maintnance coat "rubbed" out as desired/needed .

My experience w/Linseed oils is that they are irritant to the skin , causes skin to dry and crack if to much exposure (like handling a paddle grip) .

Doesn’t yellow?
That would surprise me, but I’ll take your word for it. Every urethane I’ve ever used before did yellow, which I don’t particularly like on some woods. Water clean up is a blessing, for sure.