Removing Sticky Varnish from a Spruce Paddle

Today I picked up a second hand Shaw and Tenney spruce paddle in the Racine model. It looks to be in nearly mint condition… However, there is a very palpably uncomfortable sticky tacky residue all over the paddle. I am wondering if the seller or someone else refinished the paddle at some point with way too much varnish?
In any case, I am wondering how to go about removing this, at least along the shaft without damaging the wood. I have heard that Spruce does best with varnish since it is a soft wood. However, my preference would be to take all the varnish off the shaft, making the wood nice and soft and then oil it at the end. Is that do-able? Any advice? Many thanks!

Try mineral spirits. They will soften most varnishes and even polyurethane so it can be wiped off.

Sometimes problems with stickiness occur when people try to put varnish or poly over a previously oiled wood finish without properly cleaning and stripping it. Seems the coating won’t adhere well to the wood or set up completely. I learned that from a friend who restored vintage sailboats and canoes I also found out (before talking to him about it) the hard way when I tried to dip the tips of my own cedar Greenland paddle (which was finished in a blend of varnish and tung oil) in a polyurethane spar varnish when the ends got scratched up from use. The spar varnish stayed a bit soft and tacky for a while. Since it was not where I held the paddle it was not annoying. But that coating also doesn’t seem to have held up well.

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I’d also try mineral spirits. If that didn’t work I’d try naphtha.

After I got it clean I’d put a few coats of boiled linseed oil on it. It’s a “drying” oil and is commonly used on cedar Greenland paddles.

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If that doesn’t work try turpentine and finally acetone.
Steel wool will take off the remainder of the finish.
I like to varnish the blades on good wood paddles, but sometimes just oil the shaft and the top of the handle. Boiled lindseed oil is good but can darken the wood. I like Watco Danish oil.

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