Stain as final finish on a paddle?

In winter I lightly sand my wood paddles, and put on another coat,

or two, of varnish.

I have a paddle that I fully sanded off the varnish, and

I would like to have a dull finish on it, like just stained.

Is this practical? Are several coats of stain needed to actuallly “seal” the paddle?

Is varnish the best seal?

Not sure what you mean by "stain."
Do you mean an oil stain like those marketed by Minwax? I use Minwax 209, their finish oil without any stain. After many coats and rubbing, the wood will have a satin finish. The finish provides less of a water barrier than varnish, but for a paddle shaft it can be enough. A paddle blade is another matter.

If you shop around, you can find satin finish or dull finish varnishes.

I oppose use of stains on good wood because the added color just obscures the wood grain. You’d get better results with epoxy or urethane paint.

Stain isn’t suitable as a finish for a paddle (IMHO). Stain colors the wood, nothing more. The wood grain will still be exposed to all the elements.

That said, some people use WRC paddles with no finish. That is because the nature of paddle use and the nature of the wood allows it. But realistically, you will want some type of varnish.

There are varnishes from flat to high gloss to meet whatever aesthetic ideal you want.

My GPs
I just use Formby’s tung oil finish. Sparingly. Just enough to give the wood some color. Looks and feels beautiful… to this beholder. Wipe that ugly gloss off with some fine steel wool.

try an oil varnish.
Mix 1 part turpentine with 2 parts boiled linseed oil, and a splash of japan drier (like a capful per quart). Wipe it on with a cloth, then buff it off with a clean cloth after about 5 minutes. Repeat twice daily for a week, or until your tired of doing it.

Pure Stain no
but stained finishes may be fine. As G2d previously noted, he uses a minwax product and there are numerous others that are either varnish or penetrating oils with stain mixed in.

Most woods require some sort of protection if they are to survive long term being alternately soaked and dried out. Without such protection, the wood will invariably split, become splintery or otherwise deteriorate.

Another consideration is whether the paddle was made from a single piece of wood, such as a traditional otter tail or whether it was laminated from several pieces. A laminated paddle should be made using highly water resistant glue bust some are not. If laminated and you’re not sure of the glue type, that is one more reason to provide some sort of water resistant protection.

Personally, when I want a mat or satin finish, I saturate/coat the paddle with epoxy and then varnish. After the varnish has fully cured/dried I rub out the finish with fine sand paper (400-1200 grit) and or fine steel wool. The grit of the sandpaper or fineness of the steel wool will determine how dull or fine the finish is.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes

tung oil finish
is what I use on my GPs. There are an array of wiping varnishes with varying degrees of tung oil.

Give a nice satin finish and seals the wood.

steel wool / varnish
I assume you are talking about a wood euro paddle? Another option along with the others is just varnish as usual and steel wool the gloss off it or use a matt varnish.

Nate, that’s just oil…
…not varnish. Varnish is a blend of oil(s) and resin(s), typically with some mineral spirits added. Not that there’s anything wrong with boiled linseed oil as a finish…

Thinning it with turpentine doesn’t do anything but make it smell nice. I used to do the same thing, but quit when I realized there was no functional advantage to it.

There’s no point in adding Japan Drier to boiled linseed oil, as it’s already got some added. The “boiled” linseed oil you find in home centers and hardware stores isn’t actually boiled, it just has driers added to speed the curing process. If you took raw linseed oil and added Japan Drier, you’d have the same thing as off-the-shelf boiled linseed oil.

You can mix tung oil (the real stuff) or boiled linseed oil 50:50 with varnish and you’ll get the same look and feel of an oil-only finish, but with increased durability.

The problem with varnish…

– Last Updated: Jan-09-10 9:03 AM EST – that with use, it gets polished pretty quickly and becomes slippery. This is true even of satin varnish, as it's just gloss varnish with a "flatting agent" added that disperses light. If you keep knocking the gloss off, you end up having to re-varnish pretty frequently. Perhaps it would be no more often than required with an oil-varnish blend, so I guess it's just a case of "pick your poison".

…but you can mix your own oil/varnish blend for considerably less money, as the off-the-shelf products are mostly mineral spirits. The only benefit of these finishes is convenience, you just grab a can and go. However, they don’t all produce the same type of finish, so you may have to try several to get the result you want. If you mix your own, you get predictable results with little or no experimentation. A 50:50 blend of oil (tung or boiled linseed) and varnish (any type) works just fine.

Wet sand it?
Years back when I used wood euros, I would just wet sand the varnish with 300 grit or so on the shaft and it gave a nice non-slip surface and I would re-varnish every 3 years or so. or less.

Rubbing out varnish with 0000 steel wool
should provide the desired look and feel with better protection than an oil-varnish wipe-on application, yes? I do that to my wood paddles at the grip stations because I prefer the way it feels over gloss and I haven’t noticed appreciable polishing over time. Those areas do accumulate oils and grime from repeated and prolonged handling, but a good rub with a rag and mineral spirits takes care of that.

Marc, as you know, epoxies don’t level
very well. It’s not just that they are thicker than varnish, epoxies don’t have much leveling tendency.

Do you have any tricks to get the epoxy to level to a more even film, so you don’t have to do as much sanding before varnishing?

Tricks to get epoxy to level
There are none, at least that I know of. Thinning with lacquer thinner helps a bit on horizontal surfaces but not much. On vertical surfaces it’s hard to avoid runs if the epoxy is thinned. Bottom line; build up enough thickness, let it cure and before varnishing.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes

Here is a pic of the paddle -

It is an American Traders solid cherry paddle that I have

had for about 10 years. After a move, I foolishly left

it standing on end in my new shed. I meant to move it

again, but it spent a winter that way, and that’s how it

split. My first 2 attempts to save it failed, but then I

created small ravines on each side along the crack and

applied the epoxy glue. It is holding up, although the

epoxy is somewhat unsightly. Don’t matter to me.

You may be wondering about the odd shape. The paddle is

60", which is a couple inches too long for me. I have

always wanted a voyageur style paddle, so, to compromise

on the situation, I cut off the outside of

the ends to reduce the extended power surface.

I have a one of a kind, and would like to keep it in

service. Thanks for the advice.

With all my canoe paddles, I often
pull over to the bank and wet-sand the shaft with… sand. This works on varnish, on vinyl sleeves, and on strange black epoxy surfaces supplied as original equipment. Because varnish was applied over epoxy, I don’t worry about sanding down into wood. Just has to be re-varnished now and then.

For a permanent repair…
…you might want to consider sanding it down to bare wood, then applying epoxy and light fiberglass (2 oz or less). The glass will be clear once it’s wet out and the result will be far more durable than any standard finish. Apply varnish over the epoxy to protect it from UV and you’ll be good for years.