Tung Oil on Greenland Paddle

Just made my first red cedar Greenland paddle, as per Chuck Holtz’s design specs. I love it! I’ve applied two coats of tung oil, and am now wondering what y’all’s thoughts are on how many coats are necessary before beginning regular use. Also, what would be the indicator(s) that there isn’t enough tung oil?


You’re done
The oil just seals the wood a bit from water absorption - makes it look nice too.

Once a year you can give it a light coat and wipe it off with a cloth.

I use Minwax 209 rather than tung oil
so I don’t know how deeply tung oil has sealed the wood pores. I think you could go for more tung oil applications, however. When finishing furniture with oil, I may use more than half a dozen applications, and when I use the 209 to wet sand the final time with 600 sandpaper, the grain ends up totally filled.

I just reacquainted myself with western red cedar while replacing boards on our deck, and was pleased to see that 20 year old cedar boards, if quarter-sawn and free of knots, were still an unrotted warm red inside, under the grey, weathered exterior. We had never put treatments on the deck.

Normally I would put West Epoxy on wooden paddles, but cedar is kind of oily, so epoxy may not stick quite as well; and since it is more resistant to weathering than most paddle woods, perhaps it does not need the vapor barrier provided by epoxy.

It’s not furniture so you aren’t looking for a furniture finish. Water will inevitably get into the wood and has to have a way to get out (dry) My favorite WRC paddle doesn’t even have any finish and it’s just fine after 2+ years of regular use.

Well, shoot!
…at least I don’t any longer feel like I’m the only one who doesn’t know what’s obvious to everyone else! :wink:

Sounds like there is quite the diversity of opinion on this one. But it also sounds like your responses are sensible and perfectly reasonable. Now I’ll just have to experiment a bit with your different suggestions. Thanks!

Yup, diversity of OP
The first couple of paddles I made I used 2-3 coats of tung oil. The most recent one I haven’t put anything on and only sanded down with 100 grit paper. Never got around to it and now kind of like it unfinished. If it was being stored sitting in water I might put a finish on it, but cedar is quite rot resistant and my paddles have an opportunity to dry out between uses. Now, if I had some rancid sveal fat …

Cedar and epoxy

– Last Updated: Nov-27-07 6:22 PM EST –

g2d wrote: “but cedar is kind of oily, so epoxy may not stick quite as well;…”

Better let all those who have built cedar strip boats know this. :wink:

Epoxy has no problem adhering to cedar but in the case of a GP, you probably don’t want an epoxy finish anyway as it’s not as nice a feel as an oiled paddle.



Whatever you want
Everyone has a different look or feel that works for them and the main thing is that most people want the wood sealed to prevent it from soaking up water and getting heavy while using it. My first paddle didn’t have any finish on it for a while because I liked the smell of the cedar when it got wet. Any oil is a good choice for keeping the paddle waterproof and also for keeping a good grip.

Depends on what kind of Tung Oil
If you’re using real tung oil multiple coats won’t do much. But if you’re using Formby’s (more lacquer than oil) or something similar then I’ve found three coats to last long and look good.

Thanks, and…

– Last Updated: Nov-27-07 7:55 PM EST –

...are you the same Matt Johnson that did the video? If so, I'm very grateful for your excellent demo of the process! Talk about making the Chuck Holst instructions come alive! And actually, the oil I'm using is the H. Formby's, so maybe I'll put on one more coat and see how it does in the Sound. Thanks, folks.

Minwax Tung
is what I’ve been using - it’s not all tung, but has some dryers added, I think. I’ve used just 2 coats, renewing it when the paddle gets dry-looking and dinged up. This finish gives a feel and grip that I like. Unfinished WRC does not work well for me - the smell is a bit overpowering and I’ve developed some allergy to the cedar, so I put finish on the paddles and I’m careful to wear the respirator when sanding.

Enjoy your paddle! Alan

Thanks, Alan!

Yup that’s me
I’m glad you found it helpful. Congrats on the new paddle.

another opinion
One coat an hour for the first day. One coat a day for the first week. One coat a month for the rest of eternity.

Epoxy on a cedar GP
What some people do on cedar paddles is coat it with epoxy, let it sit an hour or so and wipe if off. So, you are coating it with something that hardens the grain of the wood but is not built up like a shiny smooth surface. Wiping it off gives you a very natural wood grain feel yet it’s hardened.

I bought a tin of frombys “tung oil finnish” and it says in very small text on the back: does not contain tung oil.

Yeah it’s kind of funny stuff.
Technically it’s a wiping varnish. It’s applied like a hand rubbed finish with the bonus that it’s a varnish. This type of varnish isn’t waterproof but by adding layers you can get some protection and a shiny finish.

I use linseed oil rather than tung for hand-rubbed furniture type finishes.

Anyway, it is kind of confusing.

Second the Minwax
As noted above, some of these products are not giving you an “oil” finish, and similar sounding products can be completely different, but IMO this one does the trick beautifully.


I suspect it behaves a LOT like the custom blends Bnystrom mixes up (hey Brian - still got that link on finishes I posted a while back that compares/explains these - I can’t find it…).

Doesn’t get any easier than brush on straight from the can - wait 5 to 10 min - wipe off/buff. I usually do 2-3 coats initially. Best if you can wait 24 hours between as recommended. I often don’t, and so sometimes need another coat in a month or two. Otherwise, time between needing additional coats goes up dramatically from there - often fine for maybe a year or so. Then just a few minutes to get back to like new.

The feel is really nice. Fumes are a bit strong during application, but once evaporated there is more of an oil smell - and sun and salt reduce that pretty much to neutral in short order.

Many of us paddle builders…
…also coat the tips with epoxy for increased durability. FWIW, I have never seen epoxy fail to bond to cedar and frankly, cedar does not seem oily at all, especially compared to woods like mahogany.

Unfortunately so
This whole “tung oil finish” nonsense just tends to confuse people and perpetuate myths about finishes. A wiping varnish like Formby’s produces a dramatically different finish than real tung oil or linseed oil. It’s also a waste of money as it’s mostly mineral spirits (~60% IIRC). You can make your own by diluting varnish with mineral spirits (a.k.a. “paint thinner”) and it will cost you a lot less. For that matter, you can skip the thinner and do the “apply and wipe off” thing with straight varnish. One coat should be equivalent to 3 or so of wiping varnish.