Tung Oil on Greenland Paddle

Minwax is an oil/varnish blend…
…with a fair amount of thinner added. Again, it’s a lot more expensive than making your own blend of oil and varnish. My personal preference is 50:50 tung oil and varnish.

Rushing actually slows the curing
What happens is that the first coat cures partially, but when you apply a second coat, it prevents oxygen from getting to the coat underneath to continue the curing process. The more coats you put on in rapid succession, the longer it will take to cure overall. The reason that you need to re-coat fairly soon is probably that the partially cured finish is soft and wears faster than a more completely cured finish.

This is even more true of varnishes.


– Last Updated: Nov-29-07 1:41 PM EST –

I can do a LOT of paddles from one can - and it seals and stores well. There's economy of purchase (fixed) and economy of use (variable to situation) - being generally lazy AND having minimal storage space AND not doing ANY other woodworking that might need other products one might otherwise have on hand to mix - it ends up being cheaper for me and I'm really happy with it.

It’s difficult to find pure tung oil.
Sure a good wood store carries it but my local “Big Box” doesn’t.

Alone, tung oil or linseed oil can take days or weeks to cure (boiled linseed is much faster) so most avoid the 100% varieties. Mixing gives you some control if needed.

I like Brian’s approach but I don’t recommend it to first-timers because it adds unneeded complexity and possibly an Easter egg hunt. I can buy Formby’s (probably MinWax too which is also good stuff) at my local grocery store.

I can get it locally…
… but pricey

IMO blended (pre or custom) is better than pure for paddles as it penetrates better and cures faster - leaving similar nice result. Pure would no doubt make for a nice finish for the more patient - but I see no benefit personally, just a little more cost/work.

I used pure Tung oil on my qajaq frame - which I now think was unnecessary - and it stayed gummy a long time (but that didn’t hurt anything as I had a few days before I was going to skin anyway). Gave me a good idea what to expect on paddles (yes, I built SOF before I’d ever carved a paddle) and got me looking at alternatives to get same or better result.

I honestly didn’t expect much from the Minwax blended product given online info bias at the time (justified for some products not for others) - and tried it on a whim just to see. I was pleasantly surprised. It would take a lot of convincing evidence of serious benefits to some other product to get me to bother with anything else. If it went off the market I’d likely mix my own as per Brian rather than try to hunt down an equivalent product - as that would give me same results, maybe a bit better if I played with mix, but not the same ready to go convenience.

In the past I have ordered Pure Tung Oil through realmilkpaint.com. Then a while later I was walking through Meijer (a michigan based big box grocery/everything else) and there in the paint aisle was pure tung oil in a 1qt. container. I was befuddled. it was about $10. That was a few years ago. I should stop by one sometime and see if they still have it.

Tung oil?
For a nice, but highly biased description of “tung” oil, you may find this interesting.



Pretty amazing…
…how many varied thoughts there are on Tung Oil! Thanks, everyone for your most helpful suggestions and observations. Sometimes (like art), it seems to boil down to personal preference and experience. All valuable stuff, and all helpful in my quest to create some most excellent GPs!

100% Tung oil cures quickly…a
…at room temperature, typically it’s ready to re-coat in less than 24 hours. Boiled linseed oil is about the same. Raw linseed oil takes forever.

Paint stores sometimes have it…
…and I even found a bottle in the discount bin at a local hardware store once. Lee Valley sells it, as do Woodcraft and Rockler.

More Tung Oil Info

– Last Updated: Dec-05-07 8:25 AM EST –

A little more info on pure Tung Oil info can be found at the Lee Valley site.


Check the Tech and Instruction links.

The un-polymerized natural stuff has a nice finish. I usually give my paddles at least a week to dry before first use if I've put several coats on, but only a couple of days if it's just a "refresher" coat.

I do thin my first coat or two with mineral spirits for better penetration.



Looks like you'll have to copy and paste the Lee Valley link...

Thinning is a waste of time
No matter what you do, you’ll never get any significant penetration except on end grain. If you want to see this demonstrated, set a plane to take a very thin shaving (like .002" - .003") and plane a piece of cedar that’s been finished the same as your paddles. I’ll bet you’ll be down to bare wood in two strokes or less. Thinning just makes the finish more porous, requiring more coats to seal the wood.

Definately thin 100% Tung Oil
At least first coat, 50/50 is fine.

GP oiling
If you search the Qajaq USA archives you can find plenty of tips about this topic. Following is something that I posted there in 2001 ( http://www.qajaqusa.org/cgi-bin/TechniqueForumArchive0_config.pl?review=193 ). The archive search is at http://www.qajaqusa.org/forum/Technique_Archive.html .

There are many ways to finish a paddle, the recipe that I use is boiled linseed oil (or pure tung oil) and pure-gum turpentine. Boiled linseed oil is linseed oil with added dryers, plain linseed oil takes forever to dry. You can find non-toxic varieties, at sources such as Woodcraft (naturally polymerized linseed-oil). Most boiled linseed oil contains heavy-metal dryers. If you choose to use an oil with toxic dryers, wear gloves when you oil. Tung oil works well too. Be careful disposing of rags saturated with oil, a crumpled-up rag may begin to smolder or burst into flames.

For the first coat I sometimes add linseed-oil based varnish, such as Captain’s, to act as a sealer, with equal parts varnish, oil and turps. I rub it in with steel wool. The first coat can be allowed to dry, subsequent coats need to be wiped off or it will dry to a gummy crinkled finish. After the first coat, only oil and turps is used. For the remaining coats, less and less turps is used until you eventually are applying only oil.

Some folks add only a coat or two of oil and then complain that it “washed out” the first time that the paddle was used. I use the old rule of thumb of oiling once a day for the first week, once a month for the first year, and once a year thereafter. Although this sounds like a lot of work, I find it to be a very pleasant activity.

You can just go with bare wood and a WRC GP will not absorb much water through normal use. As far as fresh versus salt water, my linseed-oil finished paddles and norsaqs (throwing sticks) get equal exposure to both, and are holding up fine.

Greg Stamer