urethane vs linseed oil greenland pd

am thinking of trying to make my own greenland paddle .what type of finish would you reccommend …urethane vs linseed oil …or other options ??? thanks stan

Watco oil
Either the teak oil (My fave) or the Danish oil. It penetrates well, buffs up to a nice shine after 8 or 9 coats, and only takes a touch-up coat 3 or 4 times a year. I epoxy my blade tips, though. Makes 'em tougher against rocks.

I have varnished GP’s, too, and they’re a PITA in comparison to maintain.

Pure tung
Linseed oil can promote mildew growth, whereas tung will not. Both will help prevent water penetration. My finishing process is tung oil cut with mineral spirits (50/50-ish), wipe on, wait a little while, wipe off excess, wait a couple days for it to cure, repeat x 3 or 4. Use pure tung oil, not the so-called “tung oil finishes”. Tung oil doesn’t dry like paint; it cures or polymerizes. Applying multiple coats in rapid succession will give you a sticky mess.

You can use polyurethane, but some find it too slippery; A light scuff sanding after drying can take care of that.

If you make your paddle out of western red cedar, you don’t really need any finish. It is a naturally rot-resistant wood. A finish will help prevent the paddle from absorbing water, which in turn will prevent it from getting heavier while in use.

Best of luck -

Here’s a source for pure tung…
I second the pure tung recommendation. Here’s at least one source for pure tung oil:



I Use the Tung Oil "Finish"
Very, very sparingly. I only want enough stuff on the wood to give it color. I like to feel the wood. Very fine steel wool gives it a nice satin look. Touch ups are easy.

Varnish vs. oil
I have a few previously varnished paddles and because it 's on top of a soft wood like cedar, they will still bruise easily. Then they get undermined with water, get a dark spot and now you have to sand the entire paddle. Don’t do it. Use oil. Epoxy coat the ends. I use boiled linseed oil / thinner mix. It won’t mildew or do anything like that on a paddle. You want boiled because regular linseed oil takes forever to harden. You can use an exotic oil if you want, but I think it’s a waste of money unless you have some. Those oils are good for making fine woodworking where you don’t want the oil to get darker which linseed does etc.

I am interested to do do something like this as well but is it not a tedious and long process?

To make or to finish? Neither is, IMHO. Many people use the Chuck Holst plans:


Brian Nystrom also sells a book with instructions, which I own as well:


I made several practice ones out of cheap 2x4s from Home Depot before committing to real piece of wood.

Have fun!

Wipe on poly
I like to use wipe on polyurethane although I don’t use the store bought kind. I buy a can of polyurethane and then thin it with paint thinner until I get a wipe on that won’t run. Three coats provides a very durable fin nish.


tried both…
My first self-made GP was oiled, but I soon got blisters on my hand, although spend much time on sanding.

Then I bought an Avatak (->google), with 3 layers of epoxy and 2 layers of satin PU, blade ends glassed. Now I’m more than happy. No blisters, not slippery, no problem with cracks and scratches (and never got back to my Euro paddle).

I agree with Jay
A hard finish like varnish or a urethane will crack very easily on a soft wood and look like a mess soon. Boiled linseed oil works great. I also like to use Formby’s Tung Oil. Formby’s is a varnish/oil mixture that leaves a shiny, flexible finish that resist cracking and will protect soft wood better than varnish. There is a lot of personal preference, so try all the different shapes and finishes to see what works best for you.

I agree with Jay, except…

– Last Updated: Sep-10-09 9:00 AM EST –

...that I prefer to use a 50:50 blend of tung oil and varnish. It provides the same look and feel of oil, but it's more durable without being slippery or creating water entrapment issues like varnish alone. You can use boiled linseed oil instead of tung oil and any type of varnish will do. I used to thin it, but I found there is no advantage to doing so. Apply a coat every 24 hours until you have 3-4 coats on the paddle. More than that and you're basically just wiping off everything you put on.

I always epoxy coat the ends of the paddle. Do this BEFORE you oil the rest of it.

Take your pick

I would avoid linseed & other oils

Why avoid oils?
Obviously, they work fine for a lot of people. My personal experience bears this out.

From my experience
Oils need a lot more “maintenance” to keep a durable film/coating on the substrate.

does it really help to use anything?
I am curious if anyone with lots of experience can comment on whether it really helps to use any oil or varnish. I have a western red cedar paddle that I rarely use since I got a carbon fiber greenland paddle, but which I always bring as a spare, under front bungies. After 4 years with no oil or varnish, it still seems fine (though it’s faded in color a lot). This is with salt water use. I rinse it with fresh water after each trip. Never had any mildew or rot. Seems as good as new as far as I can tell.

Does oiling actually make any difference in longevity of western red cedar?

That’s true…
…but the maintenance is much easier than with film finishes like varnish. You clean off the paddle, let it dry, wipe on some oil, then wipe off the excess after a few minutes. Repeat as necessary. No sanding, no careful brushing and no having to deal with water entrapment issues and the staining and rot they cause.

I guess it’s a matter of what type of maintenance you prefer to do. If avoiding maintenance is the objective, your best bet is buy a glass or carbon fiber paddle.

It make some difference
The main thing is that it makes the surface largely impenetrable to water, so the paddle doesn’t soak up water and swell. That will eventually lead to cracking and checking, and the softer, wet wood is more vulnerable to physical damage. Although Greenlanders didn’t have the finishes we do, rubbing animal oils into the wood was pretty common and it happened by default in the grip area, due to the sealskin mitts they wore. Bone tips protected the ends from splitting. The modern equivalents are vegetable oil finishes and epoxied tips. Cedar apparently wasn’t common and most paddles in Greenland were made from harder woods, which also makes them more durable by default.

BTW, you’re not doing your paddle any favors by rinsing it in fresh water (salt water is a good wood preservative), though if you let it dry completely, it really doesn’t matter.

Oiled vs raw WRC

– Last Updated: Sep-11-09 6:26 PM EST –

If it's only a spare that stays on deck - yeah, suppose it doesn't matter. Do a lot of mileage with it and you might appreciate an oil finish.

Of course if you 20 mile or so non stop on that raw spare you would end up adding some of the best finish of all - an old Inuit traditional mixture known as "blister juice".

Unfinished paddle can be fine, but with regular use the grip areas will take on a different character than the rest - and so not really be unfinished.

will stop rinsing and start oiling occasionally. I don’t want my spare to snap if I ever actually need it.