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  Wooden paddle finish voodoo
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-15-09 2:23 PM (EST)
   Category: unassigned 

-- Last Updated: Aug-15-09 2:24 PM EST --

I've been looking around for a wooden paddle for a while and I'm amazed at the different opinions I get from paddle makers and retailers -- everything from the type of wood, solid shafts vs. laminated shafts, the orientation of shaft laminations, blade shapes, and blade cambers. It all starts to sound like wild guessing to me after a while.

But forget all that. The topic is what kind of stuff do you put on the wood after the paddle is shaped.

Some folks say the wood should first be treated by one, two or three coats of epoxy. Some say this "seals" the wood. Others say, no, it makes the wood "stronger". Others say, no, the whole epoxy thing is BS. Finally, even others say the epoxy thing is worse than BS because it actually interferes with the proper action of the stuff you then put on top of the epoxy or no-epoxy -- which is the next big argument.

Some say a hard shell finish. Which must be polyurethane. No, it should be marine spar varnish. Anyway, most people put one or the other of these hard shell chemicals on the blades.

However, when you get to the shaft and particularly the grip, the opinions get even more shrill and contradictory. There is, of course, the urethane vs. varnish debate.

But then come the oilers. It must not be a hard shell finish, but rather oil -- which, of course, either is better over epoxy or forbidden over epoxy. The oil is either Watco, Deks Olje, raw linseed, boiled linseed, or tung -- or some special layering of one oil on top of the other. One guy swears that tung oil will be a disastrous mess over time.

Among the oilers, some say you can't put anything (such as epoxy or another oil) under their favorite oil because it will interfere with proper "polymerization" of their favorite oil.

Finally, if you ever use oil, some say, you have committed yourself to a one way street ... because the sky will fall if you ever try to poly or varnish, or either or both, over the sacred oil.

Now, this all makes me wonder whether any of these people really know what they're talking about ... or, whether they all know what they're talking about in the sense that all of this finish stuff is basically the same and it really doesn't matter ... or, whether it's all rocket science ... or, whether it's all voodoo ... or, whether I should just stick with my old bare wood paddle or my aluminum-plastic paddle and stop worrying about this frou-frou finish fastidiousness.

Could someone just give the right answer, as I may spring for more than I paid for my first car.


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Messages in this Topic

 

  Nice summary.
  Posted by: edzep on Aug-15-09 2:54 PM (EST)
I look forward to reading the answers, as I've decided make a Greenland paddle in the next few months. The GP procedure I read last night was epoxy only, leaving out varnish for tactile reasons, maybe.
 
 
  I would rub beeswax into it and be done
  Posted by: onnopaddle on Aug-15-09 5:31 PM (EST)
 
 
  No "Right Answer"
  Posted by: old_user on Aug-15-09 7:03 PM (EST)
The only "right answer" to your questions is you need to put some kind of finish on that bare wood paddle to keep the wood from absorbing water and rotting that pretty wood much quicker than needs be. But what a builder puts on thier paddle to finish it, will be mostly personal preference. But here are a few things to consider. That wood protection on the paddle blade gets compromised with every nick from encounter with substances harder than wood. Sooner or later that paddle will need refinishing if one wants to prolong its life. Some finishes are way easier to sand off and start over than others. Some finishes require much more frequent maintenance and only the user will know if they would stay with that program or not. You mention epoxy. Some easy to split woods that paddle makers use that are brought down to a very thin blade thickness benefit by epoxy and fiberglass cloth to strengthen the wood (but at the cost of added weight). Resin by itself is a good sealer and will gloss up with a coat of varnish, but won't add much to wood strength. Those whose efforts with polyurethane or other varnish are rewarded with unsightly runs in their finish, tend to use oil. Those that have figured out how to get 5 coats of poly on without runs in their finish ..... usually go for the gloss. Choose wisely Grasshopper.
 
 
  Glenn
  Posted by: mornstein on Aug-15-09 7:10 PM (EST)
I'd give you the REAL answer,but then again, we've already had the discussion. It will be interesting to read other opinions and the basis for them.

For others following this thread, I'll outline my usual procedure.

My laminated blades are sheathed with epoxy and fiberglass.
I seal the shaft and grip with epoxy as well. According to Gougeon Brothers, the manufacturers of West System epoxy, epoxy not only seals the wood surface but also strengthens the surface of the wood. I realize they have an ax to grind in that they are selling epoxy, but they have a lot of convincing test results to back up their statements. Additionally, several varnish manufacturers recommend sealing wood surfaces with epoxy before applying varnish.

Epoxy sealed surfaces, must be protected from UV light. Hence for a boat or paddle (that will spend time outdoors) the final finish must contain a UV inhibitor. All good spar varnishes meet that requirement.

For those that do not like the slick varnish finish or who believe they will get blisters from such a finish, the grip and lower portion of the shaft can be final sanded with #220 grit paper, after the varnish has cured. The resulting finish is virtually indistinguishable from a cured oil finish.

As for the myth that once a paddle has been oiled it can never be varnished. Hogwash. Most oiled finishes, once fully cured can take varnish just fine. I've done it numerous times and haven't had a failure yet.

Marc Ornstein
Dogpaddle Canoe Works
Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes
 
 
  The design is the most important thing
  Posted by: bnystrom on Aug-15-09 7:51 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Aug-15-09 8:36 PM EST --

What you use for a finish on a paddle is a distant second at best. More importantly, it largely comes down to personal preference, rather than any important differences. Here's the basic scoop on finishes:

Oil
The main reasons that people choose oil finishes are twofold:
1 - They like the feel. Oil finishes (pure oils, not faux-oil finishing products) cannot be built up to any significant thickness. They produce a soft, matte or satin finish. Consequently, an oiled paddle still feels like wood. Many people, myself included, prefer the feel of an oiled paddle.
2- They like the look. The matte/satin finish is visually appealing because it looks like wood, not like wood that has been coated with something.

Other plusses for oil finishes:
- They are easy to maintain. You simply clean off the paddle, wipe on more oil, then wipe off the excess after 5 minutes or so. OTOH, being relatively soft, they also require more frequent maintenance than other finishes.
- They allow the wood to breathe to an extent, so that any water that gets through the finish can get back out again.

The most common types of oil finishes are:
- Raw linseed oil. This is not generally a good finish for paddles or much of anything else, as it takes weeks or even months to cure. I don't have that much patience nor do I see any advantage to raw linseed oil.
- Boiled linseed oil. This is by far the most common oil product on the market. It's not actually boiled, but it contains heavy metal driers (cobalt) that cause it to cure much more rapidly than its raw cousin. Applying one coat per day is pretty standard. One downside to either linseed oil is that mold and mildew feed on them, which is why they're not a good finish for items that stay wet for long periods of time, like SOF kayak frames. For paddles, this isn't typically a problem.
- Tung oil. Pure tung oil is good wood finish, but you have to read the label. There are a lot of "Tung Oil Finish" products on the market that contain little or no tung oil (they're wiping varnishes - see below). I prefer to use tung oil for paddle finishes, but the functional differences between it and boiled linseed oil are not significant.

Varnish
Most commercial paddles are finished with some form of varnish, either spar varnish or polyurethane (polyurethane is simply varnish made with synthetic oils and resins). It creates a hard film finish that can be very durable. Typically, gloss varnishes are used, which gives the paddle a plastic look and a rather slippery feel. Satin and matte varnishes are available, but with use they get polished in the grip areas and become just as slippery as gloss varnish. You can "renew" the finish with Scotchbrite, steel wool or 600 grit sandpaper, but it just gets polished again with use.

Being a completely waterproof film finish, if it becomes damaged and water wicks into the wood, it becomes trapped and the wood will likely become discolored in that area unless you sand it down, let it dry and refinish it. Rot is possible, but realistically, it's not likely on a paddle.

Epoxy
Epoxy is a hard film finish, but if you wipe it on and off like oil, it can produce a more natural look and feel than gloss varnish. However, epoxy is UV sensitive, so it really should be covered with varnish to protect it, which is what you usually see on commercial paddles. It hardens the surface of the wood substantially and may stiffen the paddle to a noticeable degree. If applied thickly and/or coated with varnish, all the caveats regarding water entrapment apply. As with varnish, it's more involved to maintain it, especially with epoxy/varnish finishes.

There is a class of products called "wiping varnish", which are mainly varnishes with a lot of thinner added (mineral spirits), but sometimes with oils added as well. Most "tung oil finish", "Danish oil" and "Teak oil" finishes fall into this category. Depending on their composition, they will be more like varnish or more like oil. These are generally a very poor value, as you pay a premium price for a product that's mostly cheap thinner.

To further muddy the waters, there is class of oil finishes known as "polymerized oils". Depending on the degree of polymerization, they will behave like oil or varnish. Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil is a good example of a highly polymerized oil that acts like varnish. Polymerized oils are not that common and you're only likely to see them in specialty woodworking stores. Some are marketed as "natural" or "green" finishes, since they don't contain petroleum-based thinners and heavy metal driers, like many other products.

My personal preference in paddle finishes is a 50:50 blend of varnish and pure tung oil. It retains the look, feel and ease of application/maintenance of oil finishes with considerably better durability. I epoxy coat the tips of my paddles for durability and since it's a sacrificial coating, it wears down and requires re-coating before UV damage becomes an issue. I find this to be the best application for these products, at least for my personal use.

I guess the bottom line is that different finishes are appropriate for different uses and paddlers. If someone tells you that a particular product or procedure is "the only way to finish a paddle", turn around and walk away.

 
 
  More questions
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-15-09 10:59 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Aug-15-09 11:02 PM EST --

Forget the fiberglass. I understand some paddles may be reinforced on the blade or even up the shaft with FG, which of course will require a resin. I'm talking, as Marc discussed, about whether to epoxy the non-FG'ed areas.

OK, I'm not convinced I need epoxy on non-FG'd wood, but I'm sort of convinced that there should be a UV protectant over an epoxy finish. I understand both poly and spar varnish have UV protection.

What is the aesthetic, functional, tactile or other difference between spar and poly for a paddle?

Will any of the oils provide the necessary UV protection if put over epoxy?

I know you can pretty easily sand off varnish. Can you sand off an oiled finish? (I realize Marc said it doesn't matter much.)

Does anyone else vote for beeswax? Onno, how does this compare or differ from an oil or varnish finish?

I have heard that Greenland paddle aficionados have some strong opinions on this subject. I don't know what they are, however. Whale or seal oil, perhaps.

 
 
  More answers
  Posted by: bnystrom on Aug-16-09 7:08 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Aug-16-09 7:10 AM EST --

"OK, I'm not convinced I need epoxy on non-FG'd wood"

You don't "need" to do it unless you have a specific reason, like hardening the surface.

"but I'm sort of convinced that there should be a UV protectant over an epoxy finish. I understand both poly and spar varnish have UV protection."

Except in areas where the epoxy is sacrificial, it should be coated with a UV protectant. AFAIK, all spar varnishes are designed for exterior use, so they have UV inhibitors in them (spar varnish is NOT a generic term for natural varnishes, it's a specific type of marine varnish). That is not true for all polyurethane varnishes, as you can get interior poly's that don't have UV inhibitors. What you need to look for is the word "exterior", as that will indicate UV additives are present.

"What is the aesthetic, functional, tactile or other difference between spar and poly for a paddle?"

The difference isn't much and it generally comes down to poly's being more durable.

"Will any of the oils provide the necessary UV protection if put over epoxy?"

I forgot to mention in my previous post that putting oil over anything else is pointless, as it cannot be built up to any significant degree. For best results, oil must be applied over bare wood.

"I know you can pretty easily sand off varnish. Can you sand off an oiled finish? (I realize Marc said it doesn't matter much.)"

If you want to remove all of either type of finish, you have to sand deep enough to remove the pores that the finish has wicked into. If you're just refinishing a paddle, that's not necessary. Oil finishes can be sanded, but they're soft and tend to clog the paper.

"Does anyone else vote for beeswax? Onno, how does this compare or differ from an oil or varnish finish?"

I've heard of a lot of people that blend bee's wax with oils and some finishing products contain it as a component. I don't know that I would want to use only bee's wax as a finish, as it wouldn't be very protective.

"I have heard that Greenland paddle aficionados have some strong opinions on this subject. I don't know what they are, however. Whale or seal oil, perhaps."

While those products may be used in Greenland, they're illegal here, so it's irrelevant. Most of the GP users I know, myself included, tend to lean toward oil finishes or blends that produce the same type of surface, though many prefer no finish at all. If you use woods like cedar, you don't actually need a finish, but finishing the paddle helps to keep the grip surface smooth and prevents it from gaining a lot of water weight in use.

 
 
  Glen
  Posted by: fadedred on Aug-16-09 7:14 AM (EST)
The finish You put on a paddle can also be determined somewhat by whether or not it's a laminated paddle where the lamination joints are already epoxy and you wish to keep the wood from swelling around the glued surface.

If The paddle is made from one piece of wood, then this possiable wetting of the wood is a non-issue.

Where laminatated paddles are concerned,(especially if any carbon fiber has been used in the layers to change the flex charicterists) I prefer to seal the paddle and tie the glue joints with an exterior finish of epoxy.

If the paddle is laminated from scraps and longevity is of no concern....then the finish could be anything You chose.

I spray epoxy finished paddles with (deadly) two part eurathane as a UV protector and I like the amount of grip/feel it has rather than the feel of the epoxy.

Best Wishes
Roy
 
 
  The only reason
  Posted by: mornstein on Aug-16-09 7:19 AM (EST)
I mentioned fiberglassing the blade is that spar varnish is the "standard" method of UV protection for epoxy/fiberglass construction, be it large yachts or stripper canoes. As such, the issue of compatibility has long been established.

Oil finished, as have been discussed here provide minimal UV protection. Even if the product contains a UV inhibitor the film thickness is too thin to be of much value.

Spar varnishes tend to be softer/more flexible than other varnishes and are thus preferred for exterior applications where there may be more expansion or contraction of the wood with temperature and moisture changes. That flexibility also makes them more suitable for applications where the wood may be routinely flexed as well as making it less prone to chipping than harder varnishes.

As for sanding off oil finishes. Since most of the oil finished mentioned in this forum are of the penetrating type, sanding off such a finish necessarily means removing a substantial amount of wood as well. You'd not want to do that too many times on a paddle. When I've refinished wood that had previously been oiled, I've lightly sanded the surface in order to "clean it up", but not so deeply that all of the old finish was removed.

Marc Ornstein
Dogpaddle Canoe Works
Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes
 
 
  raw linseed oil
  Posted by: Dirk_Barends on Aug-16-09 9:48 AM (EST)
The advantage of raw linseed oil over boiled linseed oil, is that raw linseed oil impregnates the wood much better. When the wood is fully saturated with raw linseed oil, one can finish with boiled linseed oil and/or tung oil, which will dry in a couple of days.
Once wood has been treated with raw linseed oil, treating it with epoxy makes no sense anymore, I think. Spar varnish will be no problem though.
 
 
  Penetration mythology
  Posted by: bnystrom on Aug-16-09 12:07 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Aug-16-09 1:06 PM EST --

There are a lot of myths regarding the penetration of oil and other finishes into wood. The truth is that the only substantial penetration you'll get is on end grain, where it can wick in along the cell structure. On flat grain, you get a few thousandths of an inch of penetration at best in most woods. On coarse-grained woods like oak, you'll get more penetration where there are exposed pores, but you still get very little elsewhere.

For the skeptics out there who may think I'm blowing smoke, here's a really simple test:

- Take a sharp plane and set it to make a .002"-.003" shaving.

- Take an oil-finished paddle or test piece and count how many plane strokes it takes to get down to bare wood. In my experience, two or three is about it on face grain.

While it's true that raw linseed oil stays liquid longer and will at least theoretically penetrate farther into the wood, whether you end up with .004" of penetration or .008" of penetration doesn't make a whole lot of difference, certainly not enough to justify putting up with a finish that takes forever to cure. Applying a faster curing finish over it will increase the curing time of the raw linseed oil dramatically, as it will cut it off from the oxygen it needs to cure. "Saturation" will never occur unless you soak the wood in oil for weeks to months and even then it may not fully penetrate an object as long as a paddle.

I haven't found that thinning oils increases penetration appreciably, either. The thinners evaporate too quickly to do much good. They also result in a more porous finish, since the evaporating thinner leaves open pores in the oil or varnish film.

There is one more thing that's important to understand about oils and varnishes; they don't "dry" like lacquer or shellac (where the solvent simply evaporates), they "cure" by combining with oxygen in the air. The resulting finish is chemically different than the original oil or varnish and applying more over it will not dissolve the underlying finish and bond to it. There is a finite window where the best bond between coats can be achieved. If you apply the next coat too soon, you cut off the oxygen supply to the underlying coat and it takes MUCH longer for it to cure. This is what happens when a varnish job is rushed and slathered on too quickly/heavily and it stays soft for weeks or months. OTOH, if you don't apply the next coat soon enough, you won't get any chemical bonding, so you need to sand the surface to enhance the mechanical bond between coats. Oils are somewhat more forgiving, since they don't build up much film thickness, but if you slop on oil and don't wipe it off, you end up with a gooey mess that again takes forever to cure.

For anyone interested in more information on various finishing products, how they work and where they are best applied, I highly recommend Bob Flexner's book "Understanding Wood Finishing". It spells it all out and dispels many common myths.

 
 
  Seems like you all forgot about PAINT
  Posted by: FrankNC on Aug-16-09 1:02 PM (EST)
Paint is the number one wood protective coating these days. It lasts much longer than varnish and is easy to maintain.

Of course then other won't be able to tell you are using a real wood paddle from a distance and that might hurt your feelings, but it will not hurt the paddle at all.
 
 
  There's nothing wrong with paint...
  Posted by: bnystrom on Aug-16-09 1:47 PM (EST)
...but very few people use it on paddles, either commercial or home-made. I didn't forget about it, it's just not particularly relevant to the discussion at hand.
 
 
  Personal voodoo
  Posted by: old_user on Aug-17-09 7:15 PM (EST)
So far, this is a pretty polite and informative thread, and I'll only contribute my personal wood finish voodoo, a combination of study, experience, and refusal to admit what I did last time was actually a mistake.

My whitewater paddle is laminated wood, glass fiber/epoxy. Spar varnish on top of that. It works fine, doesn't have to be babied, and it survive d a major overhaul and refinishing a few years ago.

My canoe poles live in a harsher environment, much more susceptible to crushing-type damage. They get a couple of coats of epoxy, applied (carefully) with a heat gun in the manner recommended by the Gougeon Brothers. About 18" of the working ends get epoxy+filler+graphite with the faith/assumption/design/hope that that'll be less likely to wedge. The regular epoxy gets a couple of coats of spar varnish, steel wool to break the glaze, and old-fashioned x-country ski wax for grip.

 
 
  Oil isn't always oil
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-16-09 1:07 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Aug-16-09 1:09 PM EST --

I did some googling.

This article says that many popular oils, such as Watco and other "Danish" oils, are really just blends of varnish and an oil.

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/features/finish2.html

Another article specifically says Watco is linseed and varnish.

The linked article and others I have seen, along with one paddle maker, say pure tung is very difficult to use. It must be sanded vigorously after every application and many, many coats must be used.

Most of the articles say oil has no UV protecting qualities. Some say it should be applied over bare wood with nothing underneath it.

If any of these are correct, it would seem that if you are going to apply oil, you shouldn't apply an epoxy sealer first. The epoxy will interfere with the saturation and polymerization of the oil, and the epoxy won't be protected from UV by the oil.

What the heck happens to epoxy anyway if it isn't UV protected? Something horrific?

I'm more interested in protecting the wood than the epoxy. Does wood itself need UV protection?

My investigations this summer have not changed my longstanding subjective preference for the feel of oiled grips over varnished grips. But now I wonder certain things. Should I oil the whole shaft? If I do, shouldn't I forbid an epoxy "sealant" underneath it? But, confusingly, if the oils I'm using are really half varnish anyway, maybe I'm back to voodoo and have always been fooling myself about "oil".

Oh, on top of all this, other articles say that "oil" or "varnish" are preferred or not for finishing depending on what kind of wood is being used. Cherry is different from oak. Something to do with pore sizes.

http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache%3AUkxpObvIAPUJ%3Awww.woodcentral.com%2Fbparticles%2Foil_finishes.pdf+watco+oil&hl=en&gl=us

I guess I forgot my botany. I thought wood was a closed cell structure.

 
 
  Even more answers
  Posted by: bnystrom on Aug-16-09 2:22 PM (EST)
"This article says that many popular oils, such as Watco and other "Danish" oils, are really just blends of varnish and an oil.

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/features/finish2.html

Another article specifically says Watco is linseed and varnish."

As I mentioned previously, most "oil finish" products are blends. They typically mostly thinner, blended with varnish and in some cases linseed or tung oil. The only way to know that you're actually applying an oil finish is to use pure oils.

"The linked article and others I have seen, along with one paddle maker, say pure tung is very difficult to use. It must be sanded vigorously after every application and many, many coats must be used.

That's complete BS. Tung oil is incredibly easy to use as a finish, as is boiled linseed oil. You wipe it on, let it penetrate, then wipe it off. Each succeeding coat helps fill the pores in the wood, but it won't build to any appreciable thickness. Perhaps that's the issue with the author of the article, he's trying to create a varnish like finish with tung oil, which is a complete waste of time and a poor application for it. As with any finishing product, you have to understand it and use it where it's appropriate. Lack of understanding is where most finishing myths come from.

BTW, for finishing paddles, I've found that there's no point in applying more than 4 or 5 coats of oil or oil/varnish blend and as few as 3 will do the trick.

"Most of the articles say oil has no UV protecting qualities. Some say it should be applied over bare wood with nothing underneath it."

Correct on both counts.

"If any of these are correct, it would seem that if you are going to apply oil, you shouldn't apply an epoxy sealer first. The epoxy will interfere with the saturation and polymerization of the oil, and the epoxy won't be protected from UV by the oil."

Correct again, except that the epoxy shouldn't affect the polymerization of the oil, since all that's required for that is oxygen.

"What the heck happens to epoxy anyway if it isn't UV protected? Something horrific?"

It breaks downs and gets chalky, losing all of its strength in the process. If it's used as a wipe on/wipe off coating on wood (applied like oil), it is somewhat protected by the wood itself. If it's applied as a film coating (applied like varnish), it's unprotected and subject to degradation. Depending on how much you use your paddle and how you store it, the damage could take anywhere from months to years to become bad enough to raise concerns.

"I'm more interested in protecting the wood than the epoxy. Does wood itself need UV protection?"

In general, no, as wood is not damaged by UV. Some - perhaps most - woods change color due to UV exposure. Pine turns orange, purple heart turns brown, etc. If the color change is undesirable, a UV protectant will slow the change, but I don't know if it's possible to completely eliminate it.

"My investigations this summer have not changed my longstanding subjective preference for the feel of oiled grips over varnished grips. But now I wonder certain things. Should I oil the whole shaft? If I do, shouldn't I forbid an epoxy "sealant" underneath it? But, confusingly, if the oils I'm using are really half varnish anyway, maybe I'm back to voodoo and have always been fooling myself about "oil"."

That's one of the biggest problems with wood finishing, the huge amount of misinformation foisted on the public by finish manufacturers. Calling a wiping varnish an "Oil Finish" is confusing to the consumer and just plain wrong.

To answer your question, if you like the look and feel of oil finishes, either use pure oil or make your own oil/varnish blend. Unless you have a specific need for epoxy, there's no point in using it. As I mentioned, I epoxy coat the tips of my paddles for durability and use an oil varnish blend on the rest of the paddle. It gives me the look and feel I like with better durability that just oiling the entire paddle. You may prefer a different approach. Now that you understand what these products are and how they work, you can figure out what's the optimum finish for your needs.

"Oh, on top of all this, other articles say that "oil" or "varnish" are preferred or not for finishing depending on what kind of wood is being used. Cherry is different from oak. Something to do with pore sizes."

Again, it depends on the application. What you use on furniture or cabinets may not the the ideal finish for a paddle. It also depends on what one is trying to achieve with the finish. Blanket statements like that simply cannot be correct for every application. You need to know the goals of the author and the materials being used.

"http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache%3AUkxpObvIAPUJ%3Awww.woodcentral.com%2Fbparticles%2Foil_finishes.pdf+watco+oil&hl=en&gl=us"

In this case, the author apparently doesn't know what he's using. Because Watco contains varnish, it can be built up slowly by using many thin coats. He also doesn't seem to realize that the sanding he's doing is filling in the pores and knocking down the high spots, which is what ultimately produces a fine finish. I routinely apply the last two coats of finish on my paddles using 400 and 600 grit sandpaper. Even on cedar, the results are impressive.

"I guess I forgot my botany. I thought wood was a closed cell structure."

Yes and no. There are closed cells, but there are also tubular structures. This varies greatly between various species of wood. Sawing/planing/scraping/sanding opens some cells and tubes, which will then absorb a finish. Sanding plows furrows in the wood, which will also hold finishes. It's a whole 'nuther world at that level.
 
 
  bnystrom
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-16-09 2:42 PM (EST)
Thank you for your in depth contributions. Do you mind saying something about your background in this area.

You say that one should use "pure" oils in order to know what you are actually using. That sounds reasonable. But the only oils I've heard about so far are tung and linseed (not counting beeswax). You've said you use tung.

Not to be argumentative, but one of the authors whose comment about tung you called BS is the same author you recommended earlier, Bob Flexner. He says in the article I linked:

"But tung oil is too difficult for most people to use by itself as a finish. You apply tung oil just like linseed oil or oil/varnish blend, but you have to sand tung oil after every coat, not just after the first, and it takes five to seven coats, allowing two to three days drying time between each, to achieve a smooth, attractive sheen."

This kind of statement deters a novice like me from even trying tung. Would you mind elaborating on why you are saying tung doesn't have to be vigorously sanded and dried multiple times. Is it because you are cutting the tung with varnish in the first place?
 
 
  Yet more
  Posted by: bnystrom on Aug-16-09 8:20 PM (EST)
"Thank you for your in depth contributions. Do you mind saying something about your background in this area."

It's pretty simple really, I've read a lot about finishes and I've experimented with them on paddles and SOF frames.

"You say that one should use "pure" oils in order to know what you are actually using. That sounds reasonable. But the only oils I've heard about so far are tung and linseed (not counting beeswax). You've said you use tung."

You can buy pure linseed oil - either raw or boiled - just about anywhere. I don't recall ever seeing any products advertised as linseed oil that weren't actually that. Tung oil is another matter, as there are myriad "Tung Oil Finish" products on the market that are wiping varnishes or blends. You can get pure tung oil, but generally you have to get it through a woodworking supplier, as the stuff you find on the shelves at home centers and hardware stores is suspect unless it actually says "100% tung oil" on the container.

"Not to be argumentative, but one of the authors whose comment about tung you called BS is the same author you recommended earlier, Bob Flexner. He says in the article I linked:

"But tung oil is too difficult for most people to use by itself as a finish. You apply tung oil just like linseed oil or oil/varnish blend, but you have to sand tung oil after every coat, not just after the first, and it takes five to seven coats, allowing two to three days drying time between each, to achieve a smooth, attractive sheen."

This kind of statement deters a novice like me from even trying tung. Would you mind elaborating on why you are saying tung doesn't have to be vigorously sanded and dried multiple times. Is it because you are cutting the tung with varnish in the first place?"

That's interesting, but without context, I can only assume he's talking about using it as a furniture finish, which is his primary business. Personally, I wouldn't use straight tung or linseed oil as a furniture finish, as it's not durable enough and I wouldn't want to be renewing it constantly.

As a paddle finish, none of what he said is true unless you're determined to have a flawless, furniture-grade finish on your paddle. I used straight tung oil on a number or paddles (and straight boiled linseed oil, too) before I experimented with blends and ultimately switched to them. It was a wipe-on, wipe off process, just as with linseed oil; there were no special techniques or other gyrations involved. It couldn't have been easier.

I understand your confusion, as the subject of wood finishing is full of myth, folklore and just plain nonsense that's been passed down for ages. Bob's book helps shed some light on the subject, but as you can see, there's still a lot of variability in finishing and it is entirely dependent on the nature of the object you're finishing and how it will be used.
 
 
  Epoxy with/without varnish
  Posted by: angstrom on Aug-16-09 3:55 PM (EST)
http://www.oneoceankayaks.com/Epoxyhtm/epox12m.htm
 
 
  Terrific. Empirical evidence. Thanks.
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-16-09 4:46 PM (EST)
I have been bothered throughout my summer paddle journey, including this thread, by the lack of empirical evidence to back up claims. Everything seemed to be subjective, anecdotal and/or mechanical confirmation bias. (By mechanical confirmation bias, I mean someone who has shot a number of free throws with two hands, and hence recommends two-handed free throw shooting. She may never have tried one-handed or under-handed free throw shooting.)

If I'm reading the test results correctly, the whitening-cracking-crumbling can only be reduced by applying and leaving on very thick filler coats of epoxy -- which of course would add unwanted weight in something like a paddle. It also seems as if varnish does help reduce the degradation, but doesn't stop it.

Makes me think about whether I want any epoxy or composite cloths on an expensive wooden paddle. Sort of a trade off between ultimately fixing some damaged wood or ultimately fixing some damaged epoxy and cloth. On the other hand, I have 25+ year old wood paddle blades with FG wraps that look perfectly fine. They've been lightly sanded and varnished just two or three times.

 
 
  Vaclav has done some great work...
  Posted by: bnystrom on Aug-16-09 9:03 PM (EST)
...in the area of fabrics and epoxies, among other things. Keep in mind that these are the results of an extreme test. Unless you leave your paddles out exposed to the weather year-round, you won't see the kind of degradation that he did for quite a while.

Whether to use epoxy and fiberglass should be a decision based on whether you need the reinforcement or not; it's really not about finishing. Epoxy and glass are structural components, not just cosmetic coatings like finishing products. If you don't need their structural properties, there is absolutely no point in using them.
 
 
  A thought
  Posted by: Mornstein on Aug-17-09 9:27 PM (EST)
on UV protection and discoloration. The tests cited and illustrated make a great point BUT, paddle exposure is generally quite limited compared to the test samples.

Most people use their paddles intermittently and store them under cover when not in use. Even when in use, part of the paddle is most always shaded ( or shadowed) or in the water. Even for those of us who use their paddles heavily, it would likely take multiple lifetimes to gain the same UV exposure as the cited test samples.

Marc Ornstein
Dogpaddle Canoe Works
Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes
 
 
  Good thought
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-18-09 3:11 AM (EST)
Bnystrom and Mornstein are surely correct to point out that those test panels have been continuously exposed to the weather for a year, whereas a paddle blade would not be so extremely exposed.

Especially the paddle blade of the Dogpaddle CEO, who favors palm rolls and in-water returns.

Those test panels do look like my unfortunate Old Town OTCA, and may provide interesting data on the quality and longevity of different epoxy products.
 
 
  Effects of finish on wood color
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-16-09 2:07 PM (EST)
I forgot to bring up this issue in my previous posts, but it may be of more or less significance to discriminating paddlers.

I have read that, among varnishes, spar will discolor (yellowy) more than polyurethane. I have also read that different oils will have different color effects over the short and especially long term -- though I haven't seen anything go into exact specifics.

I personally would prefer the finish to have minimal effects on color IF I have spent a lot of time and/or money selecting or specifying my woods for color aesthetics -- such as my ebony, bloodwood, curly maple and kauri dream paddle.
 
 
  like
  Posted by: fadedred on Aug-16-09 6:52 PM (EST)
these?

http://www.woodsongcanoes.com/paddles.htm

Best Wishes
Roy

I use the finish Phil uses. He;s the one that told me.
 
 
  Billionaires and paddles
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-16-09 10:04 PM (EST)
Exactly.

I called Phil and he said he was making a canoe for a billionaire in Connecticut. I told him that wasn't me, but I did have $87.95 to splurge on a paddle.

Turns out he's from Connecticut, too, and we had a great chat talking about paddling in the uber-magnificent Sparkelberry Swamp and rolling canoes with S-blades. He sent me his DVD, which is breathtaking.

What's a mere $3,500 for an ancient wood paddle when you are buying a $130,000 ebony canoe to hang in the boathouse of your $30,000,000 yacht?
 
 
  Cheap.
  Posted by: YakOfSteel on Aug-17-09 12:03 PM (EST)
He should have charged him much more . . . .


YoS
 
 
  WOW lots of good info
  Posted by: old_user on Aug-17-09 3:10 PM (EST)
So here's my 2cents. I often use a coat or two of Watco Danish oil on my recently completed paddles....but my favorite stick (which I made in Don Beale's class at SSTIKS a few years ago) doesn't have any finish at all. That said, it has acquired a "patina" especially in the loom-shoulder area. I think it is some kind of "natural" oil from my hands.
Many of my creations are in WRC and they have a certain amount of natural resins in them anyway. The white Pine, Spruce and other "white wood" sticks usually get the Watco treatment.
 
 
  Tung Oil
  Posted by: old_user on Aug-17-09 9:02 PM (EST)
Beale reccomends tung oil. You control how glossy it gets with the number of coats. I have two cedar gp's from him and this is what I use. I figure Beale knows best, just look at the paddles he builds!
 
 
  Beale vs. bnystrom; what tung?
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-18-09 2:54 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Aug-18-09 3:15 AM EST --

Beale's web page for solid paddles says he uses two coats of an unnamed oil over a coat of epoxy:

http://www.bealepaddles.com/solid.html

This conflicts with bnystrom's advice not to put epoxy under oil.

In addition, if Beale is using tung oil, I think it is important to know whether he is using pure tung, tung mixed with thinner, or tung mixed with varnish. We now know there are differences.

In contrast, Beale's web page for laminated paddles says he uses three coats of spar varnish over one coat of epoxy:

http://www.bealepaddles.com/laminate.html

So, fellow aficionados of voodoo and juju, why do you think he treats solid western red cedar differently from laminated red cedar? Maybe that accounts for the $150 price difference.

 
 
  the $150 price difference...
  Posted by: Greyak on Aug-18-09 1:31 PM (EST)
... is pretty obvious to anyone who has made both solid and laminated paddles - pretty reasonable - and seems to be pretty consistent among makers (though nothing else may be).
 
 
  Price was a throwaway line
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-18-09 4:57 PM (EST)
My serious question was why oil a solid paddle and varnish a laminated paddle.

If there is no structural reason to do so, I'll hazard a guess that it's purely visual aesthetics. He wants the higher gloss to show off the laminations more strikingly.
 
 
  There are reasons
  Posted by: Greyak on Aug-19-09 3:23 AM (EST)
Mostly the way the surface grain can respond differently with different wood types, and the differential rates of expansion, when they can breath under an oil finish (more as it gets time to refresh). To keep a nice feels it makes the most sense to just go ahead and seal laminated paddles with epoxy (and then UV protect the epoxy with varnish). This is a non issue with solid - and you can use whatever you prefer with no worries.

That said, I've done several laminated paddles (epoxy for laminations and tips) and oiled them. Sort of a do as I say not as I do thing - and odd cases where they were either all cedar strips or cedar and pine. Not as huge a difference as with softwood/hardwood combinations. Have to ask fellow Pnetters like BrazilBrasil and Moparharn how they're holding up for them.
 
 
  I won't speculate on why Don does that
  Posted by: BNystrom on Aug-19-09 4:54 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Aug-19-09 4:55 PM EST --

However, there are differences between building paddles as a business and building them for yourself. For example:

- Time = money. In order to keep the price reasonable, you need to be able to finish a paddle quickly. Time is the reason that laminated paddles cost more, it simply takes longer to make them. If you build them for yourself, you can take as long as you want.

- You don't know the use the paddle will see. Will it be used hard or easy? Will it be stored indoors or outdoors? Will it be kept dry or not?

- You don't know how well the paddle will be maintained. Consequently, the finish needs to be durable in case the owner doesn't maintain it properly.

- With laminated paddles, you can get differential expansion if the wood gets wet, which can damage the joints. Consequently, keeping the wood as dry as possible makes sense. Varnish over epoxy will do that. Also, people tend to buy laminated paddles more for their aesthetics than anything else, so they want it to look nice for a long time. Varnish over epoxy is a hard finish that's very protective.

I do know that Don did a lot of testing of finishes before he decided on what he was going to use. While I wouldn't use the same thing on my own paddles - because I don't have any of the above concerns - I understand why he uses what he does on his paddles.

 
 
  CLC: how to varnish over epoxy
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-18-09 3:41 AM (EST)
Here is CLC's advice page on how to varnish a hull over epoxy:

http://www.clcboats.com/shoptips/finishing/varnished_kayak.html

Some nuggets I noticed:

-- All epoxies have no UV protection, will break down in sunlight and turn yellow and brittle.

-- Because of epoxy "amine blush" you can't varnish properly over epoxy until the epoxy is fully cured, which may take weeks or months.

-- You can avoid amine blush and most of the varnishing delay by using an amine free brand such as MAS epoxy.

-- "Spar varnishes" sold in hardware stores aren't likely to have much UV protection or durability.

-- You need at least three coats of quality varnish to get UV protection for the epoxy, five is good, eight is probably overkill.
 
 
  Balls of lanolin
  Posted by: Jsaults on Aug-18-09 1:36 PM (EST)
from sheep armpits, rubbed into bare wood and warmed between coats with a heat gun.

Easy to apply, easy to touch up, nourishes the wood. A bit aromatic though.

Jim
 
 
  Harvesting lanolin?
  Posted by: agongos on Aug-19-09 8:02 AM (EST)
Can you expand on the harvesting of the lanolin from sheep. My wife is a weaver & has 30 Shetland sheep. Is the paddle run across the armpit, and what do the sheep think of this?
 
 
  I do not condone
  Posted by: Jsaults on Aug-19-09 4:41 PM (EST)
rubbing paddles in sheep's armpits. Don't want to start any Wellington boot comments. Much better to harvest the lanolin after shearing.

Jim
 
 
  what a hard-surface makes one do..
  Posted by: bigspencer on Aug-18-09 4:46 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Aug-18-09 5:10 PM EST --

HA..now that I can't change my Subject line...
Has always seemed like a hard surfaced shaft & grip will force a paddler, over time, to increase one's grip to totally control...thus limiting dexterity and comfort, but then the mass produced paddles for the recreational paddler aren't made for paddlers that spend more than an hour or two(at the most) out on the water.
Great stuff...great topic Glenn!!! Oils/wax (of some nature) going into the raw wood and given time to cure...imho. Can't remember where but read of rubbing the oil/fat? off chicken bones..into the wood. Granddad's old paddles were painted...but I'd go with the cured oil(s). My existing and next paddles are and aren't treated...but will be... with some mix of linseed, but that's just my $.01. VERY nice articles on the woods..!!!
*I have done the epoxy-thing to cheaper paddle throats/blades...at some point, but was mostly cause of the weaker paddle's pricing...etc.

 
 
  There is no answer to this question
  Posted by: Kanoo on Aug-19-09 3:38 AM (EST)
You can't dictate the perfect finish for every paddle any more than you can dictate the perfect finish for a roll top desk. Some would use shellac, some danish oil, some lacquer, etc. Woodworkers are like cooks, they all have different recipes. Some work as well as any other, some are O.K., some suck. The sticking point is that unless it's totally botched, the preference is all subjective. Technical advantages are limited enough that debate has raged for years with little or no advance.

It's not hard to find a 70, 80, 100 year old paddle that just needs some sanding and a new coat of whatever works.

Bottom line, several things work. From there it's just what you mesh with. There isn't the *one* finish above all others.
 
 
  My tentative voodoo conclusions
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-19-09 2:53 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Aug-19-09 3:05 PM EST --

Clearly, much about finishes is simply subjective or aesthetic preference. However, there has to be some objective truth as to WHETHER and HOW some of these treatments work functionally. This is where the voodoo is.

I think the least amount of voodoo inheres in varnish. It seems to be well understood that varnish functionally provides a microscopically hardened surface veneer, seals out water, provides some UV protection, and makes things look shiny.

Oil seems a little more voodooish to me in terms of how it actually interacts with the wood, whether and how much it hardens, how long it lasts, and how best to apply it (pure, thinned, mixed, sanded, not sanded).

The most voodoo, to me, surrounds epoxy. I am not convinced it has a useful purpose on a paddle. We do know it has a negative: UV cracks and crumbles epoxy into a whitish or yellowish powder. So what virtue offsets this negative? None, in my tentative opinion.

One virtue, it is said, but not consistently or empirically, is that epoxy "hardens" the wood. Well, I can certainly see how epoxy provides a microscopically thin hard surface veneer like a varnish, but why is that important if I am going to apply several coats varnish anyway?

Absent test results, it seems very unlikely to me that epoxy can actually "strengthen" the wood itself in terms of any important characteristic such as breaking, tensile, compression or expansion strength. Hence, I tentatively reject wood "strengthening" as a virtue of epoxy.

The only virtue left attributed to epoxy is that is seals the wood against water. I accept that, but don't find it to be a persuasive reason to put epoxy on a paddle.

If I am going to put several coats of varnish on a paddle, it seems to be completely redundant and unnecessary to put another water-sealing material underneath all that varnish, particularly a material that degrades under UV. You then will have a maintenance problem that involves touching up two different materials.

If, on the other hand, I am going to finish my paddle with oil, I am persuaded by the argument that epoxy will interfere with the proper action of the oil. This makes logical sense. If the epoxy so hardens and fills in a wood surface as to seal out water, the epoxy must also seal out an overcoat of oil from properly penetrating into the wood. Properly penetrated and polymerized oil will seal out the water, making the water-sealing action of epoxy unnecessary. Moreover, epoxy under oil will have no UV protection and will degrade very fast. Hence, epoxy under oil seems not only to be contradictory, but an actual functional detriment.

(And Watco will also harden the wood surface somewhat. I have just tested that with my fingernail on basswood. This is possibly because of the varnish in Watco.)

The GP'ers have dominated this thread, but I started out talking about a canoe paddle. My tentative conclusions for my single blade paddle are:

-- No epoxy.

-- A surface hardening, chip resistant, clear finish, which won’t alter color, on the blade and about 7” up the shaft where the paddle may be pried of the gunwale during a northwoods stroke. First choice: a two-part urethane such as Interthane Perfection Varnish. Second choice: single part marine polyurethane.

-- “Oil” on the rest of shaft and grip. I like Watco because it is a pre-blend of linseed oil, varnish, thinners and driers – and many furniture finishing experts say good things about it. Plus, I’ve used it for 30 years with good results on gunwales and paddle grips. One change I will make is to apply pure boiled linseed after two or three coats of the Watco. To me, pure linseed is a known oil and will be consistent with Watco. Pure tung sounds a little too controversial for me.

YMMV, and so may mine after my next brush with more information.

 

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