-- 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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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.
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.
The design is the most important thing|
Posted by: bnystrom on Aug-15-09 7:51 PM (EST)
Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-15-09 10:59 PM (EST)
Posted by: bnystrom on Aug-16-09 7:08 AM (EST)
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.
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.
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.
Posted by: bnystrom on Aug-16-09 12:07 PM (EST)
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.
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.
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.
Oil isn't always oil|
Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-16-09 1:07 PM (EST)
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.
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.
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."
Epoxy with/without varnish|
Posted by: angstrom on Aug-16-09 3:55 PM (EST)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted by: fadedred on Aug-16-09 6:52 PM (EST)
Billionaires and paddles|
Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-16-09 10:04 PM (EST)
Posted by: YakOfSteel on Aug-17-09 12:03 PM (EST)
He should have charged him much more . . . .
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.
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)
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.
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.
I won't speculate on why Don does that|
Posted by: BNystrom on Aug-19-09 4:54 PM (EST)
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:
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.
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.
what a hard-surface makes one do..|
Posted by: bigspencer on Aug-18-09 4:46 PM (EST)
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.
My tentative voodoo conclusions|
Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Aug-19-09 2:53 PM (EST)