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Thread: Restoring a Wooden Paddle Handle

  1. #1

    Default Restoring a Wooden Paddle Handle

    I've recently bought a second hand wood shafted paddle with a carbon blade, although the handle is quite rough. I'd like to sand it down and was wondering what the best product to treat it with would be after sanding? Also what grades of sandpaper would you use for the best finish?


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  2. #2
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    The paddle looks as though it's been bashed against the side of the boat many many times - a bad habit unless your real hobby is varnishing.

    That looks like a laminated shaft - I've used these things for decades - and have always used decent polyurethane based varnish, Ideally something marked "Yacht Varnish" and suitable for outdoor use.

    In practice the paddle probably spends 99% of its life indoors in the dry - so the outdoor bit is pointless.

    Rub down with progressively finer grades of abrasive - starting somewhere around 120grit and proceeding no further than 320 or 400.
    Once you're happy with the basic prep, - first coat of varnish thinned 50% with white spirit and allowed to get to touch dry - then further coats undiluted - you'll need ar least three and ideally eight coats - you can do a light rub down with the 320 grit between coats if you're chasing a showroom finish.

    If on the other hand you plan to beat hell out of the paddle and want a quick and dirty touch-up process then wiping regularly with Boiled Linseed Oil works nearly adequately - beware the fire hazard from the oily rags.
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    If you are looking for a really, really smooth finish wipe the paddle with a damp cloth between sandings. This raises the damaged wood fibres which are sanded off on the next rub over. Repeat until as smooth as you require.

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    Start by stripping the existing finish (obvs), then use an exterior grade UV resistant varnish and rub down with 400 grit between coats. It's a fallacy that thinning the first coat aids absorption, because the varnish will only really penetrate end grain. Let the tin of varnish sit for a couple of days to remove air bubbles. Four coats of varnish should be enough and don't paint too fast, or you introduce bubbles. I leave at least 12 hours between coats and use a damp tack cloth (between coats) to remove any traces of sanded matter. Let the final job harden for a week before using the paddle.
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    Last edited by Duck Feet; 7th-October-2019 at 08:20 PM.
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    As an alternative to varnish, consider a traditional wood oil, such as linseed or tung oil. This will remain flexible; a varnish will form a hard surface which will be ideal until it gets another bash, after which it may crack or flake off. I'm not saying varnish is wrong, many people have varnished paddles with no problem, it's just another way of protecting the wood which you might prefer.

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    That is (IMHO) 1 of the best production paddles vere made. it is a cedar shaft. they are not very good in gunnel bashing they loose that battle. THer are making those for a long time touhg and in know many who paddle with it for more then 10 years. some almost daily. so take care and enjoy
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  7. #7

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    Thanks all. The sanding is done. That was remarkably satisfying, I don't think I've ever used such fine sandpaper as 320, so was really nice to feel the finish. I've decided to go with boiled linseed oil, I bought this paddle for doing more moving water, so it may take a bit of bash from time to time. I've given it a good wash so just waiting for it to dry.

    I'm going to cut it 30% with white spirit as per the instructions. Maybe another silly question, but can I put it on with a brush or failing that cut up an old (but clean) t shirt as forgot to pick up any rags. Instructions say to use a fine grade of steel wool between coats. Can I just use the 320 sandpaper I bought. As you may have guessed I'm rather a novice to this sort of thing!


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    Quote Originally Posted by UnderAnOpenSky View Post
    I've decided to go with boiled linseed oil...
    After Lennart saying that the shaft is made of cedar and not good for gunwale bashing, I really wouldn't oil it. I've had cedar topped guitars and you only have to look at them to dent the surface; cedar might be rigid structurally, but the surface is very soft... and linseed oil won't give you good water resistance (that's another myth). I'd also be thinking about where the carbon and wood meet - sounds like that might be an invitation for water ingress, which a slight overlap of varnish would cover and oil might not protect. Up to you tho' - it's your paddle and a nice one at that.
    Last edited by Duck Feet; 8th-October-2019 at 09:53 AM.
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    Don't use steel wool on anything that might get wet. Little bits of the steel break off and embed themselves in the surface. When they rust the result is hideous. Just use the sandpaper.

    You can apply BLO with just kitchen towel (paper tissue), but the used rag or tissue can self ignite, dispose of this carefully.
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    lennart and duck feet are right.
    this is a mitchell, one of the nicest paddles available but a bit of a specialist. a super fine carbon blade with a laminated cedar shaft. if you don't seal it with varnish, the layers of the laminated shaft and its joint with the blade will all expand at different rates as they get wet and may eventually disintegrate.

    Quote Originally Posted by UnderAnOpenSky View Post
    I bought this paddle for doing more moving water, so it may take a bit of bash from time to time.
    it's not going to survive that. the carbon blade is super thin and rigid but is brittle. this paddle is for open/flat/deep water where it is very efficient and a joy to handle especially with knifed strokes. it also give good control for freestyle. but if you plan to use it on moving water and rock bashing... you could save yourself the work and trouble and just run it over with your car right now before wasting more effort on it

  11. #11

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    Drat. I've already got a Grey Owl Voyager I'm very fond off and bought this for the Spey next week. I think afterwards I'll look for another paddle for future trips.

    I'm glad that Lennart has clocked this and the rest of you have confirmed it and pointed out not to use linseed. Oh well I'm sure I can use that to do a lovely job on my partners garden tools at some point...I've started the varnishing and sanding between coats. Its feeling so much nicer already.

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    rest of you have confirmed it and pointed out not to use linseed
    Having suggested linseed in the first place (apologies!), I've learnt something too. I can see why laminated woods need different treatment. (My excuse is that the photos don't show up for me and I hadn't realised it was laminated). I have a Mitchell paddle that's the other way round, carbon shaft and laminated wood blade, with an alloy tip inserted in the wood, and that is a good robust whitewater paddle. It sounds as if you have a nice flatwater paddle though.

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    take the grey owl on your river trip. the voyageur is a decent all-round blade and pretty robust, too. and in case it breaks, it's easier and cheaper to replace than that mitchell.

    btw i have a voyageur where i've sanded off the varnish on the shaft and treated it with linseed oil, for a "softer" grip. it's been holding up for many years. i keep the blade varnished, though. so it depends on the type of woods and other materials.

    edit: you may want to take a spare paddle as well, in case the one you use is lost or snaps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lowlander View Post
    btw i have a voyageur where i've sanded off the varnish on the shaft and treated it with linseed oil, for a "softer" grip.
    Funny, isn't it... I was going to do that, but I went for the longest paddle I've ever done, a few weeks ago and took an oiled Grey Owl Cherry Sagamore and a varnished GO Voyageur. I found that after a long hard day the varnished paddle was easier to grip than the oiled one. When using the Sagamore I had to dip my hand in the water to get a grip - maybe my hands are too soft! I ended up varnishing the Cherry Sagamore, after which my wife commented (she hardly ever comments on my 'enthusiasms') how nice it looked.

    Having said that, partial-sanding and oiling is worth a try... at least you can varnish over oil if you find you don't like the feel of it (and the shaft is one-piece, so oiling isn't a problem).
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    i guess that's where personal preference and differences come in. i find my grip is better with dry hands - although of course it's not that easy to keep them dry with all that water around.
    maybe you're just weird... or maybe i am

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by lowlander View Post
    take the grey owl on your river trip. the voyageur is a decent all-round blade and pretty robust, too. and in case it breaks, it's easier and cheaper to replace than that mitchell.

    btw i have a voyageur where i've sanded off the varnish on the shaft and treated it with linseed oil, for a "softer" grip. it's been holding up for many years. i keep the blade varnished, though. so it depends on the type of woods and other materials.

    edit: you may want to take a spare paddle as well, in case the one you use is lost or snaps.
    I'd planned on taking the Grey Owl as a spare and using the Voodoo as the main paddle. May just have to do it the other way round!

    The handle is starting to feel really lovely. It's had 3 coats of watered down varnish, lightly sanded between coats and I'm going to do the first uncut one shortly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by UnderAnOpenSky View Post
    It's had 3 coats of watered down varnish, lightly sanded between coats and I'm going to do the first uncut one shortly.
    I take it 'watered down' isn't literally with water, but thinned? The only reason for thinning is to aid drying (and therefore adhesion), so that you don't build up several layers of varnish, where the initial coats haven't properly dried or 'stuck' (technical term) to the wood. Usually, thinning isn't necessary for absorption along the grain*, but for cedar it's possibly a good idea - certainly won't do any harm. Would love to see some pictures once your hard work is completed.

    * I know people disagree on this, but there's a good thread somewhere on the internet about this, with microscope photos to show the porosity, or lack of, along various types of wood grain.
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    Last edited by Duck Feet; 10th-October-2019 at 02:06 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duck Feet View Post
    I take it 'watered down' isn't literally with water, but thinned? The only reason for thinning is to aid drying (and therefore adhesion), so that you don't build up several layers of varnish, where the initial coats haven't properly dried or 'stuck' (technical term) to the wood. Usually, thinning isn't necessary for absorption along the grain*, but for cedar it's possibly a good idea - certainly won't do any harm. Would love to see some pictures once your hard work is completed.

    * I know people disagree on this, but there's a good thread somewhere on the internet about this, with microscope photos to show the porosity, or lack of, along various types of wood grain.
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    It's almost there. It's been a lovely job, as you've gathered, it's not the sort of thing I normally do, but it's been very satisfying. I'm not actually sure what I'm going to do with it now, as I bought it for moving water and actually really like my Voyager for the flat stuff, but you can't have to many paddles right?

    Funnily enough it was water. I had some floor varnish in and added white spirit and it didn't really mix well. Checked the instructions and it was actually water based. I guess this might not be quite as durable long term, but it's certainly a massive improvement and I guess the worst would be having to strip it off and doing it with yacht varnish.

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    Quote Originally Posted by UnderAnOpenSky View Post
    I had some floor varnish... I guess the worst would be having to strip it off and doing it with yacht varnish.
    I fear that you might have to strip it off. You really needed an exterior varnish with UV resistance - not sure floor varnish fulfils either criteria. Oh well, it'll look nice hanging on your wall.
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    How much exposure will a paddle get though? I think OP should carry on as-is and monitor wear/resistance and report back

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    Floor varnish should be just fine. By its very nature it is tough stuff (it has to be) and unless you are going to hang a paddle on an outside south facing wall 24/7 I don't think you need worry too much about UV protection.

    Regards,
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick TQP View Post
    ... I don't think you need worry too much about UV protection.
    Makers like Grey Owl specify UV protection for a reason; paddles are made to be used outdoors and without the UV protection a varnish can break down and become chalky. Might take months, or years, but it's worth reiterating. Anyhow, I assumed when UV protection was mentioned early in the thread, that OP was asking for the right way to do it, not the wrong way.
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    I think it's a factor but some way short the OP having to strip it and start again though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonefish Blues View Post
    I think it's a factor but some way short the OP having to strip it and start again though.
    Actually, I think OP should be stripped to the waist and given a dozen lashes with the paddle, for not doing as he was told.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duck Feet View Post
    Makers like Grey Owl specify UV protection for a reason; paddles are made to be used outdoors and without the UV protection a varnish can break down and become chalky. Might take months, or years, but it's worth reiterating. Anyhow, I assumed when UV protection was mentioned early in the thread, that OP was asking for the right way to do it, not the wrong way.
    Yes, it's a factor but not one worth scaremongering over. I live in the sun, 40C in the shade in summer is not unusual. If we see a cloud in summer it is a talking point! If, at any time of the year, I go 2 days without seeing the sun I get withdrawal symptoms, 3 days and I can get panicky! In 2016 I put up a wood structure on the south facing side of our house. It was treated with a varnish type medium, nothing very special, and only now is it looking ready for some attention. So, that's why I wouldn't worry too much about the UV effect on a varnished paddle that gets limited exposure. It could well take years before showing signs of breaking down - and is more likely to need re-varnishing due to wear and tear before then.

    As regards the 'right way' to do something - that's always a can of worms. Ask three experienced people and you'll generally get differing opinions.

    Regards,
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick TQP View Post
    As regards the 'right way' to do something - that's always a can of worms. Ask three experienced people and you'll generally get differing opinions.
    True, in most respects (and I don't mean to scaremonger), but if you Google about what varnish to use on a paddle, you'll find 99% of people (and I dare say 100% of manufacturers) say 'exterior with UV protection'. The original question was: "I'd like to sand it down and was wondering what the best product to treat it with would be after sanding?" I think it's worth getting the facts right, both in the interests of actually answering the question and in case anyone else comes along and thinks using interior varnish is the best way of doing it.

    Yeah, I'm being pedantic, obsessive, or whatever, but as the sort of person that uses a six inch screw when a two inch nail will do... I'm afraid I just can't help myself!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duck Feet View Post
    True, in most respects (and I don't mean to scaremonger), but if you Google about what varnish to use on a paddle, you'll find 99% of people (and I dare say 100% of manufacturers) say 'exterior with UV protection'. The original question was: "I'd like to sand it down and was wondering what the best product to treat it with would be after sanding?" I think it's worth getting the facts right, both in the interests of actually answering the question and in case anyone else comes along and thinks using interior varnish is the best way of doing it.

    Yeah, I'm being pedantic, obsessive, or whatever, but as the sort of person that uses a six inch screw when a two inch nail will do... I'm afraid I just can't help myself!
    Sorry if I gave the wrong impression. I wasn't disputing that an exterior varnish with UV protection isn't the recommended and best finish. I was just trying to reassure UnderAnOpenSky that using floor varnish isn't such a terrible thing, I'd have done exactly the same in his position, if I already had floor varnish in the house.

    "....... six inch screw when a two inch nail will do" - sound like me, but I would have considered a bolt.

    Regards,
    Nick

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