Care and Maintenance
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Paddle Care and Maintenance


When you get your paddle, it is nice and shiny. The wood is protected by several coats of a tung oil based marine varnish that stays flexible over time. Flexibility of the varnish protects it from cracking. The varnish is an exterior varnish, meaning that it has UV blockers in it that prevent UV from the sun from attacking the wood under the varnish. If you just kept your paddle indoors and never used it, this varnish would stay shiny for decades. But you will use your paddle and over time, abrasion and contact with had surfaces will decorate your paddle with scratches and gouges, especially near the tip. General wear of the finish will not affect the performance of the paddle much, but lack of maintenance will let sun and water work on exposed wood and turn it gray. This graying of the wood is primarily an esthetic issue, but exposed wood will wear more rapidly than wood protected by varnish.

While the effects of wear may be too small to notice, I suspect that a well maintained paddle will perform better than one that has lost its finish and turned rough. Water needs to flow over the surface of the paddle and a rough paddle will encounter more resistance than a smooth one. Exposed wood will also absorb water and while weight gain of a worn paddle from water absorption will be small, you will nevertheless be doing more work with a heavier paddle.

UV Protection

As I already mentioned, the varnish I put on the paddle has UV protection in it. But products like paste wax or wipe on finishes generally do not offer UV protection. But they do protect the wood of the paddle from water absorption and abrasion which are more serious issues than UV damage.

Maintenance Options

A number of maintenance options are available. I will list them in order of ease of execution. All of these options involve commercial products in a can. In all cases, the can will have instructions for the use of the product right on the can. The main problem with all these products is that the amount of product you need to maintain your paddle is so small that the product will last you for years and years and in the case of varnish, the varnish may well harden up in the can long before you have used it all up. But perhaps you will be so pleased with how good the paddle looks after maintenance that you may decide to refinish a side table or other piece of furniture as well.

Paste Wax

A coat of paste wax applied with a piece of cloth and then buffed off will return the shine to a scuffed paddle finish. A can of paste wax will last you for years and can be used on your furniture as well.

Wipe on Finishes

Hardware stores and woodworker supply stores sell a number of wipe on finishes. These can be wiped on with a piece of cloth. They dry quickly and don't require brushes or brush cleaning. I have used a product by Minwax called Tung Oil Finish and I have also used other wipe on finishes and they all seem to perform well. I recommend coating the whole paddle with the product. If you have been waxing your paddle get rid of any wax by going over the paddle with fine steel wool and paint thinner. Once the wax is off the paddle, you can sand it with fine 220 grit sand paper. Wipe off any dust and then wipe on your finish with a piece of cloth. Follow directions on the can for what to do with the oily cloth.


If you decide to revarnish your paddle, follow directions on the can. Use exterior varnish with a satin finish. Gloss varnish is harder to make look good since it tends to show up scratches and dents. See wipe on finishes above for how to remove wax buildup on the paddle before sanding and varnishing.

Linseed Oil and Tung Oil

I don't recommend raw untreated oils because they take several days to dry. They are also not suitable for applying over varnish.

All content copyright © 2007-2016 by Wolfgang Brinck.