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Thread: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

  1. #1
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    Default Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    I've made a couple of paddles and oars in the past, but I wanted to see if I could make a birdsmouth paddle shaft. So I tried it with a kayak paddle. The birdsmouth joinery for the shaft:
    20210302_171450.jpg
    The blades are pretty typical strip built, then attach to the shaft with an eight sided "tenon" that pushes tightly into the birdsmouth shaft.
    20210317_144422.jpg

    A pair of turk's head knots act as pretty good drip rings.
    20210328_162810.jpg

    Then varnish everything. But, of course, the shaft is now slippery when wet. Not too bad really, but there must be a "correct" finish for a paddle shaft.

    What's the best non-slip finish?
    Thx.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    I suppose oil might be one option, though building up a decent finish is an awful lot of work, and in the meantime, you spend far too much time paddling around with raised grain - which is really abrasive and uncomfortable. It also eventually gets dirt ground down into it.

    Option #2 might be sufficient coats of varnish wet-sanded down to maybe 320 to 400 grit.

    Option #3 From my old days as a kayaking instructor would be to lighten up your grip on the paddle. There generally are no monsters down there trying to rip it from your hands, so slippage really shouldn't enter the equation much, no matter what finish the shaft has.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    No finish.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Not being a paddler, I can’t speak to this, but I wonder… how the heck you can figure out how to build that then get stumped on how to finish it? It’s fantastic !!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    My bare WRC Greenland paddle is comfortable. On a new set of XPL oars the builder suggested a 50/50 mix of BLO and turpentine on the basswood handles. I applied two coats and they feel good.
    ​​♦ During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    Not being a paddler, I can’t speak to this, but I wonder… how the heck you can figure out how to build that then get stumped on how to finish it? It’s fantastic !!
    Well, that's because this whole project was sort of unplanned.

    I had some old spruce 2x3 boards laying around. These are the lumber you can get cheap at local big box stores. Cheap being the key word. Its hard to find anything straight or without lots of knots. But dig through the pile and you can get lucky.

    So I wanted to try making a birdsmouth shaft. Seen plenty of descriptions, wondered if I could get the joinery right. So I figured, why not use some of the cheap spruce 2x3's. I ripped some strips, cut the bevel notches, glued them up. Presto - light strong shaft. The shaft turned out better than I hoped.
    So, I figured it was too good to go to waste, and made the paddle blades.

    It turned out to be strong and light. Really nice to paddle - except its a little slippery. I'm just hoping someone has a solution for that.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Todd mentioned wet-sanding the grip areas and I've seen handles with the sheen knocked off with a green Scotchbrite pad that looked "grippy", but I never got a chance to paddle with it. OK...you've showed us the paddle...now show us what you're moving it with

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Every wooden kayak paddle I've ever used or built has been finished with gloss varnish - paddle shafts in carbon or glass/carbon mixes have also been gloss finished - though not varnished.

    As Todd points out (above) non-slip is not needed.
    I'd much rather lay in my bunk all freakin day lookin at Youtube videos .

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Quote Originally Posted by RichW View Post
    Sweet!

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    The last few that I built were all made from carefully selected cedar 2x lumber from the Home Depot. Not the most prestigious source for paddle lumber, but they are very light and work quite well. The price is also hard to beat. Originally my plan was to oil them with Watco for the natural look, and I've had great success with it on gunstocks, but the initial grain raising (over and over again) got to be too much of a hassle, so they then got varnished. Problem solved. Harder wood with tighter grain might not have that problem.

    To paddle with a Greenland paddle properly, you end up using its entire length from end to end as a "handle" at times, so your finish should be continuous. On a euro-style paddle you have more flexibility and can finish it in zones if desired.

    paddles-002.jpg

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Here's something to try. Surfboard wax on the grip zone. My whitewater kayak paddle is finished with gloss varnish including the shaft. A couple of licks with the wax and you're good to go.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    I have one my Dad made. The blades are painted, in between is either oil or wax, maybe both. If wax, it's probably beeswax. The wood hasn't darkened or changed appearance noticeably and Dad is gone a decade. I only use the paddle a few times a year for a couple of hours at a time. It feels like bare wood but it's not.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    I've done a bunch of Greenland paddles with an oil/pine tar finish. Worked fine. I did burnish the paddles hard when the grain lifted and had no further issues. Doing the same with a sassafras North woods style canoe paddle. Since the intro of Gflex all of my paddles have been tipped, some with silica creating a faux bone tip which seems rock proof. For my varnished Euro style paddles like yours I just smoothed the varnish in the grip area with a bit of fine Scotch Brite.
    Ben Fuller
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  15. #15
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Thanks all. I used 320 wet sand paper on the grip part of the shaft. It has a nice silky feel to it now. We'll see how it is next time in the water.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    I just finished a set of oars in Cetol, great stuff. If your rowing for fun any finish will be fine. If your a serious paddler/rower put nothing on the hand grips. IMG_1056.jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images
    David Satter www.sattersrestoration.com
    "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten" Ben Franklin

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    My canoe paddle grips and shafts are either plastic composites or varnished wood. I don't do any special treatments like wax or sanding. I do all kinds of workouts to train for racing and don't have any callouses and hardly ever get a blister, except during long races (e.g., 22 miles). Same with most of my friends that race kayaks. Keep your grip secure but light so you don't wear out your forearms.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Good thread. Many of us have read that varnished grips contribute to blisters but we have testimony that isn't always the case.
    I assume that technique, duration and effort play into the equation e.g., are you out day rowing or a Grand Banks doryman? Possibly the hardness vs. tackiness of the varnish too?
    ​​♦ During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act
    ♦ The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it
    ♦ If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear
    ♦ George Orwell

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Recently I've looked into higher end oar handles and my low effort internet searches showed rubber, foam and wood grips for the most part.

    Concept 2 oars, which seem mainly aimed at performance rowing, have rubber, then foam, microfiber suede and basswood options.

    More general purpose XPL oars have basswood handles and, unsurprisingly, they claim soft wood handles are best for ocean rowing. They suggest a coat of BLO-turps.
    Last edited by Autonomous; 08-10-2022 at 02:54 PM.
    ​​♦ During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act
    ♦ The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it
    ♦ If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear
    ♦ George Orwell

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Many of us have read that varnished grips contribute to blisters but we have testimony that isn't always the case.
    "Isn't always the case" is putting it politely. Something related to various farm animals might be more appropriate. Wood, plastic or composite, if the surface is smooth, you should be fine. If it is rough and chewed up, you may pay the price. It is well worth the trouble to take good care of your paddles - especially in those areas which contact your hands in use. And by all means, don't over-grip it with either hand. It's not going to fly away, so lighten up!

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    OK then. So I finally got a chance to go out in the kayak this morning and use the paddle in question. I had used wet 320 sandpaper on the grip part of the paddle shaft. Dry, the shaft has a silky feel. Wet, the shaft also is silky and not slippery like the varnished, but unsanded portion of the shaft. It has a good feel; just what I wanted.

    thanks for the simple solution.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    I've had good luck with whatever is in our workshop , a few cans of Watco oil to be exact , one was pretty gummy so i poured in some paint thinner shook it up and should be good for another decade .... it really doesn't matter .... it's a paddle , use it .

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Finish for a paddle shaft/handle

    Very nice!
    I leave the grip nekkid, seems to be a nice grip when wet or dry. A corner on the blade can remove a lot of the need for a drip ring.

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