Varnishing safely requires a clean, well-ventilated area. For me that means working on the balcony to avoid fume buildup. I also rigged up a varnishing rack that allows me to hang the paddles vertically allowing any excess varnish to pool near the tip where more is needed to protect the end grain from water seepage. The real tip here is to use what you have...in my case, a folding laundry rack and an unused wall mount guitar hanger (for one of my other hobbies). I've since been able to rig up 3 paddles on the laundray racks using nothing but trigger-style grip clamps. A run to the dollar store to get an aluminium cooking tray to collect drips and a few foam brushes and I was in business.
The Hellsman Spar varnish says no thinning is required, but I always prefer applying many thin coats initially rather than apply this thick varnish in globs. Without being too obsessed with measures, I generally apply in the following order:
- First Coat: Thinned out 50/50 with minerals spirits.
- Sencond Coat: Thinned 70/30 with mineral spirits
- Third Coat: Unthinned varnish
Some paddlers varnish the blade and oil the grip to prevent blisters. I haven't tried that yet but intend to on some of my upcoming designs.