Sunday, May 18, 2008

Oil Finish

Graham Warren's book on Paddle Making mentions his preference for oiling one-piece paddles as a waterproofing finish. His arguments include the ease in which oil can be applied, the difficulty in messing up the finish, and the feel of well-oiled paddle being superior to a varnished one.

With a few one-piece paddles completed, I figured I'd try this method of finishing. Everyone seems to have their own secret recipe for oiling, but I simply used 1850s Circa 1850s Tung & Teak that is apparently a marine quality, low lustre oil. Following the bottle directions was simple enough. Rub a liberal amount with a lint-free cloth, let soak for 10 minutes, and then remove the excess by buffing with a clean rag letting the coat dry for 24 hours before re-application. Using the paddle rack on the storage shed door, I applied 3 coats over the holiday long weekend on the Omer Stringer Birch and the Maple Solo Sparrow. Being light coloured woods, the finish didn't change the tone of the wood very much, so it really brought out the pyrography work.

The oiling set-up; Final paddles posing in the sun

I also ended up oiling the Walnut Nuthatch paddle which really brought out the beauty of the wood. If I ever make another walnut one-piece, I'll be sure to oil finish rather varnish. The nuthatch burning also comes out nicely with the oil finish.

Oiled Nuthatch paddle; Blade closeup

All in all, I like the simplicity and relatively low toxicity of oiling although it requires much more frequent application and touch-ups to keep the paddle properly sealed. Not a big deal for one-pieces, but Warren warns it is not suitable for laminated paddles given the potential for water seepage affecting the glue.

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