Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Paddle Project - The Finish

This is where the "wood hits the water"  play on rubber hits the road :)   Paddle shapped and ready for final finishing.

Sanding Prep:

This is pretty straight forward, sand, sand, sand, then sand sand sand, oh and then sand, sand, sand,  I start with 80 grit paper then 120, then 220, then 320 then 400 for the final finish and repeated the process a number of times. Spent a lot of time sanding, probably one of the most important parts, any blemish in the wood is going to stand out like a sore thumb so in my opinion, can't sand enough.  I did the first sand with a power sander (black and decker mouse) but from that point forward everything was sanded by hand.

Final Sanding:

I wiped down the paddle with a wet cloth,  this will cause the grain in the wood to raise up and it will feel all rough, once the paddle dried, I re-sanded with 320 and 400 grit only, then repeated the process until damping the wood didn't raise the grain any more,  for me it was 3 times.   If you skip this step then the first time the paddle hits moisture the grain is going to raise up, well worth the extra time.  

Result after the prep and final sanding,  a paddle that is silky smooth the touch and the grain is starting to show through more.   Now onto final stage, the finish.


There are more options and opinions on what finish to use than you can shake a stick at,  spar varnish, tung oil, linseed oil (boiled and double boiled), danish oil, shellac and/or epoxy... enough to drive you insane and make you scratch your head.  Bruce Smith to the rescue.  

Bruce Smith in my opinion is one of the finest paddle makers around,  I own a number of his paddles and just so happened I needed to refinish one of them after a couple of years (50 day canoe trips are hard on paddles) I emailed Bruce and he sent me detailed instructions on how to refinish his paddles, I figure if it's good enough for Bruce, it's good enough for my first paddle.   Bruce is a retired school teacher living in Elora Ontario and now makes hand carved paddles, they are amazing and highly recommend them to anyone. 


The process is quite simple but can take some time,  first need Double Boiled Linseed Oil,  I couldn't find it anywhere local so went with Single Boiled.  Boiled Linseed is basically Raw Linseed Oil with a drying agent added to speed up drying time,  Double Boiled just has more drying agent added.  Then use mineral spirits as a cutting agent, could substitute varsol or turpentine but you can get Mineral Spirits at crappy tire as well as Boiled Linseed Oil.  

Needs 12 coats of oil/spirit mixture.

Start with 50% mixture of Mineral Spirits added to the Boiled Linseed Oil, I found 50ml of linseed and 25ml of spirits was good for a couple of coatings.  Apply liberally with a brush, just smack that stuff on, after about 1-2 hours once the oil becomes tacky,  use a cloth and wipe off the excess and rub it into the wood hard.  Once it dries a bit then repeat the process and make sure you rub down with steel wool in between coats.  Cutting with Mineral Spirits makes the oil absorb into the wood more. 

After each 2 coats, add less Mineral Spirits to the mixture until the last 2 coats are using about 15% mineral spirits.  Let the paddle dry for a good 5-6 days after the final coat before putting it into the water.

NOTE: At the half way point, I also put the tip of the paddle into the mixture directly and let it soak for a good hour, basically wanted to make sure the cut tip was nice and saturated.

Finish on Cherry wood is amazing and I love the feel of oiled paddle over varnished any day, also really easy to keep it new, just rub down with more oil.   Cherry will darken with age so really excited to see my paddle after some time in the sun.    This paddle is for my 13 year old son,  although he says he will still take the Bruce Smith tripping, just wants a spare at the cottage, can't blame him.

Really wanted to put his name in the paddle or at least his initials, not sure how yet,  I know I can use a wood burning tool but my artistic ability is very lacking so don't want to mess the paddle up, will most likely practice that before trying on some crap wood.

One option which seems interesting is to use a mixture of Ammonium Chloride and water,  basically you can stencil the wood with the liquid then put the head gun to it, after about 5 minutes the chemicals react and will burn the wood just like a wood burner, will have to try that one out, if i can find Ammonium Chloride,  I have heard that a mixture of Citric Acid, flour and water will have the same effect. 

Also, don't know if I do this before or after finishing the paddle, I think before, which is too late for this paddle

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