I have made several paddles through time, tried different types of wood , made of laminated paddles, used several kinds of surface treatments.
EcoQajaq applies only organic wood oils and waxes to paddles for sustainable production and as an alternative to the synthetic varnishes which are mainly used for surface protection of equipment for water sports. EcoQajaq collaborate with organic certified supplier of organic products.
My own subjective view on the ultimate treatment of the wooden surface of the paddle is a good wood oil and wax treatment.
Some of the benefits of oil/wax are, among many. It provides a good "grip" with the wooden surface of the handle. A lacquered handle tend to squeak when your hands are wet , as they often are when sitting in a kayak on the surface with a wet paddle in your hands ...! And more significantly in fresh water than in salt water, but for this I have not scientific evidence to postulate .
At impact damage, scratches in the wood or if grain rises it can easily be repaired when the paddle is washed in tap water and dried through. Take a fine-grit sandpaper 120 or higher sand lightly in direction of the grains, until the wood is smooth. Be careful not to sand too intense within a small area , thereby creating a hollow in the paddle . Use good wood oil and rub it in with a soft cotton cloth. Wipe off the excess oil after a few hours and polish it with a small amount of wax on a cloth . Then the wood will again appear with the beautiful glow and color, and the hydrophobic surface and UV protection from the sun has been restored. Otherwise color of the wood would fade.
Another coating which I have used a lot is varnishing of the wood with the benefits and drawbacks it brings.
I am very fond of varnishing wood and if you use the right type of varnish, it provides a unique depth of color of the wood and unique protection against salt water and sun rays.
Here I have obtained the best results with Tonkin oil. Tonkin oil or in French, Le Tonkinois is from a small factory in Paris that has produced Tonkinoise since 1906. It is a classic high-gloss varnish , handicraft made from linseed oil and Chinese wood oil/Tonkin oil . The name, Tonkin oil, refers to the Gulf of Tonkin in the former French Indochina , where one of the two raw materials originate. The small Parisian factory kept their production going despite the industrialization brought several synthetic products. This varnish is superior to wood both inside and outside. It is durable, flexible, robust and resistant to sun and salt water , temperature and moisture. On our boat, I varnished teak exterior and interior, veneer sheets in the cabin , etc. And have not yet experienced it to peel off or allow water to seep into the small cracks and wood rot as synthetic varnishes sometimes tend to do.
Le Tonkinois is free of solvents, is not irritating to the skin, is not dangerous to breathe and can therefore be used both inside and outside.
Paint gives a slightly darker glow of the wood due to the slightly amber color and the deep penetration of the wood surface . But for darker woods such as teak, mahogany or cherry wood gives it a beautiful expression. Whether you wish to use it on brighter woods are a matter of taste.
Le Tonkinois may pull skins, as varnishes inevitably does, but can still be used after it has been sieved. I recommend that you keep on good terms with the family's major consumers of nylon stockings as these are formidable to sieve through prior to use. And do not sieve more varnish than has to be used as the varnish will last longer the less it is exposed to oxygen.
Remember to destroy rags that have been in contact with wood oils and varnishes. These oils and varnish often contain linseed oil which may ignite spontaneously, but only under special conditions, as heat develop during curing. The cloths can be no risk to the environment thrown in the wood stove. Or, use a paper towel and wash it down the toilet.
Paddles can be ordered with varnished surface for an additional charge.