Any paddle sitting in a closet will last a lifetime, but a Sanborn paddle is to be used for a lifetime. There are a few simple care and maintenance steps to follow to ensure that your paddle can get out on the water just as long as you can.
Every Sanborn performance paddle that we sell comes with the grip unfinished. The intention though is not for it to stay bare, but rather to use oil rather than varnish to keep the grip protected. As compared to varnish, an oil finish will feel remarkable to the touch and offer less friction, preventing painful blisters after a long day of paddling.
Over time an oiled grip requires slightly more upkeep than a varnished grip, but it’s a very simple process and doesn’t require any special tools, just a penetrating oil (linseed, tung oil, etc.) and a cloth to wipe up any excess oil. After initially oiling the grip, if you paddles regularly little or no additional oiling will be required (since your hand naturally produces oils that will replenish the oil on the grip), but if your trips are more infrequent or the grip starts to feel dry, you’ll want to reapply some oil.
To apply oil to your paddle grip:
1. Wipe on penetrating oil, covering all unvarnished surface (linseed oil, tung oil, etc.).
2. Wait 10 minutes.
3. Wipe off excess oil.
While the shaft and blade of our paddles are protected with epoxy and spar urethane, repeated contact and friction will slowly take bits of this finish away, exposing the bare wood below (which will absorb water if left unprotected, causing much larger problems with your paddle in a short time). The most common damage to a paddles finish comes from repeatedly knocking the paddle against the gunwales (the topmost part on the side of a canoe). Practice good paddling technique and posture to keep the paddle clear of the sides.
Secondly, while our paddles have a rock guard, keep in mind that this is intended to protect against accidental contact with rocks or submerged logs. Repeatedly shoving off rocks, or worse, using your paddle as a lever against a rock, greatly increases the chance of damage to your paddle. Any single instance of these won’t likely destroy your paddle, but for it to last a lifetime you’ll want to take care of it.
Even the most disciplined paddler will eventually see some knicks and scrapes to the surface of the paddle. When the season is over, take a good look over your paddle, wipe it off, and assess the damage. If there are little divots and scratches, you can easily re-poly that part of the paddle. Using around 200-grit sandpaper, sand the finish just a bit. Don’t overdo it; if you sand through to the wood you’ll end up with an uneven surface. Just do enough to add a little tooth to the finish. Then apply marine varnish or polyurethane. Follow the directions they include. For best results you’ll typically want to apply 2-3 coats, sanding between each coat.
If the damage is more significant, showing exposed fibers of the fiberglass coating used to add strength to the blade, a simple re-varnish won’t be sufficient; you’ll need to apply some epoxy resin to wet out the fiberglass. Important Note! Epoxy resin is highly toxic and sanding uncured epoxy is even worse. Take the necessary precautions! And read the instructions on the product.
First, you’ll want to sand out the varnish on the affected area. Approximately 200-grit sandpaper will work well for this. Then you’ll want to mix the epoxy and hardener according to the instructions provided with the epoxy and apply a thin coat to the area, wetting it out. After it fully dries you’ll be able to sand the area again and reapply the varnish.