Do these 4 Things to Maintain Your Wood Paddle

4-minute read + 2.5-minute video

Your Bending Branches wood canoe or kayak paddle won’t need any special care except to protect it from the elements between trips. When it gets to the point where it looks slightly battered from years of use, though, here’s how to maintain it…

Bending Branches Wood Canoe Paddles

Inevitably, your paddle will get scratched during use. We like to think of these as character marks that help stir memories of past adventures! But you can repair and refinish your paddle to extend its life and restore its former beauty.

Here are the 4 things you can do to maintain your wood paddle:

How to Repair and Refinish Your Wood Paddle

When it gets to the point that you can see bare wood on your paddle, it’s time to refinish it.

Bare wood exposed to moisture can swell, causing the Rockgard® to delaminate or the joints to split. So be sure your paddle is thoroughly dry before you begin this refinishing process. You’ll need to allow several days to complete it.

With a dry paddle:

  • Sand the area you want to repair with a fine abrasive until that area is smooth and dull. If there’s any wood damage, use more aggressive grit (100-120) and remove any discoloration to the wood. Then follow it up with fine grit (220). Carefully wipe off all the dust produced from sanding.
  • Apply two or three thin coats—one coat at a time—of solvent-based outdoor or marine grade polyurethane over the repaired and sanded area. Do NOT use water-based, as it won’t work well. Be sure to cover the area completely so water can’t reach unprotected wood.
  • Allow several hours between each coat for thorough drying. Once each coat is dry, rub lightly with fine (220) abrasive before adding a new coat. This will give you a smoother, better finish.
  • After the final coat, allow your paddle to dry for a few days to give it a chance to fully cure.

You’re ready for the water!

Here’s a video that’ll help you out, too:

If the job is more than you can handle, we can repair it for a modest charge if the Rockgard® has not delaminated from the wood.

More Tips to Keep Your Paddle Happy

Here are a few other strategies to keep your paddle usable for a long time:

  • Don’t pole through the shallows, especially with a loaded canoe. Using your canoe paddle’s tip to pull you along on a rough riverbed or lake bottom is a great way to wear it out much sooner. Plan to get your feet wet instead, and save your paddle and the hull of your canoe.
  • Don’t stack gear on top of your paddle—in your vehicle, in your tent or on a portage. That can lead to its early demise.
  • Consider putting your name and phone number on your paddle (i.e., wood burning is very permanent). Most canoeists are very nice people who’ll help you recover a paddle that was left at a landing or lost in the rapids.
  • When not in use, we recommend you store your paddle in a dry, indoor place.

If you tend to be rough on your gear, then you’ll want one of our glassed bladed canoe paddles with full edge protection. The blades of these paddles are wrapped with 4 ounces of fiberglass, and are nearly impervious to splitting and edge wear. They’ll last for decades and rarely need refinishing.

Our Paddle Warranty

We build strong paddles and have one of the lowest breakage rates in the industry. But we know the unthinkable can happen. When it does, we honor all reasonable requests for repair or replacement.

man and woman paddling a red canoe on a northern lake with Bending Branches canoe paddles

With a little maintenance, your wood paddles will last for many years (Photo courtesy of Five2Nine Media)

Bending Branches paddles are guaranteed against manufacturing defects for one year from date of purchase. You can find our online Warranty and Repairs form here.

Do you have more questions about refinishing your paddle? Contact our Wisconsin-based Customer Service team with your paddle questions today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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