How to Refinish Wooden Boat Oars

Written by samantha volz
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In these days of high speeds and noisy motors, rowing your own boat down the river or across a lake can be an extremely satisfying experience. Old or much-used wooden oars, however, may need a little tender loving care to perform and look their best. Refinishing your wooden boat oars can protect them from water damage and the wear and tear of use, while giving your boat a cohesive and beautiful look.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Abrasive pad
  • Gloss varnish
  • Paint brush

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  1. 1

    Rub the wooden surface with an abrasive pad, such as steel wool, to roughen the surface and make it ready to accept the finishing coat.

  2. 2

    Purchase a gloss varnish product from a hardware or home improvement store. Some products are designed specifically for use on boats; consult an expert at the retailer if you have questions regarding a particular product.

  3. 3

    Apply one coat of gloss varnish to the wooden surface with your paint brush. Allow this coat to dry completely before continuing; this may take two to three hours. Follow product instructions for exact drying time.

  4. 4

    Apply at least one more coat of varnish to the wooden oars. Specific products may advise you to use a certain number of coats. Up to five coats may be needed for unpainted or bare wood.

  5. 5

    Allow all varnish to dry completely before using.

Tips and warnings

  • Be sure not to use sandpaper to roughen your oars before you apply the varnish. Using sandpaper can strip down to the bare wood, which can cause damage and will ruin any design or paint you have on your oar.
  • Do not varnish the looms or handles of your oars, as varnished handles will cause blistering on your hands.

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