How to Refinish Wooden Oars

Written by ryan lawrence
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How to Refinish Wooden Oars
Do not apply a new finish directly over a varnished oar. (bow of punt with oar and chain image by thomas owen from

If you would like to refinish wooden oars, you will need to employ specific preparation techniques, or you will end up with a disappointing finish. Wooden oars are coated with a protective varnish or wood sealant that makes them resistant to water damage. Unfortunately, this same quality makes the oars resistant to new stain or varnish. You must remove this protective coating, or the wood will not be able to absorb its new finish.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Professional painter's tape
  • Plastic dust sheets
  • Heavy-duty fabric dust sheets
  • Oil-based stain
  • 2- to 4-inch oil-based paintbrush
  • White spirit
  • Varnish

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  1. 1

    Set up materials and equipment to work outdoors.

  2. 2

    Remove the protective coating of varnish or wood sealant from the oars, using 120-grit sandpaper. Sand along with the grain of the wood until the oar appears dull.

  3. 3

    Remove sawdust particles that could interfere with stain and varnish absorption with a sticky tack cloth.

  4. 4

    Cover portions of the wooden oar you do not want stained with professional painter's tape.

  5. 5

    Lay down plastic dust sheets. Place fabric dust sheets on top of the plastic ones. Lay the oars on the dust sheets.

  6. 6

    Coat the wooden oar with oil-based stain, using a paintbrush manufactured for use with oil-based coatings. Wait 2 hours for the stained oars to dry. Add additional coats for darker results. Skip this step if you do not want the oars stained.

  7. 7

    Wash the brush with white spirit.

  8. 8

    Wait 12 hours. Apply varnish or wood sealant to the oars, using the clean paintbrush. Wait 24 hours before using the oars.

Tips and warnings

  • Don't sand against the grain of wooden oars, or you will splinter the wood.
  • Don't apply fresh varnish or stain directly over old varnish or wood sealant, or you will have problems with absorption.

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