How To Paint A Canoe Paddle

How To Paint A Canoe Paddle main article image
Posted on February 20, 2021 by Heidi Fust
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This article will teach you how to paint canoe paddles, or so-called paint oars. Regardless of what you call them, nautical style painted paddles often sell for an average of $300 each. I’ll l teach you how to create your own painted canoe paddle and a wall-mounted paddle holder out of some wood to display your paddle.

In Minnesota, where I live, many people, young to old, enjoy canoeing. Minnesota has some of the best canoe areas that a paddle could touch. The Boundry Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) being the largest.

This means an ample supply of canoe paddles available to be painted. So this is how this hobby got started. Plus, I love to paddle! 

Join me in painting a canoe paddle. Here is what you will need. 

Materials & Tools 

  • Wooden Canoe Paddle (new or old)
  • Sandpaper 
  • 60 – 80 Coarse Grit
  • 100 – 150 Medium Corse Grit
  • 180 – 220 Fine Grit
  • 320 – 2000 Ultra-Fine Grits 
  • Painter’s Tape or Stencil (available at Creative Fabrica)
  • Acrylic Paint or Wood Stain
  • Tape measure, ruler, or measuring triangle 
  • Clear Coat Sealer / Urethane (brush or spray)
  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Dust mask 
  • Hearing protection (electric sander use)
  • Optional: Piece of wood 3 x 6 x 1.5 inches – For wall mount.

steps for painting a paddle

Cleaning Up Old Paddles

Remove any dirt and dust from the paddle with a damp cloth. If the paddle blade has any deep cracks, a paintable wood filler can be used. Shallow cracks in the paddle blade can be sanded out. Dents in the paddle shaft pending they are not too deep can be sanded away as well. 

After cleaning up the paddle, inspect both sides to see which has the least amount of blemishes to repair or workaround. If you are using a new canoe paddle, the non-logo side is a nice clean slate for your design. 

Removing The Clear Coat Finish

Sanding the manufacturer’s clear coat can be done using a sanding block or electric orbital sander. Start with lower grit coarse sandpaper and evenly sand off all the paddle’s clear coat until only raw wood is exposed. 

Switch to medium grit sandpaper to smooth the wood grain and remove small scratches left behind from the coarser sandpaper. Sand your paddle until you are satisfied with the smoothness of the surface. 

Thoroughly wipe down the paddle of any wood dust without getting the wood damp or wet. Tacky cloth works great for this task. 

Design Your Painted Paddle

The possibilities are endless of the designs, stencils, and topography you can put on a paddle. The design can also be vertical or horizontal, depending on where you are displaying your painted paddle. I like to start with colored pencils and paper and draft out an idea of my design and the colors I want to use.

I have included a .pdf canoe paddle template for you to use to start your paddle design on.  Simple designs that do not overlap using one to three colors work best. 

Prepping Your Paddle For Paint

Using your preferred method of measuring, create your design on the paddle using painter’s tape or a stencil. Press the tape firmly onto the paddle so the paint doesn’t seep underneath. 

Paint your chosen areas, including the sides of the paddle. Carefully remove the painter’s tape and allow it to dry.  If you use an overlapping color design, allow it to fully dry before applying the next color. 

how to paint canoe paddles

Sealing Your Painted Paddle

Sealing your new decorative paddle can be done using either a spray-on sealer or brush-on sealer. Sanding in between multiple coats offers the best results and a finish that will protect your paddle for many years to come. 

If you plan to use this paddle for canoeing. In that case, I recommend applying fiberglass or a marine sealer finish made especially for wood. 

Making A Wood Canoe Paddle Wall-Mount

This is an excellent use of some scrap wood or a discarded piece from the lumberyard to use to display your paddle. 

  • Measure the width and depth of the shaft just before it starts to widen into the grip. 
  • Cross the two measurements and draw a circle 
  • Place circle on the edge of the wood pulling it over the edge 1/4 of the way. This will provide the opening for your paddle to slide in sideways and rotate it forwards.
  • Using a jigsaw or hole drill bit, cut the semi-circle out.
  • Sand the block to your desired smoothness
  • Drill a hole at the center to be used to mount it on the wall. 
  • Stain or paint, then seal.  

Wall Mounted Wood Canoe Paddle Holder

You also can use picture hanging hardware. If this is your approach to hanging your paddle, I recommend installing the mounting hardware before you start painting. This way, you do not have to turn the paddle over and risk scratching the fresh paint. 

Another option is using a strip of leather, like a bootlace, even yarn or rope. Wrap it around the grip base and hang from a nail. These options will all work wonderfully to display your painted paddle.

I would enjoy seeing your painted paddle and hearing the method you used to hang it. 


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1 Comment

These paddles are beautiful! Nice to be able to give them a new look like this :)


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