varnish or oil?


Chest Nut
What's recommended?

I have a late '70's Chestnut that has never been revarnished except the gunwales. Should I put another coat of varnish on or would linseed oil be better. I once saw a 16' Ogilvy that look just like new that the owner had said all he did was apply linseed oil on it yearly.

The canoe will be garage stored/out of the elements.

I'd also like to paint this canoe but it has the PVC coated canvas on it. Any different than painting a regular canvas canoe....light sanding then paint?? Or should I bother painting it at all?

Oil will temporarily "refresh" the look of old varnish to a limited extent, just like wax or even water will, but it won't penetrate it. The vast majority of it will just sit on top until it either deteriorates or gets rubbed off. If the canoe's varnish is in bad shape, more varnish (or removal of the old, followed by new varnish) is generally the way to go. If the existing varnish is so far gone that oil will actually penetrate into the wood and you want an oil finish, it's going to take far more than a single coat to seal the wood. If there are areas where there are holes in the varnish and you apply linseed oil which does soak into the wood, those spots are likely to eventually turn black. Linseed oil and it's use to protect wood is actually a fairly hotly-debated topic. It has a long tradition of being used in one form or another, but many of us who have studied the Forest Products Lab's studies on it's effectiveness (or lack there of) would never use it on a boat.

I don't have much experience with plastic-coated canvas, but some paints don't stick particularly well to PVC or have similar rates of expansion and contraction. It will be interesting to see if someone knows of a specific type or brand that can do the job here and do it well.
What Todd said!

I've never seen a Chestnut that's never been varnished, only ones where the varnish had gone AWOL.
I forgot to mention the possibility of staining or other problems when you mix some oils and some plastics. PVC as it is used in and on fabrics like raincoats,tarps, etc. (as opposed to the hard type, like PVC pipe) may not tolerate oil leaking through between the planks without discoloration or some sort of deterioration. Varnish dries fast enough that even if some of it gets down in those spaces, I suspect that it will probably be fine, but I'm not so sure about repeated applications of oil. Just a hunch, but worth thinking about.