The oars are finally constructed and fastened together, it's time to apply their protective coatings. I chose to use tung oil instead of varnish or paint.
As you can see, the tung oil brings out the grain and protects the wood, making it repel water and it oils the wood to keep it from drying out too quickly and checking. The other advantage is that you can see the wood to visually inspect it for signs of decay and rot.
Varnish also protects the wood and offers many of the same qualities as tung oil, but when it comes time to reapply, the old coating can begin to flake off and needs to be removed via sanding or heating. This can be a time consuming process. Tung oil does not need to be sanded off, in fact, with time it will disappear much like teak oil does. The wood will slowly return to its natural uncoated appearance, signalling that it is time to recoat the wood.
Paint offers the wood protection from the elements, but it does not offer ease of inspection. It covers everything, so overlooked rot will only show up when it is far more advanced. While Tung oil brings out the richness in the grain, it does darken over time; so don't expect a pale wood to stay pale and don't speed the process up by using stain either. The look of old wood will come as the wood becomes old.
Be sure to give the endgrain extra coats of tung oil because. This oar has 4 coats on the top of the blade and 8 coats on the endgrain.