It sure takes a lot of sanding to remove an eighth of an inch of ash from a paddle blade. How much I'll never know. After a couple of hours with the random orbital sander I bit the bullet and pulled out the planer once again. To say I babied the operation is no exaggeration. Two minutes of care did most of the job. Out came the sander once more and smoothed out all the jagged edges. A hand touch up with 150 grit got the blade ready for a wetting and final sanding using 220 grit.
This morning the entire paddle was wiped down with tack cloth and given its first coat of spar varnish thinned with mineral spirits. A second coat was applied this afternoon. Four more uncut coats applied one per day ought to do the job. Finally I'll take it to the Boundary Waters and beat the hell out of it. Or maybe hang it on a wall where I can admire it and imagine where the paddle might have taken me.