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How should I paint, varnish or treat my barge pole?

I've bought a new 12ft ash-wood barge pole (OK, 'shaft'). I'd like to paint it to match my narrowboat's roof, or varnish it.
But the chandlers warned me against doing that, saying that as soon as it scratched, water would get in, wouldn't be able to get out, and would rot it. They suggested oiling it with teak oil or similar.
Is that truly the case? How should I treat it, if at all?

Asked by: Andrew Denny  | 11.11am, Thursday 13 July

WW says:

Teak oil, or alternatively Tung oil, should protect the wood and stop the rot. I must say that the idea of the shaft filling up with water from a scratch seems a bit far fetched to me. I have painted ours to match the boat and, after three or four years, it looks as good as new. This could be partly because so much of the canal system now has sheet piled edges that we rarely need to use it.

Graham Booth  | 12.23PM, Thursday 13 July

I have had an old painted shaft that came with a boat; although it didn't look too bad, under the paint it was too rotten to be of any use.
try Danish oil, it is easy to use and gives a waterproof sheen that is breathable or a permeable paint finish if you want a coloured shaft.

Rupert Smedley  | 10.25PM, Thursday 13 July

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