JD, if you choose to scrape off the varnish finish, I've heard that using edges of a broken piece of glass works well. Obvious safety comments aren't included here, but should be observed, nonetheless. Splotchy, nasty, old, blood stains probably don't decorate a paddle very well. :wink:
Now, a question. Are cypress paddles heavy? White ash is often used, and cedar of various breeds. I was wondering about relative weights? (Maybe, you can find a Kevlar tree in your neighborhood?) I fully recognize that my current skills just don't include making paddles. I also recognize those skills are learnable (no one is born knowing how to make nice paddles, I'd guess). I also recognize that my inclinations don't include whatever is necessary (probably, ambition) to learn those skills. So, I swap plastic for a finished paddle. Works for this geezer.