apple pie construction showing stitch and glue method of boatbuilding

My New Spoon Oars, with Video

My Skerry is a good rowboat and I've enjoyed rowing it. One calm afternoon I went for 15 km row with crummy Canadian Tire oars. My Skerry just glides easily on the water. I had blisters but otherwise I could have gone longer.

I've had bad luck with my oars. I had tried to make a pair of oars to replace my cheap temporary one but disaster struck and a shaft warped. One bad piece of wood.

The cheap pair was a bit short at 6 feet and one of the blades warped.

I'm hoping third time lucky. I bought a pair of wood oars from a small shop called Tendercraft near my home in Toronto. The oars are made of spruce and are spoon shaped. This is supposed to be more efficient. The spoon shape make them look very boaty and people think I know what I'm doing with them.

There are formulas for calculating how long the oars should be. Duckworth has an oar article here I decided to go at the lower range of the suggested length. My new oars are 7.5 feet long.

They came unfinished so I applied some sealer, then 4 coats of varnish. I'll add more later, I was finding that the varnish was not drying quickly and I wanted to get out on the water.

I left the handle part unfinished. With the cheap oars I had found that the varnish was not comfortable after a while. This made a big difference.

my new spoon oars ready for leathering

I finally went out on the water with the new oars and what a difference good oars make.

I was worried that the spoon part would be difficult to keep aligned correctly to the water but it just almost automatically lines itself up.

The longer oars make a big difference and it is easier and more efficient to row. The movement of the arm make a smaller curve and it's less tiring. The position of the oars in the water is also shallower. I could see using even longer oars.

In smaller more confined area the longer oars are not as easy to use but once I get out where I can freely row, they works very well.

The balance of the oars is not perfect. Next time I go out I will try adding some weight to the shaft. I think wrist or ankle weights used for training would work well.

Backing up is surprisingly good. I had expected the oars to be very poor going backwards but that is not the case. It's not as good as rowing forward but not impossible either.

I went for a couple of hours and at first it was a bit strange but within an hour it felt comfortable and worked well. The video is taken with boats around so I did not get into a rhythm but it shows the boat and the oars. There is a good wind but since it's protected there are no waves. If the embedded video does not play, click here

UPDATE: I have added some weight on the oars and it does improve the balance. I don't think I added enough. I'm using car tire balancing lead that I've picked up on the road this year. Next time I row I will try more weight on the handles, I just tied them on with rope.


I try to be accurate and check my information, but mistakes happen.

email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine