Row Row Row your boat
(because there's no wind)

Making Oars

I will be rowing my Skerry boat so I need some oars. What another complicated area this is. There is a lot more to oar-making and rowing than I ever imagined. I thought how hard can it be right? You sit down grab the oars and pull... and that's about it. That's how we did it when we were young. I found out about balance, proper length, proper wood, curved blades, flat blades, strokes, leathers, laminations ... alouette ...

In the end I just decided to make the best I could and if it didn't work then I would just BUY a pair!! It's a good thinkg I started with this idea because this story does not end well.

If you are planning on making wooden oars, check out my free paddle and oar plan page. Lots of links to plans and several good articles.

What are oars made of?

You can find information on just about any material: spruce, pine, cedar, maple, cherry, basswood, carbon fibre, fibreglass have all been recommended for oars. What it looks like to me is that people just sort of used whatever they had around and then when the oars worked out they just said see this is good wood for oars.

I think spruce would be nice but my lumber yard sells knotty stuff that warps the minute you pay for it. I had some basswood left over from my kitchen cabinets so I figured I'd use them. The wood is heavier than spruce but nice and dense and straight. It is oddly coloured with bands of green and grey. I had a nice 2x4 by 12 feet and that will be enough to make nice 8 feet oars for my Skerry.

Basswood is a funny sort of catch all name I think. I read descriptions of basswood and it bears no resemblance to the wood I have. It's a bit like the Mahoganny pile at my lumber yard. If it looks like it then that's what it is.

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The oars will be 8 feet long. The blade will be 5 inches wide. I cut my 2x4 lengthwise and got 2 long pieces 1 3/4 inches square. From each of these long pieces I got a shaft 8 feet long and 2 pieces 20 inches long. These pieces I glued to each side of the long pieces to get my rough paddle. I used epoxy to glue it together.

I used a router to dig out the curve on the blade. The back I am currently cutting with a saw. I spent a fair bit of time sanding the inner curve but it looks quite regular and smooth now. I've just started on the back of the blade cutting away extra material.

After much sanding I have a rough shape. I will fine tune it later.

Sawed the shape of the oar and fine tuned it a bit then started grinding the back. I hoped to have a gentle spine in the back extending from the handle part. That turned out to be more work than I had hoped for. (Most things seem to turn out that way.) Still better to be sanding wood outside than fiberglass inside... I think.

making skerry oarsmaking skerry oars

Disaster has struck! After almost finishing the oars, one of the shafts has warped beyond use. SAD DAY! This is the first warpage I have had with this lot of wood and I've used a whole kitchen worth of it. Bad luck for me. I don't trust that the wood will not warp more since I cut the oars out of a single piece of wood.

I bought a pair of spoon oars and have finished them including the Leathering. First test of new oars, includes Video

email: Christine

This web site reflects my personal ideas and doesn't represent anyone else's point of view.