The Nautical World...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Oars, row hard, row fast! How to make 'em!

A beautiful week here on Galveston Island and the 175th anniversary of Texas Independence and we are well into Texas History Month! If I get some time later I'll post up some Texas history.

So, I have been rowing the channel lately, but on borrowed oars. My friend Seth of JPL Marine Labs made them. They were stout and beautiful. He used an epoxy lamination process and came up with something nice. He was commissioned to build them for a fellow boatbuilder and now his boat is launched and he needs them. Long story short--I lost my loaner oars :(

But with every hatch closed another one down the p-way flies open (and needs securing) so I set about building my own.

In these plans they leave them square near the handle

That picture right above is the plans/template I'm using. I got it off A.B.B. or Amateur Boat Building website (click to follow). The plans are a pretty inventive and cheap way to make your own. Just grab a 1"x6"x7' (I enlarged mine to 8') plank of oar-worthy wood (southern pine, ash, etc.) draw and cut out the pattern. Then take the excess scrap and glue it back onto the main part. Make sure you don't skimp on the glue, plenty of clamps, and let it cure for at least a day (I have found that when using Titebond III if you let it weather a few days, it is indestructible).

Untapped beauty

You will end up with something like the picture above. A gnarly, ugly, hunk of wood that you would never in a sober mind imagine would turn out that resembles anything close to a caveman's club, let alone an oar. But alas, your patience shall be rewarded, grasshoppy!

You take this blank and put a centerline on all four sides. From there you make another mark between the outside edge and the centerline. There will be two marks, one on each of the centerline. Do this on both the top most and bottom most portion of the oar, connect the lines, and repeat this on all four sides.

This is my back porch workshop!

Now the fun. Grab your planer and shape it down to an octagon... eight-sided polygon... a stop sign... get it? Then repeat the same process with all the new faces, or do what I did and eyeball it and make the eight sider a sixteen sider. By that I mean plane all eight edges down to create a shape with sixteen. At this point you can sand it and plane it down until a perfect circular oar.

before and after of the handle

On the face of the oar, plane down the outside edges to about a quarter of an inch.

Before shaping and after initial
cut. Once you sand them, they
get purty real fast!

Now sand everything down (inclunding the handle) and you're done. Lot of work, but a very good product. I will put some finished pictures of mine once I finish shaping, sanding and varnishing them. If you are interested in purchasing any, shoot me an email at, and I'll quote you a very reasonable price. I'm not trying to make money here, I just love to do this stuff!

Questions, comments, concerns? Write me, Brett

Water is Life!



  1. look real good dude. howd that blade hold up, still floppy as a donkey?

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