I have made several sets of oars using fir. Usually they are heavier than I would like. Once I used basswood which is marginally lighter. Has anyone tried cedar?  Usually I split a 2x4 and laminate strips of cherry and maple for a nice colorful blade.  The leathers would protect cedar from the oarlocks.  Any ideas?

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Shawn, to get bulk I tied one turks head with light cord, then a larger one over the top using parachute cord. How many leads and bights? I have no idea. I painted the final product with epoxy thinned with denatured alcohol. So far those knots are very secure. The thinned epoxy did not cause a negative aesthetic impact. Thought about the mallet but got good tight wraps by hand (I was pretty tired though!). Got a good link to a tutorial? I will have to rewrap all that after I slim down those oar shafts this winter.

Here's a great tutorial, but it baffles me the author used yellow polypro.  haha

Inner/outer turks head for bulk makes sense, thanks.

Mine just got a water-based wood stain to match my boat.  The pigment seemed to saturate the nylon well.  I put a thin bead of epoxy under the start/end of the wraps, the wraps are 18" long and the center 16" just "floats" with no epoxy coating over or under it.

This thread has wonderful information.  I add information to personal library as I find it.  Now, I have some designs for longer oars.  

If Brad gets around to another oar shaping class, I am ready with a set of constant diameter drift boat oars.  Otherwise, I may just have to get creative by myself.

Thanks for the wonderful contributions, and this was not even my thread.


I made a set of spoon oars using sitka spruce and put some cherry on the blades. Got the plans from an old article in wooden boat. 


Consider Sassafrass.  Light, very nice flex.

Dave, I own a bandsawmill in Easton and have milled a few 28" Sassafras and I love it but I don't believe any of these had long enough knot free runs for use in oars. I see you're in Saltsburg, 200 mile west of me. Do Sassafras grow commonly that straight that you can get oars out of them. It is wonderful to work with and the heartwood is relatively rot free.


I've heard of sassafras for paddles.  Could you laminate it of 3-4 pieces to avoid knots or at least minimize the effects of grain runout, Don?

What does it smell like?  File?

I guess that would work but I need 9' oars and these planks are less than that. you got me thinking though. I could alternate with Tulip poplar for both looks, lightness and stiffness. both species are easy to work.

I joined this forum to have some of these questions answered. 

I had some enormous tulip poplars in my yard.  I hated them, messy trees, roots got into my irrigation system, they sucked all the water out of the grass, sucker shoots everywhere, and after we cut them down, they refused to die and sent up suckers for another 3 years.

oh wait, talking about lumber?  haha.  Is it resilient or brittle?  Being somewhat related to cottonwoods it could be resilient, but I thought it was slightly brittle.  I'd definitely want to keep it well oiled/sealed as it is not very rot-resistant.

Shawn, Tulip poplar is not related to the cottonwood/aspen/poplars. Its closest relative is magnolia. My forestry and field biology courses said tulip poplar is pretty much all alone as a species in North America, without other family or genus relatives.  Calling it a poplar always causes a lot of confusion. So far, it is sufficiently resilient. I am now working on a second set of oars. I figured it was better to make a new set (and does not take a huge amount of time) and see if I get the shaft diameter right, before I alter my first set of oars. So far I have one new oar nearly ready for finish, and the second one coming along close behind. On my new oars, I have the top of the shaft 1 3/4 inches in diameter, tapering down to 1 1/2 inch at the throat of the blade. They are even lighter than my first set of oars, and have much more flex too so I think I hit the sweet spot. I made the counter balance larger too.

I epoxy coated my first set of oars with a few coats of spar varnish on top of that. I suspect I will do the same with the second set. 

Liriodendron, I get caught by common names all the time. I had the opportunity to climb a couple virgin poplar at Winterthur back in the late 70's. They were huge. 

JC how do you control the consistency of the taper?

Shawn, That book sounds lovely. 


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