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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Don, $100 for a used copy and it's out of print.

I called the Mystic Seaport Museum and the fellow I spoke to said they get a request a week.  He always passes it on to Publications.  Nothing yet.  I'm this week's caller and he'll pass on my request to Publications.

I asked about an e-edition.  He said they also get that request frequently and will add mine to their list!  haha.

I found an online library copy and put a request in for it.  Will keep you posted.

To answer your question, I started with two planks each planed down to 1 1/8 inch so when I glue them togeher I will have at least 2 1/4 inches in one dimension for the square tops of the oar looms. I draw my oar profile out on the "blank" and then cut it out with a band saw. That gets a taper on the top and bottom aspects of the oar shaft. I then draw the tape out on the cut faces so I can have the same taper on the sides of the oar parallel to face of the oar blade. I mark out my lines with the spar guage, take the corners off with small plane, and then take the resultiing smaller corners off by eye. They are not perfectly round but so close you cant see after you dress them up with an old belt sander belt wrapped around half the oar shaft.

Consider more taper perpendicular to the oar blades. You don’t need much more strength in that axis than to lift the blade from the water.

I cheat and don’t use a spar gauge or spokeshave: a big 1” roundover bit in my router table works nicely :)

Has anyone ever read Andrew Steever's 'Oars for Pleasure Rowing'?

It's out of print and $$$ used!

Shawn that is a bit above my pathetic budget but I imagine it would be a big help. I didn't see it coming that I would need special oars. When I began my build in June Drift boats were brand new to me. I could never have imagined that store bought oars would cost more than the cost of the boat. The more I see the homebuilt oars you folks are making the more I want to make mine also. My home river is the Delaware and it is a gentle float for five miles and I'm out. I'm using 6'oars to spin the boat and I do very little rowing. It will be nice to have 8-8'10" oars.

Are most of the wooden oars used with drift boats tapered down to 1 5/16 or so at the shoulders? seems pretty light. What am I missing?

Don, if my experience is correct, you are not missing much. The throat on my oars took shape simply as a function of what it took to transition from the final diameter of the oar shaft into the flat shape of the blade. I think you will automatically get enough meat there for the strength you need.  I am in the Finger Lakes and fished the Delaware a fair amount last spring till the crowds got bad, meaning after May 7th or so, I was gone. If you are near the Delaware you can certainly find tulip poplar, aka yellow poplar or tulip wood. Pennsylvania produces a lot. It grows in a few parts of New York where climate and site conditions are right. Most of NY is just a bit too severe for it to prosper. I got four planks from a mill near me that makes interior trim and flooring. They planed the planks on both sides, all for about $70 for my current project. It might even be less if you buy from a mill, as opposed from a subsequent processor like I did. Wood for last year's oar project was about the same. To make my oars, I need access to a band saw, a draw shave (to take excess wood off the blades), a spar gauge (make one in 20 minutes with a good ruler, a calculator and a drill press...), a couple of hand planes and sandpaper. Draw shave of the blades, and hand plane only on the shafts. You could dispense with the draw shave and one of the hand planes if you rented a power electric hand plane for half a day.  This photo I think was taken somewhere near the Buckingham takeout. 


JC, I see you're carrying a canine co-pilot. Mine is always aboard as well.
I think I have plenty of Tulip in the yard stickered to airdry. I know I have sassafras somewhere as well. I'll check around.
How do you handle it on the Delaware. Do you bring two vehicles and park one at the destination. you are about the same distance from the west branch as I am. I visit Callicoon NY on business regularly and admire that part of the river.
Btwn my kids and I we have all the tools to make these once we find the time.

Charles mentioned Cherry and that might be good in the blades.

I was an Arborist for many years and would not think Basswood would have the shear strength for river work but it would be light and easy to work.


Don, I use a shuttle service, Bill Cross, 607.237.3078. Recommended to me by a fly shop and friends. Same plan worked great when I took the boat out west last summer for 3 weeks. I text the shuttle service when I am preparing to launch, and need to say where I am launching, where I am taking out, when I expect to arrive at the take out, make/model/license plate number and where the key and cash are stashed. This is the common approach anywhere there are fisherpersons and drift boats. Makes for a really pleasant day. You cant travel with two vehicles and do this easier and cheaper than the shuttle services. 

Charles, have you looked into quartersawn old growth White Spruce or White Cedar? For strength and contrast you might add lams of Walnut, cherry or Ash. Walnut is actually pretty durable, strong and easy to work.

Hi, there was a time when I was cash poor and teak plentiful. Still cash poor... I needed oars for a traditional lapstrake I built and could not afford Sitka spruce so I built teak oars. Spoon blades , of course and just shy a couple of inches of 7 feet. I use them on 8 and 10 foot wood lapstrakes and they are perfect. They weigh 5 pounds each and old, strong Burma Teak. Oars are on a pivot point.... I am 67 and row for fun and exercise. I have broken two oarlocks, but never tired due to the weight of the oar. and I have rowed many kilometers, usually no more than 10 km in a stretch. The obsession with light wood seems to be for people who are too fragile to be rowing in the first place. Now, a canoe paddle is something quite different. Strong and light. 

Ken, I've thought that your conclusions are basically correct, that we worry too much about weight, not enough about balance. I've been to numerous museums and have noticed how heavily built workboat oars are. In the case of drift boats there are perhaps situations where fast reactions and swift corrections are effected successfully do to the lightness of the oars. Perhaps open water rowing is more consistent and predictable. Not speaking at all from experience, none, but rather throwing it out for discussion. However the idea of using cedar for oars scares me.

What kind of bandsaw mill are you using. I have an old Norwood.


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