View Full Version : Wasteful oar pattern?

04-15-2007, 03:31 PM
I'm building a pair of 8' oars, and have printed out most of the oar-pattern threads, Bob S's excellent web article, and I own Pete Culler's book. Most patterns show laminating the sides of the blades, and some work from 1"x6" lumber.

But I'm wondering if it is wasteful to just pick up a aprox. 8' long x 9" wide 8/4 Sitka Spruce or PO Cedar plank for building stock? The oars should lay out on the plank reversed from each other, will have flat blades.

McBeath's prices for 8/4 lumber = spruce for $6.40/bf, and PO Cedar at $5.20/bf.

Ron Carter
04-15-2007, 05:36 PM
I have $70 in Pair of 8' 8/4 x6 ash planks for my next pair of oars. As Jim said it wont break the bank and the pleasure of working with select clear straight grained stock is an added bonus. Have used Cullers laminated oars and find them entirely satisfactory. In fact they are the primary oars on the my current sharpie. If you can't go first class at our age why bother to go?

Rob Hazard
04-15-2007, 06:20 PM
Your plan seems entirely reasonable, and an economic use of stock.
The only worry I'd have is if the nesting of the two oars on one plank causes the grain to run at a diagonal to the shafts. You can easily judge that by eye, of course.

04-15-2007, 07:01 PM
Well, I HOPE I can judge that by eye correctly -- you never know...

;0 )

My 13.5' Chamberlain dory skiff rows well with the current 7' oars, but longer ones have been recommended so I thought I'd try. We are looking at about 4' lock-to-lock width, and some designers say you should make the oars a bit less than twice that.

I **may** end up making them 7.5' or just under 8', as the sternsheets and thwarts will keep anything 8' long from fitting on the floorboards.

Clinton B Chase
04-15-2007, 07:27 PM
Keep us posted on how it goes and what you learn from making oars. I look fwd to making my first pairs soon.


04-15-2007, 07:36 PM
Well, not being the handiest man around, I may learn that I should have bought 'em...we shall see.

;0 )

04-15-2007, 07:40 PM
What are you using for oarlocks? Can you take a beat up old set of oars and scarf a bit more on them to see if it is worth the benefit (depending upon your oarlock style of course)? If it is, then saw away!

04-15-2007, 09:07 PM
Thorne, if you have 4 ft. between oarlocks and are using 7 ft oars, learn to cross your hands and go to 8 foot oars and you will fly.
Drill length wise into the handle and add counterbalance, and you will think a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders, of which it has been. Good luck....

--Oh by the way, 8 ft. long by 9 in. wide and 2 inches thick is 12 board feet, x $6.40 is $76.80, kinda pricey, and you won't get 2 oars from that one piece, not solid unlaminated oars.

--P.S. for practice, go to home depot and look through the 10 ft. 2x6's till you find hopefully 2 nice boards with tight vertical or diagonal grain, also pick out real light boards and they are or should most likely be spruce. At least a cheap way to play and practice.

04-15-2007, 10:18 PM
Ron -

You are right, I'd have to go a bit longer and wider to get two oars out of the plank.

I'm afraid to go back to Home Despot -- nearly ended up in the hospital after my trip there yesterday. Was kneeling down in the hardwoods section trying to sort through a mis-labelled bin of oak, when some wanker pulls out an oak 12' 1x4 and leans it up against the other wood, pulls out another and knocks the first one over.

No warning sound, just WHAMMO on my head with an instant headache and bleeding brow, lucky I was wearing a funky ballcap or I'd have to get stitches.

Think I'll stick to the softwoods section from now on...or wear my metal Scots Burgonet helmet more often.

;0 )

04-16-2007, 08:46 AM
Wot is this, the Socratic Method of boatbuilding -- I ask questions and get more questions in return??

;0 )

To answer Paul C's question, I'm using standard in-gunwale oarlock bases. Not really interested in making a temp long pair and have no material to do so -- I figure I can always make 'em shorter if I have to..


Jim - Thanks for the photo, and I'll see if I can find anything thicker than 8/4 but I doubt it.

What rope boarding ladder? I've asked a lot of gormless questions on this forum, but don't recall opening that topic.

Eric D
04-16-2007, 02:55 PM


Rob Hazard
04-16-2007, 05:18 PM
I made a pair of 8 1/2' Culler oars of ash about 30 years ago. I cut the shafts out, then added stock in one plane for the blades, and added stock in the other direction to gain thickness for the four-square section of the looms. Then I spent a week planing and scraping. It was good fun!

A couple years ago I gave them to a friend who cut them down to fit his dinghy. They look kinda funny, but seem to work fine...

Paul Scheuer
04-16-2007, 05:42 PM
I don't remember what I paid for the ash 8/4, or how long the two pieces were, but there was very little scrap. I bought two long straight grained pieces. The blade wings were made from the piece that I cut off and ripped to 4/4, and glued on. (I hope this works,, The firewall at work won't do the link to Imagestation)


Bill Perkins
04-16-2007, 06:17 PM
Jim that's the best picture of the Culler oars I've seen ; gotta print and save .

04-16-2007, 07:10 PM
Oh....THAT rope ladder!

(my blushes!)

Nope, but thanks for reminding me that I should, otherwise no way to get into the boat once I'm out....

05-17-2007, 03:25 PM
Bought the only 8' length of spruce that MacBeath had, 9" x 8/4.

Problem is that it is all very rough-sawn finished -- furry and fuzzy -- so I can't see the grain runout until I get it home and sand the surfaces.

Jim Ledger
05-17-2007, 03:39 PM
Roughsawn lumber in a dimly lit warehouse. You do your best and then cross your fingers.

05-21-2007, 06:20 PM
One advantage of using full-dimension lumber is that I didn't have to wait for anything to glue up -- so was able to go from plank to nearly-finished oars in one brutal 10-hour day. Feels like I used every powertool in my shop, and most of the hand tools also.

With no meals or breaks, I finished it totally covered in spruce sawdust and shavings, staggering around trying to get all that expensive sawdust out of my eyes, ears and hair...

;0 )

Just have the grips to rough out and make the octagonal sections more even, otherwise ready for oil and varnish....wheee!

Photos to follow.

05-21-2007, 07:50 PM
Nice job.

Jim Ledger
05-21-2007, 07:55 PM
Yer an animal, Thorne:D

Let's see the pix.....tap,tap,tap

05-21-2007, 07:56 PM
I meant to say "Nice job" down here but somehow it inserted in post #19.

05-21-2007, 11:34 PM
No, I'm an impatient idiot, but there ya go...

Here's the pics -


05-21-2007, 11:37 PM
And some more -- sanded into the night much to the neighbor's delight -- got the oval grips shaped, should be able to oil them tomorrow and start varnishing Wednesday.

If Pete Culler had had a drinking problem and made a set of oars on a bad day, his would still look much better than mine -- but for a first attempt I'm feeling OK about 'em. Now as long as they don't break, I'll be fine...will give them a workout this weekend, as I'm driving those seven lovely hours up north past Eureka for another Big Lagoon boat camp with Morgan's Companie.


And lest anyone take these photos as any sort of guide, here 's a link to how it should be done, web article by Bob Smalser -



Jim Ledger
05-22-2007, 06:03 AM
Nice job, Thorne.:cool:

We'll be looking for the trial results

James McMullen
05-22-2007, 08:23 AM
Those oars look great! Oarmaking seems to be more akin to sculpture than it is to carpentry, don't you think? Your pics have made me a little bit dissatisfied with my current oars--I want to go search through the pile and find a piece or two of spruce for myself.