View Full Version : Determining oar thickness
02-01-2002, 12:54 PM
For a recently finished pulling boat I used open type oar locks and for starters used commercially bought oars. I found that relative to the size of the locks these oars are "pretty thin" and there is a lot of play between the two. Wanting to build my own oars I would like to know from folks out there with rowing experience if there is an optimum diameter for the oars for best performance in open horn type locks: should the oar fit tightly in the locks, should it be relatively tight or does it really matter??
02-01-2002, 01:07 PM
Ash can be made thinner than spruce. I start a bit thicker than needed and plane the lower shaft in an oval till it just flexes nicely. Gives a little spring to a good hard stroke.
Up at the oarlock, I've always preferred a bit of slack. I don't like the leathers binding in the rowlock, I like to be able to ship and unship easily, and I like a nice big target to drop the oar into.
Open top only. There is no excuse for round oar locks - way too hard to get back in if you take a crab and the oar comes out and way too hard to ship and unship when landing alongside the big boat.
Need I say that the locks with the pin are suitable only for aluminum boats you might have bought at KMart?
02-01-2002, 01:08 PM
Are your oars leathered? My oars are 1.75" diameter and they are protected where they pass through the oarloc with a wrapping of 0.125" leather. Without the leathers, the oars would be very loose in the locks, and the oar would be subject to a lot of wear. My oarlocks are 2.25" diameter open horn (commonly referred to as #1 sized). If you don't want to leather your shafts, you can buy plastic oar collars to protect them.
What diameter are your shafts and locks?
There are several sizes of open horn oarlocks. They're usually measured at the narrowest point of the opening, and at the inner diameter of the horns.
You want the oar to pass through the opening snugly but easily, and you want the oar to turn freely in the horn, for feathering.
You can install smaller horns, or put leathers on your oars, if your oar is too loose in the horns.
In wooden oars, the diameter at the loom of the oar has alot to do with what the oar is used for. The thicker the loom and oar overall, the heavier use it's made for.
New, component oars, such as those used by whitewater rafters, drift boaters, and shell rowers, and even narrower (thinner) but frequently stronger and lighter than wooden oars. In addition, you can change or replace blades easily, and even add extensions to gain more length.
Here's a great description of oarlocks:
"Open top only. There is no excuse for round oar locks .."
"Closed Horn Oarlocks Closed horn oarlocks are nearly as common as the open horn oarlocks. They have the advantage of not falling off the oars when removed from the sockets."
I know many people who use round closed oarlocks for this very reason. They ship their oars, with the locks on them.
It all depends on what you do with your oars.
02-01-2002, 06:57 PM
I use round oarlocks, principally so that when I padlock the oars to a forward bulkhead, the blades with the oarlocks are forward of the locking "ram's horns" with both out of sight under the foredeck, so unless a thief gets pretty violent, both oars and oarlocks are safe. I leave the boat alongside a supervised floating dock with easy public access (makes it easy to go for a row without special effort or carrying anything). This is nice, but leaves one open to theft, which is always a possibility, even here deep in rural Canada.
The points made about catching a crab are fair, and also about the difficulty of shipping and unshipping an oar. But it's always a set of choices, isn't it?
While on the topic of oars, what do others use to lubricate bronze/bronze contact? I dress the sockets with a fatty dressing used by saddlers, which works O.K. I have thought of Vaseline but not tried it. Any better ideas?
02-01-2002, 08:23 PM
I confess that I too use the closed top round oarlocks that Ian doesn't like with my gunning dory. I wanted a system where the oar and the locks would always remain together,( the oars are leathered with a collar that traps the ring lock and keeps it from sliding off. It is the only system I could think of that would do that and still let me feather the oars. It does make you gasp the first few times when, as you pick the oar up and put the blade over the side, the oarlock goes sliding down the shaft towards the drink! I like being able to let go of the oars and have them stay put.
02-01-2002, 09:34 PM
After finding that my fancy purchased oars rattled around in the locks, even after I leathered the oars, I also leathered the locks as described in an issue of WB a year or so back. The advantage of this is that the oars don't slip out of the top of the locks, since the top ends of the locks are closer together than the middle portion is, and yet to remove the oars from the locks one simply slides the oar's handle a few inches through the lock toward the rower to the point where the leather on the oar no longer contacts the leather on the lock and lifts the oar out of the lock. Thus, the advantages of both closed and open locks in one package.
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