View Full Version : Worcester Oar & Paddle Co
05-21-2009, 07:35 AM
From 1947 to 2003 (the year he died) Joseph Garofalo owned and operated the Worcester Oar & Paddle Company on Franklin Street in Worcester Massachusetts. Joe was well known for building beautiful and competitive wooden rowing shells, as well as highly prized spruce oars. From about 1995 through 2000 I spend as much time with Joe in his shop as I could, hoping to acquire a modicum of his knowledge and skill. He was a focused and no non-sense boatbuilder, willing to share his years of experience. Did any of you know Joe? I'd like to hear any stories, I have very fond memories of Joe and his boats. And I still own one of his experimental single shells and two pairs of "Garofalo" oars.
05-21-2009, 08:40 AM
I rowed in one of his four-oared shells for a few seasons but never knew him. The boat was skinned in a beautiful ribbon-patterned wood, some kind of a mahogany or cedar. Don't really know.
What's experimental about your single?
05-21-2009, 09:12 AM
Joe had a wonderful inventory of lumber, 10s of thousands of board feet of eastern spruce, wrc, genuine mahogany, opeche, ash, and more. He made his own plywood from very thin veneers (2mm +/-), mostly western red cedar; so I would say that boat you rowed was cedar.
Joe experimented with a design he called the "box boat"; square in section from prow to stern, dead flat bottom (athwartship), slight rocker, 26' LOA, 11" beam, 25 lbs. Extremely unstable at rest and remained unstable through the first few strokes. Catch a crab and this boat does not forgive. With an accomplished rower aboard (someone who has some practice in the "box boat"), this design is exceptionally fast.
I don't think the original "box boat" design was Joe's, but he did like experimenting with it.
I too have rowed his shells (4 & 8), nice boats. I'm proably wrong, but I always thougth of his boats as good 'middle of the pack' boats on the competative scale. Because of the plywood construction they weren't the lightest but seemed to hold up well.
05-21-2009, 11:37 AM
Joe's shells were very popular with New England area high school teams. Many New England colleges, i.e. Dartmouth, Yale, BC, Smith, et al, had Garofalo boats in their fleets but Pocock boats out numbered Garofalo boats. Pocock (Washington State) boats were always a thorn in Joe's side; Pocock being a much larger enterprise and Garofalo being basically a "one man shop".
As composite shells came into their own, Joe tried, unsuccessfully, to make the switch to composite construction. His business, from that point forward, was focused on practice boats and recreational boats, as well as repair/maintenance of existing Garofalo boats.
11-22-2010, 06:36 AM
Capt Nat - I am interested in locating an old Garofalo eight, and any information/discussion of Joe's boats/shop. I coxed an eight back in '65 and visited his shop in '67. Could we get in touch? firstname.lastname@example.org
11-22-2010, 11:33 PM
Any chance of posting a picture of one of your oars, maybe with a short description of how it was made? I have found precious little information on the subject, apart from an article by Pete Culler sent to me by another forumite, from which I made mine. Thanks in advance.
11-22-2010, 11:39 PM
Not many years ago, Wellesley College had a fleet of rather beamy sixes which had been built by Garafolo. They were used for novice training on the campus pond and were left in the water in a covered boat house, being rather heavy for delicate young ladies to lift.
11-23-2010, 07:20 PM
Much of Joe's tooling is at Mystic Seaport Museum. I think some documentation was done as well. I started that dialogue. Really interesting shop. Ladder frame for shell building into which were inserted the appropriate molds at designated spots depending on the design. He had sections of oars for study. Oar blades were carved four at time by a large pantograph instrument which held 4 router type cutters, and a probe. The master and the four blanks were fastend to a grate, I think a piece of expanded metal. You powered up the routers then ran the probe over the master. I don't think osha would have approved.....
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