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Thread: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

  1. #1
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    Default Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    I am looking for information on a waterproof coating for under the oar leathers on a homemade set of whitewater oars. Since I cannot see under the leather I want something bulletproof for peace of mind. Obviously this part of the oar gets a lot of abuse and is a place water can collect. The oars are oiled and I want to avoid varnish.

    My first thought is epoxy.

    I have also considered CPES and then epoxy
    or CPES and then Paint
    or paint and paint impregnated canvas
    or CPES and paint impregnated canvas
    or CPES and epoxy impregnated canvas
    BLO or Tung Oil and pine tar

    The oars are oiled not varnished and I have used all traditional materials and techniques (with the exception of the glue for laminating to boards). I would like to stick to traditional but do not want to compromise the longevity of the oar. I have heard that paint and painted canvas is an extremely durable, long lasting old style technique. Can it handle the abuse of an oar lock?

    Any thoughts highly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Nothing hard like CPES. Make sure the oars under the leathers are well oiled and stitch them on tight. It helps if you give the oars a little shape there so that where the top and bottom ends of the leathers will be are a little narrower than a bulge in the middle. And cut the leathers correctly - that's not a rectangle. Allow for taking up some stretching as you stitch. If you don't have roping palms for each hand you might want some sort of gloves. Then keep the leathers well greased and you'll be fine.

    Extra note on shaping the oar. Most patterns narrow going down the loom and are nearly true cylinders or even thicken above the pivot point. It's hard to stitch the leathers on that shape in a way that won't slip down and I don't like putting tacks in the oar to keep the leathers in place and I especially don't like glue there. So sanding a little diameter off the top inch or two where the leathers will end gives you a shape that will hold things in place.

    Given the gage of leather I usually use, I find that making the pattern so there's about 3/8" gap on the seam dry fit. Then if you soak the leathers in warm water, they'll stretch nicely as you stitch them up. Once the leathers have dried in place, oil them.

    G'luck

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    This is the kinds of stuff that makes Ian the king of Wooden Boat Forum. Thanks , Ian. I was just pondering this same question as I get ready to leather my oars.

    Ian rocks.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    Make sure the oars under the leathers are well oiled
    Thanks for the quick reply!

    How many coats of tung oil would you consider well oiled? Would you thin the 1st coat? Would an oil wax blend be worth considering?

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    In dozens of years with oars, both oiled and varnished I have never had an issue with rot or anything else under the leathers. I have seen oars fail up that were nailed. And what I have had was an oar break under the leathers mostly after lots of use which compressed the grain so that the oar had gone wasp waisted under the leather. Shaping the leather so that you have to work to pull the edges together as Ian notes is critical. Given that a long use spruce oar will compress despite the leather I put some titebond on the underside of the leather.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Vernon Langille, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity and a quiver of unamed 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Pure tung oil would do well. Hardware store tung oil will be mixed with varnishes or some other cheap drying oil and will leave a harder film on the top. Pure "raw" linseed oil works too.

    edit: sorry number of coats, good and soaked....you want there to be enough oil to shed any water that gets in there. Water will always get in I think that is why the venerable Ian advises against hard finishes as they will not expand contract well opening up for water and at the same time trapping water in other spots. I turned my nailed leather oars into the stairwell railing.....
    Last edited by Hreoaj; 03-30-2017 at 08:34 AM.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    I skip the leather part and build up epoxy.
    Not expidition oats , but we go 2 or 10 miles a week all winter long. Who bicycles around with old soft tires anymore?

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Personally I prefer a coating or two of boat soup, then varnish. I glue the leathers onto the varnish and so avoid having to use tacks that let rot into the wood. I use thickened epoxy along the edges of the oar blades to protect them.
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    The only professional rowers in the US ( the raft rowers of Colorado) wrap their oars in rope. The Mannings who row out of Camden and have scores of years in their dory do as well. Their oars are mostly uncoated and don't seem to have been harmed. Just kind of grey. We get a little obsessive about this.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Vernon Langille, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity and a quiver of unamed 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Fuller View Post
    In dozens of years with oars, both oiled and varnished I have never had an issue with rot or anything else under the leathers. I have seen oars fail up that were nailed. And what I have had was an oar break under the leathers mostly after lots of use which compressed the grain so that the oar had gone wasp waisted under the leather.
    my experience too. Back in the 70's I used and collected dozens of old oars from all sorts of sources, some most likely dated to the 1930's or earlier. Never saw rot under the leather. Did beak more than my share from rowing and certainly learned that tacking the leather on is problematic.

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Fuller View Post
    The only professional rowers in the US ( the raft rowers of Colorado)
    I am not sure what you mean by that but I've certainly seen plenty of rope wrapped ours. I do not think it is because it is the most attractive or quietest but rather cheap and durable. I wrapped my first oars in leather and loved it so I'm sticking with it. The rope wrapped oars I've used had some kind of hardener in the rope and gave them a less than enjoyable feel.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    What are your thoughts on using titebond 3 for glueing up the laminations? I used epoxy last time but I'd love to save some time and money in the future.

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by caseyh View Post
    I am not sure what you mean by that but I've certainly seen plenty of rope wrapped ours. I do not think it is because it is the most attractive or quietest but rather cheap and durable. I wrapped my first oars in leather and loved it so I'm sticking with it. The rope wrapped oars I've used had some kind of hardener in the rope and gave them a less than enjoyable feel.
    Durable is really the key. There is more cushioning in the rope, much more than leather so that it mitigates compression damage which will happen under leathers. ( in the days of wooden oars there was often hardwood glued under the leather on the forward edge) Leather will prevent chafe but spruce oars over a lot of miles will compress under the leather and eventually break. For rough water work, the ridges of the rope act as mini buttons help keeping the oars in place, yet giving more flexiblity than having a fixed set of buttons. Biggest hassle with rope is that it isn't as smooth if you feather. The oars don't roll as nicely. I use rope on my Norwegian oars where I am rowing against a single thole pin (kabe) and for my oar and sail boat have one pair with rope for rough water, the other with leather for calm days.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Vernon Langille, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity and a quiver of unamed 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

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    Default

    I've used TBIII on kayak paddles without a problem.
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Fuller View Post
    Durable is really the key. There is more cushioning in the rope, much more than leather so that it mitigates compression damage which will happen under leathers. ( in the days of wooden oars there was often hardwood glued under the leather on the forward edge) Leather will prevent chafe but spruce oars over a lot of miles will compress under the leather and eventually break. For rough water work, the ridges of the rope act as mini buttons help keeping the oars in place, yet giving more flexiblity than having a fixed set of buttons. Biggest hassle with rope is that it isn't as smooth if you feather. The oars don't roll as nicely. I use rope on my Norwegian oars where I am rowing against a single thole pin (kabe) and for my oar and sail boat have one pair with rope for rough water, the other with leather for calm days.
    Interesting. Describe the rope. I do however tend to feather over a variety of conditions.

    I'm not a whitewater rower but op's concern seems overwrought. Use anything you wish (including CPES which is nothing like standard epoxy resin)

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Well, while there are a lot of different ideas on what to seal oar leathers with, I have always used pure tallow. It works great, stays soft and lubes the action of the oars just fine. We used it when I was out for crew at USC back in medieval times! I suppose lanolin will work as well if you are not into rendering down your own tallow.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    Well, while there are a lot of different ideas on what to seal oar leathers with, I have always used pure tallow. It works great, stays soft and lubes the action of the oars just fine. We used it when I was out for crew at USC back in medieval times! I suppose lanolin will work as well if you are not into rendering down your own tallow.
    Jay
    No need to render your own. I've been using Brooks Proofide, made for conditioning bicycle saddles. It's basically tallow with various oils and waxes added:



    I started using it because I had plenty around from years of riding on Brooks saddles and it's worked well. Plus it comes in a handy tin just perfect for throwing in a ditty bag.

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Hvalsoe View Post
    Interesting. Describe the rope. I do however tend to feather over a variety of conditions.

    I'm not a whitewater rower but op's concern seems overwrought. Use anything you wish (including CPES which is nothing like standard epoxy resin)
    Rope that I use for oar wrapping is cheap clothesline, I think some kind of poly, maybe a 1/4 inch. There is a duckworks article on this http://www.duckworksmagazine.com/06/...ping/index.htm and a bunch of information when you search "whitewater oar wrapping" I have a suspicion that we varnished woodenboat folks can get a little sniffy about this.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Vernon Langille, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity and a quiver of unamed 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Fuller View Post
    Rope that I use for oar wrapping is cheap clothesline, I think some kind of poly, maybe a 1/4 inch. There is a duckworks article on this http://www.duckworksmagazine.com/06/...ping/index.htm and a bunch of information when you search "whitewater oar wrapping" I have a suspicion that we varnished woodenboat folks can get a little sniffy about this.
    Thanks.
    Crushed spruce is an interesting facet of the conversation. I releathered my 2000 era oars some time back. Filled and faired the crush with epoxy. Might the rope wrap change the sizing of the oarlock . . . ?

    RE leather maintenance - I use Johnson's Paste Wax in a multitude of ways around the shop, including refreshing oar leathers.
    Last edited by Eric Hvalsoe; 04-01-2017 at 07:55 PM.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Yes, the oar that I broke was spruce, well leathered and had maybe 15 years of pretty good use on it, as I was rowing the ducker alot. When I took the leather off its mate, definite wasp wasting. One of the reasons that I put some waterproof tite bond under the leathers. I've seen a number of well used oars, nicely leathered, where the leather goes slack. You can see and feel it.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Vernon Langille, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity and a quiver of unamed 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Fuller View Post
    Biggest hassle with rope is that it isn't as smooth if you feather. The oars don't roll as nicely.
    That is what I did not like about rope.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    The biggest issue we deal with in the Southwest Whitewater world is that most of our best sections combine long flatwater sections with moderate to large whitewater. Oars are usually overbuilt for the whitewater and then become uncomfortable on the flatwater. To make matters worse we are hauling 1000+ lbs of cargo without much current.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Has anyone ever tried wrapping the area under the leather with hardwood veneer? Do you think a 1/8" thick piece would be enough to stop the wasp waist?

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by caseyh View Post
    Has anyone ever tried wrapping the area under the leather with hardwood veneer? Do you think a 1/8" thick piece would be enough to stop the wasp waist?
    I repaired a set of oars that I had worn out('wasp waist') with fiberglass and polyester resin. The oars have been fine since then though the repair is rather functional and unsightly. That would not be an issue if under leather(these are not). This is a cheap set of oars that a cheap fix saved from the fire and I continue to use in a spirited manner in rowing workouts.

    Any change in their action(don't know the correct term) seemed to be to no great detriment though I'm not experienced enough to know the details of better or worse in that regard. It is something I have wondered about though and I imagine any hard veneer thick enough to provide crush protection *could* have some effect on the action of the oar.

    Ken

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Seems like these guys should get a mention here:

    http://www.oarsmanmarinetallow.com/

    I've never used any of their products but they do sell tallow, along with various pieces of hardware.

    http://www.oarsmanmarinetallow.com/s...NE_TALLOW.html

    (Yes, I know it's not pertinent to the original question, but the thread has drifted somewhat...)

    Edit: looks like Shaw & Tenney sells it as well:

    http://www.shawandtenney.com/product...arsmans-tallow
    Last edited by cstevens; 04-02-2017 at 01:12 PM.

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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    Yes, I know it's not pertinent to the original question, but the thread has drifted somewhat
    No worries, I value all input.

    As far as leather protection goes, I think I will use tallow. I was also reading about leather hardening techniques used in making medieval replica armor. They use hot water and wax. Does anyone have any experience doing this on oar leather? I was considering a short hot water soak before stretching the leather followed by a bath in carnauba and beeswax. Then using tallow as a maintenance coating.

    The hot water is supposed to harden the leather but hard also equals brittle. Would this be a terrible idea considering the application?

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    The marine tallow folks recommend tallow to start then finish with a tallow/ beeswax mix.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Vernon Langille, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity and a quiver of unamed 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Excellent points, all. We use tallow on our leathers and it is super slick when first applied. Sometimes too much so. Real joy the rest of the time. We do notice that in some anchorages the dinghy attracts a lot of flies. Some tall ship folks I've talked to have mentioned this as a downside of tallow. Our dinghy is also an old, oil finish which has gone to black, though, so it may not be just the tallow in our case.

    Our leathers are simply stitched on and I take them off every few years to add some varnish below and stitch them up tighter if the spruce has compressed some. I think you'd have to row awful long and hard to break a good spruce oar by only "wasp waisting" it. If you had a heavy pulling boat or some such, it might be better just to go with ash or another tougher wood. Alternatively, if you're making your own spruce oar, you could leave more meat underneath the leathers and feather it in nicely to avoid any hard points.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Quote Originally Posted by marujo.sortudo View Post

    Our leathers are simply stitched on and I take them off every few years to add some varnish below and stitch them up tighter if the spruce has compressed some. I think you'd have to row awful long and hard to break a good spruce oar by only "wasp waisting" it. .
    It took about ten years when I was working at Mystic and lived upriver from the museum. When the river was ice free I rowed the ducker several times a week ( depending on the tide) commuting to the seaport or on weekend ten milers. Probably lost about half an inch over that time. Friend of mine from Annapolis rowed pretty much everyday at lunch time and ran into the same issue, also broke oars. Taking the leathers off and restitching them would help the situation. But lets face it, few of us really spend lots of time at the oars, especially if we have a sail.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Vernon Langille, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity and a quiver of unamed 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    Ben,

    That all makes sense. I've used my Shaw & Tenney spruce oars roughly 1/3 that amount and if they break after another 10 years at my rate of use, I'll be perfectly happy with them. They show some compression 1-2mm (radius, not diameter.) The compression is uneven with the summerwood sinking deeper. I imagine this could eventually break finishes under the leathers and lead to some rot to assist their demise. The cheapo ash ones I have would probably last a lifetime under similar conditions. A spruce oar with a thicker loom toward the leather might last a lifetime, too. I wonder if traditional Irish oars would be fairly indestructible, too. If the hole the thole pin goes through wore down over the years, a new plug could be glued in and drilled.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Waterproofing under the oar leathers

    I use heading twine. I think I first got the suggestion from Walt Simmons' book on Matinicus Double Enders. Smoother than thicker ropes.
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