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Thread: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    Hey All-

    I am restoring a 1980's-era wooden rowing shell. I'm currently replacing the footboard, which is a semi-vertical wooden piece, about 11" at the top and 7" at the bottom and 3/8" thick, onto which the shoes are mounted. The rower pushes with the feet against this board to generate force and push the sliding seat backwards. As such, the board needs to be strong and stiff. Since it's in a racing shell, I'd also like to use a relatively lightweight material. Most newer boats use carbon fiber for this, but I think a strong, light plywood such as marine-grade sapele or Baltic/Russian birch could work well too, and it would be much easier for me to make. The footboard is located inside the cockpit, so it doesn't have regular contact with the water the way the outside of the hull does, but it should be water-resistant.

    I'd welcome any advice or suggestions. Thanks in advance!

    Sincerely,

    David Lobron (Newton, MA)

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    I don't think plywood is the answer since only half of the grain is running in the direction that you need which means you will need to go thicker and heavier than with just a board.

    Are you good with fiberglassing? If so you could glass the far face of a light wood like western red cedar and be OK, but due to the weight of the glass you would not save much weight at all.

    I think that 3/8 Douglas fir or Alaskan yellow cedar would do the trick. Otherwise oak or ash would certainly be strong enough and being in Mass. they shouldn't be hard to locate. I could mail or ship you the fir or yellow or red cedar but even though it would be just a little scrap of a thing the postage or freight from Canada's west coast would probably be more than what you'd spend locally.

    You didn't say how wide the piece is. 3/8 by ? by 11 and 7.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    Is this a classic you are restoring to original condition, or just making it work? Pocock used a variety of woods, red and yellow cedar for the skins, pine and some heavier ash. I don't know what the footstretchers were made of.

    At 3/8" thick most ply or solid should be strong enough. I have made stretchers from 3/8" marine ply and from solid oak, but for heavier boats not a racing shell. Finish will be varnish?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    What is the original material? Photos?

  5. #5
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    Default

    Never fear. Soon enough someone with actual knowledge of 1980s shells will come along.

    Sent from my CPH1851 using Tapatalk

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    I'd try a lighter wood like one of the cedars, then if that flexes too much go for something stiffer == which in most cases will also be a bit heavier. Even though other elements of the rowing stroke like oars will flex, the energy isn't lost -- so perhaps that would be the same for the footboard?
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    I have an 80's vintage recreational double scull that's fiberglass, but has a wood Pocock drop in seat unit. I'm thinking it's Yellow Cedar - but am not positive. Approx 3/4 thick, 3" wide. I can get a better pic if needed.

    Stretcher.jpg
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    Thank you all for the replies! This is a 1986 Owen heavyweight single. The current footboard is actually two boards, one for each shoe. I need to replace it because I am installing larger shoes, and also because the old boards have holes in them. This photo shows the bottom of the existing boards.

    IMG_1527.jpg

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    Oh, I forgot to say: yes, this is a racing shell. I'm not sure about the original foot stretcher material, but I'm guessing maybe cedar. As you can see in the above photo, the wood is varnished, but not glassed, and that's probably what I'd do. Thanks for all the replies so far! I was also thinking that bamboo could work.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    Good quality 3/8 ply will work for that. I was picturing a cross piece resting in grooves at it's ends.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gib Etheridge View Post
    Good quality 3/8 ply will work for that. I was picturing a cross piece resting in grooves at it's ends.
    I was picturing the cross piece as well.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Best material for a rowing shell footboard?

    I would go with ply too. .... I put my share of miles on '70's & '80's era shells.

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