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Thread: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

  1. #1
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    Default Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    I'll be making some oars for an Ilur.
    A sculling oar from ash and a pair of others from a piece of what claims to be hemlock. They'll be used in rowlocks, not thole pins and are about 9ft.

    Before anyone starts: yes, I've read bad things about hemlock's durability but the blade ends of these will be glassed, painted, shafts varnished etc and they will be stored dry. Plus the piece of timber was the best bet for price and grain where I am and I'm fine with replacing them down the line if they clap out.

    The question -
    Should I cut the shafts in one piece, as the timber length will allow, or in two halves length-ways and laminate them together to prevent later warping?

    Don;t mind the extra work of a simple lamination but am wondering if it's worth it. The Hemlock grain is very straight.

    Here's the boat build.
    Last edited by WayneT; 05-06-2021 at 06:09 PM.

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    If the oars are important, for one piece the stock should reallt be split out, not sawn. That is the only way to surely get the best grain.
    Laminated can get it's strength from grains running differently, even from the same board, simply by swapping end for end.
    This makes lammed better, faster, cheaper and easier for my money.
    not two halves either, more like quarter or half inch lams,straight from the tablesaw to the epoxy.
    and maybe you can lam a curve into the sculler, curve towards the water/make it easier to stow.
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 05-06-2021 at 07:35 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    I wouldn't bother laminating, but if you do, do at least three pieces. Two lams can actually encourage warping -- if one half expands a bit more than the other with humidity changes.
    -Dave

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    I'd also not be inclined to laminate. But my test for such questions is to tuck the stick into the shop somewhere, and see if it's inclined to move over time. If not, I wouldn't.
    David G
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Hollow...with just not quite enough lead in the handle's end to counterweight the outboard part when your sat holding them in the the rollocks: less energy to move around when they're balanced and not quite enough weight means they come back up unaided as that's an unnatural movement for the arm. Tapered solid plug where the rollock will be.

    But the 'as drawn' two hole Ilur oars give two gears for normal and an 'into the wind' higher stroke rate/ easier position for reacclerating the boat: it's a sophisticated arrangement, and a good feature not to be immediately discarded. Rollocks are a flat water fitting, a fishing seaboat traditionally has thole pins so they don't loose and oar in a roll and can be left in position when handling a line.

    Best wooden oars I've ever used were hollow rectangular looms and curved plywood blades. The crossgrain of plywood blades makes it strong, tough and lighter than shaped wood. A lighter blade needs less energy to move and less counterweighting: a double gain. They were nearly a match for my carbon macrons (carbon rowing oars aren't actually so spendy). Rectangular looms make engineering sense to me looking at the forces and easy with wood.

    Techincally the best wood might be Yew for it's resistance to fracture (cross fiber bridging!) and a very high elastic limit, so energy can be stored at the start of the pull and given out later mid stroke where it's more efficient. A Yew oar would be lighter than Spruce for the same ability. Probably bendier but probably better. Why it was used for longbows. Hard to get though.

    Regarding your boat and your hemlock. Ilur is quite a heavy dinghy. It won't leap forward under oar like a rowing scull. It's better for heavier boats to have a slightly flexible oar (within reason) so it bends then bends back and releases energy when you're mid stroke once the initial inertia of moving the boat is overcome. So I'd probably not laminate the oar and go for a flexible oar. Ilur will carry way better than an ultralight boat once it's moving so won't get stopped in wavelets so quickly and need reacclerating like a light boat...so enjoying a slightly slower stroke rate with a slightly heavier oar wouldn't be much of a problem as you chug along. Hemlock's density is only a bit more than spruce.

    I would however build exactly to Vivier's specs and materials if you can...that boat's been built in the many hundreds and he's perfected it over 30 years. There's only a handfull of designs like that. Vivier's an intelligent chap and the French fisherman on which the design is based were pretty crafty with the simplicity but sophistication of their boats features. Like an Oughtred, every deviation will usually make it worse.
    Last edited by Edward Pearson; 05-07-2021 at 05:25 AM.

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Thanks all

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    The nice hemlock you have found...is it inch and a half "2x8" or the like ?
    or 4by stuff ?

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    All good bits of advice. What ever path you follow never, ever, ever, lend the oars.

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    I'm tickled by the suggestion of Yew (taxus) for oars - I have somewhere about the house a couple of Yew boards which have been waiting for a suitable project for closeto thirty years - between the two they have just about every structural failing short of rot - Holes from recombining branches, bark inclusions, knots, short grain, sapwood in the middle of the board.....

    Potentionally decorative.
    I'd much rather lay in my bunk all freakin day lookin at Youtube videos .

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by P.I. Stazzer-Newt View Post
    I'm tickled by the suggestion of Yew (taxus) for oars - I have somewhere about the house a couple of Yew boards which have been waiting for a suitable project for closeto thirty years - between the two they have just about every structural failing short of rot - Holes from recombining branches, bark inclusions, knots, short grain, sapwood in the middle of the board.....

    Potentionally decorative.
    For maximum strength and durability you'll want the oars to follow the grain. This will be interesting.





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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    The nice hemlock you have found...is it inch and a half "2x8" or the like ?
    or 4by stuff ?
    It’s 2x8 equivalent

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gib Etheridge View Post
    For maximum strength and durability you'll want the oars to follow the grain. This will be interesting.




    If you look carefully at that longbow...see how there’s heartwood on the compression side and sapwood on the extention side....that’s how they are on King Henry’s Mary Rose when they resurfaced them. You can pull one in the museum in Portsmouth! You get more bows from a log that way but it turns out the heartwood is best in compression and the sapwood better in extension. Its mean’t to be that way. Forces on an oar are similarly assymetrical. Yew’s are scarce and protected here now. They live thousands of years. Alot must have been choppedd in the middle ages.

    I’d try Culler oars if I wasn’t following Vivier’s plan. He goes through it in his book. Oughtred has a nice sea oars plan for £10. Gartside usually makes his from WRC. There’s a drawing with each of his rowboats free in Watercraft. Notably Culler shows handles bigger at the thumb end. Oposite to most. It cocks the wrist to a more comfortable position and they stay in the hand naturally. His book is well worthq it. Everything ‘old school’ your grandad would have told you if he was a master boatbuilder. More recently Greg Rossel had published alot on oar building some of it in Woodenboat magazine some in his very good books.

    Carbon sculling oars are £325 to £450 a pair here in the UK depending on spec as a data point. £100-200 used on ebay (where I got mine - just needed a clean up and blade refinish/ repaint). Black carbon looms / cream blades - not out of place on a traditional looking boat. Spendy but cheaper, cleaner and more reliable than an outboard and lovely to have. The adjustable plastic rollocks they use are really cheap...about £15 or so. Much less than those bronze beauties you’re probably eyeing up. Galvanised steel won’t snap though like Bronze if there’s a casting defect. John Leather advises against bronze rollocks for this reason. They appear to be but aren’t traditional.
    Last edited by Edward Pearson; 05-09-2021 at 02:21 AM.

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by WayneT View Post
    It’s 2x8 equivalent
    So, one and a half inches thick. That's good for an 8 foot dink.
    You need at least 2 inches ,no?

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    We can get too anal about oars...... I've not seen solid spruce oars warp, I have worn them out with breakage on the compression side. For Ilur 9 footers follow Vivier. If he says counter balance do so; you probably won't need more than half a kg of lead. I don't know what Vivier shows but on the 10 footers I've done, I followed the norse style. If you want to cut the weight down on the business side, start to oval the the shaft as you come out of the lock, or leather to the point that you have a ridge about half way down, leaving max in the plane of the pull or 90 degrees to the blade, then carry the ridge onto the blade with some hollow towards the edges. I don't like Culler style handles as I like to put my thumb over the end of the handle after rounding it a little. Saves on carpel.

    For sculling oar design there are a couple of sources, an article by Harry Bryan in WB on a two piece oar, and some that I've done with drawings by the late Sam Manning. There are some threads in the forum.

    Is NZ ash and hemlock the same as North American or imported?
    Ben Fuller
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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Pearson View Post
    If you look carefully at that longbow...see how there’s heartwood on the compression side and sapwood on the extention side....that’s how they are on King Henry’s Mary Rose when they resurfaced them. You can pull one in the museum in Portsmouth! You get more bows from a log that way but it turns out the heartwood is best in compression and the sapwood better in extension. Its mean’t to be that way. Forces on an oar are similarly assymetrical. Yew’s are scarce and protected here now. They live thousands of years. Alot must have been choppedd in the middle ages.
    That's interesting and matches what I found out making laminated shaft oars a few years ago. Advice on the forum was to use a denser, stronger wood on the compression side, so I tried Douglas Fir on that side and light redwood on the tension side. The 9' 6" oars came out at 3 lb each, but can support my 200+ lb bulk:



    I'll also note that the dissimilar woods did indeed take a curve when a section was wetted, but the finished, varnished oars have stayed straight no problem.


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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Fuller View Post
    I don't like Culler style handles as I like to put my thumb over the end of the handle after rounding it a little. Saves on carpel.
    Interesting to hear other people's reactions to the Culler handles. I love 'em. I also put my thumb over the end of the handle--not sure why that wouldn't be possible with a Culler type handle?

    Barrel-shaped handles, on the other hand, are an abomination. I can't stand them.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    For those wondering Culler ‘andles are 1 inch at the oar end and 1.25 inch at the thumb end...

    Interesting Viviers also swell but only in the horizontal plane 35 to 45mm at the thumb end with a round over for the thumb.

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    I made oval grips once and liked them. They made it easy to keep the blade at the correct pitch without looking and were about as comfortable as round.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    I'd think the moisture content/dryness of the wood would dictate whether any warping would take place. I've never seen anything other than single piece oars when made of ash.
    “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs."

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Hi Wayne,
    Check out pages 43-45 (53-55 digital margin).
    It's Harry Bryan's two piece oar article.
    May give you a few more ideas.
    http://docshare01.docshare.tips/file.../293737576.pdf
    Cheers,
    Mike.
    Last edited by Mike1902; 05-09-2021 at 04:57 PM.

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Interesting to hear other people's reactions to the Culler handles. I love 'em. I also put my thumb over the end of the handle--not sure why that wouldn't be possible with a Culler type handle?

    Barrel-shaped handles, on the other hand, are an abomination. I can't stand them.

    Tom
    I've observed that many people making Culler style handles (as well as straight) don't round the edge at the end which then make thumb wrapping painfull. Ideally you play with the diameter of the grip so it works with your hand, the way we do with Greenland style paddles.
    Ben Fuller
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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by rgthom View Post
    That's interesting and matches what I found out making laminated shaft oars a few years ago. Advice on the forum was to use a denser, stronger wood on the compression side, so I tried Douglas Fir on that side and light redwood on the tension side. The 9' 6" oars came out at 3 lb each, but can support my 200+ lb bulk:



    I'll also note that the dissimilar woods did indeed take a curve when a section was wetted, but the finished, varnished oars have stayed straight no problem.

    Looking at wood racing scull and sweep oars is instructive. Often hollow laminates. Hard wood might run the full length but often just a foot or so either side of the lock .
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Tipsy, Tippy, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity, Look Far, Flash and a quiver of other 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    My
    Quote Originally Posted by Gib Etheridge View Post
    I made oval grips once and liked them. They made it easy to keep the blade at the correct pitch without looking and were about as comfortable as round.
    My oars are laminated Sitka spruce from Barkley Sound Oars and are nice enough.
    The idea of ovaling the handles like a Greenland paddle is great. Even a small flat on one side would allow you to index the oars without removing much grip volume.
    Do you set the grip oval at 90° to the blade?
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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by Autonomous View Post
    My
    My oars are laminated Sitka spruce from Barkley Sound Oars and are nice enough.
    The idea of ovaling the handles like a Greenland paddle is great. Even a small flat on one side would allow you to index the oars without removing much grip volume.
    Do you set the grip oval at 90° to the blade?
    I did. I'd do it again. I'd make them a little bigger than that first try though, they were a bit on the small side.

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Liking the idea of an indexed handle

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    The indexed handle is great. I love mine, made to what John DeLapp calls a "modified Norse grip". See the bottom of this page.


    I'm making a Vivier Seil and made my oars to Vivier's plans. I haven't used them yet, so take this with a huge grain of salt, but I figured I should mention that I'm not thrilled with the balance point. This could be a result of my (slightly) changing dimensions to accomodate oarlocks and not thole pins. See:
    Quote Originally Posted by pez_leon View Post



    Pete Culler specifies that oars should balance within 12" of the oarlock. John DeLapp calls for a hand balance weight of 1 3/4 lbs. These oars balance around 22" from the oarlock (assuming one is rowing with a one-hand overlap) and have a hand balance weight somewhere around 3.5 lbs. Not perfect. On the other hand, I do so like making oars. I won't feel too bad if I need to make a new pair.

    Counterbalancing is of course an option, and I tried to do it with my second set by making the looms thicker inboard. These came out a bit funny looking.
    I think I'll make my next set to Culler's plans.

    James

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    Default Re: Making oars - laminated or single piece?

    Thanks James,
    That's very helpful. I had considered just using vivier oars in a lock but thought the heft involved in the design would mean some awkward balancing. Glad you've tried that experiment for me.

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