DIY square top oars - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 06-18-2018   #1
 
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DIY square top oars

Let me preface this thread to everyone who had planned to post "just get out your check book". I'm not listening. Fingers firmly in ears, "LALALALA." If I wanted to buy oars, I would have already bought them.

I have two sets of Doug Fir oars. I made the transition 14 years ago to the dark side of rafting as a dirtbag kayaker who had kids. I never owned Carlisles. I had a pro deal on Cataracts, but they hurt my shoulders. I originally made wood spares, and the Cataracts became my spares and the wood oars became my regulars. I have They were/are 10' long, 2-piece laminated shafts, laminated blades, ash blade edges, ash spline through the tip to bond the laminates together horizontally, and 3-4 layers of fiberglass on the tips with a rope wrap. Original finish was linseed oil, but it sucked. They currently get varnished every 4-5 years. Last iteration was fully sanded down to bare wood, epoxy saturated, and spar varnished. They have dings and battle scars, and I love them.


I bought a 13' boat 7 or so years ago, and then made a set of 9.5' oars for it. Shafts slightly larger diameter, and blades thinner than the originals. They have also held up beautifully. One had a bit of grain runout in the shaft and broke just below the rope wrap. Lesson learned. Fortunately I made 3 at the time, so I wasn't out completely on the set.

Which brings me to this post. Anyone else ever build their own square tops or wood oars? The only thing I don't completely love about my woodies is the lack of counterbalance. I love the flex of the shaft, I love that the blades float when I drop the handles, I love that the entire oar floats if dropped overboard. I just want a bit of counterbalance.

So...if you've built your own square tops, would you go even bigger than the ~2.5" on top that Sawyer uses?

Have you done carbon fiber wrap? Is it worth it, or does it make them too stiff? Do you get splinters from the CF if it gets dinged?

Preferred handle shape? Mine are all ~6" long, 1 1/8" OD. Anyone ever build tapered handles? Taper inward or outward? Barrel-shaped like carlisles?

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Old 06-18-2018   #2
 
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I have been thinking about making my own wood oars for a while. The sets you did make did you turn them on a lathe or had carve? I have some ash i got from a friend laying around that just need to be put to a good purpose.
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Old 06-18-2018   #3
 
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I have a buddy who made some on a lathe. Turned out really nice. 2 1/2" square, tapered handles, no carbon wrap. He had a box of composite blades he bought years ago that the oar shaft goes into.
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Old 06-18-2018   #4
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jspoon14 View Post
I have been thinking about making my own wood oars for a while. The sets you did make did you turn them on a lathe or had carve? I have some ash i got from a friend laying around that just need to be put to a good purpose.
I laminated the fir close to my final dimensions and rounded the shafts off from there. No lathe, that would be a long length to support and keep straight, and also a bit dangerous with the blade spinning out there on the end.

A hand power planer was invaluable to round off to shaft and shape the blades. Random orbital sander to smooth it all up.


14yold 10' oar on top, newer 7yo 9.5' on bottom.

1-2 layers of 6oz glass on the old ones, 5-6 on the tips of the new has held up significantly better.
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Old 06-19-2018   #5
 
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I took these pictures last night and realized how chewed up the tips of the old oars are...so they got completely sanded down.

..and while I was at it, I decided to thin the blades and reduce the swing weight. I went at the blades with a 40-grit flap disc in an angle grinder and made a ton of sawdust.

The blades were previously quite convex, and I flattened them out so the edges were about 1/4" (previously 3/8"+) and the blades were more flat-ground, to borrow a knifemaking term. I moved the balance point 4" up the shaft, which is not an insignificant amount!!

Got done about 10pm, showered off the sawdust and went to bed. This morning, I woke up at 5:30am so I went out and re-glassed the tips. They got 6 layers this time, and I carried the glass 4" up each blade edge. My phone died and my kid borrowed my charger, so I'll take pics tonight.
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Old 06-19-2018   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Conundrum View Post
I have a buddy who made some on a lathe. Turned out really nice. 2 1/2" square, tapered handles, no carbon wrap. He had a box of composite blades he bought years ago that the oar shaft goes into.
That's cool! Got any pics--even of him using them on the boat?

Handles tapered like sculling oars (widest at your thumbs) or tapered so the widest point is near the shaft (widest under your pinkies)?

Wow, I didn't know there were blades that had a socket instead of a "male" plug that went into the shaft. Do you think he'd take an email or call from me? I'd mostly like to hear if there's anything he'd change on his before I start another set.
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Old 06-19-2018   #7
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Shoeless Musings: Oars

This is a buddy of mine and I have rowed his oars. They feel very nice. We are going to make a set for me once we get his international scout out of my garage...
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Old 06-19-2018   #8
 
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You know that Scouts aren't simple 1-2 month projects?

Borrow time on someone's table saw to rip the shaft and blade pieces, glue them up on sawhorses next to the Scout, and do all your planing and sanding outdoors when the weather is nice.

<= says the guy who has a 4Runner on jackstands in my shop and is working on my oars in my garage.

I tend to look for 2x8's, 2x10's, and 2x12's in 10', 12', 14', or 16' flavors. Larger boards will generally come from bigger trees with straighter (and hopefully tighter grain). My last ones were ripped to 2" wide x 1" thick and laminated to 2" x 2". The side benefit is that you can minimize the risk of a crack due to grain runout because it's backed by another piece of wood with different grain.

I glued the blade pieces on the same way as your friend. I also like to taper or step down the blade pieces--so you're not shaping a 1.5" thick piece at the outside edge down to less than 1/2" thick. The piece next to the shaft square could be 1.25" thick, next one 7/8", and the last one 1/2". Then you simply plane off the corners until you get a flat, smooth blade.

thank you for the link! He was right in his first paragraph--it looks easy, but it does take quite awhile.
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Old 06-19-2018   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MT4Runner View Post
You know that Scouts aren't simple 1-2 month projects?
It's already been 8 months We just got the engine and tranny back in it yesterday and now only have to finish up the wiring.

I want to get my shop set-up finished up this summer and then I have visions of lovingly shaping my oars over many evenings of whiskey sipping next winter.

I have a really nice table saw and he's got the band saw, so we are good to go there.

Thanks for the tip on tapering the blade laminates so that you don't have as much to shave.

By the way, if you poke around his blog, he's got a post on wrapping oars with a serving mallet. I did my Cataracts this spring with his mallet and it only took like 15 minutes per oar. They were so tight that I had to back off because I was afraid I'd crush the shaft.
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Old 06-19-2018   #10
 
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Originally Posted by MontanaLaz View Post
It's already been 8 months We just got the engine and tranny back in it yesterday and now only have to finish up the wiring.

I want to get my shop set-up finished up this summer and then I have visions of lovingly shaping my oars over many evenings of whiskey sipping next winter.

I never did enjoy vehicle wiring. I did wire up my Toyota-based buggy and that took a lot of late nights and beer. I don't want to rewire another car!

Yes, enjoy the process.
I don't know if I possess the patience to lovingly shape another pair of oars. Subsequent sets will be brutishly shaped with a hand power planer and a dust mask. A followup shower whiskey sounds great.


Quote:
I have a really nice table saw and he's got the band saw, so we are good to go there.

Thanks for the tip on tapering the blade laminates so that you don't have as much to shave.
I did use the band saw on my first set for resawing the blades and making them thinner before shaving. 2nd set had tapered staves and didn't require that step. 3rd set may not ever see the band saw. Just a jigsaw to shape the tips. haha

OH! Cut splines in the tips before you round them off. Much easier to keep the saw perpendicular to a square end. I used 1/16" Ash veneer.


Quote:
By the way, if you poke around his blog, he's got a post on wrapping oars with a serving mallet. I did my Cataracts this spring with his mallet and it only took like 15 minutes per oar. They were so tight that I had to back off because I was afraid I'd crush the shaft.
Thanks for the recommendation. I'm somewhat familiar of the practice (I've heard of it), but I've only ever hand-wrapped oars. They're not insane tight, but then again, haven't loosened either.

Shoeless Musings: Serving you the perfect oar wrap!
Just read it. Holy chit, that's brilliant.

I need to buy a copy of the Marlinspike Sailor.

Edit: your invite to poke around his blog took me on a trip down memory lane. I used to be heavily into the wooden sea kayak scene, and I had to Google my old Geocities account: Baker Brothers Boats Seakayak Page
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