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Over my hard shell kayaking career I have used a couple of JimiStik kayak paddles and several of his kayak designs for New Wave. The feel of these paddles in use is hard to impossible to duplicate.

Paddles perform at the highest levels but honestly also so pretty, you want to keep them on display as wall art.

I do not know if he makes oars, but his kayak and canoe paddles are works of art and performance.
He's made oars, but doesn't, generally. Aren't the paddles magical? I really like the raft paddle that Jon Rugh, of Shadetree Paddles, made me. But it's no Jimmy Styk.

The key to fine wooden boat propulsion these days is to order way in advance. I have the Songbird oars coming in April, a Shadetree duckie paddle in May, and a couple of Jim's in late '23 and '24. He's backed up five years now and Shadetree is not taking new orders. Get the treasures while you can!
 

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Liking this idea of spending the winter trying to make some wooden oars. First go will probably be some 8' oars out of pine just to work out some of the basic kinks. Outcome might only be suitable for garage wall art, but should be fun anyway. Assuming this process doesn't kick my butt too badly, where do you pro's get chunks of ash from that would be big enough to make oars out of?
If you can't spring for custom oars, roll your own. It's not rocket surgery, and is well worth your effort. Many others on this forum have built their own and been happy with the results.
But skip pine and build them out of construction grade douglas fir so they're actually functional.
8/4 ash...or laminate (2) x 4/4 chunks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #43 ·
I had to take a break for 24 hours, but this thread keeps getting more interesting. I saw on the Sawyer website they are selling "Smoker" oars made of ash. They sell some Sawyer oars made of Douglas Fir. I remember the old Gulls were made out of Tasman Fir. MT4 just stated that construction grade Doug fir is "actually functional". There is about a 25% lower price for the fir oars. Is that because Doug Fir is more available than ash or is a fir oar a less functional or durable material? Gull oars were very popular and seemingly functional at one time. I don't know how Tasman fir compares to Douglas fir, though. If I spring for custom oars, my thought would be to go with ash. But that is based on my ownership of a set of Swansons that I was unable to wear out or break in three decades. But if Doug fir would work nearly as well it could work for me. Another consideration now is that, at my age, my boating career has a lot fewer years ahead of me than behind me. I need to ask MT4 about options for my current usage level.
 

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I just feel bad beatering wood oars. Seems un cuth (sp) doesn’t seem to bother me to smash and bash and lose the others lol. I tell you o broke three oars in the same wipeout? That’s 2k dollars if they are wood!
Unless they hadn't broken, because of it! Please tell me you have some video of this carnage!

I'd row Smokers. Like I said above, no offense to an old school brand, but I'm not fond of the innovations under the Sawyer name. Smokers are beefy, solid ash oars. Wood quality isn't as important for this type of battle axe, especially in big, deep water - which is where I tend to see them.

Dave, I hope you get some woodies! The scout is my all time favorite boat. Make sure to post pictures! I have a pile of old ski and boating gear in the guest room to sell for these oars, as my budget isn't princely, either. Less things, more treasures. And all winter the collection sure makes my walls pretty!
 

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I've got a 9' Smoker that needs a new home. It's too short for me. I salvaged it from the river. No markings. I tried for a long time to find its previous owner.

It will need a sanding for sure and some oil. I had thought about hanging it on the wall of my office, but I never did, and now I'm no longer working.

If you think you can use it, come get it. If you feel the need to open your wallet for it, make a donation to American Whitewater or Willamette Riverkeeper; I don't want any money for it.
 

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I had to take a break for 24 hours, but this thread keeps getting more interesting. I saw on the Sawyer website they are selling "Smoker" oars made of ash. They sell some Sawyer oars made of Douglas Fir. I remember the old Gulls were made out of Tasman Fir. MT4 just stated that construction grade Doug fir is "actually functional". There is about a 25% lower price for the fir oars. Is that because Doug Fir is more available than ash or is a fir oar a less functional or durable material? Gull oars were very popular and seemingly functional at one time. I don't know how Tasman fir compares to Douglas fir, though. If I spring for custom oars, my thought would be to go with ash. But that is based on my ownership of a set of Swansons that I was unable to wear out or break in three decades. But if Doug fir would work nearly as well it could work for me. Another consideration now is that, at my age, my boating career has a lot fewer years ahead of me than behind me. I need to ask MT4 about options for my current usage level.
I imagine, and he can certainly correct me, if I’m mistaken, as he knows more about oar construction, MT4Runner is talking about using fir as a cost saving measure. I can’t imagine using fir unless cost was so fixed I couldn’t muster the extra to get ash. Fir is much softer and much more prone to splinter. I’ve hit a point, in my shop, that I turn down jobs requesting even quality CVG fir. Fir used to be much better, but what is being cut these days is often third growth and a far cry from the old growth of yore. I believe ash will be a better choice for longevity as it is substantially harder and less prone to split/splinter. It is also a more stable hardwood and less prone to twisting/warping, but I imagine that is why Sawyer laminates so many pieces.
I am speaking as someone well versed in working wood, but not as someone well versed in oar building MT4Runner has far more experience with building oars.
 

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Found this Sawyer, poking around this morning:
It appears they sell air dried ash for a pretty reasonable price. $10/board foot. Last I checked, I think I could get it for around $6 for kiln dried wholesale. Guessing you’d need around 25 board feet for two oars. Guessing it’s be around $50-$100 for shipping. It’s not a big deal to ship material.
Kiln dried wood is probably fine, but air dried wood will be less brittle. Air drying also maintains more of the natural colors in the wood. Kiln drying tends to dull things. I’m not sure how much a difference it makes for ash, but it makes a huge difference in some woods, like walnut. If I were to spend the time to make another set, I’d also take the time yo find quality air dried material.
 

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Discussion Starter · #49 ·
Good info, I am determined to go with ash if possible. I don't have all the tools necessary to make my own and it's impractical to buy them to make one set of oars. That leaves buying from Sawyer or one of the several one-man operations around the country. Sawyer is currently offering 3 models of ash oars: Smoker Utility, Smoker Whitewater and Smoker Drifter. The latter two are on backorder. I have searched the river supply stores and they seem to be out of stock everywhere I've looked. If I order directly from Sawyer they quoted $580 shipping cost. The website only offers FedEx 3-day shipping. There must be a more economical way to ship, but they didn't offer anything else. Sure wish Will Amette had found two river booty 9ft Smokers, I would cut them down. Probably time to take another look at Songbird and Mt4runner. I will also talk to the local river shop, 4-Corners Riversports, whether they can ever get some Sawyer/Smoker oars to their shop without me paying the shipping. They do sell Sawyer products, but the current inventory is dismal.
 

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For what its worth.... my oars from Shawn are straight grain Doug Fir with some strips of Walnut on the edges and squaretops. He did some Dynel tips for me too. I beat the heck out of them and though they do need maintenance, they have held up well to the abuse and are by far the nicest rowing set of oars I've ever used.

You can see Shawn's process in these threads...

A bit shorter and sweeter...

A much longer and more in depth thread...

Also, all of Sawyers squaretops are made from Douglas Fir. Some are finished with Carbon Fiber on most of the shaft and blade or a fiberglass "x-wound" with a string of carbon fiber. You can get them with V-Lam blades as well.

I know Randaddy is portraying them as fragile and made of match sticks or something.... but I have had nothing be great experiences with my Squaretops and until I got a set of Oars from Shawn they were my go to. I have a set of 9' Squaretops I use with my Cat that have been used and abused on low volume creeks and they have held up amazingly. I push off rocks and such so much that the Dynel edge has worn down and needs to be redone. I bought them in 2017...so its taken 5 years of hard abuse to get to that point.

I did break one of my 10' Sawyers....seen in this video... rough day as you'll see...


I am confident ANY oar would have broken in that situation. You can't really see it, but I went through the right slot in Skull Rapid in Westwater and was worrying about the Dory hitting the wall and didn't ship the lefthand oar and got sheered off between my oarlock and Skull Rock. I've cleaned that rapid 90% of the time, but it was my first trip ever rowing that boat and it turns out that it rows a bit differently then I thought and I didn't set myself up at the top to be able to make the move to the left and was too busy telling my passenger what to do and not focusing on making the move...and you can see what happened in the video.

So....I guess this is a way of saying... Douglas Fir is a commonly used wood in oars and seems to hold up and is probably a good material to use to experiment with before you go with something more exotic and expensive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #52 ·
Hey Electric, great video of your uh-oh moment. I lived in Moab for years and used to run Westwater frequently. I was so concerned about hitting or going over Skull Rock I would do an all-out downstream ferry to break through the lateral to make it to the left side. I missed the move once and went right over the rock at higher water, but accidently didn't flip. That right slot has banged up a bunch of boats and oars and noggins. The only oar I ever broke was against a rock wall while eddied out below Bedrock in the Grand. I was parked and minding my own business when another boat t-boned me. One of my spares slammed the wall and broke. I was not amused. Great info on the durability of Doug fir in your experience. Makes me think that if I find some available oars that are made of Douglas fir, I should not let that be a deal breaker. That said, I hope this thread doesn't now morph into a discussion of how to run Skull rapid.

Charlie, Sawyer is in Oregon not far from the Rogue. I have rowed the Wild and Scenic section once, would love to do it again. I vividly remember that dogleg move in Blossom Bar.
 

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Yeah....usually run Skull that way too but occasionally something will happen, either by the captain messing up or just getting unlucky, and it doesn't work out. I haven't counted, but I've definitely run WW more then 20 times but less then 50...and I've had two runs through Skull that didn't go well.... this one and getting surfed in the top hole at 1900cfs in my Mini-Max that resulted in a flip. For most of that summer I had been running my lightweight cat, so was used to just floating into the rapid.

Since that was the first day ever running rapids in it I didn't know, but my particular Dory really needs some time to build momentum to make moves and I utterly failed to go into the rapid with any kind of momentum. We stopped to scout, and I should have rowed back upstream a ways to give myself that time. I also probably should have waited for a bit more water to be flowing down the canyon.... it was borderline at 2800cfs and most stay out of there with Dories till its at least 3000-3500.

I've since taken it down the Grand Canyon three times, Yampa once and Deso once. Still need a rematch in Westwater though. I've mostly figured it out now though...

Plenty of videos here of more succesful runs... https://www.youtube.com/user/Hakudog5/videos

Anyways...agree that a full threadjack isn't warranted.
 

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I spent the first half of my river career racing and then river running with Mitchell, Silver Creek and Jim Snyder paddles. Each has its own feel and no subsequent composite paddle for me has come close.
I’ve built several sets of oars now, ranging from 9’ to 11’. With a little work a perfect balance point can be achieved with a live, flex feel nothing like I’ve felt with Cataracts etc. A soft flex is so much easier on your shoulders.

Regarding MT’s oars, everything Shawn builds is done with expertise and innovation. Plus his oars are beautiful. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a couple of pairs for any river trip.
 

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I think the other thing to mention is the warm feel of wood on your hands (giggity?). I've heard it said of wood paddles that they keep your hands warmer and I think this applies to wood handled oars as well. I haven't done it yet, but having SwiftCurrent oars with bare wood handles makes me want to remove the rubber handles on my Sawyer squaretops and see how they do.
 

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People, people. Use paragraphs, please!! It's hard to read or reply to some posts when one can't tell where a thought ends or a question begins.


I just feel bad beatering wood oars. Seems un cuth (sp) doesn’t seem to bother me to smash and bash and lose the others lol. I tell you o broke three oars in the same wipeout? That’s 2k dollars if they are wood!
You beatered my demos charlie!

I had to take a break for 24 hours, but this thread keeps getting more interesting. I saw on the Sawyer website they are selling "Smoker" oars made of ash. They sell some Sawyer oars made of Douglas Fir. I remember the old Gulls were made out of Tasman Fir. MT4 just stated that construction grade Doug fir is "actually functional". There is about a 25% lower price for the fir oars. Is that because Doug Fir is more available than ash or is a fir oar a less functional or durable material? Gull oars were very popular and seemingly functional at one time. I don't know how Tasman fir compares to Douglas fir, though. If I spring for custom oars, my thought would be to go with ash. But that is based on my ownership of a set of Swansons that I was unable to wear out or break in three decades. But if Doug fir would work nearly as well it could work for me. Another consideration now is that, at my age, my boating career has a lot fewer years ahead of me than behind me. I need to ask MT4 about options for my current usage level.
If Sawyer uses fir, then it must be functional, no? What do they use for Squaretop shafts?

There's no mystery properties when it comes to wood used in oars. You can Google the physical properties (density, hardness, bending strength, stiffness) for any woods. Compare ash and fir.


I imagine, and he can certainly correct me, if I’m mistaken, as he knows more about oar construction, MT4Runner is talking about using fir as a cost saving measure. I can’t imagine using fir unless cost was so fixed I couldn’t muster the extra to get ash. Fir is much softer and much more prone to splinter. I’ve hit a point, in my shop, that I turn down jobs requesting even quality CVG fir. Fir used to be much better, but what is being cut these days is often third growth and a far cry from the old growth of yore. I believe ash will be a better choice for longevity as it is substantially harder and less prone to split/splinter. It is also a more stable hardwood and less prone to twisting/warping, but I imagine that is why Sawyer laminates so many pieces.
I am speaking as someone well versed in working wood, but not as someone well versed in oar building MT4Runner has far more experience with building oars.
No, I didn't say ash as a cost-saving measure.
The Emerald Ash Borer is pretty much going to make sure you won't get ash oars in 20 years.

Ash actually has a tremendous amount of energy in the trunk of a live tree. It checks badly only days after splitting. It is not a stable hardwood less prone to twisting/warping and takes a great deal of care to kiln dry to an acceptable flatness. And then kiln-dried wood can actually be more brittle than air-dried. Fir is actually a lot more stable--just don't buy it at Home Depot!


Wooden oars aren't for everyone. Rafts aren't for everyone. Cats aren't for everyone. Composite oars aren't for everyone. Some people drain their cooler and some do not. Viva la difference!

I'm not going to try to convince anyone of what they should or shouldn't do, or what to think.
I'm checking out of this thread, cheers everyone!
 

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[QUOTE="MT4Runner, post: 863280, m
If Sawyer uses fir, then it must be functional, no? What do they use for Squaretop shafts?

There's no mystery properties when it comes to wood used in oars. You can Google the physical properties (density, hardness, bending strength, stiffness) for any woods. Compare ash and fir.

No, I didn't say ash as a cost-saving measure.
The Emerald Ash Borer is pretty much going to make sure you won't get ash oars in 20 years.

Ash actually has a tremendous amount of energy in the trunk of a live tree. It checks badly only days after splitting. It is not a stable hardwood less prone to twisting/warping and takes a great deal of care to kiln dry to an acceptable flatness. And then kiln-dried wood can actually be more brittle than air-dried. Fir is actually a lot more stable--just don't buy it at Home Depot!


Wooden oars aren't for everyone. Rafts aren't for everyone. Cats aren't for everyone. Composite oars aren't for everyone. Some people drain their cooler and some do not. Viva la difference!
[/QUOTE]
Wow, that’s an interesting rant. Didn’t realize anyone was trying to convince anyone of anything. Seemed like a pretty decent discussion of what to use.

I was trying to digress to your experience, but apparently pushed a button I certainly didn’t intend to push.

Ash is most certainly more stable. Especially air dried, as I mentioned. It also depends on how it is milled. It is far easier to work and takes a blade better. It is also much stronger for the flex it gives. Fir is a shit wood. (Speaking to stud grade fir. If you look hard enough, or go through a wood broker, you might still find some old growth that’s decent. A ship wright friend, in Seattle, has been searching for a chunk of fir suitable for the main stem in a 100 year old tug for three years.) Fir splinters easily, tears out, is soft, less stiff (why else would Sawyer be laminating it?). But it is CHEAP and will suffice, which is why I could only assume you suggested using it. There are far better woods that are readily available. Sassafras? You’d have nice oars, and they’d smell great!

Like anything manufactured, there is a balance of; will it work, is it readily available, and what does it do to our profit margin? If manufacturers build products from only the best materials available, everything would be unaffordable. Following the lead of something mass produced for a hand made product probably isn’t the best way to go.
 

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Like anything manufactured, there is a balance of; will it work, is it readily available, and what does it do to our profit margin? If manufacturers build products from only the best materials available, everything would be unaffordable. Following the lead of something mass produced for a hand made product probably isn’t the best way to go.
See but I hate that mindset. I fully agree with the manufacturing and business side of it trust me. I get the numbers. But I’m tired of the throw away society that we have become. It’s absolutely depressing. The amount of products that get thrown away is absolutely absurd. So no we shouldn’t be going for the cheapest product, because we should be putting our money where our mouth is. There’s a finite amount of recourses, why waist them just because it’s cheaper? Genuinely gone are the days we make products that last.
 
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