Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oar Making - Part 2, Shaping

Let’s see if I can shape an oar with my primitive wood working tools.  Reading the online directions for making oars is a little intimidating, since they specify using woodworking tools that I don’t own or have a desire to own.

After the oars are laminated, all of the subsequent steps involve one concept: removing everything that isn’t an oar.  First, I trim off excess material with a wood saw, then clean it up with a belt sander.  When first shaping the oar, I'm keeping all the cross-sections square for now.  I'll round it later.

Roughly trimming off excess from the blade.

The rough trimming is cleaned up with a belt sander

The handle is then cutout.  The excess material is hacked off with a saw.  The nice rounded transition area is done with the front roller of the belt sander.

The shape of the handle is drawn.
Excess material around the handle is carefully removed.
The handle with a square cross-section.

More material is removed from the handle to make it round.  You may notice that the handle is slightly tapered toward the loom (or shaft).  This is done on purpose and makes the handle more comfortable.

Next, a homemade spar gauge is used to mark out an octagonal shape. The cross-sections of the loom are made approximately octagonal using a plane.

Spar gauge.

The octagonal cross-sections are then sanded round with a belt sander and hand sanding.  Excess material is also taken out of the blade using the belt sander.

Blade of oar part way though shaping.
  Here's a good before and after shot after the first oar is shaped.
Oar after lamination (left) compared to finished oar (right)

Finished handle.
Finished oar
 The oars are balanced the same and weigh approximately the same so they will feel the same while rowing.  They won't win any beauty contests, but they will work!

Next up, I'm going to finish the coamings.  I'm laminating multiple layers of 3/4" lumber to form a boxed coaming ... but more about that next time.  Here are some pics of the first layer being glued on.

First layer of lamination for coaming.


  1. Awesome!!! I can hardly believe how fantastic those oars turned out! You are a gifted craftsman, Ryan.

  2. Your boat is beautiful.

    I am considering taking on building a Hartley 14 and am just curious about over cost and time to build. I know that building is not necessarily cheaper than just buying a used boat, but I really do love the lines of this boat and I don't know where you can buy such a fine looking used production boat as the Harley 14.

    Is this too much of a first build boat project? I have some background in machine work and have used common woodworking and hand tools all my life.

    Any insight you can give would be great.

    Thanks again