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Wooden Boat Building and Restoration

Laminated Oars

I made a set of traditional laminated oars for the Yankee Tender project. WoodenBoat magazine has a set of five oars plans available, one of which is Asa Thomson's 6' oar plan, which are quite appropriate for the Yankee Tender, a boat design based on Asa Thomson's elegant 11' skiff design. They were made complete with oar leather's and copper bands riveted to the end of the oar blade.

The oars were laminated together from a 1 x 6 piece of clear Vertical Grain Fir (VGF) stock. First patterns (a side profile and a width profile) of the oar were made according to the oar plan.  Then the width pattern was traced onto the VGF stock. The drawn pattern was then rough cut on the band saw and the waste pieces were trimmed and used to form the laminated oar shaft using a waterproof polyurethane based glue (Gorilla Glue).



Next the pattern of the oar shaft was drawn onto the newly laminated oar shaft using the width pattern's center line as a reference point. Then the oar width profile was rough cut on the band saw and crafted into its final shape using a plane and a spokeshave.


Next the oar's side profile was drawn from the side profile pattern, again using centerlines as a reference points. The pattern was clamped into position.  Once drawn,  the side profile was then rough cut on the band saw and then crafted into its final shape using a plane and a spokeshave resulting in a four-sided oar.


At this point the real fun begins as the oar is carved into it final shape using hand tools and a critical eye for judging curves and shapes. The oar-shaft gets shaped from four sides, to eight-sides, to sixteen-sides, and finally sanded round.  A shopmade spar marking gage is used to easily outline the eight-sided oar-shaft using basic trigonometry (Pythagorean Theorem) which otherwise would be a challenge due to the oar-shaft being tapered.




The carved oars are then finished with six coats of Spar Varnish.  The handles are left bare and oil finished to help prevent the rower's hands from  blistering when rowing.  Then leather's are applied to the oar shaft to prevent them from getting marred up in the oar locks.  Last, copper bands are riveted to the ends of the oar blades to help protect them from damage and splintering... oars tend to get abused and used for other things aside from rowing, like pushing off from shore.  The traditional method of protecting oar blades was with copper tips or copper bands.  Today, most oar makers laminate hardwood on the tip of the oar blades to protect them, some also epoxy fiberglass sheathing onto the blade ends.