Even with the boat painted, there are lots of little projects to complete to make it “operational.” One of those is to build a custom set of oars. I could buy a set for $46 at Gander Mountain, but that wouldn’t do! I purchased very helpful oar plans from Chesapeake Light Craft. The smallest length for which the plans provided measurements was 6’. I determined that 5’ oars were plenty for this low boat and decided to modify their plans to suit my situation. The plans also called for a square section below the handle. These serve as counterweights to offset the weight of the blades. That would be great, but my boat’s cockpit is shallow and I didn’t want those square sections brushing against my thighs and snagging on my waders on long rows. I kept the shaft round in that section.
My Dad gave me some quite clear ash and I was able to work around the few knots to yield the required three pieces at 3/4” thick by 7 1/4” wide by 5’ 6” long.
Three layers of ash ready to laminate.
Thickened epoxy applied between layers and clamped. I was too miserly on the epoxy and had some glue starved areas on the edge of the laminations. Fortunately, I was able to work around those areas. I should have used more epoxy to assure an even squeeze out.
Shaping the Blank
I laid out the pattern measurements onto a piece of 1/4” plywood to make a template for more accuracy.
Here the pattern is traced onto the blank to yield two oars from the same blank.
The taper is cut on the bandsaw first. The shape is then retraced onto the blank and cut out. Here is what the blank looks like after the bandsaw work is completed.
Close-up of the handles.
Close-up of the blades.
A sharp spoke shave and smoothing plane were my primary tools for shaping the oars. The method was to take it from 4 sides to 8 sides and then take it from 8 sides to 16 sides. The oars were then sanded with a scrap of belt sander belt to do the final rounding.
The blocks held the oars for shaping. The little jig marked the handle and shaft to take it to 8 sides.
Handle remains 4-sided and the shaft is now 8-sided.
Shaft is ready to take to 16 sides.
Close-up of shaped blade and handle.
Plywood pattern compared to final product.
Close-up of pattern compared to final blades.
I’m undecided on whether I’ll paint the oars green yet. In the meantime, I’m applying three coats of Sikkens Cetol Marine finish to seal them. This finish is easy to apply, doesn’t require sanding between coats, only requires three coats, and apparently provides excellent protection.
Here are some shots of the oars after the first coat of finish.
I’ll install lace-up leather oar collars when the finish is dry.
In the next installment I’ll discuss how the boat worked out on the water!
-- Mark, Minnesota