Grapeview Point Boat Works

81 E Grapeview Point Rd + Allyn, WA 98524 + 360-277-9015 +

Building a Glued Lapstrake Rangeley Lake Boat

Page 13: Oars: Spooned or flat?

We decided to make two sets of oars for this boat.

The first will be a nice flat blade set to get familiar with the boat. We'll make them strong enough to hold up to a bit of abuse, but not as over-built as the store-bought monstrosities. This pair will definitely have buttons, to make the learning go a little easier.

The second pair will be spoons, maybe without buttons, to make feathering easier. The spoons will be a bit harder to pull if we make them the same size, since they don't "slip" as much in the water. The spoons will be much lighter, more responsive, and more pleasant to use. There is a real advantage to having two sets that pull differently; if you are getting tired you can swap to the easier-pulling pair, or if the wind picks up and you have an hour's row upwind to get back to shore you'll want to have a quicker, shorter stroke that the flat blades might manage better.

Oar blanks
Oar blanks

Just today we took an old pair of 90" spoons we purchased years ago, and weighed them. 6.4 lbs for the pair. After four hours with planes, spokeshaves, and sandpaper they were ready for varnishing. At this point they weighed 4.2 lbs for the pair. That's a lot of wood gone, and the oars are still plenty strong when not abused.

The lighter weight has several advantages:

This photo shows the patterns for the spoons, a varnished modified purchased oar and a pair of spoons roughed out and glued up. We'll make sure they are the same length before we're through!

The varnished oar is one of the ones attacked with various hand tools. It is about as light as is practical. You can see from the patterns that these won't be quite so narrow at the throat, just to be a little more forgiving. The oars are Sitka spruce, no finer wood for combining stiffness and light weight.

One of the oar blanks had some irregular grain in what would become the grip. It didn't look like a serious issue. Until, that is, the bench plane tore a 2"x1" crescent-shaped chunk right out of the grip. Rats. We needed to purchase more Sitka spruce anyway, since the other piece we have on hand featured an interesting grain pattern, entirely unsuited for spars, oars, or most anything else that Sitka is preferred for. Sometimes you just can't tell what the wood is suited for until you pay for it, get it in the shop, and cut into it. So, off to Port Townsend (wooden boat Mecca of the Northwest) tomorrow to buy a bit more.

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