Spruce for a pair of oars?

TinBoats.net

Help Support TinBoats.net:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

seahorse

Active member
Joined
Jun 3, 2024
Messages
27
Reaction score
16
LOCATION
New Jersey
I want a long pair of oars for my 12ft boat, something to use in small, no motor allowed ponds here. I have a few mismatched sets but I've got a few nice slabs of air dried spruce here that are just the right size to carve out a pair of oars, but spruce is very light, where as the few pair I've got here are quite heavy, either ash or white oak maybe? One pair looks like it may be cedar or redwood.
I'd basically just copy the profile of the one longer one I've got here that works best.

Second question is what to finish them with? Spar Var or epoxy?

I'll likely glass over the very ends to protect the wood too.
 
This is a good thread to start. All about paddles.
So, what are oars made of? Never thought of it before you asked the question. This is from riversimulator.org Wood oars are made from softwoods (pines, fir & spruces) and hardwoods (ash, oak & basswood). Generally softwoods are fast growing, and in comparison hardwoods like oak and ash grow very slowly. The softwoods and basswood are light but lack the strength and flexibility of ash.
Please post pictures of your progress if you are going to make a pair of oars.
 
Stand Up has touched on it.......I'd be concerned about the strength of the wood, especially with a longer oar. The denser hardwoods have the strength, but also increased weight. I suppose, as long as you're not entering a sculling competition, the oars just might do the job for you. However......do seal them up very well.

Roger
 
I imagine making wood oars is becoming a lost art. My last pair was aluminum and plastic. We do have a heavy pair of wood ones, probably a hardwood, but only get used a couple times a year on a 10' tinny. We have a lighter wood pair that cracked, but were repurposed as a decoration.
 
I have a pair of metal and vinyl oars, they lasted two years and the vinyl covering on the shafts broke apart and now I've got corroded aluminum and loose vinyl oars.
Over the years I've probably bought 20 or so boats, mostly at estate sales and such, most came with a single oar, but rarely have I ended up with a match and most are so old a match can't be bought. I've paired up a few that were close to use but they're never dead even and the handles are rarely shaped the same.
Out of 9 I dug out the garage, I have only two that are the same length, and 9 different paddle end profiles, and 9 different grip shapes and lenghts.
The one I like the best is a long paddle, 6.5ft Quessy paddle which appears to be spruce or white cedar. Its super light, but the finish peeled off it a long time again, in fact it lost most of the finish handing in the rafters in the garage. It left an oar shaped outline below it with all the flakes of varnish that peeled and fell off over the years.
The grips are necked down from a 1 1/4" shaft diameter to a lemon shaped hand grip similar to an early dirt bike grip.
The paddle end is 24" long an and fairly flat.
Many have a rounded or convex shape to the paddle end, I would think that the most efficient shape would be flat or slightly cupped. I've seen kayak paddles that had a hook on the end of the paddle making them directional in use.
In reality, a longer oar would be the proper fit for me and the boat these are for but from past experience anything longer than 6.5ft becomes an issue with getting through narrow streams and creeks and around vegetation in the shallow parts of a few ponds. One of the best bass fishing areas I go to is full of heavy under growth, stumps, and lily pads,
One of the reasons I never liked the metal handle oars is that they accumulate vegetation on the end, where as it slides right off the wood paddles. Mostly its milfoil and algae that clumps up on the neck of the paddle.
I figure that using the spruce I have here is free and its easy to work with. I'll have to use my metal lathe to turn down the handles but the last bit will have to be done with a spoke shave.
I thought about white oak since it doesn't rot but they will also be super heavy. Cedar would be my second choice but all I have here now is a pair of large red cedar logs that are pretty old already being cut down about 12 years ago.
The spruce is slab cut and dried on a rack so its already well seasoned.
The big question is what to finish them with. The used oars I've got here all look like they're coated in polyurethane of some sort. Most are peeling or have cracks in their finish, the one super heavy, much older oar is likely white oak but that one is likely near 100 years old, it came from the wall of a shop that closed up nearly 30 years ago and have been hanging on my wall ever since. They appear to be oak or similar hardwood but there's no obvious finish, but appear very white in color with lots of open cracks throughout the grain.
 
I have one old pair of fairly long wood oars. Somebody painted them so no idea what wood. There is a chunk knocked out of one. When I get a chance going to fill it in with fiberglass or something, sand, and repaint.

The 16' Crestliner has a pair of alum/plastic oars. Don't look too substantial and no oar locks either. Probably be a joke trying to move the boat very far with them.
 
The way I look at it is first, the law says we have to have at least one paddle on board all boats. Some guys just carry a souvenir paddle about 20" long in the glove box.
I was out on a buddies 18ft boat in November about 15 years ago fishing one of the smaller rivers here, we anchored up for a bit, fished for a bit and when we were ready to move on, the boat wouldn't move. When he pulled up the motor the prop and shaft were both gone. Snapped off clean, we poked around where we were anchored up but couldn't find anything, the current most likely either buried it or carried the prop away. We were a mile up a small tributary that doesn't get patrolled, and the radio was useless in the river. Neither of our cell phones had signal there. He had two odd oars tucked into the side panels. We were in about 8ft of water at first and the river is about 30ft deep and we needed to go a mile through the winding creek downstream, and then turn upstream in the river and go a little over 2 miles up stream to the boat ramp. Using two 6ft paddles in an 18ft Fiberglass boat with a hard top over the front seat area, it took us almost 4 hours to get back to the dock. Between fighting the current and the size of the boat and some wind against us, it was pretty slow going but it beat sitting out there in the cold. The next day we swapped out the lower unit and starting taking a spare 3hp motor along just in case. The two paddles did their job.

The two oars I plan to carve out will be for a boat that won't have a motor, used solely for exploring and some exercise.
 
The way I look at it is first, the law says we have to have at least one paddle on board all boats. Some guys just carry a souvenir paddle about 20" long in the glove box.
I was out on a buddies 18ft boat in November about 15 years ago fishing one of the smaller rivers here, we anchored up for a bit, fished for a bit and when we were ready to move on, the boat wouldn't move. When he pulled up the motor the prop and shaft were both gone. Snapped off clean, we poked around where we were anchored up but couldn't find anything, the current most likely either buried it or carried the prop away. We were a mile up a small tributary that doesn't get patrolled, and the radio was useless in the river. Neither of our cell phones had signal there. He had two odd oars tucked into the side panels. We were in about 8ft of water at first and the river is about 30ft deep and we needed to go a mile through the winding creek downstream, and then turn upstream in the river and go a little over 2 miles up stream to the boat ramp. Using two 6ft paddles in an 18ft Fiberglass boat with a hard top over the front seat area, it took us almost 4 hours to get back to the dock. Between fighting the current and the size of the boat and some wind against us, it was pretty slow going but it beat sitting out there in the cold. The next day we swapped out the lower unit and starting taking a spare 3hp motor along just in case. The two paddles did their job.

The two oars I plan to carve out will be for a boat that won't have a motor, used solely for exploring and some exercise.

Yikes. Any current or even a breath of headwind and I'm not going to make any headway with a paddle. Our boating laws do not require a paddle or oars on any size boat. Good thing because at my age it would pretty much be a decoration.
 
A lot of years ago when go fast boats were becoming a thing I suppose due to various TV shows, a buddy, with more money than brains bought a brand new 31ft twin v8 stern drive boat. It was his first boat ever. Before that thing he hadn't even been in so much as a canoe.
He called me one Sun afternoon and asked if I'd show him how to run it. He didn't know anything about launching it starting it, or driving it. I was in my early 30's then he was maybe 25 or so. I agreed, mainly because I the boat itself interested me more than a bit I suppose.
He came and got me, and we headed out to a ramp about an hour away. It was a private ramp with safe parking and calm water, It was also well up stream from the saltwater so it was good for flushing things out after a day in the salt.
After 9 tries he couldn't hit the ramp so I took over and put the boat in, parked his truck, and then went back and started the boat and let it warm up a bit. There's fuel at the dock, but both gauges were reading full so we didn't bother.
He said they told him both tanks were full when they dropped it off. (It turns out filling both tanks was the delivery driver's responsibility). The boat had just been dropped off the night before, shipped by the manufacturer in FL.
There was no way to physically check the fuel, the filler was in the bow deck and the tanks were midship under the floor.
He said the guy who dropped it off had run each motor on ears with a hose to show him it ran and they let each motor run about 15 minutes or so the day before.

We headed downstream, taking it easy at first to get the feel of it then I opened it up once out away from any docks or houses. We just about got fully up on plane at about 6 miles down river and it started to sputter, the right engine died first, then the second engine shut down and wouldn't restart. It was around 4pm on Sunday and there was zero traffic on the river since most of the usual crowd had gone home. I opened the engine cover, and starting checking things and right away saw there was no fuel to the motors, none at all. and I couldn't draw any out of the tanks either, but both gauges were sitting dead on the full mark. Back then cell phones were kind of crappy in outlying areas and his didn't have signal. The radio turns out was for show, it had a tiny 3ft antenna that couldn't reach anything more than a 1/4 mile or so away and all we could see is trees and marsh.
To keep the boat from drifting into the mud flats, I dropped anchor. I figured we had gone about 6 miles on the river when it died. We hadn't seen a single boat the whole time other
It was September, a week after Labor Day and we were dead in the water in the salt marsh area about two miles from the intercoastal up a rarely traveled river with no motors and nothing but a boat hook and a 30" canoe paddle that used to be a requirement on al l boats.
The paddle was screwed to the wall above the head next to the fire extinguishers and first aid kit.
He decided that since the tide was going out, he would be able to hop out of the boat and walk to the nearest road or house and call for a tow. Despite my telling him that won't work, he tried anyhow. When he jumped into the water which looked to be about 2 ft deep he sunk up to his armpits in black mud. I made him go around to the rear of the boat and use the out drives to pull himself back into the boat.
At that point I was tired of sitting there so I told him as soon as the tied turned and started coming back in, to start grabbing the anchor rope by hand and toss it upstream and keep doing that till we get back to a dock somewhere. It was lesson time as far as I was concerned. By around 9pm we got back to a dock we passed about a mile up stream with a combination of tossing the anchor and pulling the boat forward and me holding the boat with a stake we pulled up that used to be a marker post. That marina had a pay phone on the dock where I had him call a buddy to bring out some fuel. An hour later, we had four 6 gallon jugs of fuel.I got it fired up and then ran back to the dock where the trailer was.
It was near midnight by that time. On the way home, I made him fill both tanks. It took 191 gallons in two 100 gallon tanks, of premium fuel no less.
When I turned the key on after the fill up, both gauges read dead empty. They were working in reverse.
I took that paddle off the wall that day and kept it. When we got back to the truck he starte dto say something about me taking it, but stopped having thought better of it.I had it t next to my phone for years to remind me to be buy the next time he called.
 
The whole ordeal wasn't by choice, we had no other option. I wasn't thrilled about it but you do what you have to do in those situations.
On my boat, I never go out with out a back up motor or a trolling motor, but even the biggest trolling motor is useless against river current against the tide.

I cut the blanks out of the slab today on my bandsaw. then I simply traced the profile of the one Quessy oar that I plan to copy.
I cut the basic shape out, but found that the outermost grain is too wide and likely to split, so I cut the lower ends off about 3" on each side and epoxied on some old growth inner wood from further down on the slab. It'll make it far less likely to split as it ages.
I'm going to try using a handle making jig that I bought at a fleamarket a few years ago. It set up along side of a dado blade and works like a pencil sharpener to make a round handle. Then I'll trim up the paddle end with the bandsaw some more and finish with a spoke shave and belt sander finishing it up with some 220 grit on a random orbit sander.

I'm debating between using either Spar Varnish or epoxy. Epoxy is stronger but it doesn't do well in the sun. But it'll be the strongest overall and perfect to secure the fiberglass end covering with.
 

Latest posts

Top