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Traditional Oarmaking

Creating beautiful, balanced oars that turn minimum effort into maximum power.

Tuition: $850

Materials: TBD

Oar Making

There are few joys in propelling a boat over water that compare to pulling or pushing a set of well-designed and balanced oars that you have crafted yourself. From the grips to the flex, the leathers to the balance, a proper set of oars sized both for the boat and the rower is a truly wonderful thing--in contrast to most commercially available oars (which could more aptly be described as bludgeons). Building a set of oars for oneself is one of the most satisfying and rewarding projects that a person can undertake. In a young lifetime of rowing boats ranging from dinghies to Adirondack guideboats to rafts and whitewater dories, West Howland has devoted time to refining his process of building oars and paddles. After a week in this course, students will walk away with not only a beautiful custom pair of oars, but an understanding of their evolution, how one set differs from another depending on use and intended craft, and myriad tricks for efficiently creating a functional and well-balanced set of oars from raw lumber.

The course will begin with an overview of oar design, as well as a discussion about the use and care of a selection of tools that will prove indispensable in the oar-shaping process. After choosing a design, students will select and mill lumber for blanks, shape them into oar profiles, taper and round the loom, and shape the blades. We will continue with carving grips, fastening leathers, reinforcing tips if desired, and various finishing methods. Come Friday afternoon, weather permitting, the class will have an opportunity to step out of the piles of shavings to take their new oars for a spin on the water in any number of the small craft in the WoodenBoat fleet.

While this course does not require previous woodworking experience, an interest in traditional woodworking techniques will be helpful. Students are encouraged to bring their favorite edge tools.