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Traditional Oarmaking

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

September 10 – September 16
Brooklin, Maine
Joel Senger
Experience Level
Activity Level

This is a five-day course ending Friday

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. 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, and various finishing methods.

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. A tool list is available here:

Students are encouraged to reach out to the instructor to talk about their specific project to make we have the proper stock at hand for the course.

  • Who is this course best suited for?

    This course is appropriate for students with some knowledge and experience.  Basic knowledge and use of hand tools is required for most shop courses.

    This course involves a moderate level of activity throughout the week including: standing and working sometimes throughout the day, some hand planing or sanding, working on group projects that require occasional participation.

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