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Wooden Boat Building and Restoration

I made a set of Pete Culler type oars for the Larson restoration project. They were completed with oar leather's as well. I love to carve oars... it gives me the opportunity to use some of my finest hand tools. It involves using, a block plane, spoke shaves, and a draw knife.

The Pete Culler oar design features a block shaped upper loom to add weight to the inboard portion of the oar to help offset the weight of the outboard portion of the oar (when mounted in oarlocks), helping to make it easier to lift the oar out of the water at the completion of the pull stroke. The Pete Culler oar design also feature a long slender blade, and a laminated shaft to add strength and spring to the oar, and an unusual slightly tapered handle to aid in gaining a firm grip of the oar.

These oars were made of select grade Fir (the finest grade available) and laminated in such a way that the core of the oar was of plain sawn Fir and outer layers of vertical grain (VG) Fir providing a grain pattern that allows for both strength and springiness. An oar with a little spring to it at the completion of the pull stroke is a nice feature. You can see the resulting grain pattern in the end grain revealed in the following picture. The oar blade (on the right) had grain running horizontally (plain sawn) which provides springiness to the blade when pulling and then releasing. The handle end (on the left) reveals a plain sawn core piece with vertical grain outer pieces to add strength to the oar shaft.

The project started by laminating together an oar blank.  These oars were laminated together using epoxy resin. Here you can see the plain sawn Fir core piece and the vertical grain Fir outer pieces for the shaft rough cut to size and being laminated together with epoxy.


After the epoxy has cured the blanks are released from the clamps and rough cut to shape on the band saw. Once cut to shape they are taken over to the bench and the challenge of shaping them to their final shape begins. First layout lines are drawn using a special marking gauge designed mark an eight-sided pattern on a tapered four-sided shaft.  The oar shaft makes it transition form square shaped to round shaped first by being shaped into eight equal width sides, then shaped again into 16 equal width sides and then sanded into is final rounded shape.



Next the oar blades are shaped from four to eight sides and then rounded:



Last, the handle bevel is cleaned up and then the tapered handle is shaped from four-sides to eight-sides to sixteen-sides and sanded round.



To complete the project, the oars are sanded smooth and finished with 6 coats of varnish.  A red decorative chevron design is painted on the blades with red marine paint, and the looms are painted red as well. The handles are not finished with varnish to help prevent blisters when rowing. Instead a penetrating oil finish is applied to the handles. Oar blade decorations date back a long time and were once relished and also used to help identify a boat. Leathers are sewn on to protect the oars from oar lock damage.