These are for the wedding-gift
sailboat to the oldest son, so the family consensus is that
store-bought oars or my cruder, painted workboat oars won’t do…
I’ll have to bite the bullet and
finish something in… ugh… brightwork. The yacht-finish
masochists among you should be pleased.
I pick a couple weathered 8/4 X 6
old growth Western Red Cedar planks off their stack. Tight
grained and clear stock I milled from a sunken log I salvaged 4
years ago. These rift-sawn planks were milled to be door
stock for the new house…but I can spare a couple for a good
Why cedar? I have it on hand, and
mast-grade Sitka Spruce, Port Orford or Yellow Cedar… all much
stronger and more appropriate than WRC… are 8 bucks a BF.
I have some good Doug Fir…but it is
ugly finished bright, IMO…. and doesn’t plane as crisply as the
others. I can do some things to the cedar that will make
it adequately hard and strong for this application.
planing off the weathering… the chalk line shows I picked one
wrong plank. A butt log board I couldn’t overcome the
taper in… and if I rip it straight there is a pin knot in the
way and insufficient stock remaining for the blade.
Fine for a door panel or an oar
blade… but no good at all for an oar loom. I can go back out in
the rain and muscle around a few thousand pounds of planks to
find a better one, or I can make do. I decide to make do.
An edge joined blade will take
longer to do but will be stronger, eh? A joined oar also
gives me the option of orienting the stronger edge grain to the
moment of effort in the loom… like in a baseball bat… while
using the face grain pieces on either side of the loom to
minimize the chances of the blade splitting.
That option is useful when making
an exceptionally light oar…which these are not, and I don’t use
it, as I want these oars to have some spring during use.
The first step in laying up the
oars is to joint the fence edge and rip my looms from the
straighter 8/4 plank…and there is zero movement after the rip,
which tells me the stock is perfectly seasoned. If it were
otherwise, I’d have to go find other stock. I rip a 16th
oversize and joint all the faying surfaces on the jointer for a
I rehearse my glueup…
…glue up using Elmer’s Poly and
leave it overnight.
Why poly and not epoxy? Well,
in the old days, we woulda used Plastic Resin Glue, which in
edge joining… a joint not hard on glue… is also more than
Even with perfectly jointed edges,
it will take a bunch of clamping pressure to bring 8/4 stock
into a good joint…poly loves high clamping pressure while using
epoxy under those circumstances may starve the joint of glue.
The soft cedar soaks up glue, so I
use a lot of glue on all mating surfaces, and let it soak in a
while before clamping, keeping a wet surface.
This next step looks silly, but
works. Because of the softness of the cedar, I’ll epoxy in a
Purpleheart spline into the oarblade tip.
It’s a crossgrain glue joint, but
cedar is exceptionally stable and epoxy exceptionally flexible.
In the process, I’ll use the heat gun to thin unthickened epoxy,
flowing it deep into the end grain of the blade tip… as much as
the wood will take… followed by thickened epoxy and the splines,
which are cleaned with acetone first, as Purpleheart is oily.