BucketEars - Homemade DIY oars free plans

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You want to carry a set of oars with you, every time you go sailing. Some part of your boat might fail and you won't be able to figure how to repair it, or maybe the wind will die.


How to use oars

The most important concept of using oars, is to row at a slow and easy pace. Another way to say it: you can run a short distance, but can walk all day long. If you take it easy and have patience, you will be amazed at how far you can row, even if you are out of shape.


Oar Lengths

The best length to use is somewhere between 6 and 8 feet long. The shortest functioning oar I have used is only 54" long.


Oarlock Socket Placement

The best place to locate your oarlock sockets, is between 18" and 30" from the stern. Where exactly is the best place depends on your body weight, the center of gravity when the boat, and whether you are sitting on a seat or not. You will have to experiment to find the best location for your situation.

One of the key factors you are looking for is to keep the stern transom out of the water. If that transom drags in the water while you row, then it will create vortexes which give resistance to the hull as it goes through the water.

Because I row my PD by myself and often with my kids sitting in the front, I have 2 sets of oarlock sockets. The forward set are the ones I use when rowing alone, so I am more centered in the boat. The aft set are the ones I use with my kids aboard, not only because of their weight up front, but also to get me to scoot further back so they have more room.

For types of oarlocks and sockets, see the boat materials page



You can purchase take apart oars, this is a set I have had for many years. They have aluminum shafts and a push button to take them apart. Because they are aluminum and plastic, they hold up to the weather really well - so well infact that this is the only set I have owned, and they are still doing great even though I have used them for many miles of rowing on multiple boats.

I made a bag with a draw string at the top to keep all the parts together. I am a boat-aholic with many boats, so it is nice to be able to take them on which ever boat I am sailing that day. I have a lanyard and clip so incase I dump the boat, the bag won't float loose.



When assembled, they are 7' long.

Sometimes if I am in the shallows or just need a paddle for something, I'll use just one half of an oar to manuver around. Since only half, it is easy to just toss it in the forward part of the cockpit till I need it later. Also just to be on the safe side, I stuffed foam packing chips down each of the shafts to make sure the oars will float if dropped overboard.



diy boat oars plans

Making your own oars is easy, just cut a blade from 1/4" plywood and nail & glue it to a stick. I prefer shafts that are around 1.25" in diameter. I use a router to round off the edges, so they are more of an octagon shape.

The blade size is 6" x 18", and as you can see the top of the blade is tapered, and the bottom corners are rounded off to make the blade look better.

There is one issue with these oars, because the blades are made from plywood, the edges of the blades will start to delaminate after they have been used for a while. The problem is the edge of the plywood acts like a straw, and will draw water into the laminations. You can fix this issue by putting fiberglass cloth around the perimeter of the blade, and possibly between the blade and the shaft. This will make the oars last a lot longer. For more info about glassing, see how to fiberglass your sailboat page


easy to make free diy kayak paddle boat oar plans

This is a set of kayak paddles I made for my girlscout troop to use, for a cardboard boat competition.


free boat oar plans
cardboard boat race

The boyscouts were the favored team, and this was the first year that any girlscouts had competed at these races. My girlscouts were so fast, they literally could have lapped the boyscouts if they wanted to. but that is another story....


how to row with one arm

One Arm Rowing

Using a single canoe paddle does not work very well, but you can use a single oar with your rudder. As you row with the oar, you use the rudder to counteract the effect of pushing on just one side.

This is really great if it is a light air day when the wind keeps dying, you can leave the sail rig up and make headway with the one oar. When a breeze comes up, just put the oar in the cockpit and use the breeze the best you can. When it dies again, pull out the oar and make more headway.

Also as you can see, I prefer to wear paddling gloves to keep from getting blisters. You can also get paddling pogies, they are small hand protectors that just cover your palm.



Loose or break your oarlock

If you loose or break your oarlock or socket -- something you can do is just attach a loop of rope to the side of your boat, and use your oar inside of that. As you can see to the right, this is a very old idea. I lost an oarlock once and ended up rowing back like this, it is a sloppy arrangement, but it works.