Picture of DIY rowing machine

The rowing machine is one of the less familiar fitness machines for cardiovascular training. Exercisers seem more likely to opt for the famous treadmill or the exercise bike. Nevertheless the rowing machine is as well and maybe even better than other fitness machines. On a rowing machine you strengthen your arms, legs, stomach, back and other muscles. In addition a rowing machine is less stressful on the joints and it can make a welcome change in your fitness program.

The total cost of this rowing machine is around  100 dollar. I didn't make this to save money, I just like to make my own.

Note for conversion to inch visit this site: http://www.linuxfocus.org/~guido/javascript/cm-inch-conversion.html 

Step 1: Materials and tools

Picture of Materials and tools


  • Two hook bolts
  • Two hook screws
  • Ten screw eyes
  • Four spring washers M12
  • Eight washers M12
  • Eight hexagon nuts M12
  • Threaded rod M12
  • A bunch of screws
  • One carabiner
  • Two cable clamps
  • Ten small wheels 3 cm in diameter
  • Two small wheels 4 cm in diameter
  • Wooden beams ( 4 cm x 4 cm ) approximately  10 meter total usage
  • Wooden stick 2.5 cm in diameter and approximately 60 cm long
  • Wooden board approximately 88 cm x 30 cm x 2.7 cm
  • MDF boards approximately 99 cm x 33 cm x 1.1 cm
  • Two long pieces of aluminum (140 cm x 4 cm x 3 mm)
  • Elastic straps
  • Four pulleys
  • Two bearings: outer diameter 32 mm, inner diameter 12 mm
  • Rope 2 meter, 10 mm in diameter


  • Wood glue
  • Wood wax
  • Wood paste
  • Jig saw
  • Screw driver
  • Sand paper
  • Wood clamps
  • Wood file
  • Drill
  • Drill bit  6 mm, 12 mm, 15 mm, 32 mm
ErikS94 months ago
ErikS95 months ago
Do you have a kit instruction with materals?
alcurb7 months ago

Great workout machine. Nice. Cheap to build.

Be cool to see a free-wheeling flywheel that is impulsed by the pulley in one direction only (ratcheting action) and have that wheel rotate some magnets that would act as a generator to charge your iphone. The flywheel's side benefit is that it would offer inertial resistance when you start it spinning as if you were starting to row a real boat from a still position. The generator can also drive a meter that gives you a sense of how fast you are moving in the virtual water.

mindsystem3 years ago
Very cool. Wish I had the space in my dorm for one...
On another note, is there any possibility of getting this in some sort of CAD format?

It's seems that with a modification to the "frame", that you would be able to stand this unit up on end to save space when storing the unit..

HHarry (author)  mindsystem3 years ago
Sorry, i didn't make any drawings.
snlerling1 year ago
Just finished building your rowing machine for my wife. She is quite happy with it.
It took a little while to convert from your metric to our silly english dimensions. Your pictures and directions were very helpful. A very clever and sturdy design.

Silly English dimensions? You thick twat.

djsc2 years ago
that's a beautiful build, but this kind of rowing machine is cheap to buy. I have wanted a sesrious air-resistance maachine fora ges but can't afford a good one, and the cheaper versions just simply don't work. anyone know how an air resistance unit is made? what's in there? I am thinking that basing it around a bike wheel gives you an axle, bearings, a freewheel mechanism and opportunities to drive the wheel a bit like this project, or from a chainset. add air resistance fins and enclose in a perforated cylinder? it would take up more space than this.
Dr. Who2 years ago
great instructable! just thoght i should mention in the picture, your rowing wrong. the handle should be at the third rib from the bottom.
This is wonderful! I love rowing and was looking around for machines and none of them seemed good enough for the price they asked. This looks like a really fun project for me to bring that down, and still have a quality machine. Really appreciate the post!

And let me take this chance to introduce myself to the community - this will be my first project. Thanks to all those that make this site wonderful; it is everything I need for living on my own now :)
arivero4 years ago
Very nice. It's just what I was waiting for. I'm trying to produce a sketch (using SketchUp) before starting construction, an I got a little confused with some dimensions. Is that possible that there are some mistakes regarding the location of 10 cm pieces on the base and the location of the vertical frame (120 cm)? Thanks for your answer.
hailsteeve4 years ago
Excellent build, looks like quality work. My only recommendation would be a back stop for the seat for newer rowers. I had a problem when I started (and still sometimes do) with whenever I sat down the seat always glided to the back and it was only because of the backstop that I didn't fall off. The bungee thing is also brilliant, the sound of the fan blades spinning up was always annoying at high resistance.
10jeeeexx4 years ago
very well that's the best thing I've ever seen
splazem4 years ago
Amazing! Now we have some good competition for this contest! :) I'm sure you will win the Grand Prize, but I'm going for the first place! Great job again, and good luck!
HHarry (author)  splazem4 years ago
Good luck to you too!
splazem HHarry4 years ago
iamspock4 years ago
Very probably one of the most well written, and detailed Instructables I've seen since being exposed to the site. Fantastic work, sir! This just made it to my list of projects!
HHarry (author)  iamspock4 years ago
Thank you very much, your comment made my day.
ChrysN4 years ago
Awesome, that is a great looking machine.
HHarry (author)  ChrysN4 years ago
BeFit4 years ago
That's a great looking rowing machine, it's probably not economically convenient to make your own, but I bet it's all compensated by the satisfaction of such a beautiful DIY final result.
HHarry (author)  BeFit4 years ago
Nick.D4 years ago
Wow. really great write up and machine!
HHarry (author)  Nick.D4 years ago
Thanks, for me writing was the hardest part.
Very nice job. Another advantage of bungee-power over pneumatic resistance is that bungees are always quiet. They do not screech when they wear out and are cheap to replace. This is going on my eventual projects list - I lost my rowing machine during the last move.
HHarry (author)  CatTrampoline4 years ago
Thanks, it was pretty easy to make to. The only thing I would recommend: if you're used to exercising on a rowing machine, use thicker bungees.
This is just awesome! Very nice build.
HHarry (author)  shantinath10004 years ago
wilgubeast4 years ago
That's awesome. My back and legs are tired just looking at it. Excellent work!