Picture of Make Oars from Two by Fours
Oars are expensive. Scrap lumber is free.
Here's a quick way to make oars out of two by fours and other scrap lumber. It's a lot quicker to do it than to read about it.

  More paddle and oar making projects:
Here's the quickest way I know to make a paddle.
How to make an Eskimo style kayak paddle from a 2x4 in 1.5 hours
Make a steering oar for a Marshall Islands Racing canoe.
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Step 1: Sharpen a Pencil in a Funny Way

Picture of Sharpen a Pencil in a Funny Way
We're going to use this pencil to trace around something. We'll sharpen it toward one side so the line doesn't get offset by the thickness of the pencil.

Get one of those wide flat pencils from the lumberyard. Sharpen with a knife as shown so it's flat on one side and sharpened on the other side. Finish by rubbing it on a piece of sandpaper.

Step 2: Trace around an oar you like

Picture of Trace around an oar you like
In the surfboard industry this is called "R+D", which stands for "ripoff and duplicate".
Find an oar you like and a piece of thin scrap plywood or sheet metal to trace it on.
Lay the oar on it.
Pound some nails around the oar to keep it from moving. Clamping it down would work also.

Trace the oar onto the pattern. You can hold the pencil vertical by holding it against either a spirit bubble level or a square.

Step 3: Cut out the Pattern

Picture of Cut out the Pattern
Cut out the pattern using a saw. I used a bandsaw. Use whatever saw you have.
Don't cut yourself. A bandsaw is dangerous and cuts meat really well. Then sand down to the line with your favorite power sander.

You could skip the patternmaking step and trace right onto the lumber you're making oars from.
Or you could make one oar freehand and trace that for your second oar.

I'm making a pattern because I'm planning to make more oars later. I'm planning to let other people use the original oars I'm copying, so they'll probably get lost in some adventure. Then I'll still have the pattern.
jolat2 years ago
I would encourage you to place the oars so that the PULL from the rod.
This is the way they are used in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. There, a single thole pin and a grommet -or strop- are used to fix the oars.
The oar is always placed on the side of the motion of the boat, so that the grommet pulls from the thole pin.
Just try it.
rbodell2 years ago
I have made several sets of oars over the years. A lot of people tend to use a 2x4 they have stuck away someplace or even get the lumber yard 2x4's, but it would be well worth the investment to ask the lumber yard to get you nice "CLEAR" Spruce boards. They will be a lot lighter. If you are going to be rowing any distance, the weight makes a big difference.
Logan D2 years ago
I used two eight foot cedar two by fours I found sitting in my rafters to whip up this pair of 7.5 foot rowing oars for an old 12 foot row boat I picked up for free. They still need a few more coats of poly and maybe some rope to pad the shafts from the oarlocks, but they look great. Thanks for the help Tim!
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kevgrn1143 years ago
Pretty Cool. You could call them "Two by Foars" :-)
tonygarcia5 years ago
Very informative instructions and I will be making a set of oars very soon.
mf70 tonygarcia4 years ago
And he doesn't point out that your oars will be MUCH nicer than commercial oars; they'll have a pattern you like, and they probably will be much lighter spruce t rather than hickory.
katmckee5 years ago
holding the pencil against a square is such a smart idea! I'll use this trick for sure on projects! seems obvious now... thanks.
JohnMichael5 years ago
I have been working on a design to build my own small boat. This would be a nice project to follow that with. (Modifying it to suit myself of course.) Thank you for sharing.
To Mr. JohnMichael: If it is your first own design, please refer to the book of John Gardner "Wooden Boats" (Mystic Seaport, Connecticut) - or other classicals books from peoples that know-how-to : there is a lot to learn about and get good reasons to be proud of your job...and stay safe. Greetings from Belgium..
Thank you for tha advice. I think that is amoung the list of books I have read on the subject. I am leaning more towards the skin and frame method, possibly stich and glue. I want to keep the wieght down.
Speedmite5 years ago
charles615 years ago
Sorry, but I find them Ugly : they look too short and the pal's not narrow enough for the sea . That's obviously not the best way to make goods and efficient "academics" oars. I am sure you are able to make them better with a quality wood and... a little more patience and application on the job.
aside from obviously breaking the "be nice" rule of commenting, i think your comment misses the point. Of course it's not the best way to make good an efficient oars. People have businesses that revolve around making good and efficient oars, they mass produce them, you can go buy them. But this instructable shows how to make good and efficient oars, by yourself, out of scrap wood, for free - and that's better than buying them for most people on this site. If you want to make an instructable with better woods to show how it's done, go right ahead - but don't assume that you share the same goals and criteria as this author.
davegriff5 years ago
They look ok for a first effort. I've made oars in my time, but you seem to have made awfully hard work of it!! There are simpler ways to make a (better) round profile and the blade. Go to a library and find a book on wooden boat craft.....
the machine5 years ago
" this is called "R+D", which stands for "ripoff and duplicate"." hahaha, classic line.
whatsisface5 years ago
I don't know whether to be disappointed or impressed with the lack of the obvious "Two by Foars" pun. Oh dear, just saw the url :)
gmjhowe5 years ago
Great work, some people forget that items like these are so easily made!
I wanted some nicer oars for my boat, Thanks!
Hello Tim, On the last step, I think you meant "These".