DIY Rowing Machine




Therowingmachine isoneof the less familiarfitness machinesforcardiovascular training. Exercisersseemmore likelyto optforthe famoustreadmill orthe exercise bike. Nevertheless the rowingmachine is as well and maybe even better than other fitness machines.Onarowing machine you strengthenyour arms, legs, stomach, back and other muscles. In addition a rowingmachine isless stressfulon the joints and it can make awelcome 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.

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Step 1: Materials and Tools


  • Two hook bolts
  • Two hook screws
  • Ten screw eyes
  • Four spring washers M12
  • Eight washers M12
  • Eight hexagon nuts M12
  • Threadedrod 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

Step 2: Base

Saw six pieces of 30 cm from the wooden beam. Measure a 45° angle on each piece and saw them off.

Saw six pieces of 10 cm from the wooden beam,  two pieces of 18 cm, three pieces of 40 cm, two pieces of 42 cm, two pieces of 19 cm and two pieces of 73 cm. Finally saw two lengths of 170 cm.

Saw rectangles (4 cm x 4 cm x 2 cm) out of the ends of the 170 cm lengths and the 40 cm pieces. Glue the sawed ends of the 170 cm lengths and the 40 cm pieces together in a right-angle.  Screw two pieces of 30 cm (the ones with the 45° angle sawed off) in the right-angled corners. 

On the other end of the 170 cm beams you measure 3 cm from the top and drill a 15 mm hole. On top of that hole drill a 1 cm deep hole 32 mm in diameter.

Glue a 10 cm piece between the finished right angled pieces, starting from the corner. Than glue two pieces of 10 cm at 25 cm and glue the last one at 83 cm.  

Take the last 40 cm piece, measure 11 cm from the sides from these marks draw two 4 cm by 4 cm rectangles and saw them out 2 cm deep. 

Screw the 42 cm pieces to the 73 cm pieces and drill a 12 mm hole throughout both pieces at height 20 cm.

Screw the long ends (at 120 cm) “of the so far finished base” on top of the 42 cm pieces. 

Screw a 18 cm piece on top of the long ends - between the 73 cm pieces.

Screw a 18 cm piece between the tops of the 73 cm pieces.

Screw two 19 cm pieces vertical between the two 18 cm pieces leaving a 2 cm space between them.

Screw four pieces of 30 cm (the ones with the 45° angle sawed off) in the right-angled corners on the base. 

Fill the screw holes with wood paste and sand them smooth.

The base is finished.

Step 3: Wooden Pulley

Draw (on the MDF board) two circles 32 cm in diameter and one circle 30 cm in diameter and jig-saw them out. Glue them together leaving the smaller one of 30 cm in the middle. Drill a 12 mm  hole in the middle of the circle. Bolt the created wheel on the drilled holes on the back of the base.

Put the bearings on in the drilled 32 mm holes. Use spring washers, washers, hexagon nuts and a threadedrod to connect the wooden pulley to the base. 

Step 4: Rolling Seat

Saw 30 cm by 30 cm of the wooden board. 

Saw two 30 cm by 8 cm pieces of the wooden board.  These will be the sides. Screw them onto the 30 cm by 30 cm piece.

Screw two rows of tree wheels on the bottom and two wheels on each side. Spread the wheels evenly.

Fill the screw holes with wood paste and sand them smooth.

Screw two pieces of aluminum 4 cm by 140 cm on top of the base.

Step 5: Feet Supports

Saw two 26 cm by 12 cm pieces of the wooden board

Saw two 12 cm by 6 cm pieces of the wooden board

Screw the small boards right angled on (the end of) the bigger boards.

Take the two leftover 10 cm pieces from step 1. Drill a 12 mm hole throughout the top of each piece. Screw them in the center of each 26 cm by 12 cm piece.

Bolt the feet supports on the drilled 12 mm holes on the base. Use spring washers, washers, hexagon nuts and threadedrods to connect the feet supports to the base.   

Fill the screw holes with wood paste and sand them smooth.

Step 6: Pulling Mechanism

 Fix two hook screws underneath the base (see picture). 

Screw four pulleys underneath the base on to the two 10 cm pieces.

Saw two pieces of the wooden stick: one 14 cm long and the other 12 cm long. Drill six holes in the long one and five holes in the short one, using the 6 mm drill bit. Spread the holes evenly. On the long piece bolt four screw eyes on the inner side and two hook bolts on the outside facing the opposite direction. On the short piece bolt five screw eyes with the middle one facing the opposite direction.

The elastic straps I used are 85 cm long.  Attach them to the screw eyes of the 14 cm long stick. Cut the hooks on the other end of the elastic straps off and pull them through the pulleys. Now reattach the hooks and fix them to the screw eyes of the 12 cm long stick.  

To make the handle saw a 30 cm piece of the wooden stick. Drill a 6 mm hole in the middle and bolt a screw eye on. Attach a carabiner to the screw eye. Put a rope through the carabiner and fasten it with a cable clamp. 

Guide the rope over the wooden pulley and underneath the base. Attach the rope to the remaining screw eye and fasten with a cable clamp.

Step 7: Transportation Wheels

Saw a cube of 4 cm by 4 cm, next saw this cube diagonally. Screw these pieces on the 73 cm  beams facing the wooden wheel and 2 cm off the ground. Next screw a wheel on each block.

Step 8: Wax

Wax all the wood with wood wax.

Step 9: Start to Exercise

The general exercise

One of themost commonmistakes is to bend thelower backwhen going forward andbackwards. Tryto keepyour back straight. Follow thesestepsifyou do the exercise:

  1. Leanslightlyforwardwithyourarms straightand rounded legs
  2. Start to straighten yourlegs, lean a little backwardandpullyour arms.
  3. Stop whenyour legs are straight andyour arms are bend while you hold the handleto yourabdomen.
  4. Stretchyour armsagain, bendforwardand bendyourknees togoback.
  5. Start over!



To adjust the resistance on therowingmachine, you can hook/unhook elastic straps. Manybeginnersmakethe resistance ashigh as possible inorder to burn more calories, but then you will sooner suffer from pain in your back and aching muscles. The resistanceisgoodifyoucanfinishyour sessionwithout feeling completelyexhausted. You getagood cardioworkout and develop yourmuscular strength andendurance.

Step 10: Optional: Arm Support

Train your biceps using an arm support.


Saw two pieces of  31 cm and two pieces of 23 cm. On the top of these four pieces saw an angle of 45° off.

Saw two pieces of  35 cm and one piece of 14 cm.

Saw one piece of board 30 cm by 24 cm and  two pieces of board  35  cm by 3 cm.

Glue the 35 cm by 3 cm boards to the 35 cm pieces, screw the 31 cm piece in the middle. 

Screw the 14 cm  piece between the two previous created parts.

Screw the 30 cm by 24 cm board on top of the 45° sides.

For extra support slide the two 23 cm pieces between the board and 35 cm beams. Screw them tight. 

Fill the screw hole with wood paste.

Sand and wax.

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    42 Discussions


    3 months ago on Introduction

    This should be an equipment available to buy on Amazon. They have magnetic, hydraulic and water rowers but not one powered by restance bands.


    1 year ago

    Where does the wood file go to use? It says you need it in the materials but I couldn't find it in the instructions. Thanks


    2 years ago

    I didn't see this anywhere but is there a total cost for this? I was just wondering how much his would be vs buying a cheap machine.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Check the frst sentence of the second paragraph.


    4 years ago

    Do you have a kit instruction with materals?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    You don't need a kit. Pick up a saw. You can do this.

    José AntonioA4

    3 years ago

    The materials list shows wooden beams of 4x4cm, but photos show retangular shaped beam. Where is the true, please?


    3 years ago

    It seems to have been 2 - 4 years since this was first posted and commented on. I just found it on May 19, 2016 and have a question regarding "Wear/Deterioration" of the ROPE or Drive Pulley?"

    I am working on a Lever Drive for a Manual Wheel Chair for the mobility impaired which might be able to use an MDF Drive Plate driven by a "Wrapped Rope" clutch/brake similar to a Bow/Drill-Lathe

    Has anyone actually built such an MDF Pulley with a Rope/Cable band Drive interface?

    wallace.l.johnston@gmail.comAmarillo, TX

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    It should work but MDF if not sealed will degrade if exposed to high moisture i also see issues with weight and durability I would suggest trying a small bicycle tire rim it would be lighter as well. Good luck.

    If you can't find a small bike wheel check out sites that sell recumbent bikes and parts.


    3 years ago

    I was interested in building this until i looked at the For Sale section in my area and found they only cost about $70 second hand. I know that is not the point of this website, and props to you - it looks cool.

    M L G

    3 years ago

    Wow! thats really well made! you could sell that you know? I bet people would pay a bomb for it! Well Done! I hope I too can one day build one just like yours, when I have the time? Good able by the way, well thought out, clear instructions although Ive only briefly scanned over it, it looked good and concise! Thanks for sharing!


    3 years ago


    I'm just wondering in how to do one by myself and here it comes your great ibles!


    If I found time to do it, I will copy your rowing machine!

    I love to train with it in the gym, but now, I prefer to train in my house and this machine is the only what I miss from the gym.


    3 years ago

    Hay Harry

    Good Day, I’m trying to make my own rowing machine by your given instruction and I’ve gather all of “Top Quality Materials and tools” also I was made it. It’s looking good and cool but it’s shake and uncomfortable, I get hunt and injured by drop in floor. Can you please suggest me a best rowing machine ?. I know It will cost more than $500 - $800 but I need good one.


    - Jonathan


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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?

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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..


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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.