This year I elected to take an oar making course from Clint Chase. It seems I can no longer get the oars I want, and have to do quite a bit of work on any new oar I do get in order to make it into what I want. So why not start from scratch? On day one we started tracing our patterns onto rough cut spruce.
From there we turn the octagon into a sixteen-agon, thence to the thirty-two-agon and on to round. And down on the blade we begin hollowing out the wood between the edge and the spine in order to lighten the blade. So far this is all done with drawknife, block plane, and spokeshave. The spokeshave is the real workhorse of this operation.
But each afternoon, once class is out, assuming the weather is fair, we get to go play in boats. Right off the bat I spotted a wacky oar in the boathouse. The blade was fully offset to the side of the shaft.
I inquired. It was one Mike Moros made specifically for sculling. I had been with Sam Maning a few years back and we all marveled at the sculling he was doing from the back of his dory. He had cut a special slot in the transom and could propel the boat foreword, backward or sideways somehow. Here’s a picture of that day.
I’d wanted to learn more about sculling ever since. I asked if someone could show me how it worked. Milo got nominated to coach me. He gave me about two minutes’ worth of hints about what Sam Manning calls the “falling leaf” technique. Turns out Sam wrote one of the few treatises on this style. Turns out we had gotten to see the master ply his craft. My early attempts might more properly have been called the Falling Brad technique. But after nearly falling out of the boat a few times I began to get it. I spent my whole recess, for the three days of good weather we were lucky enough to have, working on sculling. Wow. What a hoot.
Meanwhile, back at our sweat shop, we got our oars smooth enough to sand. Some of the spruce had a few sap pockets in it. Here is my plug for one of these.
Shove the lead into the handle and cap it with a wood plug.
Happy, happy Brad.