Oars made by Ben Crawshaw of the Invisible Workshop
Tonight, I’d like to make a recommendation: Jim Michalak’s plans for making oars, which are themselves derived from RD Culler’s plans for oars. They’re easy to make, balance perfectly and can be made in any length you’re likely to need.
But first I feel I should start by introducing Jim. Jim’s a missile engineer turned boat designer whose business is developing simple boats for the home builder working to a budget with low cost materials.
His boat plans don’t really fit the purpose of this weblog, for they usually involve plywood and the boats are often built with external chine logs and even plastic tarpaulin sails, but if ever anyone has studied his topic, it’s Jim, and that makes him very interesting indeed.
While most boat designers work from the basis of what has worked before – perhaps by using time-honoured tables to work out scantlings, spar sizes, sail areas etc – Jim starts with the function and then calculates everything from the ground up. His boats work beautifully and his plans are crystal clear, but when one of his boats ends by being good-looking, you feel it’s almost by accident, for his mind is clearly focused elsewhere. All in all, I suppose it’s what you’d expect from a missile engineer!
If you’d like to form your own conclusions as well as learn something about how boats work in the real world, you can catch up with his interesting newsletter here and browse a catalogue of his designs at Duckworks.
What I really want to show you tonight, however, are his plan and instructions for making oars. You may feel their heavy square looms and narrow blades make them a little unusual, but having made them, it’s clear that these are the features that make them balance well and lend a certain spring that makes them comfortable. And, of course, they are a lot cheaper than many you can buy down at the chandlers – all you need is a pair of pine floorboards, a vice or two, a saw and a power planer. Down in Spain, Ben Crawshaw made a pair a few days ago and wrote about the experience in his weblog the Invisible Workshop.
Enough of this rambling. The plans for the oars are here: