QUICK-AND-DIRTY OARS
By David Goodchild

A few years ago I built a small, pram, sailing-dinghy just for fooling around. Last summer, I wanted to introduce my young grand-niece and grand-nephew (ages nine and six respectively) to small boat sailing. The dinghy however is just a tad under 8-feet overall, and the best oars for this boat are also 8 feet long. This of course means that they will not fit into the boat comfortably,--especially when anyone is in it. This calls out then for two-piece oars. These are on the market but they are very pricey.

I made these in just under an hour for absolutely ZIP! Of course, I did have the scrap just laying around to use, but even if you have to buy the PVC, it won't be more than a few dollars!

The entire materials list consists of:

        2 scraps of plywood about 20" by 7"
        2  sections of 1 1/2" PVC plumbing pipe (usually 10' long)
        About 6' of 1 1/2" closet rod or dowel
        18 galvanized, 1 1/4" deck (drywall) screws

And that's it!

These oars won't win any prizes for beauty but they will do the job. In fact, they will do two jobs!

Here's how they go together.

First cut each piece of PVC pipe into two pieces, one 48" long and the other 38" long. If you have 10' sections this will leave an extra piece of 34" and if you have 8' sections you will have a piece 10" long. You will not need this again, so put them aside. The 38" long piece is for the lower portion of the loom and the 48" piece the upper.

Cut the closet pole into four sections; two of them 2-feet in length and 2 of them 1-foot in length. These are the insert joiners (the 2-foot ones) and the oar handles (the 1-foot ones).

Either with a band-saw or a jig-saw cut a slot about 3/4" in width up one end of each of the 38" pieces. Make the slot about 10" long.

Take the scrap plywood and draw out the blades. Mine taper from about 6 1/2" at the tip to about 4" where they meet the loom. The dimensions are not critical. Grab any two different-sized cans of paint from the shop and draw them out. Whatever you have that's the size and shape you want to achieve. That's what I did!

Connect the dots, (well, ok, the radii) and you have the outline for the blades which you will then cut out on the band-saw or with the jig-saw.

Now for final assembly.

Drill three sets of holes on EACH side of the PVC at three points:

        1. where the blade will fit in.

        2. where the joining insert fits in.

        3. where the handle fits in.

You need to drill the PVC because the deck screws won't drill their own holes very well through this material. Stagger the holes, so that you have maximum grip.

Insert blade in slot. Insert screws in holes. Drive home!

Insert joining insert dowel half-way into other end of blade section. Insert screws in holes. Drive home!

Insert oar handle half-way into end of 48" long piece. Insert screws in holes.
Drive home!

Insert handle section into blade section and drill a small (3/16-1/4"?) hole right through the whole assembly about 4" up from where they meet. This will be where you insert a pin to hold the oars together when they are in use and
prevent the handle section from twisting around the blade section.

Your oars are finished!

A couple of notes:

You may need to sand down the dowel pieces a little to fit into the PVC. You just want a snug fit; not too loose and obviously not too tight.

You can use anything for a pin to hold the two sections together. I used a couple of 6d galvanized, common nails I had on hand. Worked fine!

Now, as to the two uses. These make great paddles as well as oars. As oars they are a good length and I find that there is a little bend to the PVC which seems to provide a little snap at the end of the stroke. Terrific! The blade section also works great as a paddle. Sometimes you won't want to put the oars together, but just paddle around to the end of the dock or something. Just use the blade section as it is for a paddle. Also terrific!