Our shop is located on Water Street, a stone’s throw from the famed Penobscot River and a block over from the one stoplight you’ll find in our hometown of Orono. Amidst the cloud of perpetual sawdust that looms over the shop and through the hum of saws and sanders sits the same lathe that’s turned the vast majority of our oars since the day we opened in 1858. That’s a lot of oars. Our most popular are the 7' clear spruce oars. Clear spruce is hard to come by, in fact, only one board out of every 2,000 is truly clear spruce. Free of knots and other blemishes, it’s significantly stronger and much lighter than any other North American softwood—a 7' oar tips in at less than 2-1/2 pounds. While there have been advances in technology that would make our old lathe look downright arcane by today’s standards, our business has never put efficiency before quality, and never will.
How to Size Your Oars
To determine the correct length oar for your boat measure the distance between the port and starboard oar sockets. Then apply the Shaw and Tenney oar length formula to determine the oar length that will provide the correct 7:18 leverage ratio. This length will provide an oar where 7/25 the length is inboard of the oarlocks and 18/25 of the oar is outboard of the oarlocks. It is the ideal ratio to row almost all boats. Sized correctly, when rowing your hands will be 1 to 3 inches apart and you will be pulling directly towards your abdomen. If you are popping out of your oarlocks when rowing your oars are far too short. If you prefer an overlapping grip, add 6” to the calculated oar length. If you have more than one rowing station in your boat, measure both. Typically they will require two different length oars which is fine if you’re going to be rowing tandem and need two sets. Otherwise you’ll need to compromise the correct length to work properly in both stations. If you are rowing more than 75% in one station size the oar to that length. As always feel free to call us and were happy to help you select the correct oar length and blade style for your boat.
The Original Shaw & Tenney Oar Length Formula
To help our customers size their oars correctly, we’ve been using the same formula since 1858: Measure the distance between the center of the port and starboard oar sockets, which hold the oar locks on each gunnel. This is called the “span” between the oarlocks. Divide the span by 2, and then add 2 to this number. The result is called the “inboard loom length” of the oar. Multiply the loom length by 25, and then divide that number by 7. The result is the proper oar length in inches. Round up or down to the closest 6” increment.
How to Size Your Paddle
For traditional wooden paddles the ideal length for the Stern paddler is the bridge of your nose or 6 inches less than your height. For the bow paddler the paddle reaching the cleft of your chin or 9 inches less than your height is correct.
For our Racine paddle if you are over 5’6” tall select the 63-1/2” length and the shorter paddle if you are under5’-6”tall.
When paddling solo we typically recommend a bow length paddle. For Canadian style solo most paddlers prefer an even shorter paddle.
For paddling canoes when standing (yes our mother let us do this) a 69 inch or 72 inch paddle is usually about right.