Select Your Wood
Ash Our workhorse hardwood, ash is extremely durable and tough, and well suited to a wide variety of paddling and rowing conditions. A heavier wood with moderate flex, ash holds up well to whitewater and rocky conditions. Open grain of the wood makes for a very attractive paddle or oar.
Spruce Our lightest and only softwood, spruce is an excellent choice for an all-around, every day paddle and almost all rowing oars. We don’t recommend spruce for whitewater, or for conditions where the paddle or oars comes in contact with rocks and other obstacles. Spruce is only available in a varnish finish.
Soft Maple A durable, closed grained hardwood with a moderate flex, soft maple is usually slightly lighter than ash, and therefore excellent in a wide variety of conditions.
Cherry Few woods rival the beauty and characteristics of cherry. A deep red, closed grained hardwood, cherry is strong and durable for virtually every paddling condition. Reasonably light, with very nice flex, cherry is one of our favorites.
Bird's Eye Maple With strength and flex attributes nearly identical to curly maple, bird’s eye maple features a distinctive pattern that resembles tiny, swirling eyes. And like walnut, bird’s eye maple boasts a beautiful visual appeal both on and off the water.
Curly Maple Sometimes called tiger or ribbon maple, curly maple features a translucence that can only be described as radiant. Grown here, in Maine, curly maple is also a hard wood — often lighter than ash, and often more flexible. A durable option, curly maple is only available in a varnish finish.
Mahogany An imported hardwood well suited for boathooks and inlaid tips on oars and double blade paddles. Most often selected when your boat is trimmed in Mahogany
Walnut Similar to cherry in its weight and flex, walnut’s deep chocolate brown, with beautiful grain, make it an attractive choice both on and off the water.
Sassafras Favored most by the paddling craftsmen at Shaw & Tenney, sassafras is nearly as light as spruce, but as a hardwood, is far more resilient. Valued for its wonderful flex, sassafras continually darkens over time, and always maintains its beautiful patina.
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.