Rope Wrapping for Oars 101
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by Pat Patteson - Molalla, Oregon - USA

I have several sets of oars I use with different boats I have built.
Boats from a Bolger, “Elegant Punt”, through a Bolger “Gloucester Gull” up to a “Rapid Robert”, 14’, square stern drift boat and several others.
All my boats are pretty basic, plywood, “Work Boats” and I don’t think a nice, leather oar wrap is appropriate for any of them.

But, I do need to protect the looms that see some very heavy use, especially on the Drift Boat. I used the term “Sets” of oars rather than “Pairs” because I always carry 3 oars in my drift boat.
It only takes a second to lose or even break even the strongest oar and there’s No chance to go back a get a lost drift boat oar, especially with only one oar left.

Instead of using leather wraps, I decided to wrap my oars with “Rope”, the traditional Northwest Driftboat method. The rope wraps give long-term protection and if properly sized really hold the oars in the oarlocks.

There are a lot of times, when drifting, that I need to drop my oars to help my wife, Kay land a fish. Kay is the fisherperson. My job is to get her to where the fish are. With properly sized locks and properly sized rope wraps there is little danger the oars will slip out of the locks and the oars can drag in the water. While not quite as nice Looking as real Leathers, the rope wrappings do Look pretty good and are not difficult to make.

Here’s a brief description of how I make rope wraps for My oars.
I used heavier than usual rope here to illustrate the process.

The first, very important step is to find a cord/rope that is the right diameter, that when wrapped around your oar will fit in the oar lock but not slip out between the horns. I've used 1/8" up to 1/4" line for different size oars and locks. The thinner the line, the more wraps you will need to make and the nicer the wrapping will look, but sometimes thicker line will be needed to prevent the oar from slipping out. The rope I have found best is round, nylon, “Braided” line. Looks like old fashion, cotton clothesline cord and comes in several diameters.

The wrapping I do is similar to what I have done to wrap eyes on home made fishing rods or to tie fletches (feathers) on home made arrows. Back when arrows were wooden dowels and fletches where real, split feathers.

The start is pretty easy.
Determine where the lock will come on the oar and start the wrap a few inches above that. Tuck one end of the wrapping rope along the oar and start wrapping back over the end so there is no loose end hanging out.

Tuck one end and start wrapping

The other end is trickier.
Continue wrapping until you get to where you want the wrap to stop.
Then cut the line a few inches longer. (the length of the distance 5 or 6 wraps make on the oar. Hold or tape the wrap about 5 or 6 wraps from where you want it to stop and then loosen the wraps beyond that but keep it all from unwinding.

You will also need a foot or more of thin, lightweight, but strong
“string” or very light line.

Make a loop with the light line and slip it between the wrappings that 5 or 6 wraps back so the loop goes under all the last few wraps. Then insert the end of the wrapping rope through the loop so you can use the loop to pull the end back under the last few wraps so the end is hidden under the wrapping, just like the start.

Ready to pull the end through...

...pulling the end...

...the end in place

With the taped wraps still tight, start twisting the loosened wraps to get them as tight as you can. Takes a while to do that last twisting, tightening thing, but when you get done the wraps should be tight all the way to the end with the end of the wrapping pulled tight and hidden under the last few wraps.

Here’s a picture of the rope wrapping on one of my light oars. In the photo below, I attached a commercial rubber Button that is force fitted over the wraps but a nice woven loop like the one above could be used as well. I slather thin epoxy over the ends of the wraps to keep them from unraveling. Might have to repeat that every so often as UV will eat the epoxy after a while. Varnish or some other clear goop might work too.

Here’s the finish product.

The trick that's hard to tell in words, but easier to show, is the Loop
of light line, under the loosened wraps that allows you to pull the end
back under.

But, if you play with this Idea, it might become obvious ? ?

Good Luck
Happy Rowing

Have Fun
Pat Patteson
Molalla, Oregon

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