Macon (wide blade) vs Spoon (narrow) oar shape : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

So in looking at the various oar blade shapes I think I understand why a hatchet blade exists, but I don't really understand where a "Macon" or "oxford" vs "spoon" sits. Somewhere the force that an oar can have on the water is related to the square footage of the surface area. Without having various sets of blades to look at, I'm confused as to why narrow or a wide blade is any better. Better of course being subjective. As in in rough water, narrow hits the waves less on the back stroke. Do wide blades actually catch more water during the stroke?

The reason for asking is that a local purvayer of oars is ceasing the sale of wooden oars. (macon blade) I like the look but am loath to shell out the bucks for something that the rest of the rowing world has decided is useless.


-- Gary Powell (, November 03, 2003


For blades of the same surface area but different widths, there are two notable things that are different:

1. the center of effort is in a different place. this effectively changes the length of the lever.

2. narrow blades have more "slip".

-- Steve Wagner (, November 03, 2003.

Dear Gary,

While the above answer is generally true, you shouldn't interpret that statement as a blanket pronouncement of the superiority of one type of oar over another. Choosing the correct oars for a particular craft means matching the oars to the design of the boat and both to a specific purpose. Oars with short, wide blades and stiff shafts might be better for racing over a short course. Longer bladed, whippier oars might be better for longer cruises. The oar/boat equation is more complicated than that, but you get the idea.



-- Andre de Bardelaben (, November 03, 2003.

I definitely agree with Andre, and didn't mean to imply that one sort of blade was objectively better than another.

It very much depends on purpose, boat type, your own preclivities, and where you'll be rowing.

-- Steve Wagner (, November 05, 2003.

Cruising in my guideboat on the Hudson, all types of weather, I'd like to feel a little more catch from my oars. Rowing the guideboat with traditional oars (and fixed seat) seems really easy to do, I'd like to raise the exertion and maybe go a little faster while keeping the graceful slow rowing motion. I usually row for 2 -- 3 hours.

So I thought maybe spoon shaped oars would be better. Shaw and Tenny says they don't recommend spoons for the guideboat (something about balance between craft and oars), but it seems like a good idea to me. Comments? thnx, Ed A

-- Ed Atkeson (, November 05, 2003.

Well as for going faster using spoons vs flat oars vs macon blades, as it has been beaten into me this is purely a function of hull shape/length. That is to say, with a different set of oars you could change the rate of strokes to maintain the same speed. Or you can change the amount of resistence to the pull but you may injure yourself as the oars may not have enough spring to them. But as for going faster forget it.

I was curious mostly from an asthetic perspective and a general query as to the physics of a blade shape.

I'm rowing a dory and to row a wide blade oar in anything but flat water is going to be a pain because I'll have to lift the oar high enough to avoid the waves. I have a set of shorter spoons and I am intending on using them in rough water. The sculls were for a day like today when I can see that the waves are all of 6 inches if that across the whole sound.

Anyway my plan is to get out on the water and see how the spoon blade sculls do and if they are fine, that's it. If not you'll see a slightly used set for sale posting.


-- Gary Powell (, November 05, 2003.

hatchet's don't just have a larger surface area going for them to reduce slipage....(they have the most surface area)

the hocky stick orientation of the blade to the shaft should help your bladework out... because the tip of the blade dosn't have to go quite as deep as a regular long narrow blade to get a complete bury in the Water.

ie - hatchets are about 7.5 inches wide... to get a complete bury/good stroke let's say you want that top edge 2.5 inches under the surface... total depth is therefore about 10 inches...

i just laid a set of hatchets over my traditional narrow flat spoons with the shafts along the exact same line AND with the necks of the oars matched up.... the traditional flat blade extends about 10 inches past the end of the hatchet blade and the bottom corner of it's tip extends about 1.5 inches deeper to get a complete bury... that's about 15% deeper to get your oar buried....

Macon's - have almost the same area as hatchets... but the bottom corner out at the tip goes deeper in the water again... but it has more width over tradional blades

wide blades slip less because it's further from the center of the oar to the edges... so the water you're pushing againest has to travel further before it slips off.

for what it's worth.... one explaination i heard as to why Macon's were more effiecient versus long narrow oars was that... with the long narrow oars, the tips pushed againest the water but that area of the blade by the neck worked againest you because of the way the itself blade PIVOTED in the water.... not sure i believe that anymore... think slippage plays a much bigger role


-- mike reiner (, December 02, 2003.

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