Songbird Oars is a small oar-making shop located in the sinuous canyon country of the Colorado River basin. Within the shop artisan style wood oars are handcrafted for whitewater rafts, dories, and drift boats. Contact the oarshop for more information about a pair of custom-made wood oars or the refurbishment of older wood oars or paddles.

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About The Shop

Oars built in the shop are handcrafted from scratch using traditional methods and various antique hand tools. Oars are constructed utilizing solid ash oar-bodies laminated on the inboard side with unique hardwoods to add balance, strength, and flair. This coupling of an ash oar-body with various “companion” wood types allows for elegant combinations of color and character in each oar while maintaining the feel and durability of a solid wooden oar.

Conventional shaped wood oars for a 16' whitewater dory. Oars are artisan custom-made oars built of mahogany and ash.
A conventional oar. Mahogany and ash.

Oars are crafted in the shop utilizing a range of designs — from the conventional to the antiquated. Oars are designed with focus on the balance, function, and aesthetics of each oar. Artisan wanderings into shell and stone inlays, painting, or woodwork artistry are sometimes practiced to further individualize oars.

10' handcrafted ash oars for a wooden whitewater dory. Oars have bulky inboard square tops to add balance and strength.
Well-balanced square loomed oars. Oak and ash.

To protect from the elements, oars are finished with bright and durable spar varnishes or permeating and easy to refinish oil mixtures. Oars are furnished with nylon rope wraps, or more traditional hand-sewn leather wraps, to protect from the slow wearing of the oarlocks, and are fitted with adjustable or fixed buttons (aka oar-stops).

Handmade wooden oars with traditional hand-sewn leather wraps for a 17' Briggs style Grand Canyon dory.
Leather wrapped and ready to go. Walnut and ash.

In addition to building new custom oars, old wooden oars and paddles are also repaired and/or refurbished in the shop. Refurbishment services include: refinishing, repairs, rewrapping, counterbalancing, and reshaping.

Wood oars made of purpleheart and ash being crafted in the Songbird oar-shop
Oars in the rough. Purpleheart and ash.

Within each wooden oar exists the story of the craftsmen, boatmen, and landscapes that have shaped them. It is the intention that the bespoke oars created within the Songbird Oars shop will have an inherent meaningfulness to them, that they will symbolize the venerable life of an oarsman and help tell the stories of those that row them.

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Oar Gallery

Eleven-foot raft oars made of white ash and Hawaiian koa wood. The oars are square shaped on the inboard side of the oars. These "square-tops" have the icon of Castleton Tower and the Rectory (Priest and Nuns) with the sun/moon rising, and a wave icon with the sun/moon setting on the other side. These motifs stand out on the oars being shaped with turquoise that has been inlaid. The oars have leather-wraps with copper rivets.

11′ oars of ash & koa with square inboard looms & inlaid turquoise motifs

11′ ash & walnut oars with octagonal inboard looms

Eleven foot whitewater dory oars made of white ash and dark walnut.
Ten-foot whitewater rafting oars made of ash and dark walnut. The walnut has inlaid mother-of-pearl and abalone shell cut like the sun and the multiple stages of the moon.

10′ ash & walnut oars with octagonal inboard looms & inlaid shell motifs

Waxed burgundy leather wraps

Leather wraps of river-running oars to protect the wooden oars from bronze oarlocks. Leathers are stitched on and waxed for use.
11' wooden oars made of white ash and sapele. High-gloss spar varnish makes the oars shine.

Ash & sapele 11′ oars

10′ 6″ ash & walnut oars with square inboard looms, wild boar shell inlays, & thumb-indexed grips

ten-foot-six ash and walnut whitewater raft oars inlaid with mother of pearl. The handles are indexed for the thumbs of the boatman.
Laminated ash and mahogany oar blades for running rivers.

Laminated ash & mahogany blades

Long-handled 10′ ash & walnut oars

Ten-foot ash and walnut rafting oars with long handles
Wooden raft oars made of white ash, Sierra black oak, and walnut. The square shaped inboard portion of the oars is inlaid with turquoise in the shape of the waves of a river rapid with the sun and moon on each side.

10′ 3″ oars with square inboard looms of ash, walnut & oak, & turquoise wave inlays

10′ ash & walnut oars with abalone inlays

Ten foot wood oars and their handles. The oars are made with a dark colored walnut and blonde colored ash. There are dots and a turtle motif made from inlaid abalone shell.
Ash and walnut oars laying in a turquoise trailer in Moab, Utah

10′ 6″ ash & walnut oars

Ash blades with chevron blade protection in white

The blades of four wood oars with white chevron designs on their blade tips.
Wooden oar blades with light blue oar blade tip protection in the shape of a chevron

Chevron blade protection in turqouise

10′ ash & purpleheart oars

Two handmade wood oars lying by the Colorado River near Moab Utah. Oars are two-toned from the blonde ash and purpleheart wood used in the upper portions.
Two handcrafted oars laying near the McKenzie River in Oregon. Oars are made with Sierra black oak and eastern white ash

9′ 6″ oars of fire-scarred oak & ash

Ash blades with purpleheart blade protection

Two wooden oar blades with a wave design made of purpleheart veneer laid over the ash oar blade.
Oiled dory oars in the Songbird oar-shop

Oiled 10′ ash & walnut oars

10′ ash & walnut oars with turquoise wave motifs

Three oars custom made for a Colorado River guide with inlaid turquoise wave motifs drying in the oar-shop after being varnished.
Handcrafted wooden oars with a motif of a petroglyph found along the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument.

10′ ash & oak oars with inlaid turquoise motifs

To see more of the work coming out of the oarshop check out the shop’s Instagram feed:

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Contact the shop

Songbird Oars LLC | Levi Jamison

“…Forever you’ll want to drift downstream, but upon the end you’ll find the feeling still follows you; away from the banks, back to your home, and into your dreams. It doesn’t end at the sea, for soon enough you’ll return to the headwaters to float in conversation once again…”