Shop made rowing machine from scrap

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Blog entry by Loren posted 05-15-2018 07:43 PM 1592 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Certainly not fine woodworking, but an interesting mechanical lark constructed mostly of wood.

I used to run distance but injuries led me to stop. I looked at buying a rowing machine and found out they come at a lot of price points and most of them under $1000 are problematic in one way or another. Some use gas springs that may be weak and wear out. Some use magnetic resistance but again, some users complain they don’t get a good workout from them. Some of the nicer ones use a fan for air resistance, based on the Concept2 design I think. The patents may have run out but the original maker still has a good reputation and many of the knockoff brands don’t.

So I looked to see what was involved in building one and discovered it could be done on the cheap using scrounged bicycle parts, wood and a little hardware. I think I only spent about $7 for a bicycle chain and everything else I had on hand or collected during the time I was thinking about building the machine. The vanes are cut from 4” drain pipe. They’re each attached with one screw and some go wonky in use but there’s enough clearance so it doesn’t cause operational problems. The rollers underneath for the return system are made from lengths of plastic tube from the straw out of a reusable water bottle with a flip-up valve.

I didn’t know if it would be worth a darn, but it is. It puts up pretty good resistance and the harder you pull the more resistance you get.

I got the plans from an open source document created by a rowing coach who had worked in Africa and helped rowers there develop the machines.

4 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4696 days

#1 posted 05-15-2018 08:27 PM

That’s amazing Loren ,I never thought that such a machine could be made from wood ,more power to you.


View AandCstyle's profile


3296 posts in 3376 days

#2 posted 05-15-2018 09:26 PM

Loren, I think I’ll keep my Concept II. I find that the Performance Monitor metrics tracking is a large portion of my motivation, but then I am a data junkie. Congratulations to you for doing something to maintain your health.

-- Art

View Jerry's profile


3488 posts in 2767 days

#3 posted 05-15-2018 10:58 PM

I love it! I’m thinking on a hot day this is a Godsend…

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View bobasaurus's profile


3714 posts in 4303 days

#4 posted 05-15-2018 11:10 PM

Clever contraption, well done.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

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