Homemade Rowing Machine

For the handyman or woman who wants to stay fit, here is an easy-to-build homemade rowing machine.

| December 1998/January 1999


The homemade rowing machine looks something like this when finished.


Comedy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I find humor less in the frantic arm wavings and screechings of sitcom actors than I do in the infomercials that plague nearly every TV station from time to time. My favorites, hands-down, are those shilling the head-spinning diversity of exercise machines, in which spandex-clad pituitary cases shoutingly suggest that if you buy their $399 "Ultimo Gym, "your business, love, and dream life will take on magnificent proportions. 

We sat around thinking these thoughts at a meeting at which several of the best woodshop projects of the past month were put through their paces. Graeme Knight's simple and clever homemade rowing machine won, not least because it's getting cold and chopping wood once a week just isn't going to keep those holiday drones from taking permanent residence on our haunches. Rowing works virtually every muscle group in the body, and it doesn't require an "Ultima Gym " to do properly. The rest of these words are Graeme's, and begets a round of kudos from we tinkerers.—Matt Scanlon 

With about $70, a single sculling seat, a pair of sculling grips, and a number of 10-pound weights, it is possible to build a rugged and dependable rowing machine. Refer to the 171-homemade-rowing-machine-diagram pdf as you follow the instructions below.

Rear Frame Construction

The seat is constrained within two parallel wood strips screwed on top of 2 x 4 lengths. The space between the strips should allow 1/8" clearance outside the seat wheels.

Two 1 1/2" x 7/8" x 3/8"-thick pieces of wood are used to stop the sculling seat from sliding off the back of the rower.

Drill four 3/8"-diameter holes at the front of the frame to enable the rear frame to be bolted to the front, using 3 1/2"-long coach bolts, spring washers, and nuts.

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