A couple of years ago I became interested in “traditional rowing”. I was told that a good book was Building Classic Small Craft by John Gardener (Copyright 1977 International Marine Publishing Company). I was surprised to find this quote in the Introduction: Selecting and Building Classic Small Craft. On page 3:
“Thousands of youngsters each summer in a multitude of camps and recreational programs are being introduced to rowing boats which were never designed or intended for this, and which, in fact, row abominably, even to the extent of being unsafe in rough water.”
What I then discovered was that this has continued unabated since 1977. Gardner explains what boats should be built and why. On page 4 he states “Whether a rowboat is any good or not depends to some extent on what it is used for and who uses it.” He then goes into a few concepts such as length, weight, freeboard, etc. to help you understand aspects important in boat design.
But he does not discuss oars and riggers which, in my opinion, are crucial in the selection of a rowing boat to build.
I am about to undertake the building of a “traditional” boat at Chesapeake Light Craft and perusing their website I ran into this excellent piece on rowing which added science (a polynomial equation?) to the understanding. It was in an article in WoodenBoat Magazine #240: The Geometry of Rowing By John C. Harris. He wrote this in 2014 after years of frustration with oars being the wrong length in fixed-seat boats. (Although sliding seat craft are decidedly different, a lot of what is discussed here is pertinent.)
Before you decide to build a rowing boat make sure you read this article: