Recent works

I’ve been flat out looking after baby and trying to finish off a renovation of a 28 year old Carl Douglas 1x, but a couple of oars have gone out the door and have been presented recently.

Still quite a few more in the queue! Must get cracking, but this weather doesn’t help…the workshop is a sweat box.

Blazing a new path

If there is anyone who is almost singlehandedly trying to encourage a re-birth and re-discovery of the rowing blazer, then it is Jack Carlson. He is a USA rowing representative, scholar, author, and now business entrepreneur.

Our paths first crossed when he contacted the club I was managing in Hong Kong asking for our help with a book he was creating about rowing blazers. With a lot of back and forth, we managed to find a club member with blazer in hand who was able to meet Jack’s photographer in London.  I can only imagine how much work it was to coordinate photoshoots with the many dozens of clubs that featured in the final book!

Early ‘blue’ edition & current ‘red’ edition. Essential for any rowing geek’s library.

We have never rowed together, although he was scheduled to be the ‘ringer’ expert coxswain for a Head of the Charles club crew I’d been drafted into for 2016. Unfortunately he was called away at the last moment on urgent business and we had to ‘make do’ with another ex-international coxswain. However, we did manage to meet after our race when he generously hosted my wife and I for lunch at Cambridge Boat Club.

Jack is a lover of all things rowing, not just blazers. He is also very keen on heraldry (and author of a short book on the subject) and this topic is remarkably related to the modern blazer. Heraldry is a also key component in most trophy oars and since we met I have painted a trophy oar for him (USA tri-colour blade shown in earlier posts) to help celebrate one of his key races.

Now he is turning his hand to making blazers with the launch of his new business Rowing Blazers.

Bloomberg 2

Photographer: Gabriela Herman/Bloomberg

There is good deal of publicity around the launch, no doubt heavily assisted by his expert status on the subject through his book. He is probably the first person to truly celebrate the blazer.

Bloomberg, Apparel, Mr Mag, Wall Street Journal (subscriber only).

If you start to see more rowing blazers across the USA, far away from their home turf of Henley and OxBridge, you will now know who is responsible.


Under the oar. Photographer: Gabriela Herman/Bloomberg






Home is where the heart is

I have just received an update from an old work colleague for whom I painted a blade at Christmas. She was going to give it to her parents to hang in the house. As is always the case, it takes longer to hang these things than you hope, but it is now enjoying pride of place in a home in Germany.


The artwork is a construction of my friend and not a real coat of arms. Each of the key components does, however, represent something important. The two supporters and shield represent the areas of Germany where the parents grew up and where the family now lives.

As for the text:

Familie ist wo das Leben seinen
Anfang nimmt und die Liebe niemals endet!

– it translates roughly as;

Family is where life is beginning and love never ends!



My friend is also now turning her own hand to painting trophy oars. Using a damaged blade from her club she has created this quite handy first effort. Very soon I think that German rowers will have someone more local to call!


What fate for old boats?

While my business looks to preserve, illuminate, and display rowing oars from over the many ages of boat racing, what fate befalls the old boats themselves?

Sadly, most boats are simply broken up once their useful life has ended. If a boat was a particularly successful one you might see a bow preserved high on the wall of a club. Some boats have met with a fiery end at a traditional ‘boat burning’ event – lots of fun but rather tough on the boat!

Luckily, there are some other ways for old boats to live on…

Rob Thompson is a designer who has worked in many diverse areas from film special effects to motorsport. He now designs and creates wonderful bespoke furniture from his workshop in Somerset.

He has a history of rowing (Kingston) and has turned this into a way to preserve parts of the wonderful wooden boats that still survive.


Coffee table made from a section of a racing boat

From coffee tables to clever trophy cabinets – he can create something to suit your needs and the available sections of boat.

Rob has also worked directly in partnership with rowing clubs to create items for sale from their boats. The many unique items can become wonderful trophies, keepsakes, or fundraising/auction items for a club.

If you have an old boat that you can’t keep, yet can’t face destroying, then contact Rob to see if he can help make it live on in a wonderful new way.


Remember our friend Osgood? Here’s your chance to better him!


Fluted Magic


A lovely example of a ‘fluted’ or ‘girder’ shaft. These were made with solid shafts, but later fluted to save weight and tune the characteristics of flex. This is a particularly nice oar with a long ‘standard’ blade and a coppered tip. Soon to be a recreation 1960s Boat Race blade.

Sprouting Oars

We’ve looked at the amount of preparation time involved in repairing oars, but this batch are almost done. The primer and undercoat has been applied and with any luck most of these will be ready right away for the top coat in club colours. Sometimes the undercoat shows up a few extra things to fill or sand that may not have been visible on the odd coloured surfaces below.


This is a bit of a motley bunch. A few blade only, a couple of coastal rowing blades, an interesting one with a fluted girder shaft (and copper tip, just out of view) and a fairly conventional blade.

I really should get a bigger workshop…


Almost all modern oars are set to zero pitch at the oarlock so that you can rig using the pitch insert bushings. This was not always the case.

The shape of the macon blade was such that a much higher pitch was desired and the clever adjustable plastic oarlocks had not yet been invented.

To ensure adequate pitch, the oars were made with ample pitch built in. You could tell what side of the boat a blade should be on even if there were no numbers, markings or helpful red/green buttons.

This particular blade (late ’70s from Hungary, I think) shows this quite clearly. It measures on screen at about 4 degrees.


Three’s a crowd

Late January and early February were busy with three jobs overlapping; two of which had event deadlines. Those two are now delivered and presented as gifts, and the final one is awaiting the globe-trotting owner to travel past these shores to collect it.


Each job had at least one new challenge to be met.

Mixing a pot of Cambridge blue isn’t the easiest task (especially since it is green), because even if you can decide which one of the many hues used by the crews to pick (we chose the official university stationery guide colour), it is still very difficult for paint shops to match exactly to a PMS colour code.


Painting a quartered oar isn’t as easy as you might think. You can’t mask off and paint one colour, then the other. To get nice clean lines on each corner you actually need to do four separate painting sessions.


The final blade wasn’t as challenging from a technical viewpoint, but it managed to cause a few headaches along the way by requiring a full repaint and a more complex section join (both mentioned in previous posts). I did find the more pronounced spline on the blade face a bit more difficult to paint around, but I was still very pleased with the final job.


Wedding Madness

December was a busy time, with a couple of extra jobs needing to be done for a specific date.

Normally a little bit of time pressure is fine, but there was an additional complication to this cluster of jobs. They were all interrelated to such an extent that I had to be VERY careful to remember which client I was talking to!

It started simply enough, with a request from the members of a club squad (we’ll call him X!) for a special wedding gift for the groom, one of their squad mates. Then shortly afterwards things started to get busy when the Groom himself called and asked for a couple of blades to be painted, one each as gifts for his wife-to-be and for his best man.


Cue a bit of panic from Squad Mate X: “The groom is talking about a blade you are painting for him!” No need to worry, as I explained that the Groom was organising extra ones and that the surprise of the initial gift was not ruined. Squad Mate X was now working out how best present the first blade without clashing at the Reception with the presentation of the Groom’s gifts. All good.

Things progressed well (with various subterfuge in the background) until the day before the wedding when I got a confused note from another member of the rowing squad…

“I’ve been asked by the Best Man to help him with some blades, but this is not what I thought the squad had organised. Do you know what is going on?”

It seems the Best Man was organising a set of blades for a guard of honour after the ceremony (half from the groom’s club, half from the bride’s), but the squad rower had thought it was something to do with the painted blade.

I dealt with this completely calmly (not really) and managed to convey the basics along the lines of “don’t tell the Best Man, the Groom, or anyone else anything about any blades until you talk to ‘X’…”

Luckily, Squad Mate X was on the ball and managed to not only transport all the blades, but get them into the right hands, and keep the element of surprise for everyone.

And so the fairy tale wedding came off without a hitch, everyone got their blades, and they all lived happily ever after.

And I needed a strong drink!

Congratulations Basil and Jennie