Brothers and duplicates

Brothers can be fiercely competitive at the best of times, but when both are talented oarsmen things can often get too hot to handle.

“We’re not competitive at all”, he said with a grin as I delivered an oar this afternoon.

For many years both brothers have coveted their father’s Boat Race blade. Each has also had a good rowing career with many wins, Henley appearances, and notable roles such as club Captain or committee member, but from childhood there was always something special about the oar that had pride of place in the family home.

To solve this sibling rivalry, the younger brother came up with a bold plan – making a duplicate so that everyone could have the cherished family memory on the wall.

Oar full cropped

Armed with a handful of photos, I set out to recreate this blade.

First stop was a boatman in Oxford with a handy stash of old oars. He was able to provide an oar of a suitable vintage. A copper tipped, girder shaft Aylings was purchased and prepared.

Then on to the painting via a few stops. The custom mix of paint to create a convincing blackish-navy blue (as mentioned in previous posts), followed by a lot of care to try to layout the construction lines as close as possible to the original using only photos.

The painting had a few challenges and surprises. The five legged lion was amusing, while trying to copy another painter’s handwriting style was less fun. The steep ridge up the centre of these old oars is always a challenge to work around.

 

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Bottom right: a para-rowing lion?

However, in the end it all came together to produce a finished oar that was as close to the original as I could make it (or at least without going barmy!). Yes, I did paint the extra leg.

We have a happy customer and two happy brothers.

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4- trophy…of sorts

This is a trophy with four blades, but not quite something to suit a coxless four.

The male and female rower of the year awards for Twickenham Rowing Club – both open and masters. This will be hung high on the wall (it’s a bit big!) and brought down each year for the annual dinner and awards night.

I’ve promised the Captain that I will bring a tin of paint and a brush to the dinner so that the 2017 winners can go on right away! There should be room on these blades for the next 30 years worth of winners.

twickenham 4 blade

 

Double Blues

It isn’t easy to earn the right to race in the top crew at either Oxford or Cambridge, and lightweight rowing is especially difficult. Who likes rice cakes anyway?

Making the crew, then winning, is special. Doing it twice is remarkable. Having one win at each university is exceptional!

University Challenge

With the single scull renovation out of the way I am now playing catch up with the list of oars to paint. These blades had already been prepared (repairs, undercoat etc) but not yet given their final base coat colours.

At the moment we have a bit of a custom colour university challenge going on. All three blades pictured (and one out of shot) have especially mixed paints.

Oxford (at back) was hand mixed, while both Cambridge and Durham were matched at the paint shop using PMS colours.

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Odd deliveries

I have managed to score a small stash of timber oars for my stocks. It is a bit of a mix with some Aylings and Suttons, and conditions that range from only needing a minor sand right to some serious timber repairs. Overall quite happy with the potential here, even if there is a fair bit of work to do.

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Yes, I do get some funny looks when I am driving.

Not only oars…

It’s not only oars that are worked on here. I have recently completed and delivered a renovated 28 year old CDRS 1x.

This boat has had a long and chequered life. In the early 90s it was involved in a GB team trailer roll-over (note repaired washboards), it had some poor repairs around the millennium (with faulty varnish),  and in the mid-2000s it ended up on an outside rack at a major London club. It was strangely mottled in appearance and had water damage starting to appear.

Fast forward to the present day, the boat had been in storage for over five years at the original manufacturer awaiting a long needed refurbishment.

The owner had stopped racing the 1x and after a couple of years she moved overseas, causing the boat to be moved to a less than ideal outdoors rack. After another couple of years the owner realised that the boat wasn’t going to last as is, and did a deal with the manufacturer to conduct a refurbishment and then sell the boat (with a profit share arrangement). However this never happened as the boat builder is a small shop and constantly busy with creating new boats. Even when the owner found a friend looking for a boat to be a real paying customer (rather than a ‘what if’), the work was still not able to be scheduled.

I asked my friend if she would consider letting me do the work, as it wasn’t going to be done any time soon. I had secured the assistance of someone who had done this exact type of work before and also had access to a suitable workshop space.

Then this boat hit hard times again…

It should have been straightforward and done by early January, but fate stepped in. The person who would be guiding me through this project had changed jobs and no longer had access to the workshop space or the free time. Even though he was still willing to advise by email, it wasn’t going to be the same. Then by the time I had secured a suitable place to work on the boat, my baby daughter had been born. Boats, babies and epoxy do not mix.

However, slowly things started to happen. The old varnish was scraped off, as was most of the underlying epoxy coat. Aside from a few patches of water damage, the hull was in remarkable condition. There would be no ridding it of the mottling, but the areas of water damage would improve. The common damage to the very fine CDRS stern would be easy to fix, albeit with a small filled section in one area rather than with a spliced in timber repair.

The work to sand back the entire hull with long sanding boards is considerable, even when these boats are newly built. A full new epoxy coat made things look lovely again, but this too is carefully sanded smooth to prepare for the final varnish.

A professional spray painter with considerable rowing boat experience was able to do the final varnish with the correct 2-part material as per new.

The final hurdle would now be the fit out of the boat. I had hoped that this would be a simple bolt-and-screw on affair, but there were a couple of hiccups.

Shoe standards vary greatly and the old footboard had been designed around a much older style and was also a bit worn in general. To fit most of the newer shoes it was necessary to have the mounting holes about an inch lower. So a new part needed to be built. I laminated up a new board at my home workshop.

Other parts were also a problem. Mostly it was very common items that are easily sourced (rails, wheels, oarlocks and so on), but there were a couple of manufacturer specific items that were unavailable due to factors such as the age of the boat and some other unexplained reasons. Luckily I was able to call on a wide network of friends at clubs across the country who were able to acquire the missing items or already had them in stock as spares.

Then all that remained was the delivery, and here we had our first stroke of pure luck.

The overseas owner was actually in town for HRR and the new owner was able to drive down from Glasgow to arrange a proper handover. It was nice to see a goodbye and hello between friends over a shared joy.

Now I can finally get back to the long list of oars I need to paint…

PS – please don’t call and ask me to refurbish your CDRS until I have a more suitable permanent workshop and I have had time to recover from this one!

Mounting full oars to walls

This is something I get asked quite often.

“How do I mount an oar to the wall?”

There a countless customised solutions that I could come up with depending on the situation, but for a simple and quick result there are many standard products that you can use and find easily online or in a homewares store.

The most common are the mounts for curtain poles, available in a range of materials and sizes.

Another option – also from the curtain section – is a curtain holdback hook. These are mounted horizontally for curtains, but turning them 90 degrees provides a handy hook for an oar. Also available in a range of sizes and materials.

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.