Solving the riddle of the “3-tard” seat

There is an old joke or a rowing ‘meme’ for just about every seat in an eight. One of these refers to three seat as the place that has no real role and has the least effect on the boat. This seat might be best seen as “mostly harmless” and it is certainly where you hide a new rower of untested skill. It is a little politically incorrect with it’s naming, but the “3-tard” seat is well known to most rowers.

I have now worked out why three seat has been rowing so badly!

Back in 2017 the topic of built in pitch was mentioned. See here…but in a nutshell, older oars often had pitch built in and could be easily identified as either bow or stroke side.


As you can see in the picture, the blade is set at a very different angle to the flat backstrap of the oar.

I have just been repairing some old blades and noticed a small problem with one…

It doesn’t matter if you write “3” on it.
It doesn’t matter if you put a green button on it.
If it has been carved as a stroke side blade, then it is a stroke side blade!!!


In the image above, both oars are clearly pitched as stroke side. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to row with the oar on the left!

We owe a huge apology to three seat of any crew over 30 years ago from an unnamed school in Dorset!






A first!

I’ve been painting oars for almost 20 years and in that time I have never painted one for myself. I have a lot of wins but not anything I had really thought justified a painted blade (no disrespect to coxed pairs, the Hong Kong Championships, or even to the Dimboola Regatta, of course).

Now I realise that I’ve finally achieved something for the first time. On a blade for a friend, celebrating a fairly recent win, my name will appear on the front for the first time – rather than on the back as a maker’s mark.

TWK Brit Masters 2016sml.jpg

One for over the pond

I’ve recently completed a high school championship blade for a coach in the USA. We are both pleased with how it turned out, but I was surprised at how much work was involved!

My initial thought was that the US ‘collegiate’ style letter would be quite simple to paint – it’s all straight lines after all. Lay down some tape and off you go…


Well, the first part in white was simple enough, but I soon realised that it was nigh on impossible to easily mask all sides of the black lines at once. It is difficult to trim the tape once on the oar, so I had to work in simpler mask ups that at times were only one side of the required line!

In the end it took five separate mask ups to do the black inline on the letter. I hope you enjoy the finished result.


Busy times

Things have been very busy here with the last of the big batch of Cambridge oars being completed and the setting up of the much larger new workshop. I’m also trying to renovate a house at the same time, so I’m going a bit bonkers.

The building is long and narrow – ideal for repairing sculls – and now has 7.5m of work benches along one side. So that I can tackle more jobs in a more efficient way, each bench has had a few features built in. The dust extraction system is next, but for now I just need the new window for the end of the building to arrive so that I can actually get something like a single scull inside!

On the completed job front, here are two recently finished oars. Each was painted to match the style of other existing oars, and as a consequence they were each a bit of a challenge. Imagine trying to copy another person’s handwriting.

Preparing old oars

I’ve just finished the repairs and preparation on another batch of old oars.

This group of oars are by Collars of Oxford and have a few interesting features showing the changes of design over time. There are three different blade shapes. Two have stroke/bow pitch built in. Two have zero pitch.

There was a lot of old paint to strip, and being red a thorough job needed to be done to prevent any bleed through later on.

The first step was a chemical stripper, followed by a scrape with metal cabinet scrapers. This cleared the bulk of the paint and allowed for a much quicker and easier sanding back.

The small repairs were next to be done. Luckily these oars were in quite good condition. Two tips needed to be glued down, two large cracks needed to be fixed, and there was a delamination of the timber pieces on the back of one blade.

Once the epoxy repairs were cured, the minor filling jobs were done. These are small areas, usually along the edges and tip, that really don’t justify the time to do a timber repair (i.e. scarf in new timber).


The repairs were sanded back to a fair surface and the blades were coated with a thinned epoxy. This helps to seal the timber and seal the old red paint. When dried this was sanded smooth. At the same time the oar shafts were given a light sand in preparation for a coat of varnish. The shafts are not stripped back completely, so the patina of age and use still remains. Two thin coats of spar varnish help bring up a consistent shine along these old and well used oars.

The final step is a primer undercoat. I use a high-build primer that helps fill in some of the smaller imperfections in the blade so that the top coat can look very smooth. In case you are wondering why one oar is slightly green, it is earmarked to be a Cambridge blade and I have discovered that this specially mixed primer works best under the pale blue.


Someone asked how much time has been spent so far to do this work. Ignoring drying and curing times, there is about 10 hours of work so far. Not too bad, but these were in quite good condition.

Green on green

Ensuring that there is always good coverage with a coat of a pale colour is always difficult. I do try to get the blade base colour right in one coat if I can manage it.

Cambridge green blue is one of the more difficult colours I’ve been working with. A white undercoat can be too light. A grey undercoat can be too dark. Careful brushstrokes are needed to ensure even colour and that the undercoat doesn’t show through.

To help solve this, I asked my specialist paint supplier if they could make up a pale green undercoat for me. The primer/filler range was a little limited for tints, but they were certain that the green undercoat they mixed up for me would be perfect.


I admit that I was a little worried when these bright turquoise blades appeared.

However, now that I’ve applied the top coat of Cambridge blue I am very satisfied. It was very easy to see any areas I’d missed, but there is no show through of the underlying colour that was sometimes apparent with the white or grey undercoats.


It’s not cheap, but I think I’ll be doing more custom tints for undercoats in the future.

The colour purple

Sometimes you know that you’ll probably only ever paint one oar in a particular colour, despite now owning an expensive tin of the stuff.

I present one such example:

Wesley College in Melbourne, Australia is a very distinct colour. Unless there is a university college somewhere in the UK that needs purple I suspect that this paint tin might not get opened again for a long time!