Seeing Double

No, my eyesight is still fine but creating detailed copies of existing designs is still quite tough on the eyes! The Christmas and New Year period has been very busy with lots of duplicates and replicas.

Clients are often far away and unable to provide the original for me to work from, so they assist me by taking numerous photos of the blade they wish me to copy. Detail and full images, as well as extras taken with a tape measure or ruler in the frame. From these I hope to replicate the colours and also the exact proportions of the design.

It is not always easy and there are common problems with the curved nature of some blade shapes as well as with the photos themselves (colour consistency, parallax distortions). However, when armed with a range of images I have managed to piece together some very successful copies over the years.

Some jobs are even more complex than just copying the artwork. The blade type itself can be just as difficult to replicate. Modern oars are fairly plentiful and very uniform (made in moulds), but the vintage timber oars are more rare are vary greatly. Two of my recent jobs required older style oars to be found and renovated.

Here is a list of what I have recently done:

Completed in time to be a Christmas surprise was a matched pair of trophy blades for some twins. Not only did they face the common issue that twins face – namely having to share awards because people are unable or unwilling to distinguish between them – they also had won an annual club award that needed to be returned at the end of the year so that it could have a new name added and be handed on to the next year’s recipient. Now there are three near exact copies!

On New Year’s Day I delivered an oar to someone who had seen a blade that I painted for his crew mate and decided that he’d like one too.

Then shortly after the year started I delivered a very special duplicate blade to some brothers who had been sharing back and forth their treasured souvenir since 1976. It is a wonderful story that is artfully retold by Tim Koch on the Hear The Boat Sing blog.

(Note one ‘correction’ to the original – the two small ‘c’s in the names)

I only had a moment to rest before it was time to complete the next job that was due a week later. With seven blades to deliver I was seeing more than double! Luckily I’d started the preparations in December and there was only text to paint and no complex club badges or a coat of arms.

Last, but not least – this week I’m working to complete a duplicate of a 1940 Boat Race oar.



Mounts for oars

Whilst I have mentioned this topic before and even suggested using curtain hold back hooks as method of mounting oars to walls, I have never actually used any of these myself.

Now that has changed at the request of a client in Europe.


Curtain hold back hooks in a spun-brass finish, mounted to a timber base with concealed mirror plate on the back.

Some ‘oarcheology’

I’m just renovating a late 1950s (or early 60s) copper tipped blade and thought I’d share some images with you.

This is a girder shafted (solid, not hollow) Aylings blade. If it looks familiar you may have remembered another blade I painted a while back. However, this one has some bad cracks in it and requires much more work.

To ensure that I could see all the cracks properly and be able to do a proper repair, I decided to remove the copper tip. Each of the copper nails was carefully removed so that I could reuse them.


With the tip removed and a generous application of paint stripper, the blade quickly shed almost 60 years of old paint. The timber looks surprisingly clean under all that!

To better repair the cracks, I was forced to gently pull apart some of the old repairs so that I could re-do them. At the moment the blade is buried under tape and clamps while the epoxy has time to cure.


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.