Painting club sets

I’ve been asked more than once about the best way to paint complex designs onto sets of oars for everyday use.

Obviously you are not going to hand paint the details like a trophy oar – it’s too difficult, time consuming, and inefficient!

There are some great technologies that can help…

1 – Stencils
Using machine cut stick on stencils can make a detailed job a breeze with a spray can, even if you have multiple colours.
See examples here –

2 – Vinyl tapes or sheets
If the blade is already the correct base colour (painted by you or purchased that way), then stripes or larger colour blocks can just be stuck on. Some complex logos or shapes can be done easily like this.

3 – Printed sheets
I’ve seen a few clubs apply a printed sheet with multiple colours all in one go. City of York apply three stripes at once like this – much easier than painting three colours or even applying three tapes. This can even work with multi-colour logos trimmed and applied, or even whole blade wraps.


If you apply your mind, it is possible to easily and cheaply apply your club colours to your blades and look extra smart out on the water!

Copper-Tipped Cambridge Copy

Yet another duplicate blade has just been completed and delivered. This was briefly mentioned in a blog post a few days ago but I can now show more detail.

In a now familiar scenario, two brothers were each keen to retain and display their father’s winning trophy oar. The old family house is now to be the home of the elder brother and the original oar is destined to return to the same spot that it graced for many years. The younger brother had custody of the oar for many years and had grown rather fond of it, so a copy was duly required!


The keen ones among you might notice that this is not a Boat Race trophy. The official records do not include the races held during the Second World War.

One interesting detail that I haven’t managed to fully investigate is the name at 4 seat. Many of you might have known that the actor Hugh Laurie rowed for Cambridge (as mentioned on Hear the Boat Sing recently) and that his father Ran Laurie was Cambridge Blue as well as an Olympian. Given the dates and that this A.W. Laurie was at the same college as Ran Laurie, I’m guessing that he was a younger brother or closely related. If anyone can help clarify I would be most grateful.

Getting back to the oar…I set to work armed with a number of photographs and measurements. The oar itself took some time to find and repair (see my previous note) but once I had a surface ready to work on things started to happen quickly.

The ‘new’ oar dated from 1960 and had slightly different dimensions. It was a few centimeters shorter and a tiny bit fuller in shape. The design was altered slightly to fit everything in and the changes are difficult to see unless pointed out.


Plenty of measurements, stencils, and chinagraph pencil marking out were needed along the way, but the final result was quite pleasing.


The Great Wave

A friend who knows some of my older work has sent me a link to some wonderful new research done by a team of researchers based at the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh.

The researchers have recreated a ‘freak wave’ in the artificial wave-making pool at the University of Edinburgh’s FloWave Ocean Energy Research facility. The wave form created is a near exact mirror of the famous nineteenth century Japanese woodcut ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ (or ‘The Great Wave’) by Katsushika Hokusai.

Links to some news articles:
Oxford University
New Scientist

Video of the recreated wave in the research pool:


This is of some interest to me as I once painted this design on a trophy blade for an outrigger canoeist from my then club (yes, we did do some rather special ‘thank you’ gifts for long standing and much valued committee members).


Congratulations Roger!

The paddle design was modified from the original to include a 6-man outrigger canoe instead of the traditional fishing boats, as well as deleting Mt Fuji.


There were a number of detailed and time consuming hand cut stencils made to help create this design. Yes – it is all very much hand painted! No – you don’t want me to quote a non-gift price for that!





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.


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.