How to restore old trophy blades


Beautiful old prize oars are often painted as mementoes of races past – these wooden oars were often created from elderly rowing and sculling oars – patched up and beautifully painted by sign writers in gold leaf to record the crew names, weights and triumphs.

Maybe you have one or seen them in your club.  Many are in poor repair and we were interested to find this discussion included advice about how to restore trophy oars.

As a restoration project there is no essential difference between a trophy blade and an oil painting except that the blade will have been coated with boat varnish which will be very hard to remove without damaging the underlying inscription so you may have to resort to just a light rubbing down to clean up the surface and then do your restoration on top of that..

Use artists oil colour rather than acrylic and before you start varnish the rubbed down surface with picture varnish to make it shine because you cannot match colours accurately if you try to put shiny wet paint onto a dull surface you have rubbed down.

You need someone who knows how to restore oil paintings and can match paint colours accurately especially if your blade has any elaborate designs on it.

After I had redone my oar I protected my restoration work by revarnishing the blade with picture varnish which is easy to remove in future with acetone/white spirit if further attention is ever required but I did the shaft with boat varnish in the usual way.  You should add a spot of Liquin to the artists
oil colours. This speeds up drying times and lets you get on with the next stage quicker.

So there you are – advice from a man who’s done it.  You may also be interested in this post on restoring and digitising old photos.

If you want to acquire a wooden boat or oars, may we recommend Rowable Classics – a wonderful website dedicated to the class of the past.


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