Howard Croker: Wooden Oarmaker

Howard Croker with his wife Kaye and son Darren, in March 2019, at a rowing event at Sydney International Regatta Cenre (SIRC) in Penrith. Photo: Louis Petrin.

21 March 2022

By Göran R Buckhorn

In 2020, the splendid book The Oarsmen (2019) by the Australian author and filmmaker Scott Patterson was shortlisted for that year’s Prime Minister’s Literary Awards in the category Australian History.

The book tells the story of the Australian servicemen who, after the First World War, rowed for the coveted King’s Cup at the 1919 Royal Henley Peace Regatta. And, of course, HTBS wrote about Patterson who had been nominated for this distinguished literary prize.

Being a filmmaker, Patterson also started working on turning his book into a feature film with the same title. It promises to be an amazing documentary of the men who rowed into the Great War at Gallipoli and rowed into peace at Henley.

This very ambitious project by Patterson, who has also involved Australian rowing historian Andrew Guerin, is still a work in progress. If you are interested in helping fund the film and would like to know more about the project, please take a look here.

While working on the documentary The Oarsmen, Scott Patterson also shot a short film about master oarmaker Howard Croker, who made the oars to be featured in the film. Patterson sent HTBS an email the other day asking if we would be interested in showing his 11-minute Howard Croker film, or, as he put it, “I thought the HTBS community would be interested seeing Howard do his stuff…. From flitch to oar.”

Yes, HTBS was certainly interested in running Patterson’s fascinating film The Oarsman about Croker and his oar-making skills.

Scott Patterson with his book The Oarsmen.

Remember, the oarsmen racing at the 1919 Peace Regatta were rowing in wooden boats using wooden oars, which meant that Croker had to get spruce to make the oars. When did you last see so-called pencil oars being made?


THE OARSMAN from Slamcam Films on Vimeo.

One comment

  1. Really impressed with Mr Crokers use of the draw knife. A wonderful tool to remove a lot of wood quickly but so easy to cause irreversible damage in seconds. Many years ago I asked the foreman at Collar Oars in Oxford where I could purchase the wooden planes used to shape the inside of the blade cheeks. These are convex in both planes (pun not intended!). Turned out that all the local oar makers had to make their own from a standard flat bottomed plane as part of their apprenticeship. This involved them both shaping the wooden plane block and grinding the blade to the required shape. A set of the wooden oar makers tools are now part of the Oxfordshire Counties museum exhibits.

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