One of the ongoing projects at the West Coast Fencing Archive is the restoration of fencing posters.  This was started through the great work of John McDougall, who took it upon himself to restore a number of posters that were in his hands or with Charlie Selberg.

One usually finds fencing posters at fencing clubs, not surprisingly.  However, this tends to make life pretty hard for the poster.  Printed quickly – and usually as inexpensively as possible – the typical poster for a competition is run off with little thought for the long-term well being of this piece of the advertising pie.  Couple that with a lifetime of hanging in a fencing club.  Usually pinned up on the wall with no covering or protection and in harms way from every stray foil, epee and sabre that rides a little too far from the edge of the strip during a dramatic parry or a looping attack.

“Thwack!”  “Riiiiiiip!”  (Accurately transcribed sounds – eventually – from most any fencing club with posters.)

So, here’s the thing.  As the local archivist for fencing, I have been working with a number of clubs on various projects.  Two such projects are ongoing.  One is helping Kathy Krusen of Halberstadt ( San Francisco scan, digitally repair and re-print the posters that have taken a beating over the years.  Kathy put me onto the scent of this project awhile back, and I’ve been trying to wrap my head around best process for doing a great job for her.  I built a large-scale vacuum table that would use suction to hold a poster down without tape or other potentially damaging material, so that a raw photograph could be taken with a high-resolution camera.  Then, into Photoshop and remove the marks of foil points and sabre cuts, and re-print for a re-hanging.

Only…. I wasn’t happy with the results I was getting with my vacuum table.  It’s big at 4’x8’, but I wasn’t getting the unwrinkled results I was imagining, and that was kinda the point.  I have a large format flatbed scanner for photos and small posters (11×17) and a negative scanner that does slides and prints equally well.  But getting a true scanned image for an oversized poster seemed outside my price range.  The big roll scanners run anywhere from $3,000 to $7,500 depending on features, and most run on PC’s and I’m a dyed in the wool Mac dude.

To the rescue, FedEx!  Turns out that most of the Office Print/Ship Centers come equipped with a roll scanner that will take up to 36” wide, any length, and they can output a .tiff image.  Bingo!  In business!  And the price is really reasonable. Is poster scanning big business?  Who else uses this machine?  Not that I care – it’s right down the street from my new house!

That leads back to the second project I’m working on, which is a comprehensive sorting, scanning and history project for The Fencing Center in San Jose (  They also had a bunch of posters that need repair work.  A few of them are mounted on foam core, so they won’t go through the scanner – but they also wouldn’t have worked with the vacuum table, so they’ll need their own process.  But the others are going to provide my test bed for perfecting my process – and that will lead me back to Kathy at Halberstadt.  (I haven’t forgotten, Kathy!)  Using one of John’s restorations, here is an example of what’s happening:



The Fencing Center’s original poster from the 1986 World Championships.


sofia wce24x36

John McDougall’s restoration.

So, you can see, with a little effort, we can get a great result.  Here is a small sample of some of The Fencing Center’s posters that we’re working on:



1972 Junior World Championships, Madrid, Spain



1978, Hamburg, (West) Germany



1983, Heidenheim, (West) Germany



1982, US National Championships, (Eastern) USA

Ok, so maybe you can’t see the foil point holes quite as easily in these snapshots.  Take my word for it, they need some re-work.  I’ll show off the results when we get through them.

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