Saturday, February 25, 2017

Another Ontario Paddle Maker: David B of Red Hill Woods

Had the pleasure of meeting another custom paddle maker yesterday during a quick visit to the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show. Dave Borsellino of Red Hill Woods had a very eye-catching display of his paddles and other wood working items. Here are some of the samples from his website.

With the standard fare of commercial paddles being sold at various booths it was great to see a woodworker with a passion for custom designs. Apart from his paddle creations, Dave also makes wooden bows of various styles and woods, hand-made arrows made of sitka spruce and the accompanying leather craft as well. Most impressive!

For those in the Toronto area, the show continues until 5pm Sunday (February 26, 2017). If you can't make it and wish to learn more about Red Hill Woods, here is the link to their contact form.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

1860s Woodland paddle update

Here's an update regarding a beautiful antique paddle dated to circa 1860...

circa 1860
74 x 6 1/2 in.
Estimate : $500 - $700
Realized : $1,600
Traces of red and grey paint.
Engraved and stained decoration of top of grip

Originally listed as sold on the Stair Auctioneers and Appraisers auction site (May 23, 2009 Past Auction catalogue), the paddle appears to have been resold though Antique Associates at West Townsend, Inc. Scrolling down the AAAWT's Native American Folk Art page the identical paddle, previously listed as "Woodlands Canoe (Ottawa?)", has now been identified as "Probably Maine, Likely Penobscot".

Woodlands Indian Canoe Paddle
Length 74-1/4"
Probably Maine, Likely Penobscot, Circa 1860
Chip, notch and scratch carved decoration, ridged; birch, thinning red stain - SOLD

This paddle has been also been featured in a dated exhibition catalog. Pleasing the spirits : a catalogue of a collection of American Indian art  by Ewing, Douglas C (1982) described this paddle on page 384, plate 473. Both the exhibition catalog and the previous Stair listing showcase a delicate etchings on one side of the grip face - a triangular etchings with a linear motif culminating in a round pattern encircling a diamond motif. Tiny round notches occur along the sides of the grip at approximately the half way point where the grip scallops down to the shaft.

The new listing has closeups of the grip but only showcase the upper portion...

Fortunately, the listing also includes the decoration on the other side, previously undocumented to the best of my knowledge. This pattern features some scrolls at the top with chip carved notches carved in a border pattern.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: National Maritime Museum Mi'kmaq paddle

The  National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London has an historic illustration in its collection that might be relevant to those with an interest in traditional paddle designs.

Dated to 1750, it is thought to be the earliest accurate representation of a Mi'kmaq birchbark canoe. Included in the scale drawing is a pole gripped paddle with recurved shoulders and a pointed tip.

Description Scale 1:19.2.
A plan showing the body plan, sheer lines, and longitudinal plan for an 18ft bark canoe brought back to England for Lord Anson by Captain Henry Barnsley of HMS America (1749), in November 1750. The plan includes the outline of one of the paddles.
Date made 1750
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Additional information on the backstory of this remarkable illustration is provided by an excerpt from Adney & Chappelle.
"The early English settlers of New England and New York were acquainted with the canoe forms of eastern Indians such as the Micmac, Malecite, Abnaki, and the Iroquois. Surviving records, however, show no detailed description of these canoes by an English writer and no illustration until about 1750. At this time a bark canoe, apparently Micmac, was brought from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to England and delivered to Lord Anson who had it placed in the Boat House of the Chatham Dockyard. There it was measured and a scale drawing was made by Admiralty draftsmen; the drawing is now in the Admiralty Collection of Draughts, in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. A redrawing of this plan appears opposite. It probably represents a war canoe, since a narrow, sharp-ended canoe is shown. The bottom, neither flat nor fully round, is a rounded V-shape; this may indicate a canoe intended for coastal waters. Other drawings, of a later date, showing crude plans of canoes, exist in Europe but none yet found appear as carefully drawn as the Admiralty plan, a scale drawing, which seems to be both the earliest and the most accurate 18th-century representation of a tribal type of American Indian bark canoe."
Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America, p12 

Adney documented that Mi'kmaq and other Wabanaki canoes were well known for their elaborate ornamentation of winter bark. Shame that that the original Admiralty draftsmen didn't document if any such decoration existed on the canoe or the paddle, but that's not surprising since their obvious purpose would've been documented the lines of the hull.

For anyone interested in recreating this unique paddle shape, offsets for this paddle design can be found in Graham Warren's 100 Canoe Paddle Designs book.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Next Major Canoe Gear Project: Convertible Wall / Baker Tent - Part 2

The Wall tent project has come along nicely (see part 1).  After attaching the poly tarp panels to the canvas roof some time was spent developing the internal frame.

The key to any wall tent frame are the steel angle joints that help support the poles at the right angles for the canvas structure to be relatively tight and taut. After contacting some different wall tent companies, I was told that because of the unique dimensions of of my tent, the standard joints for most wall tents would not work. Most are based on a 120 degree at the peak and my tent would need a different angle. The cost of customized production and shipping were just going to be too high.

A much cheaper (but lower quality) option was found on - a 3 way pipe fitting which I figured could be rigged for this project. It had the extra bonus of being adjustable in case my angle calculations were wrong.

32mm (1 1/4")  ID Adjustable Angle 3 Way Pipe Clamp Fitting

The fitting adjusts with a 6mm Hex key wrench and clamps down on a 1-1/4" diameter pipe. Turns out that most closet poles are roughly this diameter so it would work. Robin L used a pine closet poles of various lengths for his internal frame the longest of which is 6 feet. These can fit  neatly into the bottom of a canoe, but I wanted to make my version more compact so settled on using maximum 3 foot long pieces that could be easily stored and handled on a portage.

After some experimentation with scrap materials at home, I ended up using a combination of metal closet rods and  wooden dowels to make the free standing frame. They would be cut into a variety of lengths (between 1 to 3ft) to fit the requirements, but I liked the system because the solid dowels can nest into the hollow metal poles for easier storage.

When laid out on the work table, it looks like a disasterous overload of poles...

But after nesting, the poles are much more contained and manageable.

Poles nested and collected for storage

To pack them for a relatively easy carry, I ended up using another piece of heavy duty fire and water resistant treated tarp. The original, dark brown 6x8  tarp was on a super cheap closeout sale (cheaper than ordering fabric) and it was cut up to make a pack (another background project). I used the remnant piece (42" x 66" ) by laying the poles in the centre, folding in the sides and rolling to form a simple bundle.

For now it is secured with paracord but I might get fancy and make a leather roll carrier with straps and such. The good thing about this system, is that when the brown tarp is unrolled it is the perfect width (3-1/2) feet and sufficient length to be a groundcloth for half the tent so the material is not dead weight but multipurpose.

It also turns out that the adjustable angle clamps for the frame do wiggle a bit even when tightened to the max. But this was solved with some 4" L shaped metal  braces (bent in a vice to match the necessary angles) and some velcro straps and hose clamps I had on hand. The whole setup looks very amateurish but it is quite sturdy and barely moves. Here is the completed tent frame over the work station...

Wall Tent internal frame 

As mentioned earlier, the angle connectors can be adjusted.  This allows one side of the roof to be lifted up to serve as a 6' high canopy converting the wall tent into campfire tent mode. In a way, the cheapness of the angle joint clamps kind of worked here. All I do is remove the velcro straps supporting the homemade brace on the centre ridge and extend the out the poles that are nested inside the two side legs of the tent. The structure then morphs into this...

Baker / Campfire Tent frame setup

As a tent run, the completed shelter was thrown onto the frame and it fits nice and tightly. All my measuring and remeasuring seems to have worked. Here you can see the front side of the tent with the poly panel on the left and the removable canvas door on the right. I've attached this door using heavy duty snaps set into a 3" flap along the top edges. The doors also close with snaps but not visible is how the poly material extends 6" past the canvas edge on the interior of the tent to form an overlap.

Here's a view from the other side which shows the poly back wall and canvas front wall with a bit of the internal sod cloths folded in. When the pole legs are placed on the turned in sod flaps there is considerable tension and minimal sag with the canvas roof.  The remaining door hasn't been attached yet.

With the tent still on the frame, the side was brought up to form the canopy. It would be much less awkward if two people did this at both ends simultaneously, but I managed doing this alone. For the photo below, the canvas door was removed and the 3 foot canvas side wall rolled up and secured to a crossbar of the frame. In this mode, the canopy is 7foot wide by 4.5 feet deep.

With the pool table / ping pong table taking up so much internal space, I couldn't really get any clear shots of the interior. Also being in the basement means the tent can't be staked down. Once the ground thaws out in the backyard, it'll be setup there with a few lines from the side grommets which should tighten up the structure even more.

Still of few details to be worked out, but I also plan to take it to a nearby park so it can setup using a ridge line between some trees. If successful, this external ridge setup will require six, 3ft poles to support the sides when in wall tent mode. Those same poles can be reused to form the 6 foot canopy poles when in Baker Tent setup so carrying all the poles for the full frame won't be necessary

More pics and details in another post.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Woodland Themed Northwest Coast Paddle

Blog contributor Thomas P has submitted pictures of an antique that resembles Northwest Coast paddles in design. It is a relatively short one at just 52 inches long.

The paddle features a curious notched grip. Difficult to see how this would be practical so it might have been some type of artistic flair from the paddle maker.

The two sides of the blade feature woodland-themed artwork. One side is decorated with an etching a bull moose head...

...the other features a deer climbing over a fallen log.

Many thanks for the submission. If you missed it the first time it was posted, Thomas provided photos for another unique paddle -  a late 1800s Penobscot Paddle decorated with memories of an Allegash River trip. Read that by clicking HERE.

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