Friday, February 20, 2015

Canotrouge's Sitka Spruce Paddles

I recently got in touch with a fellow paddle maker over on the forums who goes by the handle Canotrouge.

Originally from Quebec, he's now living the life most of us outdoor lovers can only dream of, way up in Canada's beautiful Yukon Territory. Here's a little writeup I asked him to provide about his paddle creations:
"I use mainly sitka spruce, because it is light, stiff and somewhat easy to get up here and at a fair price. I did a few out of cherry and walnuts, ash and a mixed of all of them, I like them also, but they are so much heavier.
I get my inspiration from the eastern Canadian first nations, but with my own touch, I'm not into accurate reproduction of let say a Maliseet or Passamaquoddy or Cree, but I use some of their characteristics to create my paddles.  
All my paddles have a reinforced tip of hard wood, mainly white ash and several coats of spar varnish (at least on the blade) after I put several coats of boiled linseed oil and or Tung oil. I some time use milk paint or aniline dye to colour the blade or other parts of the paddle."  

Here are just a few photo samples of his lovely work. More closeups can be found on his  Pinterest page...

Also very nice is the leather strap hanger found on some his paddles. It is reminiscent of the leather paddle harness sold by Norquay Canoe Co (see post here). I've recently made similar hangers from leather scraps and will post pics soon, but in retrospect, I like Canotrouge's elegant design more. 

Canotrouge's talents are not just limited to paddles. For more of artistry and woodwork, be sure to check out the facebook page for his workshop - Au Nord du Nord Woodwork.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tobique Canoe Camp

The Toronto Reference Library has a huge collection of rare books in their archived stacks. While waiting around for some medical appointments, I quickly popped in and checked out a hard to find canoeing book now out of copyright - Camping and canoeing : what to take, how to travel, how to cook, where to go by James Edmund Jones (1903). It was actually published here in Toronto and features some grainy photos of the author's style of canoe tripping.

A particularly engaging photo is one of a canoe shelter camp on the banks of the Tobique River in New Brunswick. Poles rigged up with a tarp over the canoe hull provide a minimalist shelter with logs piled up in front for a reflector fire. The guide poses with his paddle on the right.

Up the Tobique Canoe Camp

For similar historic pics of these style of camps, check out the previous post on Canoe Camp Shelters.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rod & Gun - Paddle Clothsline Camp

The  July 1910 edition of Rod and Gun in Canada (Vol. 12 No. 2) features a descriptive article entitled "Canoeing on Lake Superior" by Frederic Goodson Higbee. Along with lovely images of the landscape, page 167 features a panoramic photo of the author's camp. It features a comfortable looking Baker / Campfire tent rigged up by the shore.

What caught my attention was the lengthy clothesline stretched out in the background set up so that it would catch the breezes by the shore. Though the image is grainy, you can see one end of the line anchored to the canoe with a paddle used as an additional height support. Looks like another creative way to use a paddle while in camp.

Paddle Clothesline support - closeup

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

DIY Bucksaw Camping Chair

One of the winter projects I've been working on is a collapsible camp chair for canoe tripping. I used my homemade stool / convertible camera tripod last season, but it would be nice to have something with a backrest. A lot of folks in the paddling community have been raving about the Helinox Chair One, but spending over $100 for camp chair felt excessive given our current needs for a seemingly endless diaper supply.

After stumbling on Tony Miller's Pinterest page "Canoe Projects", I came across the source of inspiration...the Knudsen Bucksaw Chair!

Designed by Dutch engineer Ole Gierløv Knudsen in 1962, it and an accompanying cot were created for a camping trip with his son. The original chairs from the 60s are apparently expensive collector's items today and are being re-made for the modern market, though mostly as indoor furniture for the urban chic crowd.

The chair is held together by the tension of the windlass cord and fabric. The wood components are custom carved and the whole thing collapses into a stuff sac.

For a while I toyed with the idea of recreating the exact chair, using scrap canvas to sew the fabric and some Sassafras for the wood components. But with less free time available lately, I simplified the idea with prefabricated scraps at home. All of the wood components were leftovers originally purchased at Home Depot, so they are pretty accessible. Here is what I came up with. Unofficially, it's called the Basmati Rice Burlap Bucksaw Chair.

Little different that the original inspiration in that there are two windlass cords for the front and rear legs with a fabric back and wooden slats for a seat. But the concept of using tension similar to a bucksaw is the same.

Here are the components laid out from top to bottom:

  • Backrest fabric is a 17" w x 26" l burlap bag of rice - an old pillow case could work too.
  • seat slats are 3 loose pieces of 1/4" x 2.5" w x 24" l poplar panels
  • 2 seat legs made from a remnant of 1x2x8 of maple (actual dimensions are 3/4" x 1.5"w x 22" l)
  • 2 backrest legs made from the same maple stock ( 3/4" x 1.5"w x 30" l)
  • 2,  3/4" poplar dowels for the cross braces (long one = 13.5"; short one is 11-7/8ths")
  • some cordage and 1/4 dowel sticks
I also used a little wood glue and 6 screws for the braces on the backrest legs, as well as a 3/4" spade bit to drill out round notches for the dowel cross braces to fit in.

Unlike the original Knudsen Bucksaw chair which has the seat legs nestled into a carved space on the exterior of the backrest frame, I ended simply attaching 2 cut block of maple onto each long using some glue and screws. Took some trial and error, but eventually settled on on placing these blocks so that the space created between would be 7" from the leg bottom.

Also, I ended deviating from the Knudsen design by purposely flipping the legs so that these notches facing inward rather than outward. The following sequence of pics might explain this better.

Here is the 1st step. Stick the long legs into the burlap sack with the "blocks" facing inward and tension with the cross piece and cord.

Then I place the other short legs into the support blocks and tension with the second dowel and cord. The tension created by the inner structure has a sort of friction lock at this stage. This is the view of the back of the chair...

Flip up and adjust how far back you want the chair to lean. This is accomplished by slightly squeezing the shorter seat legs towards each other near the block supports. The legs can then slide through the blocks and when you let go, they snap outwards again for an instant friction lock.

I had originally thought of using fabric for the seat again, but found that because of the width of the burlap back rest, something would need to be customized. I later got the inspiration from my 6 year old son who was playing with the 1/4" poplar boards building a sort of racetrack. I snagged 3 of his boards and found that they could easily rest, edge on edge on the projecting maple seat legs and sure enough work as a comfortable enough seat.

The take down process is quite fast and with the components stacked neatly and secured with the cordage it forms a nice bundle.

Here it is wrapped in the burlap sack. At 32" long, it just makes the cut for fitting in my Woods canvas pack. I also have an unused, narrow tent stuff sack that would be big enough to carry the whole thing and protect it from the elements if it needed to be lashed to the exterior. Or it could be lashed under the tumpline on the wanigan. Final weight is 4.8lbs. Like I mentioned before, it'll never be as compact and lightweight as the 2 lb Helinox chair, but I can live with weight difference.

Of course this is still in the raw stage. The wood hasn't been treated and I could tweak it a bit more but for now it is a functional chair. During one of our more balmy (-1C), depressingly snowless January days here in Toronto, I took it out to the backyard for a little test. Here is the backyard campsite complete with firebowl, kerosene lamp and a still uncompleted paddle thrown in for good measure.

Since I also tend to carry my Stewart River waxed canvas kneeling pads while paddling, I could theoretically use on of them as extra padding for ultimate camp cushioning.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ray Mears Bushcraft Paddle Video

Ontario Tourism is running a contest this summer involving a canoe package worth $10 000. The winner will get an all-expenses paid trip to Wabakimi Provinicial Park and paddle with some outdoor legends. The host guides are Ray Mears and Becky Mason. Here are some of the details from the official contest page

  • Round-trip airfare from anywhere in Canada or continental United States to Thunder Bay, Ontario where the adventure begins and ends
  • An 8-day fully outfitted trip including:
  • Floatplane into Wabakimi Provincial Park for 5 days of guided wilderness camping, paddling, bushcraft and wildlife observation with Ray Mears and his team
  • One night at Wabakimi Wilderness Eco-Lodge
  • Tour of Fort William Historical Park
  • All meals
  • Plus $2,000 in outdoor gear from SAIL

There is a promotional video making the rounds that shows brief footage of Mears making a bush paddle with an axe and crooked knife. Here is the screenshot at the 1:36 mark. Beauty!

In the summer of 2014, Ray visited Wabakimi for his own excursion. His blog post about the journey is filled with lovely text and photos. Here's one of Ray making a paddle on that trip:

Photo Courtesy: The Ray Mears & Woodlore Blog
Original Link

Over on the forums, a member began a thread about the minimal tools required to make an emergency paddle in the wilderness. Most respondents (myself included) mentioned the use of an a saw, axe and crooked knife as ideal, but the original poster correctly points out that few folks trip with an axe anymore and the crooked knife is even more rare. A few folks have come up with ideas for an emergency paddle including using duct tape and barrel lid. Creative!

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