Friday, April 4, 2008

Choosing a Canoe Design

Before more work could proceed on my model canoe, a decision was needed regarding the ultimate design. For inspiration, I checked out many birchbark canoe sites. An amazing builder is Ferdy Goode out of Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin. Pics on his blog include the beauty on the right which I've since posted as my wallpaper for inspiration. In addition, I've checkout at Chuck Harris' many works on his site, as well as, Judy Kavanagh's build on her fantastic page on everything bark canoe related. She built her own 11 footer on her townhouse patio back in 1999 documented here...a definite inspiration for an urbanite like myself.

I've also been intensely reading Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America and the decision has been nerve racking. So many styles and models to choose from!

The first consideration was that I'm a newbie at this, so simple was the key. That ruled out the Maliseet & Mi'kmaq designs which involve tumblehomed sides and more elaborate though cumbersome work on stitching. I've always been attracted to more modest sheerline and canoes with lower stem ends so that meant avoiding Old Algonquin / Fur Trade styles. Ultimately I wanted this experience to be a scale replica of a full scale bark canoe that I would abitiously make as one of my life goals. So I psycho-analyzed my own paddling preferences.

Doing most paddling solo, I wanted a smaller boat. For whatever reason, most modern solo canoes are around 14 feet, but Adney cites many tribes that used shorter hunting canoes within the 12ft range. This appealed to me because a 3 ft model could be built nicely at ¼ scale with easier calculations and measurements.

With these ideas in mind, I settled on a Tetes de Boule (Attikamek) Hunting canoe (figure 104 in Adney's book) that was listed as 11'8" long with a narrow width of 29" and a 12 ½" depth. Sounds like a perfect solo boat for me.

Tetes de Boule (Attikamek Plan)

These canoes, however, tended to have significant rocker which I personally don't want in a boat intended for flatwater (no way I'd take it down a rocky river run anyway). So as a bit of modification, I intend to minimize the high ends and mimic the stems and sheerline found on another style, a St. Francis Abnaki (Figure 82 in Adney) basically the style on Ferdy Goode's canoe pic. Even though the Abnaki model is a 14 footer and too wide for my liking, the stem profile is similar enough to the Attikamek so as not to upset the measurements while seeming more simple to bind.

St. Francis Abnaki Plan

After deciding on these two plans, I've followed the advice of Ted Behne, a well known model canoe builder who's written some tips on the Bark Canoe store site. One of these was making an enlarged ¼ scale copy at a printshop. Basically, Adney's illustrations are set at 1ft per ½". By blowing up the image 600%, I obtained a large poster size scaled at 1ft per 3". Measurements from these enlarged "blueprints" could then be directly and applied to my quarter scale model, without having to do any additional calculations...very handy. Total cost was $8 at Kinko's.

So now the building can commence!

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