Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Another Commission - Birch Tripper - Part 1

A neighbour in the building caught me loading some paddles into the car and inquired about the hobby. Turns out she needed a gift for a paddling friend and another commission came my way. In this particular case, she snuck into her friend's place while she was out of town, grabbed her paddle, and asked me to replicate it.

From the shape of the paddle, it looked to be similar to a Grey Owl Tripper - 58" long with a 27" blade and a 6-1/4" width. This one had a Black Feather branding on the blade face, but I couldn't find a Black Feather paddle company on the net. Instead, I'm assuming it is the logo of Black Feather Adventure Company, a wilderness outfitter based out of my hometown of Toronto. I almost signed up for their Arctic Canoe excursion down the Soper River last summer, but opted for Arctic Watch instead.

What intially struck me about the paddle's design was that the wide & thick blade surface coupled with a thin 1" shaft and a small pear grip meant that the paddle was blade heavy and not balanced at the throat. Replicating the design exactly would mean that this balance flaw would also be copied. At any rate, you could tell the paddle is a favourite given the amount of wear on the handle and the blade. A closeup revealed not only wearing of the varnish layer but complete rot and a few splits in the tip. One more season of heavy tripping and this paddle would be a goner anyway.

Black Feather Logo; Worn out Tip; Grip damage

I suggested using Yellow Birch rather than cherry as a bit of change, but also because the lighter coloured wood would lend itself better to some pyrography work. Cherry is a decent hardwood but mostly imported from the Carolinean forest zone in the United States. Yellow birch is more prevalent in our area and is an undervalued wood for paddlemaking. Once the centerlines of the board and paddle were determined, it was easy enough to trace around the pattern.

Paddle next to Yellow Birch stock; Tracing out the paddle

I brought the cut out blank up to the cottage for my short holiday up there and made use of the time carving out the paddle on a picnic table under my favourite cedar tree by the lake. Over the course of a few days, the paddle began to take shape. To keep me going, I brought out a portable burner and made some Turkish Coffee to enjoy by the lakeside. My power-boat and jetski loving neighbours were wondering why I was working on yet another paddle...I guess only other canoeists would understand.

Carving by the lakeside

It has since been wetted & sanded down and now I'm just waiting on my neighbour's decision on the decoration. She's an avid birdwatcher as well so is spending some time coming up with a choice for her friend. I'll post again when the paddle's been burned and varnished.

UPDATE - Aug 12, 08: Paddle has been completed - read Part 2

1 comment:

anonymoose said...

yup -- blackfeather -- grey owl paddles with trailhead branding -- i have their cherry beavertail circa 1988 -- cheers -- ian

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