Saturday, February 27, 2010

Outdoor Adventure Show Paddles

Had a chance last night to check out the Toronto version of the Outdoor Adventure Show. While not exclusively a paddling expo, there were plenty of canoe related booths interspersed amongst the camping shops, travel booths, and other sections. Unfortunately forgot the camera so no pics for you, but hopefully the links below will provide some nice internet browsing & distraction.

Commercial brands such as the new Badger Paddles were well displayed, especially their funky water colour stained paddles. Canadian Outdoor Equipment had a selection of Lolk paddles for viewing. First time I got a chance to check out these paddles since the company has no internet presence and few distributors but a nice reputation for quality. Great stuff, but without taking away from either company, I personally found the pear grips to be too small and standardized for my enjoyment.

Also on display were the new 2010 Canvas Woods Packs for sale at the steep price of $235 CDN. Better quality than some of the others I've seen recently, but I'm still glad I ended up salvaging/renewing my pack for around $50 for the pack and leather components.

What really caught my eye was a noticeable interest in paddle making as there were 3 different booths with handmade paddles were being carved at the show. After finally meeting Mike, a fellow Toronto canoeing blogger, we had a nice chat about paddles designs over at the booth of Sticks & Stones Wilderness School. The booth was being manned by founder Skeet Sutherland who was working on a sweet looking paddle with a modified grip. Mike mentioned the style was very much like the design of W. Bruce Smith who seems to be another local paddle maker with some beautiful designs.

The Canadian Canoe Museum had their fantastic booth with a shaving horse setup and some paddle blanks being worked on. Had a chance to talk to Workshop coordinator Beth Stanley about pack baskets and Curator Jeremy Ward about his fantastic 36 foot bark canoe featured in the Ray Mears Northern Wilderness series. Seeing this behemoth being poled upstream was a real highlight of the show. Posted the YouTube clip about it below (footage at around 1:20 mark).

If anyone in the GTA is interested in attending, the show runs until tomorrow Sunday, February 28, 2010, from 10am - 5pm.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Paddle Map Artwork

Here's an interesting bit of historically significant paddle art. The David Drummond designed book cover of The Woman Who Mapped Labrador which details the amazing canoe journey of Mina Hubbard. Details of her route were superimposed onto the paddle for the cover art. If I ever complete an epic wilderness journey one day, this might be a great way to commemorate the trip.

Hubbard's sole motivation was to complete the journey begun by her Husband, Leonidas, who died on the original expedition. She blamed his death on the ineptitude of his traveling companion, Dillon Wallace and decided to avenge her husband a few years later by completing the journey in his stead with no outdoor experience to her credit. Not to be outdone by a city woman, Wallace also set out to complete the journey and a competition of honor ensued. Wallace seemed to have an aversion to using local knowledge and help, but Hubbard did not reject the concept. By relying on Naskapi and Innu guides she completed the journey first.

Dillon Wallace, 15 July 1903

The Virtual Museum of Canada has an online exhibit of photos regarding the first Hubbard expedition and the subsequent one by Wallace which has some great photos of the group with their expedition paddles and other gear. Note the length the paddle which might've helped with poling in the shallow, rocky waters, but I can't picture this being anything but cumbersome when paddling except in the deepest of waters.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Antique Birdseye Maple Paddle

Another antique paddle from Gould Auctions. This one is a slender birdseye maple paddle with a beautiful aged patina and nice elongated guide style grip.

A SUPERB and "BUSY" Birdseye Maple Canoe Paddle in an untouched and original surface. Its honey colored patina is superb as well. Found recently in a home on Lake Cobbosseecontee, Maine. Measures 66" tall.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Maple Northwoods with Rippled Grip -Part 1

Another blank that had been lying around for a while is a Northwoods style paddle made from soft maple stock. While I've never been a fan of beavertail-shaped blades for solo paddling, I wanted to try and make one from the famous plans by Garrett and Alexandra Conover. An online reprint of the Rick Water's article outlining the paddle's construction is found here and includes a reduced picture of their plans.

I was able to find a copy of Wooden Boat Magazine (Issue #67, 1985) at the Toronto Reference Library with an enlarged image image of the plans and used this for the general dimensions of the blade. In this case, as the paddle was meant for me as a solo blade, I ended up replicating the lower design, a smaller "Bow Paddle" with shorter length and smaller blade area.

Blank drawn out with extra chalkline piece

To squeeze every last usage from the maple stock, the paddle was drawn offset from the centre of the board and a chalkline run down the other side where a 1 1/4" piece could be salvaged for making a laminated shaft down the road (it has since been glued up to make another paddle blank).

As I had already tried the basic northwoods grip on a Walnut Passamaquoddy paddle back in '08 and wanted something different. In the end, I settled on the Scalloped Grip outline in Graham Warren's book and similar to the one outline in his recent YouTube video.

Instead of simply scooping out a flattened palm area, however, I envisioned horizontal "speedbumps" across the face of the grip delineating each gripping station. This was crudely sketched down the side of the grip and then I started shaping by feel using various rasps. These shots were taken late last fall (late October) after the area had cleared out of tourists.

Rough idea; Rough carving

Carving out by the lake late last fall

Still some more carving of the blade and grip area needed but all in all, this one is shaping up to be an interesting (to me anyway) grip design. Maple is of course, quite a heavy, dense wood so the blade will be thinned considerably to reduce the weight. This nearly completed paddle is yet another one back in the city waiting for some more free time to finalize.

March 16, 2010 Update: Part 2 has been posted HERE

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Antique Maine Guide Paddle

Came across this EBay ad (just 8 hrs left in the auction) for an antique Maine Guide style paddle with the following description...

Recently found here in Maine. A very old, entirely handmade and hand decorated, 66"long Maine canoe paddle. Initialed F.L.R. on one side of top of grip and Nokomis Bangor on reverse, this is one of the nicer antique paddles thatI've found in a long time. One side of the paddle blade is decorated with a polychromed Indian Chief & 2 crossed paddles while the other side is free of decoration. Made from what appears to be a soft maple, this measures 66"long and 5.5"wide at the middle of the blade. Alligatored varnish finish throughout except where varnish is worn down to the wood. 3" split at bottom of blade.

Seller: mctiques

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Priorities

This cute Bubble Street comic seemed appropriate for the lovey dovey day that is Valentine's. The wife didn't get a chuckle out of this one as much as I did...go figure.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympic Opening Ceremonies Squamish Paddle

Last night, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games opened in Vancouver. The ceremonies were filled with a rich array of various aspects of Canada's diverse cultural identity. A great post and photo overview of the whole spectacle is found over WoodnCanvas' great blog.

Since many of the events are hosted on lands belonging to various First Nations groups, there was a significant aboriginal presence at the games. In particular the Four Host First Nations welcomed the audience in their own tongue. Being the paddle addict I've become, I was immediately drawn to the image of a member of the Squamish Nation holding a decorated cedar paddle. Looks to be a classic West Coast design with pointed tip and flared blade. While most paddles of this type are usually richly carved with native pictographs, this simple, contrasting red and black painted design would certainly be more visible from a distance.

Pics Via:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tom Thomson Canoe & Paddle Sculpture

In front of the historic town hall in downtown Huntsville is a statue of legendary Canadian artist, Tom Thomson whose raw impressionist style marked the beginning a new era in Canadian wilderness art. His suspicious death in 1917 while paddling on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park served to increase his fame and elevated him to a sort of legendary status. A great website detailing all the mystery can be found here.

The statue was sculpted and cast by local a artist, Brenda Wainman-Goulet. It features Thomson in his characteristic wool cap painting a sketch while sitting on a tree stump. Next to him rests an overturned 12 foot canoe and a paddle that eerily looks like the Birch Tripper made in '08. The canoe was sculpted in wax, cut into sections, cast and reassembled in bronze. The total weight of the bronze canoe is 900 lbs (portage that!) and is apparently the first bronze canoe of its kind in Canada.

For Thomson enthusiasts, there's a bit of a lengend regarding his canoe. Historical sources say it was a Chestnut brand purchased in 1915 although I've yet to read anything about the specific model - so I'm not sure if he really used a tiny 12 footer. According to this page, two different 12 foot models called the Teddy and Trapper were made between the years of 1904-1921 so I suppose it is possible.

Another inquisitive canoe enthusiast has done more research on the topic of Thomson's supposed canoe model by posting on the WCHA forums. His wonderfully detailed conclusions can be on his blog, Reflections On The Outdoors Naturally.

The unique thing Thomson's canoe was that he painted it his own unique shade that has been described in a variety of sources as "grey", "dove-grey" or "greenish-gray". Obviously no colour photos exist, but when his canoe was found floating upside down in the lake, people immediately knew it was Thomson's boat. People still talk about a grey coloured "ghost canoe" plowing the early morning mist on Canoe Lake.

The other mystery has to do with his paddles. Apparently when found, one of his paddles was lashed into the canoe for portaging while the other one (a suspected murder weapon) was never found, despite the obvious fact that that lake had been thoroughly searched by Algonquin Park guides and paddles, of course, float. Out of interest's sake, I've tried to find any pictures that show Thomson with a clear image of his paddle and the shot below is the only one I've been able to source.

Though difficul to make out, Thomson seems to have a large tripper style paddle (with a logo?) which seems to corroborate the design of the statue. In any event, the mystery and legend continues.

For those interested, the dedication on the canoe's overturned hull reads:
To the Memory of Tom Thomson 1877 – 1917
An artist, woodsman, guide and dreamer, whose brilliant vision defined the Canadian wilderness and captured the majesty and many colourful moods of Algonquin Park.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Painted Eastern Woodlands Paddle

From the Candian Museum of Civilization, an Eastern Woodlands paddle with two toned painted decoration on the blade. This "yin/yang" style of dark and light decoration has a similar theme to the tip decoration on the famous McCord Museum paddle

Artifact Number: III-X-320
Inscription: incised on one side of blade "A. HATT"
Begin Date 1845/01/01
End Date 1855/12/31
Measurements Length 125.0 cm, Width 9.0 cm, Depth 2.7 cm
Other Cultural Affiliation Eastern Woodlands

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Life Magazine - Bushpaddle in 1 hr

Here are some pics from a brief article in the Dec 1, 1941 issue of LIFE magazine detailing an Algonquin guide named Tuwassi carving a bush paddle from a birch log in one hour. Amazing skills. One day I hope to be this proficient with the axe and crooked knife.

Monday, February 1, 2010

YouTube Video: Song of the Spokeshave

Kathryn Klos over at the Wooden Canoe Heritage Forums posted a link of a YouTube video by none other than Graham Warren, author of the main textbook of modern paddlemaking. The 6 1/2 minute video entitled "Song of the Spokeshave" shows Warren carving out a maple paddle with an Algonquin blade and a scalloped grip. Perhaps the youtube release is a preview of his Paddlemaking DVD I blogged about earlier

Great footage with a super sharp spokeshave tool which makes his carving seem effortless. I was quite surprised to see the initial thickness of the blank being cut out with the bandsaw. Seems to be 2 inches (or more) thick! To save time and effort, the blade was thinned with an electric planer before finishing touches (the background music certainly masks the horrific noise of this power tool).

I especially like the final shots of the scalloped grip, a design I tried out on my first paddle at the Canadian Canoe Museum. At the time, I didn't know exactly how to carve out the shape so just kept working on it until it felt comfortable. All in all, a great little video feature of carving out a paddle.

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