Sunday, May 30, 2010

Poplar Diamond Passamaquoddy - Part 3

While up north for the recent holiday weekend, I managed to get in some paddle carving time to finalize the nearly complete c. 1849 Passamaquoddy replica begun back in January. Here's a shot by the lakeside on a bright, brisk day using the picnic table "workbench". The communal beach all groomed and loungers all set for the upcoming tourist season.

Carving by the lake

After wetting the grain and sanding it down, I brought the paddle back home to the city. Yellow Poplar certainly makes for a lightweight paddle - my official quality control tester had a easy time lifting it with one hand and running around the place with it.

Rigorous Quality Testing

The major item I struggled with in this design was balancing the the end it just ended up being too blade heavy. Kind of obvious I guess given the large shape and the relatively small handle. My feeling is that perhaps the original paddle documented by Adney would've been balanced, but only because the paddle was illustrated as being much longer than my replica (71.5" vs. my 58" version).

Adney's sketch - Diamond Bladed Passamaquoddy in middle

Had I digitally reduced the paddle to scale to fit my preferred paddle length, the blade size would've been unusually small. Still, in the future when replicating longer paddle designs to a my own functional paddle length, this will need to be considered if a throat-balanced paddle is the final goal.

In any event, it's ready for the decoration stage and I've decided to keep this one much more simple than the recent Northwoods paddle where I went overboard.

MAY 24, 2011 Update: Paddle finally completed...go to Part 4

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Varnishing the "Copper Tip"

An earlier post about Michael Weiser's paddle warping problem got me thinking about preventative maintenance on the thinned tip of the Maple Northwoods Paddle. While I'm quite diligent about maintaining my paddles with oil frequently, I thought that perhaps the delicate end grain of this paddle may need a bit more protection.

The paddle had been decorated with a fake burning of Copper Tip protector and figured it would be an interesting touch to add some glossy varnish to this decorative embellishment, both to make it look more "metallic" but also to seal the end grain more thoroughly.

After delicately brushing some thinned coats of spar varnish to the tip as well as to the design with a brush, I ended up with a nice glossy finish. Here are some shots which captured the difference in tone in the varnish tip versus the oiled blade...

Varnish & Shiny "Copper Tip"

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mark L's Exotic Wood Voyageur Paddle

Mark Lafontaine's blog recently had a post about his latest paddle creation, a 61.5 inch "modern voyageur" design made of exotic Lacewood (Grevillea robusta) and ash. I've stayed clear of using exotic hardwoods mostly because I've read they are hard on the handtools and don't plane very well without tearing. But after seeing the gorgeous lacewood grain on Mark's paddle, this inconvenience looks to be well worth the effort.

Mark's Lacewood & Ash Voyageur Design

Lacewood grain pattern

Laminated grip

More pics of Mark's efforts as well as a synopsis of things he learned with this project can be seen on the original full post here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Orien Blade Crooked Knife

A while back while working on my first crooked knife blade from an old file, I got discouraged with the speed of progress without power tools. In a moment of self-doubt about whether I could finish the project, I ended up ordering a crooked knife blade from Orien MacDonald after coming across his page on Etsy. I liked look of his blade, especially the fact that it was offset from the tang allowing for a greater and more comfortable angle for carving. Here is the blade he made for me with a traditional, bent tang.

New Crooked Knife Blade

When working out ideas of the handle, I had collected some pieces that were promising options. For this knife, I decided on the yellow birch handle (2nd from top) in the photo below:

Handle choices

It was shaped with some rasps and a spoon carving knife to hollow out the thumb rest area. I decided the decorate the birch with some basic woodburning patterns to mimic the chip-carving I've seen on various knives. Here's one angle of the completed knife handle.

Decorated Handle

The bottom was chiseled out to fit the tang and the blade secured with leather lace. Here's the finished knife below showing off the offset angle of the blade from the handle as well as the curving angle of the blade from the horizontal view.

Offset from handle's axis

View from the horizontal plane

Here's a comparison shot of the new "Orien Crooked Knife" and the homemade Olive Crooked Knife. The homemade blade is longer, thinner, and flat and I can see it working well when shaping canoe ribs and larger surfaces like a paddle blade. For all around carving though, the Orien Knife would look to be more versatile to carve out paddle grips, the shaft, spoons, bowls, and other bushcraft items.

The budding crooked knife collection

Monday, May 24, 2010

Holiday Weekend Efforts

Just returned from a glorious (albeit brief) holiday weekend from up north. I was able to get the cedar canvas canoe into the water again for some sweet evening paddling. Also got some time to tinker with a new crooked knife (pics coming in a post soon)

While in the area, I made arrangements to meet with the local chapter head of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association and drop off a donation for their annual fund-raising auction. I decided to donate my Laminated Kestrel Paddle. It was a simple design with an ottertail blade and flat, Passamaquoddy style handle.

The Kestrel paddle

I had received some compliments on the woodburning decoration, but never really used this paddle much. Laminated paddles can be great to use, but lately I've been leaning towards single piece paddles more both for aesthetics and figured this one might get sent to a good home and raise some funds for a nice association preserving the fine art of wooden canoes.

The auction will take place at their annual assembly, this year held in New Hampshire. I had a fun time at their 2008 Peterborough Assembly and posted lots of pics about the experience here.

2010 Assembly Info
Franklin Pierce University, Rindge, New Hampshire

Thursday, May 20, 2010

British Museum Maliseet Paddles

During a visit to Toronto's Reference Library, I requested an archived book entitled, Inventory of Micmac, Maliseet and Beothuk material culture in international collections : Great Britain by Ruth Holmes Whitehead (1985). The author mentions a few paddles on display in overseas museums, including a set in the British Museum, London. I was able to find a dark B & W photograph of the paddles in their online collection.

Inscribed paddle made of wood (maple)
Full Citation Link
© Trustees of the British Museum
(as per their online usage policy for educational purposes)

The two Maliseet paddle blades have decorative etchings but the photo contrast was less than ideal. Using some Photoshop adjustments with the Hue and Unsharpen Mask features, I changed the image a bit to add some colour and bring out the detail. Here's the new image below


The paddle decorations are inverted in the image, so by flipping the image around 180 degrees, the delicate etchings revealed themselves. Here is each paddle image along with Ruth Whitehead's descriptive detail.

Maliseet Paddle - AM1980 35.2
Dimensions = 135 cm x 13 cm (max)
"Canoe paddle, hand-carved, with incised designs on blade and shaft. Blade decorated with an image of a man with a leister in a canoe, night-fishing, with his woman in a peaked cap to paddle for him, and a birchbark torch to see by. Both peaked cap and canoe are in Maliseet style. A second design shows a woman with braided hair, a hip-length jacket with ribbon applique borders, leggings with elaborated selvedge edges, moccasins; she is standing, with a fish in her right hand and a knife in her left. The paddle handle has a border of lines and cross-hatch, surrounding a Scotch thistle above a salmon leister's head."

Maliseet Paddle - AM1980 35.1
Dimensions = 135 cm x 13 cm (max)
"Canoe paddle, hand-carved, with incised designs on blade and shaft. Blade decorated with two circles, one enclosing a realistic moose head, the other a caribou head. Near waist of blade is a design of a man wearing a toque, long coat, waistcoat, shirt, untied tie, fringed leggings to knee, short man's kilt, moccasins, with rifle in hand; labelled "BLACK BIRD". Blade signed "San Thomasis" (?); if accurate, this is corrupt French for "Jean Thomas", with the "sis" ending a dimunitive or endearment. The shaft is fairly plain; the handle is bordered with geometric motifs of scallops and triangles, with a cross-hatch fill. Handle centre is decorated with a magnificent salmon."

Whitehead's text had a hand-drawn sketch of the handle with its salmon etching. Here's a shot below:

Sketch of Grip & Carved Drip Ring

These fantastic images show that East Coast Native tribes did not just etch in geometric pattern designs.

Feb 2013 Update: See a full sized image of  Maliseet Paddle - AM1980 35.2 on this post HERE

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Split Incised Maliseet Paddle

I came across an antique Maliseet paddle on this page describing various aspects of Maliseet Art. The paddle has slender lines and an elongated beavertail blade with a distinct roll carved for a grip.

CMC Catalogue Number: III-E-80
Description: Paddle with realistic scratched design. One side of blade has designs including a beaver, moose head, canoe, hawk, and eagle in flight.

The photo doesn't have enough resolution to make out the incised decorations on the blade, but I was able to find another image with a closeup. The blade has split with age but many of the carved details are still visible.

Incised Decorated Blade

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Game - Paddle Ball!

Here's fun way to distract the kids when they need an outlet on a rainy day. My little one spontaneously grabbed the mini Maliseet paddle I had made for the bark canoe model back in '08 and began to whack an inflated dollar store beach ball around the apartment. Great safe fun... now I just have to get a league going for this new sport of Paddle Ball.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Historic Paddle Illustration - Paul Kane Paddles

Paul Kane (1810-1871) was an Irish-born Canadian painter whose artwork serves as an insightful ethnographic record into the lives of First Nations people of the period. In a few of his paintings and sketches, canoe paddles can be seen oriented into a cooking tripod for use over an open fire.

In the pencil sketch entitled Indian Encampment, Sault Ste. Marie below, a single paddle is lashed with some saplings to form the tripod structure.

Indian Encampment, Sault Ste. Marie (Southeastern Ojibway)
August 1845

A sketch entitled Eleven Studies of Indian Life, includes a set of three paddles (lower left) illustrating another tripod image.

Eleven Studies of Indian Life, Southeastern Ojibway
Paul Kane (1810-1871)
Pencil on paper
14 cm x 21.5 cm
August 1845

Paddle Tripod Closeup

It seems these sketches were used in a full colour painting entitled, Indian Encampment at Georgian Bay around 1850. The paddle tripod is clearly visible on the left side of the image.

Indian Encampment at Georgian Bay
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1995-215-1
ca. 1850

It seems the First Nations used their paddles in a very utilitarian manner, often for more than the obvious role. I wouldn't be carrying 3 paddles on a solo canoe trip, but it is nonetheless an interesting bit of bushcraft history.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Adirondack Museum Paddles

Ever since getting a copy of Dr. Gordon Fisher's recent publication, Guideboat Paddles: An Adirondack Treasure, I've been curious about some of the paddles apparently on display at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain, New York.

I stumbled on a few personal photos on Flickr and Picasa of folks who've visited the museum and happened to get shots of the paddle display. Here's one from deshantm revealing 4 distinct paddles on a mounted display. The first two paddles have some interesting blade designs and grip style.

Adirondack Museum Paddles

Flickr user Alan Teichman, also had a shot illustrating the same paddles, but managed to get a clearer shot of the captions.

Photo Authorship Credit: Alan Teichman

Given the resolution of the original photo, here's what I could make out for the paddles (left to right)...

• Single Bladed Paddle made by Bradly ?, a young medical student on vacation in the Adirondacks around 1900. He copied the shape from an Abenaki model and added the Indian motif on the grip for a "romantic look"

• Single Bladed Paddled made by Dr. George Everett at Lake Ozonia for Dr. Edward Prescott of Potsdam. Dr. Everett was a summer resident who made cherry paddles as a hobby finishing them scraping with a broken piece of glass and applying a mixture of linseed oil, turpentine and vinegar

• Single Bladed Paddled designed and made by James McCormick around 1934. McCormick was a carpenter and boat builder...he made over 500 paddles of cherry and maple before his death

• Single Bladed Paddled purchased with a Rushton Indian Girl canoe. The owner added the red paint, his initials and the ??? to give the paddle a more romantic native look

I really wish museums would consider adding more virtual galleries on their websites. I think it encourages more interest in visiting the museum to see artifacts such as this in person.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Whitewater with Battenkill Grip: Part 1

Many thanks to Graham Warren for directing me to the April 1997 issue of Wooden Canoe Journal where an article by Barry Beals describes an interesting asymmetrical grip. Co-developed by Beals and Jim Walker of Battenkill Canoe Ltd, the unique grip is a fusion of two popular styles, the standard pear and T-grip. In theory, the flattened portion of the half pear cradles the palm more comfortably and the half-T portion allows the thumb to curl around into a more natural position while still providing a positive hold on the paddle. Below is a blurry shot (apologies) of this grip design sketched out in pencil on a piece of maple stock.

Battenkill Grip

Despite the fact that I don't do much extreme white water paddling, I've been wanting to make a functional whitewater paddle for when I encounter some basic rapids on river runs. I envisioned this grip really shining in whitewater conditions and so decided to make another whitewater paddle using Graham Warren's blade design.

I had another piece of birdseye maple stock from which the Sparrow Solo had been made carved back in '08 and this would make the bulk of paddle. Since the edges had been planed square at the mill, some waste pieces of black walnut were easily laminated for the edges.

Laminating walnut edging

A slip of the sawing at the throat of the paddle left a major flaw in symmetry but I'm hoping to correct this by reshaping this area when it has been thinned out more. Below is a shot of the blank so far...

Whitewater paddle awaiting work

If anyone has made a Battenkill grip or come across paddles with this grip design, feel free to post a comment or send me some pics for posting.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gould Auction Paddles

The Gould Auctions site has some fascinating antique guide paddles from their current lot. Check out this 7 & 1/2 foot long monster recently discovered in a coastal Maine barn.

Painted 7 1/2 foot (90") guide paddle
Wagon Wheel Blue and Ox Blood Red

Here's another long antique guide paddle with interesting grip and grain pattern...

Early Maine Paddle
Tiger Maple
76" long
Blade width 9 1/4"

Also found this picture of three paddles from one of their archived pages of completed auctions. The paddle on the left has an interesting scalloped design and rudimentary roll grip at the top. Unfortunately no other details

Set of 3 paddles

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ikwe Film Paddles

John Lindman's recent Bark Canoe newsletter mentioned various films that feature bark canoes (or replicas) prominantly. One of those is a 1986 film by the National Film Board of Canada entitled Ikwe. Here's the description:
A young Ojibwa girl of 1770, Ikwe awakens one night from a disturbing dream about a strange man. The arrival of a young Scottish fur trader transforms her dream into reality. Marrying him, Ikwe leaves her village on the shores of Georgian Bay. Although the union promises prosperity for her tribe, it means hardship and isolation for Ikwe. Values and customs clash until, finally, the events of Ikwe's dream unfold with tragic clarity.

Many of the shots in the film have wonderful closeups of bark canoes and some interesting paddle designs. In particular, I noticed a prominance of what seemed to be authentic paddle grips. Here are some sceenshots.

In the above pic, a Cree guide named Bluecoat is using a broad, flat grip style, very reminiscient of the flat style seen in some earlier paddles. In particular, it reminded me of the flat style of the Iroquois paddles displayed at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Diamond Passamaquoddy I'm still working on.

The female lead, Ikwe, is seen using a bobble style grip on her paddle in a manner I've seen in many archived photos of natives paddling bark canoes. Some examples from the Minnesota Historical Society can be found here, here, and here.

Lindman mentions that some of the canoes were built by Bill Hafeman, but the one pictured below looks very similar to the style and form of Jocko Carle and Basil Smith. David Gidmark's book mentions the near vertical stem as a classic feature of Carle's canoes and the scalloped winter bark decoration with the fish look identical to a canoe I saw being repaired at the Canadian Canoe Museum a while back. Of course, I could be totally wrong in my assumption that it is the same canoe, but it would be a neat bit of info if this canoe was indeed a "movie star".

Bark Canoe in Ikwe

Another shot

Jocko Carle Canoe Repair at the CCM

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