Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Auctioned Model Canoe with Decorated Paddles

A post on LiveAuctioneers for a completed auction had some pics of interesting and historically significant bark canoe model. Decorated with various coloured dyes, the painted canoe and figurines include 2 decorated paddles with some geometric patterns.




Closeup: Paddle Decoration

The description on the site is as follows:
...of classic form, with wood sheathing, ribs and crossbars, sewn with split roots and seams sealed with spruce gum, the exterior finely painted, in red, white, and black paint, with curvilinear designs and a series of dots outlining motifs, the male and female doll, each with modelled wax heads, arms and legs, wearing traditional costumes and accessories, the baby, in a fully appointed carrier; together with equipment including: a powder horn, tobaggon, a keg and a snowshoe.

Some searching revealed another photo of what I think is the same model which better illustrates the chevron stripes on both paddles.


Another view

If these souvenir canoes were indeed painted by First Nations artisans, it may reflect this common theme of also illustrated in many historical paintings of the era.



Sunday, June 27, 2010

National Canoe Day & G20 Canoes

Yesterday was National Canoe Day, an event run by the Canadian Canoe Museum to celebrate our national icon. Events were held all over the country. In a bid to escape the G8/G20 Chaos in Huntsville and Toronto, the family decided to head over to the event in Peterborough.

Unfortunately, heavy rain, slow traffic and a wailing child made the 1.5 hour drive seem like an endless oceanic flight. The Mrs. also seemed to have lost our camera when we visited the Toronto Zoo with our little man the day before...so no pics. Thankfully, Andre Cloutier and Alex Guthro posted some photos of the event on this thread on the WCHA forums.

When we finally arrived, the event was nearly ending but I got to catch up again with a few local members of the WCHA including Mike Ornsby who runs Reflections On The Outdoors Naturally blog. Got to see his new cedar canvas canoe built by Bruce Smith, a gorgeous solo boat with cherry gunwales and some walnut trim.

Also on hand were some vintage boats including a recently acquired 1919 Rice Lake Canoe with its quirky Aluminum Deck Plates. There's a thread about it on the WCHA forums here. Pulled a shot from the thread below:


1919 Rice Lake Canoe with Aluminum Decks

I was quickly introduced to Dick Persson of Headerwater Canoe fame who was caning some seats. Got to meet finally meet Terry McCaul, a volunteer with the CCM who was doing some paddle carving. Terry's paddles are also functional works of art, complete with gorgeous spined blades, cord whipped shafts, and laser engraved artwork. A shame that our lost camera was not on hand to take pics.

After returning back to the city, ended up reading that the wives of some G20 delegates were also introduced to some canoe culture as part of their Canadian experience. From this article in The Toronto Star:
"Eight of the first ladies spent the morning tucked away in a small, sparsely decorated hotel boardroom where they dined on chocolate canoe paddles and learned how to make nonedible canoe seats from a master craftsman."


(From L to R) Callista Mutharika (Malawi), Svetlana Medvedeva (Russia), Ban Soon-taek (UN), Laureen Harper (Canada), Nabuko Kan (Japan), Geertrui Van Rompuy (European Council) and Patience Goodluck Jonathan (Nigeria) sign on a canoe in Toronto on June 25, 2010.


Chocolate Paddle and pastry "canoe" served to the G8 wives.



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cherry Passamaquoddy Guide - Part 2

Now that the latest Cherry paddle is complete, the pyrography stage has arrived. As mentioned in Part 1 of the post, the blade design was a replica of the c1849 Passamaquoddy paddle (Fig 72. Adney) currently in the collection of The Peabody Museum


Adney's sketch - Decorated Passamaquoddy on top


Peabody Museum paddle; Peabody Number 99-12-10/53655

My own Cherry version of this paddle decoration was based on a negative pyrography technique - burning the background at high heat to reveal the natural cherry tones in the scroll decoration. Cherry is an ideal wood for this technique and I was tempted to replicate the style again, but the I still vividly remember the huge amount of time needed to finish such a large piece with a tiny flow point tip. Plus, I wanted to get this paddle done in time for the National Canoe Day celebrations happening on June 26th in nearby Peterborough which I'm planning on attending (free admission to the Canadian Canoe Museum that day too!) Great way to get out of the city which is getting inconvenienced with the G8/G20 meetings downtown while also shutting down our cottage area up north this week.

It seemed fitting that since the blade shape was an identical twin, I should replicate this scroll pattern again, but this time a decision was made to try a a positive burning technique just to be a bit different. A hand-sketched image of this design drawn by Liz Reagan (which appears on page 20 of Graham Warren's book) shows the scroll pattern in a positive image technique. Given that the grip is a totally different design, I free handed some more scrolls to somewhat match the pattern the blade. This was completed easily over 2 days - a lot faster than the negative technique. Here are the shots before oiling:


Completed Decoration; Blade Closeup

As a bit of an extra decoration, ended up using about 3 feet of leather lace to tie a decorative Turk's Head knot at the base of the grip, below my name on the paddle. Here are some shots of the grip after oiling...


Turk's Head knot; Decorated Grip; Natural Side

The side with the inferior grain pattern was chosen for the pyrography decoration. The other side with some nice grain lines and patterns was left natural. Here are the pics of both sides...


Final Paddle

Can't wait to dip this sucker into some water and get paddling season underway!



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Last of the Mohicans Film Paddles

Rich F maintains a website devoted to the film, Last of the Mohicans. Some of the behind-the-scenes photos from this epic picture include shots of decorated paddles used in the brief canoeing scenes.

The center paddler in this fiberglass war canoe replica has a brightly painted red beavertail with some added chevron stripes designs.


The stern paddler in this shot has another painted paddle with horizontal bands of color. Resting in the bow of the canoe in the foreground is the previously mentioned chevron decorated beavertail.


Apparently between takes, some of the crew were able to take the war canoes out for a spin. Here's a shot of them escaping with a piece of the set!


Also on the site is a blurry shot of the gunstock war club and paddle used by the character Chingachgook. Difficult to make out the details but the red bladed paddle seems to have an image of a snake crawling up the blade.


Chingachgook's War Club & a Canoe Paddle



Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cherry Passamaquoddy Guide - Part 1

Another Cherry paddle is in the works. This blank had been cut out the same time I had started the c.1849 Passamaquoddy replica (the paddle in the header of the site) and included the same blade shape. My intention was to make a set of matching paddles to go with the decorated canvas canoe. I had actually began working on the blade of this paddle first, but the reversing grain kept causing significant tearout and frustration with the spokeshave so I ended up leaving this blade incomplete and worked on the other one which had a superior grain pattern.

For this paddle, I had wanted to replicate the long, spined grip design of the Robin Egg Blue antique paddle posted on previously:


Maine Guide Paddle.
Circa 1910

However, after being cut out and the blade partially worked down, the paddle was left in the garage for many months and as a result, the blank revealed a significant twist resulting in misalignment between the grip and blade. In retrospect, I should've hung this blank but simply ran out of room on the rack. It was still completely salvageable, but the grip needed to be recarved to take out the twist and this necessitated redrawing of the center and other guidelines.


Twist in the blank; Redrawn grip top

All went well, and the while clamped to a picnic table near the communal fire pit, I worked down the grip and finished off the paddle over a weekend. Here are some shots during the process and a pic of the paddle after its first wetting in the lake to raise the grain.


Carving the spined grip; Frontal View (still needed some work)


Wetting the paddle to raise the grain

I was eager to take out this paddle for spin, as well as try out the Reshaped Birch Cree paddle. Both paddled very well, but I could see the thinned, lightweight Cree design being more suited to just light paddling use. The cherry paddle with its smooth, Maine Guide style grip was a real delight to use. I could see myself using this robust paddle for extended tripping given its comfortable design and balance.


Quick test on the water


UPDATE - JUNE 24: Paddle is now complete...see Part 2



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jasper Grant Paddle

Found some more info on a historic paddle in the Toronto Reference Library Archives. This one is a full sized souvenir paddle which eventually ended up in the National Museum of Ireland. It was made for Colonel Jasper Grant, an Anglo-Irish Officer stationed in the Eastern Great Lakes region between 1804 - 1809.


Col. J Grant's Paddle

The grip on the paddle is a shortened, flattened style grip which includes an etched wreath decoration surrounding his initials.


Flattened Grip with Initials

Both sides of the blade a decorated with depictions of native scenes including dancing men with tomahawks, a solitary man with a tripod and cooking pot, and some figures paddling a canoe. One freight canoe has what looks like an HBC flag at the stern, you can just make out the cross marks of the Union Jack.


Blade Decorations

While the paddle was clearly decorated to a souvenir piece, its narrow blade shape and flattened grip seems to be consistent a few surviving museum paddles from the same region, like the Iroquois paddles at the Royal Ontario Museum



Sunday, June 13, 2010

MEC Paddle Fest

This weekend was the annual MEC Paddlefest held at Sunnyside Park, a quaint little part of the western beaches in Toronto. I swung by to help out a bit with the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association booth and hopefully see some other creative paddles. My little man accompanied me for a bit with his Mini Maliseet paddle in hand


Checking out the paddlefest

The weather didn't cooperate and the threat of thunderstorms and grey skies seemed to have limited the public turnout. It also didn't help that the supposed booth that the WCHA booked never materialized. In the end, their display was next to the Canadian Canoe Museum booth nestled rustically under a large tree.

Got a chance to meet other local members including Alex G & Rob S of Hamilton. Rob makes great Wannigans, had a packbasket on display, and is the distributor of traditional canoe gear like fire irons and reflector ovens - really fantastic stuff. Leaning against the tree was a hearty voyageur paddle made from walnut with a thick, beefy oval shaft.


Rob's Walnut Paddle with decorative sash

On Saturday, John Summers, the GM of the Canadian Canoe Museum was on hand doing some paddle carving and was kind enough to share some sharpening tips for the Stanley contractor spokeshaves that he was using. When I was able to swing by late the next day (after helping my cousins move on Sunday morning), Hal Bowen was taking over the reins on the shaving horse. Hal was one of the original instructors at the CCM paddle carving course that started this whole hobby of mine. Very nice to catch up with him again.


Paddle Carving on the beach

Rob's W/C boat and John's 1937 Old Town Sailing Canoe (apparently with orginal canvas) were there as demo boats. Wanted to bring my own canoe down, but logistics limited my ability to transport it down.


Some W/C boats on display

Badger paddles had their colourful display as part of the Swift Canoe booth and every time I tried to get a shot, there was always another customer in the frame checking out the designs. Got a chance to quickly meet Mike Ramsay and thank him for the Badger Paddle Sock he sent my way a while back. Really dig their orange paddle for extreme visibility. Might be appropriate for late season paddling during hunting season.


Badger's Paddle Racks

While the bulk of the show was devoted to plastic kayaks and new trends (including Stand Up Paddle Surfing), there was an intriguing booth showing off traditional greenland kayaks and paddles. Unfortunately lost the business card with name and details, but here's the pic...


Greenland Kayak & Paddles

The next paddling event I'm hoping to attend is the National Canoe Day celebration in Peterborough on June 26th.



Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reshaped Birch Cree Paddle - Part 1

Just around the corner from home, I spotted an amateur "Antiques for Sale" sign pointing to an industrial warehouse. Intrigued, I went inside and found a huge haphazard collection of stuff that had seen better days. I was on my way out when I saw the shape of a paddle behind a pile of rusty tools. It turned out to be a half-completed, 57" paddle blank made from what appears to be yellow or white birch.


The partially complete Birch blank

The wood stock seems to have been 1" thick as this is the maximum thickness of the shaft. Not ideal for a heavy use paddle, but still workable for light use. At least the grain in the shaft is well contained and runs perfectly parallel down its length so the original builder was either lucky or knew exactly what was needed for paddlemaking. The bulk of the blade had been power planed down to about 1/2" with some noticeable areas of tear out but these should be easy to clean up with some spokeshave work. A small, crudely shaped pear grip had been rasped out. Basically the hard work had been done and now only final shaping needed to be completed. In pencil along the shaft was the name "Skyler". It seems someone started this project but then abandoned it. The paddle was mine for $5 and I immediately began visualizing reworking it.


Small Pear Grip

My first observation was how huge the blade area was relative to the length and this caused the paddle to be extremely blade heavy...not ideal. The 5.5" wide blade had a beautifully rounded tip and I wanted to preserve this feature. But to make the paddle more balanced, the blade area had to be reduced. After being please with the Attikamekw design as a favoured solo blade, I wanted to try another close style to this slender shape. In particular, I've been eager to try some of the Cree Style paddles I've posted on before.


Cree Paddles - Canadian Museum of Civilization

In the end I chose the sweeping, recurved blade design of the middle paddle. After marking out some of the basic points on the blank, I used some clamps and a flexible metal ruler to draw out the curves. Here is the result...


New blade shape marked out for cutting

The Mrs. did some planting and cleaned up the balcony last weekend. I can tell she doesn't appreciate the wood dust and shavings in her flowerpots, so in order to minimize any domestic disturbance, I headed to the nearby park with the paddle, a saw, and my two crooked knives. Rather than saw out the entire paddle shape, I thought I take a shortcut and make some perpendicular cuts, chip out the rough shape, and clean it up with the crooked knives. While I had brought both knives to the park, the recently completed Orien Knife outperformed by own homemade version, mostly because of the steeper bevel being better suited to the kiln dried hardwood, birch stock. Here's where the paddle stands now...obviously not an exact replica but I had to work with the limitations of the existing dimensions.


Chipping out the outline; Cleaned up with the crooked knife

The sharper angles will be eventually worked down. But it's a funky shape and I'm curious to see how it'll perform.

SEPT 21, 2010 UPDATE: Paddle is now complete and decorated. See post HERE



Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Exotic Paddle Series - Dayak Borneo Paddle

From this EBay source is an exotic paddle is used by the Dayak tribes of East Kalimantan, Borneo Island. The seller mentioned it was carved from one-piece hardwood (no species name provided) and is decorated with an extremely rare and traditional pattern motif. The short paddle only measures 44 inches in length and the width is mere 2.25 inches. Check out the indented T-Grip...


Dayak Paddle; Blade Etchings


Closeup; Interesting T- Grip

Decoration and origin aside, it is quite similar to the dimensions of my Walnut Nuthatch Experiment paddle made from a scrap piece of walnut. A very slender and flexy solo paddle which has limited practical usage but still a good use of the valuable walnut cutoff

Seller: Asia191




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