Monday, February 27, 2012

Outdoor Adventure Show

I was able to swing by the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show on Sunday afternoon to catch the last 2 hours before closing. Greeting guests at the entrance was a beat-up looking, faux bark canoe to set the mood.

This canoe is actually an old cedar canvas with panels of birchbark stapled to the hull. Certainly not meant to be paddled but it was a romantic entrance to event. The thing was a total wreck but luckily there was much more canoe related stuff inside the show.

The good folks from the Canadian Canoe Museum had their booth stocked with volunteers carving away. One of my paddle making instructors from the Artisan workshops at the museum, Don Duncan, was there and we got to catchup and say hello again.

Badger Paddles was well represented again as was Bruce Smith who had a booth showing off his lovely creations. It was there that I got to see friend, Mike Ormsby from the Reflections On The Outdoors Naturally blog. Mike was scheduled to give a solo paddling demo in his 16ft Cedar Canvas. The demo pool at the show is quite small and its miniature size would make it a challenge for any paddler in a larger boat. Always a good humoured jokester, Mike put on quite a show after an accidental dunking. He even wrote all about his (mis)adventure on his site in this great post. I've certainly dunked in front of spectators before so kudos to Mike for taking it all in stride and being willing to laugh at oneself.

For me the highlight of the show was getting a chance to meet the folks of Northern Sound Canoes who make traditional birchbark style craft with plywood-based hull. I've written about such alternative bark canoes before on this site, including those Hans-George Wagner of Germany, Tomas of Poland, and blog reader Johan of Belgium

Northern Sound Exhibit

16 foot Algonquin Model

Another view

Beautiful Edge-to-Edge planking

These canoes were well received I'm told and have generated some interest. While they are based in the UK, the builders are planning a means of making them more available here in North America. Seeing these craft up close got me excited to attempt a build of my own - it certainly solves the problem of limited bark available to builders today...and being birch based plywood, should be a fantastic medium for pyrography decoration as well. I'm giddy with the potential excitement of another build but am not sure the family is that happy with yet another canoe plan in the works.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Beginning Cedar Canvas Refurb

Apart from my recent carving activity, I've been planning to slowly refurbish the 16 ft. cedar canvas canoe obtained as part of trade last summer. Bit by bit, the plan is to tackle the small odd jobs here to give this canoe a second life. In my mind this will be a refurbish and not a true restoration since apart from some cosmetic changes to the interior, the outwales, decks, and seats I don't plan to make any major structural changes. Over the recent February Family Day holiday here in Ontario, I was lucky enough to spend a few hours fiddling with boat.

While the canvas is still sound and entirely waterproof, the canoe had neglected by the previous owners. They had purchased it from someone else basically to have a canoe for their rental cottage business. I was told their European guests always asked about a traditional red Canadian canoe (probably thanks to Bill Mason's wonderful films) so the owners bought this used, mystery cedar canvas and slapped on some red acrylic house paint (now peeling) to cover the original teal green appearance.

Along the way, they painted the underside of the outwales, painted over the stem bands, but somehow neglected to varnish the gunnels. After being stored outside, the ash woodwork began to blacken considerably.

The canoe

Closeup - darkened ash outwales and peeling varnish

I had dabbled in the idea of replacing the heavy ash outwales with a lighter wood but in the end, decided to simply refurbish the existing structure since it was still quite sound. Instead, the grime on the outwales was sanded down to reveal fresh ash grain below. After the tops and sides were done, I removed the outwale to tackle the underside which had been sloppily painted with red paint. Sanding here wasn't working since much of the paint got infused into the ash's open grain. Instead, the outwales were placed on a bench and the layer of paint shaved off with a spokeshave.

Removed outwale

Shaving off painted layer

The horrible aluminum stem bands had been painted over too. There were specks of green, red, and even yellow paint on their surface. These were removed and will be replaced with some brass stem bands once the canvas has been sanded and re-painted.

There's a stemband under all that paint

Original teal grean canvas poking through

The canoe also has a keel, which is not ideal for me, but I do not want to rip it off, tearing off sealant and forcing a complete re-canvas. Instead, it'll be planed down to a lower height next time I'm up north.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kent Lund - Grand Rapids Paddle Co

Paddle Maker Kent Lund, whose marvelous creative art has frequently been featured on the blog, has sent me some pics of his latest works. Each features wonderful, customized grip designs which were inspired by some of the earlier postings on the site.

Cherry; Cherry + Curly Maple; Cherry

Kent's carved grips

The round "lollipop" grip on the left seens to be a common feature in many authentic Adirondack paddles according to expert, Gordon Fisher, who wrote a book on the topic entitled Guideboat Paddles: An Adirondack Treasure. Kent's version was inspired from the circa 1890's Adirondack paddled posted back in November, 2010.

Circa 1890 Adirondack Paddle
4.75" w, 66" h

Kent's carved grip in Cherry

The other rounded grip features a diamond pattern at the base and is similar to the circa 1900 decorated paddle posted back in February, 2011.

Adirondack Guide Boat Paddle
Circa 1900
5" w, 58.5” h

Kent's version in Maple

Very glad that my site has been useful for folks researching and gathering ideas for their own paddle making pleasure. Kent will be taking this hobby to the next level and will be fully launching his canoe paddle business, Grand Rapids Paddle Company, very soon. His current site is underdevelopment but has his contact info if anyone wishes to get in touch with him. With his one-of-a-kind paddle designs and artistic talent, I'm sure he'll be highly sought after for his work.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sassafras Penobscot Replica

We here in Toronto are having one of the mildest winters on record. Up until this weekend there was not a single flake of snow on the the middle of February?!?! Being a Northern Ontario boy I find any complaints about how cold it gets in the city to be absolutely ridiculous. Man up people! In order to cure some of the "lack of winter" blues, I've been taking advantage of the unexpected temperature to get some carving done in the backyard.

Here's my attempt at replicating the circa 1900 Painted Penobscot paddle with its curvy, slender grip. The blank was sawn out of large 8/4 Sassafras board which I first ripped into a thinner board on the bandsaw and then shaped the blank. Unfortunately the blade broke when cutting this out I couldn't seem to cut properly with the replacement...too much wander. I have to figure out how to tweak this hand-me-down tool but power tools are bugging me lately. I'm feeling much more comfortable with hand tools anyway and so this paddle was again worked down with an axe and spokeshave. A crooked knife and a rasp were used to reshape the grip and correct the mistakes when cutting out the blank.

The hacked out blank

Sassafras really is a nice wood to work it. It carves so nicely and gives off a wonderful root beer like aroma, which is great if you love that smell.

Clamped to a work table to do some edge work

Here are some quick shots when the grain was wetted to reveal the muted colour of the wood.

I dabbled with the idea of making my own homemade paint with red ochre powder and linseed oil but remembered that we had some reddish paint leftover from the move into the new house. Below is a shot with a fresh coat which goes on very bright but eventually dries and fades to a more muted tone. Also shown is the original paddle along with a closeup up my replica's simple grip burnings and the final piece.

Original Paddles; Replica; Grip Closeup

Friday, February 10, 2012

Birchbark Canoe "Shoes"

Another pic from the William Ganong Collection at the New Brunswick Museum - this one featuring some Wolastoqew (Maliseet) canoes by the shore.

Wolastoqew Canoes Prepared for Shallow Water, New Brunswick
c 1920
NBM Collection (X12271)

The overturned canoe in the foreground has planks of split cedar tied to the hull, something I remembered reading about in Adney's book. These were used to protect the bottom of the hull when going over the rocky, shallow rivers so common in the NorthEast.

Adney's sketch of Canoe "Shoes"

The canoe in the background has a slender looking paddle leaning against it. Here's the best I could do with the original photo's resolution limits.

Paddle Closeup

It's roll top, long slender grip and delicate lines are very reminscient of the c1840 Woodlands Maple Paddle featured earlier

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Another Paddle Maker - Martha Baldwin

Recently received an email from another paddle maker based here in Toronto who may be one of the few (or even only) women actively making paddles. Her startup business is called Baldwin Paddles and her facebook page has some artistic shots of her beautiful, one-piece, hardwood paddle designs.

Photo Credit: Chris Cowper-Smith

Her website (still in progress) mentions she obtains her lumber stock from FSC approved sources, a wonderful eco-conscious touch. Great to see that there is a resurgence in traditional one-piece paddles in the marketplace. If these designs have you interested, you can contact Martha Baldwin directly at

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Swan Spruce Paddle

Another antique paddle from the Cherry Gallery's Current Items (February) page...

Decorated Canoe Paddle
A gracefully shaped spruce canoe paddle with an equally graceful swan within a double circle painted on the blade, all with an appealing old crazed shellac surface.
Circa 1920
6' w, 70" h

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