Saturday, June 17, 2017

c1820 Sassafras Schoolcraft Replica

Another replica I wanted to try and carve was a paddle described and illustrated by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft  (March 28, 1793–December 10, 1864), an American geographer and ethnologist, noted for his early studies of Native American cultures. The specific paddle with an interesting banded decoration appears alongside a sketch of a fur trade canoe in his 1821 publication Narrative journal of travels through the northwestern regions of the United States.  

Page 69 of his text briefly describes the paddle:
"The Fur Companies have lately introduced the use of oars, in propelling the canoe but the natives employ the cedar paddle, with a light and slender blade. See fig. 14, plate 2. In either case, they are steered with a larger paddle, having a long handle, and a broad blade. See Fig. 2, plate 2."

Schoolcraft's steering paddle
Fig. 2

Unfortunately any meaning or significance of the  unusual banded decorative pattern was not recorded by the author. However based on the larger size and more robust construction, it is consistent with a steering paddle rather than the slender cedar paddle meant for propulsion.

Since all of my paddle replicas are meant to be functional users, this one was also proportionally adjusted to 58 inches. The result is a pretty robust blade shape with a gradually thinning shaft ending in an oval shaped bobble grip. I also cut this out of my remaining board of sassafras. Here the blade section has been more or less finished but work was still needed on the shaft and grip.

The zig zag burning was straight forward enough. At one point, I though of preparing some sort of mask and just burning it fully with the propane torch. But in the end, I just used a large shading spoon nib on the pyrography pen. To add to the aged look, the edges of banding pattern were burned at full heat while the central sections were gradually shaded in. Below is the result after oiling...

c1820 Schoolcraft Replica in Sassafras

Here's a side by side comparison.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Musee de Beaux Art: Rennes canoe model & paddle update

From the Memoires Amerique Francaise website is another photo of the 18th Century Mi'kmaq canoe model at the Musees des Beaux Arts (Rennes) - see previous post HERE.  It  appears the one damaged end of the canoe has been repaired with additional bark. The two two toned, painted paddle blade is also part of the display.

 Canoe model and 1 paddle   
Inventory number : 1794.1.782 
Collector : Marquis de Robien 
 2nd half of the 18th century 
Source Link

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Historic Illustration - Rindisbacher's Bobble Grip Paddles

Found another print by Swiss Artist, Peter Rindisbacher (1806 – 1834) entitled,  Indians Gathering Wild Rice and Shooting Wild Fowl, 1832. This one in collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery  clearly shows the stern paddler using the indigenous paddling technique with the upper hand grasping the shaft below the bobble shaped grip.

Indians Gathering Wild Rice and Shooting Wild Fowl, 1832
Peter Rindisbacher - Canadian (born in Switzerland), 1806–1834

Another depiction painted by Rindishbacher illustrates a female paddler using a bobble grip in a sort of reverse style (see full post HERE).

Friday, May 26, 2017

May Long Weekend Canoe Trip

Got to spend the May Long Weekend on the first overnight trip of 2017. One of my son's classmates has an experienced, canoe-tripping dad and we were graciously invited to join them on Big East Lake. In fact, at one point in the planning we had a total of 4 dads and 9 kids committed to going. The other two families had never been canoe camping before so our host rationally decided to choose a site relatively close to the access point in case a quick exit was needed.  

Unfortunately, the other two families later backed out so the trip involved a much more manageable group of 2 fathers and 3 children. Being just  a short 1.5 km or so from the safety of the parking lot with a mere 175m carry to the lake meant we could bring more luxuries than we normally would take.

Arriving on a sunny Saturday morning, the parking lot was filled to the brim. We ended parking next to a pickup truck where the occupants had brought 10L jugs of water, giant coolers, multiple bags of firewood and even a gas powered electric generator! They were bringing in their supplies by making a trail with ATVs and wreaking havoc to the already muddy 175m trail to the shore. Luckily our booked site was farther down the lake and really only accessible by water. 

My son and I arrived first that morning so we set off to get some camp chores done. Here he is "stabilizing" the canoe for me to enter. 

For this trip, he was using his new 48" sassafras paddle for the first time. He used the lateral grip for comfort as we cruised across to the opposite shore.

Once across the the bay, we entered the narrow part of the lake known as "The Cut". High slopes on either side make this area a bit more protected from the wind. Our campsite was near the end where the channel opens up to the wider part of the lake to south.

We arrived quickly to site 6, a sloping site that climbs up from the rocky shoreline. Gear was quickly unloaded and the site explored. 

Apart from a 2x2 sheet of plywood left by the fire pit, the campsite looked well maintained and clean. Our camp mates arrived and began setting up their gear as well. One of the luxuries included an extra tarp and bug net that was rigged over the thunderbox. Given the amount of rain and bugs we experienced, this setup allowed this special private time to be stress free and comfortable. I'll be spending a few bucks on a similar setup for future trips.

By this point we were surprised at how numerous and active the mosquitoes were this early in the season. My Eureka VCS13 bug shelter had been slung up between some trees close to shore for the view. The kids would later pretty much take over the shelter for the duration of the trip. 

It was also nice to see and learn from other people's methods of camping which tend to be more high tech and modern than my own. Our companions brought along a set of Helinox Zero chairs (which my son loved) as well as the collapsible Helinox Table One - very convenient! I brought along my wanigan for a table, as well as the homemade Basmati Rice Bag chair for a seat. Over the winter, I made a second version of this tensioned chair but never posted it on the site. Version 2.0 is a bit higher off the ground and made with 1x2 poplar for the frame, poplar slats for the seats, some left over canvas strips and paracord for tension. It was stained using an old walnut gel in the basement paint collection. While the kids sought relief from the bugs in the screened shelter, I headed to the shoreline for the view and and the breeze. 

We had a lovely campfire that first night but sitting by the fire meant full on bug jackets...

Morning coffee and a breakfast of pancakes were prepared on the wanigan. I really like having an elevated surface for  food prep instead of laying stuff on the ground. Where appropriate the wanigan will be coming on more trips.

Unfortunately, darker clouds rolled in and  light drizzle began mid morning. This didn't deter the two boys and little sister. I took out the bushcraft camp toys and the trio began taken turns to work on a fallen log with axe, saw and crooked knife. Here are the boys practicing de-limbing and trying to remove some of the bark.

Later, little sister had a turn and did a marvelous job marking off where the adults should cut the trunk for manageable firewood pieces. 

The drizzle unfortunately turned into full-fledged heavy rain that would last until early the next morning so our plans for fishing were skunked. Luckily both dads had brought along additional tarps, so the space in front of our tents was covered. However, the tent pad locations were in such an open space that tie off trees were quite far apart. In the end, we had a tangled jumble of lines everywhere and some saggy tarps but at least we had a comfortable space where everyone remained dry for the rest of the trip.

Luckily the rain let up by the morning of day 3 but all the tarps and flysheets needed to be put away wet. Still, the kids did well during the torrential downpour and when we got back to the parking lot by noon, there were only 3 vehicles left, two of which were ours. Everyone else must have bailed earlier but we and the kids stuck it out.

Once settled for the drive back I asked my son if he had any complaints about the trip. I was thinking he was going to say the rain or the hordes of bugs, but he responded that the trip was too short and he wanted to stay for longer next time!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Son's New Paddle

Years ago, paddle maker Craig Johnson sent a gift of a short board of Sassafras along with the 3 boards I purchased from him. It was the perfect size to make a kid's paddle.

5/4 Sassafras Stock

Well I finally finished working on that new paddle for my 8 year old son. It's a 48" beavertail with a long skinny grip.

48" Sassafras Beavertail

For decoration, I was inspired by the sketch of a vine motif on an elongated grip documented in  La culture matérielle des indiens de Weymontachie by Norman Clermont (see that post HERE).

La culture matérielle des indiens de Weymontachie 
Norman Clermont (‎1982)

My boy approved of the grip decoration but also wanted a large letter K for his initial on the blade. This worked out well because by the time he outgrows this paddle as a user, it should fit little brother well and they have the same initial. Also added some other floral decorations on the upper blade.

Decorated Side

I rushed a bit to get this done in time for an upcoming 2 night canoe trip over the May long weeknd. The father of a classmate saw our trip report from last summer and invited us along for their family adventure. Another party is joining us too so we'll have a total of 3 dads and 5 kids.  A no portage base-camp experience has been planned so we'll be bringing along some extra weight including the wanigan, bucksaw chair, homemade pack, chess-set and the bushcraft toys made over the winter.

Camping & Bushcraft Toys

Paddling Chess-set

Given how we're playing it safe and camping close to the put-in, I'm planning on bringing the repaired Sassafras Tripper for a trial on the lake. We'll see if the repair holds up or if the paddle will be relegated to a garden ornament again.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Elspeth Soper's Alder Paddle

Elspeth Soper has recently documented her experience carving a Cree style paddle from a log of Alder. Her photo rich post shows all the steps and details of the carving process resulting in a lovely,  functional user.

Elspeth's blog also documents her trips to Northern Quebec where she got to witness modern Cree culture up close. A few years back, she completed a wood canvas canoe built in the style of John Kawapit. Her new paddle is a great match!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: All Afloat from Verner

The 1920 publication by William C.H. Wood,  All afloat : a chronicle of craft and waterways features some canoe art on the inside title page. A replica of a painting by Frederick Verner showcases a romanticized view of a canoe brigade in foggy waters. The stern paddler uses a paddle with a distinct chevron motif...

Paddle Closeup

Friday, May 5, 2017

Passamaquoddy Paddles and new 14' Bark Canoe

Back in March, renowned birchbark canoe builder Steve Cayard began construction of a 14 foot bark Passamaquoddy style bark canoe. Along with  boat-building interns Dan Asher and Tobias Francis, the build took four weeks to complete.  A  writeup of the recent launch appears in an online article, " Passamaquoddy Ceremony Launches Birchbark Canoe Built at LA " in The Lincoln County News.

Photo Credit: Christine LaPado-Breglia
Lincoln County News

Another set of photos appears in a facebook post of the Abbe Museum...

To add some more authenticity to the experience, the paddlers are using traditional Passamaquoddy paddles with long flat grips and decorative notches as illustrated by Figure 65 by Adney & Chappelle.

Figure 65Source Link

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"Weymontachie" Atikamekw Paddles

La culture matérielle des indiens de Weymontachie by Norman Clermont (‎1982) contains a grainy image of paddles made by members of the Weymontachie Reserve (now Wemotaci) in Quebec. These are straight sided working paddles although one of them features an elongated grip with carved vine motif.

La culture matérielle des indiens de Weymontachie 
Norman Clermont (‎1982) 

A second sketch appears in the book providing a closeup of the decorative element...

La culture matérielle des indiens de Weymontachie 
Norman Clermont (‎1982) 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Historic Paddle Art: C. Krieghoff: Untitled Oil with Chevron Paddle

The Galerie Bac's web gallery of Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872) features a rare painting by the Canadian Artist. The untitled and undated oil showcases a shoreline camp scene with bark wigwam, a canoe and a slender paddle blade with a simple chevron motif on the blade.

Cornelius Krieghoff
Date Unknown

Paddle Closeup

Krieghoff's other works containing paddle imagery (see all posts HERE) continue the motif. One other specific work, Indians in the Employ of the Hudson's Bay Company at a Portage (1858) also features a paddle with a similar chevron decoration.

 Indians in the Employ of the Hudson's Bay Company at at Portage
Cornelius Krieghoff - 1858

Paddle Closeup

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Musees de Beaux-Art (Rennes) - Mi'kmaq Model Canoe & Paddle (1794)

From this page on artifacts from New France is a rare glimpse of an old Mi'kmaq style birchbark canoe model.  The model was assumed to be collected by Christophe-Paul de Robien (1698-1756), a French enthnographer and historian. After the French Revolution, his personal collection inherited by his descendants was seized by the state and distributed to what became the Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes. During the inventory process, it was inscribed with a date of 1794 but the original construction date is unknown.

Modèle de canot avec rame
Inv 794.1.782
Museum of Fine Arts     RENNES

Accompanying the canoe is a single paddle with a pole grip and a decorated blade. Although faded, it appears that half the blade was painted with a red pigment creating a simple "yin/yang" effect.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Historic Illustration - Jacques Bidault - Pirogues et Pagaies, 1945

From La Bibli du Canoe website is an excerpt from a 1945 publication entitled,  Pirogues et Pagaies by Jacques Bidault. Page 139 contains sketches of various paddles. Unfortunately apart from the brief figure captions, no signification details are provided.

The first paddle is reminiscent of  Innu shaped paddles. The second figure is labelled as a "Pagaie chippeway" and looks to be a resketching of the "Chippewa Woman's Paddle" from the Smithsonian complete with knots on the shaft and grip area..

Bureau of American Ethnology
BULLETIN 86 - Chippewa Customs
Plate 53

The final paddle sketch (figure 138) contains some decorative etchings and a hole in the flattened grip area. Unfortunately, it is simply listed as an "Indian Paddle" with no other clues to the specific origins.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Paddle Themed Chessboard

My older son has recently taken an interest in playing chess so thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of set ready for rainy camp days.  There are plenty of foldaway, magnetic boards or other travel chess sets out there, but wanted to use some scraps and make a homemade version.

The wanigan I made a few years back had an  11"x14"  birch art panel used as a sliding internal tray. It would now serve double duty as the removable board for play.

Wanigan with inner tray

The checkerboard pattern was marked out with 1-1/8" squares. Over a leisurely few days, the appropriate squares were burned at high heat. Decided to fill the remaining space on the rectangular tray with burned images of the two heirloom paddles for my sons.  One is dark with negative pyrography, the other a light paddle burned in a positive image so it kind of fits the whole dark vs light theme in chess.

My sons' heirloom paddles

In retrospect, I should have sanded the birch panel surface with a finer grit before doing the burn as the board was a bit lumpy and it is blotchy in places. But it'll work for a functional game. Here's a photo before a light, waterbased varnish was added to protect the surface.

As far as pieces go, I ended up replicating a simple block design found on line (credit to Lanier Graham) ...


Made my light pieces from basswood and the dark pieces from cherry scraps. Sort of changed the piece for the King by adding another cut and making the top a four pointed crown. I've repurposed a sami-style coffee bag made from suede leather to carry the 64 pieces. Anyway, here is the finished set ready for our upcoming trip planning on the May long weekend...

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