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...

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Historic Photo: Iroquois Decorated Ceremonial Paddle

From the Smithsonian Institution Research Information Service (SIRIS) comes this photo featuring a decorated Iroquois (Mohawk) ceremonial paddle dated circa 1891...

Iroquois Tribe: Portrait of Viroqua's Oldest Brother, Jesse Martin, and his Great Niece
CULTURE: Iroquois Mohawk
DATE: prior to 1891
CITE AS: Photo Lot 24 SPC Ne Iroquois Mohawk NM 24145 00782400, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
DATA SOURCE: National Anthropological Archives

The paddle features a dual tone motif, sometimes seen in other artistic renditions or model samples. This earlier post featuring a painting by James Peachey dated to 1785 shows Iroquoian paddlers on Lake Ontario with similarly themed paddle decoration.....

Southeast view of Cataraqui (Kingston) on Lake Ontario
James Peachey, James Peachey collection
Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1989-221-5, C-001511
1 watercolour / aquarelle : watercolour and pen and ink over pencil on paper
August 1785

Decorated Paddle Closeup

Decorated Paddle Closeup

New York's Metropolitan Museum of the Arts has a bark canoe model with similarly decorated paddles in their collection dated to pre-1845 (original post HERE) although of course the pigment has faded with time.

Canoe Model with Accoutrements
Ralph T. Coe Collection, Gift of Ralph T. Coe Foundation for the Arts, 2011
Accession Number: 2011.154.6a–p

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Museum Volkenkunde - "Eastern Woodlands" Paddle

The Museum Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology) in the Netherlands has a full-sized  "Eastern Woodlands" paddle in its collection. Details of the origins are vague but it features a straight sided blade with a small flattened grip.

Origin: Northeast , Canada
Dated: 1900-2000?
Dimensions: 4 x 11 x 160 cm
Object number: RV-4892-1a

I had to resort to Google Translate in order to understand the descriptive paragraph. Here it is below:

The canoe was propelled into the Northeast with paddles where the paddler kneeling on the bottom of the vessel. Canoes in many activities were like hunting, fishing, gathering wild rice and used in historical period for the fur trade. For white fur traders canoe was the means of transport par excellence and is today the North American sports canoe based on the model of the traditional indigenous people of the "Eastern Woodlands."

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Historic Paddle Photo: 1907 - With Gun and Guide

Here are some more photos of paddles and canoes taken from the 1907 publication of With Gun and Guide by Thomas Martindale.

The guide on the far left is holding up a beast of a paddle - no doubt for stand up paddling...

The well-dressed "Sports" pose with their paddles in the bow. The figure on the left seems to have a paddle with a small bobble grip while the gentleman on the right has a more flattened, Northwoods style handle.

The scene is similar to a sketch made nearly a quarter century earlier in Thomas Sedgwick Steele's 1882 publication, Canoe and camera : a two hundred mile tour through the Maine forests.

Source Link

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fixing an old failure - scarfing a grip onto a sassafras northwoods - Part 3

Here's the end story with the scarfed sassafras paddle. The previous post on this paddle  mentioned that the blade had weathered after being exposed untreated for years in the backyard garden. One side had turned into to a light brown colour while the more exposed face oxidized into a greyish black patina. 

Different sides of the weathered blade

After carving down the shoulder and throat and shaving off the weathered top layer, the now golden hue of the sassafras came out with no signs of wear. Between the blade weathering, the darkened sassafras and the light creamy new sassafras grip, the paddle now had 3 distinct colour tones. Briefly considered scraping off the oxidized layer and staining the light wood to match the rest of the paddle, but some online feedback suggested to leave it alone. The old wood and new wood obviously contrast but it'll be a reminder of how this paddle pretty much came back from the grave. 

However, for practical purposes I decided to add a leather wrap around the shaft using 1/2" wide, 60 inch long saddle string leather collecting dust in the leather supply box.
1/2" x 60"  Saddle String

I've already described my method of attachment in this previous post  from 2009 so didn't take any new photos of the process. Many of the links in the post from back then are no longer active but my photos and description is the same. Trim  roughly 4" from the ends to a point, tack on the bottom, soak the leather in warm water and then stretch tightly around the shaft. Using a clamp to hold the bulk of the wrapping, the final bit is stretched out and the final tack is secured. After drying, the leather shrinks an securely grips the shaft. It is then waterproofed using Sno-Seal applied with a heat gut and brush. So far this method hasn't failed me but it does rely on the waterproofing treatment to prevent the the leather from soaking through and likely getting loose again. So once a season, I apply more Sno-Seal to the other wrapped paddles and they are good to go.

Closeup of wrap. Pins not visible but are on the other side...

So here it is...a resurrected paddle. It'll have to wait a few more weeks until it gets dipped in the water.

Paddle Complete

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Smithsonsian Chippewa Woman's Paddle

A photo update regarding a previous post from 2012 showcasing a paddle image and description of a Chippewa woman's canoe paddle.

Bureau of American Ethnology
BULLETIN 86 - Chippewa Customs
Plate 53

The original caption:
The specimen illustrated is a woman's canoe paddle (pl. 53, a) and is 4 feet 10 inches long, with blade 22 inches long and 4 1/4 inches wide. A man's paddle is usually heavier, longer, and of a somewhat different shape...

The Smithsonian has the original b&w photo used for the publication. The archive record mentions the photo is dated to 1914...

Title: Canoe paddle (left) and snow shovel (right)
Provenance: Submitted by Frances Densmore.
Culture: Chippewa, Ojibwa Indians
Local Number: NAA INV 9277300
OPPS NEG 596 D 79

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Canadian Carry Portage Pad

An article from Field and Stream,  March 1993 currently available on Google Books shows a custom pad made for cushioning the shoulders when using the "Canadian Carry" method of lashing paddles for a portage yoke. It looks like one of those airline pillows some folks use to support their necks while sleeping upright.

I've got plenty of scrap canvas leftover from the summer tarp project. Should be pretty simple to stitch something like this together and give it whirl...

Friday, March 10, 2017

"N.S. Graves" Antique Birdseye Paddle

On March 25, 2017,  John McInnis Auctioneers will be hosted their 3-Day Spring Estates Auction. Lot 0604 is a 63 inch Birdseye Maple paddle which looks to be in very good condition. Unfortunately there is no date attributed to the paddle, but it does feature a unique carved grip. Indented into the wood at the base is the name "N.S. Graves."

Birdseye maple 
Length 63 inches

Carved handle

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Luke McNair's Wabanaki Style Canoe

Here's a wonderful update from skilled craftsman Luke McNair. Back in 2015, Luke was ambitiously building a Wabanaki style canoe using canvas as a substitute for birchbark (see full post HERE).

Well the canoe has been completed for a while now and put through some rigorous testing, including some coastal ocean paddling, river poling and even a white water race course. Luke was kind enough to send in some photos of his unique canoe in action...

Wow. Such inspirational stuff! It also seems a canoe building addiction might have begun as Luke is planning construction of another boat very soon. Looking forward to hearing all about it.

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