Sunday, August 13, 2017

Historic Illustration - William Armstrong "Numbering the Indians" 1856

Paddle related artwork by Canadian Artist William Armstrong (1822–1914) has been featured on the blog before (previous posts here). Another public domain image is in the collection of the Toronto Public Library.

Numbering the Indians, Wikwemikong, Manitoulin Island (Ontario)
Armstrong, William, 1822-1914
16 August 1856
Image Source Link: Toronto Public Library
Public Domain

In this particular scene, a few of the subjects are seen holding simple, non decorated slender paddles, most of which feature no discernible grip area...

Image Closeup

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quick 3 day trip

Had another short trip with my older boy back to Gun Lake in the Frost Centre. Realized after the fact that I had forgotten my camera's memory card in the computer at home so my old camera could only hold about a half dozen shots in its internal memory. So not too many photos to share.

The weather was pretty decent the first two days (got sunburned!) but then it started to turn for the worse. Our extremely wet and cool summer meant no fire ban this season and water levels were about 10" or so above last year. Unfortunately that meant more bugs (many people have said this is the worst bug season in years) but our elevated campsite had a steady breeze off the lake which kept the bloodsuckers at bay. Perhaps the fear of bugs also kept other paddlers away because we had the whole lake (with 7 or so campsites) all to ourselves for the first 2 days.

The day we arrived, a crew from the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails came to the site to dig a new hole and install a brand new cedar thunderbox. It smelled awesome which is pretty weird when describing a toilet. They also removed all the garbage and food that previous campers dumped into the privy despite warnings written all over NOT to do this disgusting and dangerous habit. Glad that this potential bear attractant was removed from our site withing an hour of us arriving.

A short paddle from the site  was a marshy stream and a waterfall. There were signs of fresh beaver activity too including what looked like a bank beaver hole dug into the muddy shoreline.

Later on that evening a beaver swam right off our site while we were sitting on rocks. We were basically about 15 feet away and stayed perfectly still while it calmly swam right by us. My boy has never seen a beaver in the wild and thought it was the highlight of the trip! Next goal is to see a moose but we will have to go deeper into the bush for that.

Further down the lake were amazing stone cliffs with trees growing out of seeming impossible places. The echo along these walls was neat and probably helped to amplify the look calls at night.

Fishing was awesome too. There was a large shallow rock shelf right off the site that dropped at least 8 ft down.  Within minutes of casting he started getting hits including a huge bass that jumped right out of the water and got free of the line.  He was disappointed that he couldn't reel it in but for the rest of the trip we kept talking about the "big one that got away".

Much of the rest of the trip was spent just lazily paddling around and practicing some paddling strokes. The little guy is learning pretty well and makes for a great bow paddler. He's really good at drawing left and right when given the command and we practiced some sculling draws to help pull the canoe sideways to the rocky shoreline dock.

All in all a decent trip!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tom Thomson Commemorative Canoe Raffle

Langford Canoe has donated a 16' cedar canvas canoe to raffle off with the benefits going to the Huntsville Hospital Foundation in Muskoka. We've had to make use of the Hospital's Emergency a few times over the years and it is wonderful facility with very caring staff. This summer being the 100th Anniversary of the suspicious death of Artist Tom Thomson, Langford has tried to replicate a canoe in the style used in the early 20th century.  Thomson is said to have purchased a 2nd grade  Chestnut Cruiser in 1915. Normally covered in a dull slate grey paint, the artist mixed in a tube of Cobalt Blue to make his canoe very unique. The devastating fire of 1921 destroyed the Chestnut factory and all the forms and canoes after this period had quite different shapes.

Tom Thomson's canoe circa 1915

I happened to be in Huntsville when I noticed a distinctive "blue-grey" canoe with high curved ends in the window of a local sports outfitter. Given the tight space and other merchandise, I couldn't get a full shot of the boat but managed to capture a few features.

View of the Langford "Tom Thomson" canoe in the window

Once inside I noticed how robustly this canoe was built. Unfortunately, no stats were available and the store staff knew nothing of the boat other than erroneously calling it a "Cedar Strip". A key feature (rarely seen on Canadian boats) are the distinct half ribs added to strengthen the hull. The two ash thwarts are very wide and bulky and coupled with the ash outwales, seats and keel, this will likely be a very heavy duty boat.

Half ribs and wide ash thwarts

Don't believe the early Chestnuts came with babiche seats but Langford decided to go for this rustic style...
Rawhide seats

Pre-fire Chestnuts came in both closed and open gunnelled forms but had a very distinctive narrow deck. Langford decided to use another darker hardwood along with their own commemorative logo...

Langford Deck

The canoe also comes with two painted cherry paddles to match the hull...

Cherry paddles with painted blades

The only Pre-fire Chesnut Cruiser I'm aware of was found by Andre Cloutier of Ravenwood Canoes. He has documented many of the details of these rare boats and has even built a new form of this historic design. Recently, he completed the first build and his boat (much closer to Thomson's original) has recently been launched...

Anyway, 1000 tickets at $25 each will be sold and the draw takes place on September 1st. More details found on the local poster below:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

More late 19th Century Penobscot Paddles

Auctioneers James D Julia are having their annual Summer Fine Art, Asian & Antiques Auction taking place over August 16th-18th, 2017. Lot 3221 features a set of Penobscot paddles along with two other artifacts.

Paddle 1 (Left)
• Penobscot paddle with old patina, finely carved stepped handle.
•  68-1/4" l x 7" w 
• With excellent patina and showing good in-use wear. 

Paddle 2 (Right)
• Penobscot paddle with exceptional carved, stepped, chamfered handle.
• 70" l x 7" w
• Good patina, showing good in-use wear, paddle portion has 5" crack with old staple repair.

Lot 3221

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Homemade Portage Pads

My 14 foot Chestnut / Peterborough has a basic centre thwart instead of a carved yoke which makes for some rather uncomfortable portaging. I've dabbled with some traditional paddle yoke methods (described in this post here) but found that with my habit of taking two very different blade designs when out, the resulting yoke would always be uncomfortable on one side.

While not too commonly used here in Ontario, clamp on portage  pads seem to be quite popular in the Boundary Waters region. I picked up a pair of Stewart River pads back in 2011 and they have been used on the 15' Langford with modest success.

Stewart River pads 

I like repurposing whenever possible and the opportunity came up to make use of some free discarded stuff. During an end-of-season shoreline cleanup on the cottage lake last fall, I came across a barely used kid-sized, keyhole style lifejacket tangled in some reeds. There was no name on it and a listing on the lake association's lost and found page has turned up no claimants.

The foam inserts seemed perfect for this project so it was cut up and the innards removed. The orange nylon will be re-purposed into some rope bags or sacks for tent pegs.  

Anyway, I searched online for a tutorial on making pads and came across this very descriptive writeup here. Many thanks to the author for outlining the necessary hardware. In my case for the wooden base, I used pine cutoffs from the recently completed plank seat experiment. These were originally slats from an IKEA bed that someone discarded on garbage day.

Discarded Ikea bed slats

I basically followed the tutorials instructions but used 2 1/2" carriage bolts simply because I had them. For the metal bar, I used a 4" straight steel brace commonly used in shelving. The holes in the brace are offset which explains why the carriage bolts don't look aligned. Here is a picture of the wood bases (3.5" wide by 8" long) along with the foam from the lifejacket.

The foam was easily trimmed to shape but before wrapping in canvas, I wanted to test how many layers would be suitable for the pads in order to be comfortable but also reduce the bulk. The Stewart River pads are 4" thick. After temporarily wrapping the wooden bases with foam and rubber bands, I attached them to the canoe for a test run.

 Testing out the foam

After tinkering by removing or adding foam layers, I settled on 5 pieces per pad which worked out to about 2 1/4" of padding. With the 3/4" wooden base that worked out to  3" overall height for the pads.

The wooden base was laid down onto some brown  material (left over from a weather treated canvas tarp). Here you can see that the metal support bar was also wrapped in black duct tape to avoid scratching the wooden thwart when attached.

I differed from the original tutorial in the fold up technique to minimize the folding. Started by stapling the top and the bottom.

Then the edges were tightly brought in and stapled for a more square effect.

Here's a final pic of the underside. Certainly not professional but good enough for the job, especially for an area that won't be that visible in the end.

Attached to the centre thwart, the pads should make this relatively heavy 14 footer a bit easier to manage

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Craig Johnson's Quetico Commemorated Paddle

Issue 200 of  Wooden Canoe features a lovely article by paddle maker Craig Johnson  discussing his many trips to Quetico Provincial Park. After seeing JClearwater's post on the WCHA forums regarding a paddle decorated with a mystery map, Craig decided to commemorate his most recent trip with similar route decoration on a repaired spruce paddle.

It turns out that after laying the paddle over the tripping map, the blade covered nearly their entire route without having to change the scale. After burning the outlines of the lakes and rivers, he proceeded to paint the lakes a dark blue which unfortunately obscured the lines he had just burned.

Outlines burned onto blade

Dark Blue Paint

The waterways were repainted with a light blue to match the color on the original map and with the dark blue layer slightly showing through, it added a wonderful sense of depth to the bodies of water.

Repainted with light blue map color

The shaft was similarly decorated with the park name and year for a lovely effect...

Congrats to Craig for making such a special piece. Perhaps his work will inspire more people to document their trips with paddle maps!

P.S. Many thanks to Craig for mentioning my blog site in the article as well.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

2017 Wooden Canoe Assembly

The Annual Assembly of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association is coming up on July 11-16 at Paul Smith's College, New York. Rather than select a particular historic canoe manufacturer, this year's theme is "Paddles and Accessories".

Unfortunately, circumstances prevent me traveling to the U.S. to attend but I'll be watching out for pictures and videos of the displays with much interest. More details about the many programs and events can be found on the Assembly page here which includes a great video of the 2014 event captured with footage by an aerial drone.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Paddles Across Canada site

Recently received a link to a new organization - Paddles Across Canada -  a national national network of paddle making workshop celebrating the role of paddling in Canada’s past and present.

Image Source: Paddles Across Canada

With their growing number of partners (including the Canadian Canoe Museum and Lee Valley Tools), they have organized carving workshops through out the country.

I've been routinely asked about locations of paddle making workshops and Paddles Across Canada has the most current and detailed list of programs happening across this wonderful country. To see the full list, click here...

Thursday, June 29, 2017

North West Coast Paddle Workshop

Many thanks to blog reader, Joe, for sending in a link to an upcoming paddle making workshop where participants can carve a full-sized,  North West Coast style paddle over a 5 day session. This one is being run at the  Port Townsend School of Woodworking.

NW Canoe Paddles
August 28 - September 1, 2017
Carve a full sized canoe paddle in the Makah-Nuuchahnulth and Tlingit styles.
Register by July 13, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Removable Plank Seat Experiment

Back in 2012, I made a leather sling style seat for the 15' cedar canvas canoe. This was because I felt the trim was way off when the symmetrical Langford Tripper was paddled solo in the usual manner (by turning around and using the bow seat).

Leather Sling Seat

It worked  perfectly fine as a kneeling seat but turned out to be quite cumbersome when attempting to pole. Basically the presence of the sling required extra delicate foot work to avoid tripping when getting into a traditional poling position. Unbuckling the leather straps to remove the seat and then trying to re-attach them while in the boat proved too challenging. So another solution was in order.

The inspiration for the solution came from a Finnish design company that makes wooden children's tree swings. A carved seat with strategically placed slots for the rope to weave through

Plank seats are nothing new in canoeing history  - they were often used on large trade canoes when the crew wasn't sitting on the cargo directly. Anyway, before attempting to make anything too labour intensive, I set out to make a basic plank seat with some scraps. In this case, discarded twin bed slats left behind by a neighbour on garbage day. These 1x4 pine slats were in great condition and I've since used them in plenty of non-canoe related projects around the house.

Discarded IKEA bed slats

Anyway, some holes were drilled and notches easily cut out in the plank. Then some remnant paracord was tied together in a double fisherman's knot and looped through the inwales. There's enough slack in the cordage to wrap around a third time in order to elevate the overall height, but this is how the plank seat is setup for now.

The seat does wiggle a bit from side to side and front to back because it wasn't perfectly shaped to fit the contours of the hull at this point in the experiment. It might get shaped better at a later date. What does work nicely  though is that it can be unhooked easily on one side and then positioned on the centre thwart out of the way for clearing some leg room.

Hoping to take the canoe out poling later in the season to see if the idea works. Right now, most of Southern Ontario is experiencing record high water levels due to heavy rainfall.

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!

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