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.


  



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