Monday, August 19, 2019

Summer 2019 - Working on new paddles

Any morsel of free time was spent working on paddles this summer. At the moment, I have 3 distinct designs being worked on. First up is a 58" replica of the circa 1860's Woodland paddle collected from the St. John River area in New Brunswick featured earlier in this post here.

Circa 1860
5 ft. 3 3/4 in. 

I didn't have any birds-eye to work with, but just used plain soft maple. Still have to work on symmetry and the grip area, but here is the progress so far. It will likely be stained to match the honey-toned patina of the original.

1860 St. John River paddle in soft maple

Simultaneously, I've been working down a choice piece of spruce to make a reproduction of a pole grip Cree paddle dated to circa 1930-1935. The original with a black painted blade is in the Musee de Quai Branly in Paris, France.

Géographie :  Amérique –  Amérique du Nord –  Canada
Culture :  Amérique –  Cree
Date :  1930-1935
Dimensions et poids :  158.5cm  x 12.5cm, 647 g
Donateur :  Paul Coze
Précédente collection :  Musée de l'Homme (Amérique)
Numéro d'inventaire :  71.1931.44.155

My version was hewn with an axe and turned out ok except for a cumbersome knot at the top of the pole grip which created a slight bulge in an otherwise straight shaft. It was easily worked down with a crooked knife creating lots of wood shavings and bits for the evening camp fires.

c1930-1935 Cree Paddle in spruce

The inspiration for this final paddle is an illustration by famed Canadian artist, Arthur Heming (1870-1940), who travelled with voyageur brigades at the very end of the fur trade era. This specific artwork depicted a hardy voyageur  climbing up a steep slope with a tumpline loaded with a crate and large sacks of supplies. A narrow paddle with an oval bobble grip acts as a support stick.

This particular illustration was selected to visualize a description of a tough uphill portage by the canoe party in J.W. Tyrell's Across the sub-Artics of Canada, published in 1898 and available on Heming accompanied Tyrell on this trip and sketched many realistic portraits of the crew and environment. It stands to reason that the accomplished artist drew this paddle design from a realistic sample in the field.

My version was made from a narrow basswood board and also worked down with a crooked knife and spokeshave. Still not finished yet but it is coming along...

Heming Voyageur replica

Here are all three paddle side by side for comparison. Interesting to see that in their raw states, they all have similar pale tone. 
2019 Summer's work so far

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Ville K's 2nd paddle submission

Blog reader Ville K from Finland sent in his second paddle creation (see his first paddle here).  This one features the same "Algonquin" blade shape described in Graham Warren's books but has Ville's own style of the elongated Northwoods grip.

This paddle is also made with from aspen and is sealed with a traditional Scandinavian pine tar / boiled linseed oil / wood turpentine mixture. This time around, Ville explained that he applied another layer the next day, when the first treatment was still moist.  He believes this wet on wet  method resulted in a better surface treatment and also resulted in some pleasant tar colour being absorbed into the wood.  Well done!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Blanchard's 2019 Adirondack Auction paddles

Blanchard's Auctions is hosting their Adirondack Auction beginning August 9th. Their online listings of items includes a variety of canoes and paddles.

First off, a vintage all wood canoe listed as a 16foot J.H. Rushton with half round ribs

Also included in the collection is a 72 1/2" long paddle with green painted blade and extended grip. It apparently appeared in a book, Ralph Kylloe's Cabin Collectibles on page 84.

Grip Closeup

Below is a photo of a birds-eye maple paddle from Boston maker F. Brodbeck. It is 68 1/4" long with a motif etched into the short handle base. The company was active from 1898 to 1930, so this paddle can be roughly dated.  For comparison sake, another Brodbeck paddle (with an H inscribed on the grip) was featured on this site here.

Blade Closeup
Etching closeup on grip

Another wide blade with broad handle is featured below This one is 69 1/2" long

Sunday, July 28, 2019

2019 Temagami Canoe Festival

Wasn't able to attend the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association 40th anniversary Assembly in upstate New York. Turns out every year there is  small, 2 day canoe-themed festival held in Temagami on the same weekend. This year, I made the drive up on the Saturday to check out the waterside exhibits set up by the main town docks.

One of the neat features was a small brigade of voyageur canoes which made their way to shore and set up camp...

Got to meet Dave from Sewn Home, a new canvas tent maker based out of Timmins, Ontario. He had a variety of tents and tarps setup all with dried spruce poles.

I was there to check out the canoes and paddles of course. Here was a neat one in the booth of a Coureur du Bois trapper. Included alongside the display of  pelts was a hand-made paddle with an etching of the typical travel route in the region from Montreal to Fort Temiscamingue just northeast of here.

 Bob's Backcountry Paddles had a nice booth with wide array of hardwood paddles. Like myself, Bob decorates the blades with some pyrography, mostly maps of local Temagami waterways.

Really liked his portable display stand made from a half log and wire backing...

A solo paddling display was conducted right off the main dock for the audience. You'll also see some folks checking out a red canoe up on the dock in the background. I went over and took a couple of pics as well.

Turns out it was an older model from the Temagami Canoe Co, said to be Canada's 2nd oldest surviving canoe company. The short boat was particular wide, someone akin to a Chestnut Bob's Special. The bow seat was covered with a fuzzy sheepskin top for ultimate seating comfort.

Other wood canvas canoes were on display. Here is a restored 17 foot cruiser made by another local maker, Garden Island Canoe Company. The maker constructs seats with woven nylon cordage that get varnished forming a tough weave that is more ideal that cane for tripping canoes.

Another beauty on display was a 16footer built on the original Prospector form of Chestnut Canoe. The maker, Hugh Stewart from Headwater Canoe Co in Wakefield, Quebec was on hand. Hugh was one of the few individuals to acquire Chestnut canoe forms when the company folded in 1979. This one was being raffled off as a 2nd place prize for a local contest.

The highlight for me was seeing the various birchbark canoes on display. Very impressive was this canoe built by an impressive young lady from Bear Island First Nation with an elder last summer. The canoe made the the trip down the Lower Missinaibi River to Mattice as part of inaugural journey.

The cedar thwarts had etchings of a feather and the maker also implanted feathers in the stem deck weavings...

The main outfitter in town also had an impressive collection of modern canoes...

Inside was a rare treat...another bark canoe dated to be at least 80+ years old but needing substantial repair. With the broken lashings holding the thwarts, the canoe has widened quite a bit, but the woodwork was very neat revealing a skilled builder.

Next year I plan to attend the whole 2 day event with the WCHA and setup the historic paddle display.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Braunschweig model canoe (c1775-1780)

Found another miniature canoe model dating to the late 18th century in the collection of the Municipal Museum of Braunschweig. Apparently, it was featured in a recent exhibition  entitled "Wide Look: Municipal Museum of Braunschweig and the Cultures of the World"

A few of these model canoes have been mentioned earlier on this site. The 1760 Chartres Canoe, the 1760 Farquharson model, the 1794 Rennes canoe and the Mashantucket Pequot model canoe. These canoes were constructed as souvenir reflections of native life in America and produced as a unique collaboration between native groups and French Canadian nuns living in the St. Lawrence River Valley. 

Often purchased for wealthy patrons in Europe, most were collected by British soldiers. The Braunschweig model traces it origins to German mercenary officers serving with the British during the American Revolutionary period. 

The Braunschweig (Brunswick) regiments  arrived in Canada during the summer and fall of 1776 and took up quarters near Trois-Rivières, a major full-sized canoe building center and home to an Ursuline monastery where these model canoes were being fabricated. The regiments all came from lands ruled by Duke Herzog Anton Ulrich of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1714 - 1774), a famed collector of curiosities in his lifetime. Tourist souvenirs were obtained to enrich the Braunschweig and other private cabinets during this opportunity. The cabinet collection of Duke Herzog Anton Ulrich was ultimately transferred to a municipal museum (Städtisches Museum, Braunschweig) in 1899 where records reveal that this birchbark canoe  entered the archives.  

The paddles are decorated in a variety of basic styles. One is fully painted red, not unlike the artwork by James Peachey created roughly in the same time frame. Another contains diagonal stripes very much the paddles from Chartres, and the final paddle features a series of dots that match the decoration on the canoe. With a new paddle making season approaching, I might attempt a full sized replica of one of these Braunschweig paddles, much like the full sized Neuchatel replica made last year

Thursday, July 4, 2019

New Paddles from Rob S

Here is another photo submission from friend, Rob S featuring a sassafras northwoods paddle, a knotty birch and another beavertail blade also carved from sassafras. Keep the photo submissions coming!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Celebrating National Canoe Day in Gravenhurst, ON

Got to spend a gorgeous Sunday morning paddling with other canoe enthusiasts at the Canoe Day celebrations in Gravenhurst, Ontario. The event was hosted by the folks at the Muskoka Steamship and Discovery Centre. Great place to visit with interactive displays and neat stuff.

Photo Credit: Muskoka Steamship and Discovery Centre

It's mostly focused on the steamships that plied the lakes in the region as well as the wooden motor boat tradition in the area, but their awesome in-water boathouse also features some historic canoes. They've got all wooden Peterboroughs dating to the later 1890s, two birchbark canoes, very interesting Walter Dean racing canoes among others all mounted on displays where you can touch and get real close.

Photo Credit: Muskoka Steamship and Discovery Centre

Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

The paddling group launched from the docks on the rear of the building for an informal tour of Gravenhurst Bay. Included was a large carbon-kevlar voyageur canoe powered by seven folks from the local canoe club. A few kayaks accompanied the group. Well known Temagami expert and winter camper Craig MacDonald from Dwight, ON brought along his 20 foot canoe recently finished with a dacron fabric skin. Here's my newly canvassed 14' Playmate floating nice and dry...

Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

Some of the group ready to depart
Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

C. MacDonald's Cedar Dacron 20 footer
Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

Also in the group was a local volunteer at the Discovery Centre who lives on the lake and paddles in to work nearly everyday. How awesome is that! I paddled along side 83 year old Ron Riddell for most of the tour hearing about his paddling adventures throughout his youth. We were excited because we both had the same 14' model of Chestnut. Here's an online bio I found of this amazing gentleman...

Paddler Extraordinaire Ron Riddell
Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

We learned about the logging history of the bay, the location of WW1 POW camp for German Officers and the modern day development pressures happening in the area.

Back at the centre, some fellow volunteers with the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association worked our booth. Here's Bill showcasing two paddles he brought with him. The one on the left is 100+ year old paddle that his belonged to his grandfather. When Bill was in his twenties, he carved a copy. Both were made from clear spruce and were very light given their overall size.

Bill's paddle belonging to his Grandfather (left) and his copy made in his 20s
Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

I brought along my display of historic paddle designs. Here's Ron getting a feel for the Krieghoff replica paddle.

Talking historic paddles with Ron
Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

Here's a final photo of the WCHA team and Ron at our shaded booth.

Photo Credit: Alex Guthro

Monday, June 17, 2019

Reader Submissions

Recently I received correspondence from two readers of the blog who have begun carving their own paddles.

Ville K from Finland sent in a photo of his first attempt at a paddle. This one is carved from a board of aspen which is apparently commonly sold for sauna seating in Finland. The paddle has been treated with a mixture of pine tar and boiled linseed oil, a traditional treatment for dugout boats in the region.

Ville's Aspen canoe paddle

Another blog visitor,  Art Shaw from Lyndhurst, Ontario, sent in a few more photos of his paddle creations. These are richly decorated with etchings and beautiful chip-carving details. .

Very happy to hear that this site is serving as a useful source of inspiration and guidance for other paddle makers. Keep up the great work!

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