Showing posts with label Poplar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poplar. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Poplar Diamond Passamaquoddy - Part 4

Wow...this paddlemaking hobby really ground to halt lately with all sorts of distractions getting in the way. Well over a year ago in January, 2010, I started work on a Diamond Bladed Passamaquoddy replica from Adney's book.

It's been hanging in the den for quite some time desperately calling out to be decorated. Finding time to do intricate artwork with curious youngster at home has been impossible so to simplify things, I figured this paddle would be nice choice for some historic chevron themes seen in much of the artwork from when this paddle originated.

At first I thought it would be fun to get the little one involved by painting the paddle with the gaudy colours seen in the painting entitled, Aboriginal Camp in Lower Canada by Cornelius Krieghoff (dated to 1847) pictured below:


Paddle Closeup

After getting all the supplies ready, suddenly he refused to paint! So instead I reverted back to pyrography to burn alternative light & dark chevrons onto the blade while also highlighting the angular edges of the flat-faced grip. A single line was burned down the shaft for added effect. This will likely be the last time I use yellow poplar as a paddle making wood. It may be a cheap wood stock and light weight but it also burns very unevenly for an extremely patchy and amateurish effect. At least now I can move on to the next project without the guilt of an unfinished one looming over my head.


Chevron decorations

While up north for a long weekend holiday, the boy grabbed his cedar bushcraft mini paddle and proceeded to slap around a beachball. I ended up grabbing this newly completed paddle and we killed some time with a rowdy game passing the ball back and forth. All the while, he kept excitedly saying, "I'm playing hockey!"...so it seems it seems I've done my Canadian duty as a father to instill love of our national obsession with a hint of canoeing tradition too.


Working on the backhand pass


Beach game of Paddle Ball



Sunday, May 30, 2010

Poplar Diamond Passamaquoddy - Part 3

While up north for the recent holiday weekend, I managed to get in some paddle carving time to finalize the nearly complete c. 1849 Passamaquoddy replica begun back in January. Here's a shot by the lakeside on a bright, brisk day using the picnic table "workbench". The communal beach all groomed and loungers all set for the upcoming tourist season.


Carving by the lake

After wetting the grain and sanding it down, I brought the paddle back home to the city. Yellow Poplar certainly makes for a lightweight paddle - my official quality control tester had a easy time lifting it with one hand and running around the place with it.


Rigorous Quality Testing

The major item I struggled with in this design was balancing the paddle...in the end it just ended up being too blade heavy. Kind of obvious I guess given the large shape and the relatively small handle. My feeling is that perhaps the original paddle documented by Adney would've been balanced, but only because the paddle was illustrated as being much longer than my replica (71.5" vs. my 58" version).


Adney's sketch - Diamond Bladed Passamaquoddy in middle

Had I digitally reduced the paddle to scale to fit my preferred paddle length, the blade size would've been unusually small. Still, in the future when replicating longer paddle designs to a my own functional paddle length, this will need to be considered if a throat-balanced paddle is the final goal.

In any event, it's ready for the decoration stage and I've decided to keep this one much more simple than the recent Northwoods paddle where I went overboard.

MAY 24, 2011 Update: Paddle finally completed...go to Part 4



Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poplar Diamond Passamaquoddy - Part 2

Back during a strange warm spell in January, I enthusiastically rushed out to the balcony to start another padde, a circa 1849 Diamond Bladed Passamaquoddy from Fig. 72 of Adney's book (middle diagram below).


Adney's sketch - Diamond Bladed Passamaquoddy in middle

The blank had been cut from Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), a very easy wood for carving and one of the lightest "hardwoods" out there. While the bulk of the paddle had been shaped using the usual block plane and spokeshave, I wanted to improve on my crooked knife techniques. I found that the kiln-dried yellow poplar was still soft enough to be carved easily with crooked knives, so the grip and shaft were further shaped with these tools.

Adney's plan for the grip is tiny and as a result I had approximated the shape when cutting out the blank and purposely left the grip large and bulky with the idea that it could be customized later. The angled edges of the grip were carved out using my mini-crooked knife while the large-bladed Olivewood handle crooked knife worked well on the long shaft region. After fixing the blade, it has become a fantastic tool. Delicate shavings were twirling off around me.


Carving the grip with the Mini Crooked Knife


Shaft carving with the large bladed knife

Adney's plan shows the grip tapering out at the top until it becomes quite thin...too thin for my liking. I find the palm and forearm muscles get quite tired if you have to squeeze too tightly in order to grasp the paddle, so I left this one thicker than the plan suggests. After working on the angular edges, this is what I was left with.


Grip shaped

The whole thing still needs to be sanded, but the grip area has come along nicely. It is very reminiscient of the flattened grips featured on the Iroquois paddles at the Royal Ontario Museum.

May 30/10 Update: Part 3 has been posted



Friday, January 22, 2010

Poplar Diamond Passamaquoddy - Part 1

Figure 72 of Adney's book shows 3 variations of Passamaquoddy paddles. After making a replica of the top paddle, I next wanted to try the more angular diamond shaped paddle pictured in the middle of sketch.


Adney's sketch - Diamond Bladed Passamaquoddy in middle


A while back I had cut a blank out of my final piece of Yellow Poplar stock. Apart from the blade shape, I was attracted to the short, flattened grip style. Doug Ingram of Red River Canoe also replicated this design for his historic paddles article which includes some nice pics of his work.


Doug Ingram's fantastic replica

It's been a while since I've been able to do any carving. My shifting work schedule combined with poor weather and the demands of our little monkey at home have meant serious deprivation from this time-consuming hobby. Well, the universe was perfectly aligned today as I scored a day off from work, the child was sent off to day care, and the frighteningly unseasonal weather in Toronto meant the carving tools were out on the balcony again today.


Blank ready for more shaping

The blade was simple enough to shape down quickly. To work on the edges of the grip area, I thought I'd try working with the crooked knife recently sharpened with some waterstones. It worked well enough though I still have more work to do on the grip area before it's shaped to my liking.


Working with the crooked knife

I still can't believe the weather today, warm enough to eventually strip down to a T-shirt for the final carving. Ridiculous really for the middle of January!


Toronto in January???

Still more work to be done on this one. For now it's back hanging in the locker room until another miraculous day when I get some carving time.

UPDATE - April 11/2010: Part 2 of this paddle construction has been posted.



Sunday, May 25, 2008

Poplar Spoon

While up north last weekend, I took some time one evening to carve out a spoon from some left-over wood stock. The blank had been cut last time I was at The Carpenter's Square workshop so this really wasn't a pure bushcraft spoon hewn out of a log with an axe. I ended up working on the poplar blank (3rd from the bottom) in the following pic.


Spoon blanks and quarter-scale paddle blanks

Anyway, I started on a simple shape with a deep bowl and made good progress carving away with my Mora knife and Frosts spoon knife. It was near sunset so I never took photos of the carving process, but once back in the city and after a thorough sanding, I was left with a decent spoon. With some minor pyrography along the rim and a coating of coconut oil, this one's good to go on the next paddling trip. I've found spoon carving a fun way to use some of the smaller scrap pieces left over from paddle-making.


Sanded & Decorated


Oiled Up



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Poplar Nootka Raven Paddle

Even though traditional canoeing in my area of Canada evolved for the many inland lakes and rivers in the region, I've also been interested in the large ocean-going, cedar dugout canoes of the North West coast. The Indigenous Peoples of the this Region carved amazing, exotic shaped paddles from the prevalent cedars found in that part of the country.

Warren's Canoe Paddles book has a outline sketch of one particular North West coast paddle made from the Nootka People, more correctly known as the Nuu chah nulth. It is a peculiar in that it has a large area, sweeping blade that ends in a protruding tip and a long, flattened shaft region with roll-style grip. The few online versions I've been able to find are high end artworks decorated in the amazing style of the region. On the right is an example I found on the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver website (Scroll down in the Northwest Sculpture section to find it). The paddles details:

Eagle Design Paddle
by Morris Sutherland
Nuu chah nulth
Carved paddle of yellow cedar and abalone
65" x 7" x 1.5"


What a beauty! Upon doing some more research, I found out that "yellow cedar" is not a true cedar at all, but a member of the cypress family. It's other common name, Nootka Cypress, and latin name Callitropsis nootkatensis, are named in honour of the Nootka people. My local supplier didn't carry it and finding quality (non constuction grade) Western Red Cedar was also challenging. In the end, I thought I would use another "yellow" wood that is also not a member of the tree family its name implies...Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), a member of the Tulip family and apparently not a true poplar at all.

This is another paddle in which I never took any pictures of the carving process (done up at the cottage over a sunny weeklong holiday in the summer). It also contained what I perceived as my first major error in paddlemaking. While sawing out the blank, I cut too deep into the shaft area, resulting in an extremely narrow (less than 1") throat area. My only consolation is that cedar & cypress wood are quite soft requiring thicker shafts, but Yellow Poplar is a hardwood that could probably withstand this error if used lightly. A roll style grip was carved (similar to the Cherry Fusion Paddle) but it was left protuding much more than other Nootka paddles I had seen. This was done for my own preference of a larger grip area. I took it out for a test run on the lake in order to wet the grain before final sanding and even though it was meant for ocean-worthy dugouts, I found the shape and style conducive to solo style paddling in a smaller canoe.

As for decorating, I wanted to maintain the native decor and ideally burn a Raven image, seemingly appropriate for this work. Months went by before any suitable idea could be found. On my last visit to Canadian Canoe Museum in the fall of 2007 (can't get enough of that place), I took a shot of some Haida paddles on display with a dugout canoe. I really liked the 2nd paddle from the top, an elongated raven image.


A few days later, I was reading a back issue Canoe Roots magazine (Fall 2006), where there was an article discussing Kirk Wipper's history of collecting canoes that ultimately formed the basis of the museum today. In it was pic of a Haida canoe with an identical Raven image painted on the bow. Check out the specific page on the online archive here. So I burned this image, flipping the orientation so that the "beak" of the bird pointed towards the tip while adding some extra background markings on the blade. By burning at high temperature, the wood was charred almost black, nearly mimicking the effect painting with black acrylic. Here are the results:



Haida Raven on the Blade


My interpretation of a Nuu chah nulth Paddle


Yellow Poplar doesn't have the rot-resistant properties of cedars / cypresses, so this paddle will need to be varnished before use, but I haven't done that yet and am debating of leaving it as as another wallmounted showpiece



Thursday, February 7, 2008

Laminated Greenland Kayak Paddle

I've been on a couple kayaking day trips which have been great, but I'm much happier kneeling in a canoe with a single blade paddle controlling all the movement. The sitting position in a kayak wreaks havoc on my back. Put me in a canoe on the other hand, and I can kneel on my heels for hours without discomfort. Given the popularity of kayaking over canoeing in recent times, I guess I'm in the minority. In addition, I've always found that the feathered, euro blade, plastic paddles used in modern kayak touring seem designed just to scoop as much water as possible to power you through the water. They've always been too cumbersome for underwater recoveries and finesse strokes to propel the watercraft. The simplistic but graceful lines of the Greenland Inuit kayak paddle on the other hand, seems much more ergonomic and suited to the task of long distance paddling and given my new found woodworking confidence with the single blades, I thought I would give a shot at making one.

There are plenty of sources on the net to guide the newbie. The two I relied on included Chuck Holst's guide on the Greenland Paddle and Matt Johnson's Video on the topic. Most sources recommend carving out of 2x4 cedar obtained at a home building store, but I wanted to dive into making laminated paddles and figured this would be relatively easy since the blade shapes are quite narrow (under 3.5 inches) and simple in shape.

I started off with a trip to Century Mill for some new stock. I ended up getting some maple, poplar, and walnut pieces jointed and planed into 1 1/8th strips. I chose this dimension because this is also the size for my canoe paddle shafts and wanted to have some for intended laminated canoe paddles down the road. I also scored some very affordable walnut and maple pieces by rummaging through their "shorts" pile...discarded pieces cut from other stock. In many cases, these were perfectly suited to rip into strips to form blade or grip areas. At up to a 70% discout these were great deals on otherwise "discarded" wood.

After getting the strips home, I selected the best one (a 90 inch Yellow Poplar strip) for the core and begun measuring & using the walnut strips for the blade sections.

There a many debates about the best adhesives with most people siding with epoxy. But given that this was my first attempt, I didn't want to get jugs of the mixing formulas in case the experience was a bust. Also, epoxy cures so hard that it can blunt hand tools quickly so I opted for a waterproof polyurethane glue (Gorilla Glue) that seemed appropriate for water-based application like a paddle.

After measuring the strips, I clamped each side of the paddle by vertically stacking them and applying clamps to the flat surface of the granite tabletop on the balcony (covered in wax paper to prevent any drips from supergluing to the table). After the 24 full cure time, I clamped the other side in the same fashion. Within 2 days I had finished the laminating process and begun to cut the rough shape of the blades with the trust hand saw and the blank was ready for shaping.




Shaping the blade was a breeze after working on the larger, irregular shaped canoe paddles. A simple cambering process and general tapering of the blade resulted in a paddle I was quite happy with. Carving the shaft (loom) of the paddle followed the same logic as a canoe paddle, except I used a rasp to slightly angle where the walnut blades met the poplar core, resulting in tiny "shoulders" where one grips the paddle during use.Most sources also mention rounding the tip into a semicircle shape, but I felt that the whole angular and linear shape of the paddle would be broken by this, so I left the edges straight.

On my 2007 Arctic Trip, we sea kayaked twice...once quickly spotting a solitary ringed seal and then a second time visiting an Arctic Tern rookery on tiny offshore island...now that was amazing! The terns are one of the most graceful and acrobatic birds I've ever seen. They "nest" on the island by simply laying well camouflaged eggs on the bare rocks. Eventually, they hatch into even more camouflaged chicks and we had to literately watch each step on the island for fear of stepping on them by mistake, all the while their protective parents would dive bomb and miss striking our heads by mere inches. I decided to decorate my inuit style paddle with an Arctic Tern burning on one blade and an Inukshuk symbol on the other to comemmorate my trip to Nunavut.


The completed paddle sanded down


Arctic Tern burning on one blade


Inukshuk burning on the other blade


Decorating the wall before varnishing and test run in the spring


May 5/08 UPDATE: This paddle has now been varnished. View it here.



Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Yellow Poplar Penobscot

Most of the books and sites I read recommended using Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) as an introductory wood for paddle carving. The wood is a breeze to carve and rough stock is very affordable...5/4 stock is $2.50 board foot at Century Mill compared to up to $8-$9 for stuff like walnut and cherry. The lighter colour is pleasing although it does tend to contain streaks of greenish heartwood that sometimes give the paddle a bit of an "algae" like colour. Either way, this was my first attempt at a paddle entirely made on my own after the Canoe Museum Workshop in late May 2007. Cut out the blank at home and did all of the carving over the '07 Canada Day Long Weekend while up at the cottage.

I wanted to try a different style than the typical "beginner's paddle" so elected to try a Penobscot style listed in Graham Warren's Canoe Paddles book. Basically an elongated Beavertail with a sloping, flattened grip. Sawing out the blank by hand took a while as usual, but I found poplar to be a pretty forgiving wood that allowed for the sweeping curves of the blade when cut with a fine toothed crosscut saw. Below are some pics of the job (skipping all the intermediate steps I've outlined in other posts)



The sawn out blank


Completed paddle before artwork


Varnishing after burning a heron on the blade and cat-tail image on the grip


Taking it out for a spin on a sunny day...would you believe I actually spotted a Heron while using it...perfect coincidence!



Poplar is one of the softer hardwoods so the blade and shaft are prone to scuffing and denting if used carelessly, but you can't beat it for lightness. I wouldn't really use it again for paddles I intend to use for tripping but for a starter project and pyrography artwork it is a great wood to use.




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