Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Book Review: Mike Elliot's This Fancy Old Canoe

Another spectacular resource for canoe restoration has been created by Mike Elliot of Kettle River Canoes. This Fancy Old Canoe is Mike's second publication on the topic following his highly successful and well received first book from back in 2016. This Fancy Old Canoe is set to be released on Amazon on June 3rd, 2024. I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy to review and share with readers here.


Mike's well known Canoeguy's blog has been providing restoration tips online since 2009. His posts have been a valuable resource for folks who have wanted to tackle a repair on their own, especially for those intimidated by the job.  These posts formed the basis for his first book, This Old Canoe, which exclusively focused on wood-canvas construction. These included typical repairs such as replacing broken ribs and planking, splicing rib tops, dealing with rotted stem tips and of course, re-canvassing. 

Having covered these common types of damage and repair, Mike's new book tackles more difficult restoration challenges seen in other styles of canoe construction. As many of these styles are no longer being actively built and have been relegated to being viewed as vintage antiques, Mike appropriately refers to these classic hulls as "Fancy Canoes".   


In particular, the book discusses the various forms of all-wood construction, which rapidly evolved in the region of Peterborough, Ontario. These various "Peterborough" canoes did not have a waterproof canvas exterior but instead relied on precise wood joinery to create a water-tight hull.  This Fancy Old Canoe thoroughly describes how to repair and replace every component in these elegant designs.

With over 400 photos and more than 100 plans and illustrations, This Fancy Old Canoe helps to methodically direct the restoration process and provides a clear guidance to handling some of the more challenging woodworking tasks.


In addition to these all-wood hulls, Mike delves into the repair of other forms of wood-canvas construction that were not covered in his first book. Included are topics such as reverse engineering highly curved stem profiles, steam-bending short decks and rebuilding the long extended decks typically seen on fancy courting canoes. 


Further chapters cover the complex task of dealing with pocketed inwales commonly seen in B.N. Morris canoes as well as additional topics of wide outwales and handling restorations to sponson air chambers. The caning patterns for a trapezoidal seat from a 1905 Rushton Indian Girl is also included as are plans for a wood slat Peterborough portable canoe chair. Even repairs to sailing rigs and floor systems are thoughtfully discussed along with a chapter on applying fancy hand-painted decorations to a hull.


As in his first book, This Fancy Old Canoe concludes with a series of handy schematics for the key components of a variety of historic canoe models. The plans include information on the Old Town Otca,  Thomson Brothers Ranger, Rushton Indian Girl, Peterborough Lake Queen, and a Willits Brothers double cedar hull.  

Collectors of antique canoes as well as folks interested in appreciating the elegant complexity of these watercraft will no doubt appreciate the fine photography and explanations. Those who wish to tackle getting an heirloom canoe back on the water will find these two books are wonderful resources to help overcome challenges and achieve success in their canoe restoration project.

This Fancy Old Canoe: A Comprehensive Guide To Restoring Antique Canoes will be available on Amazon starting on June 3, 2024.

This Fancy Old Canoe: A Comprehensive Guide to Restoring Antique Canoes
8.5″ x 11″ paperback
248 pages
more than 400 photographs
more than 100 plans and illustrations
$25.95 USD ($34.95 CAD)



Saturday, March 9, 2024

Historic Paddle Photo: Gaspard Picard - Huron

Photo of Gaspard Picard, Grand Chief in Loretteville, Quebec - Huron/Wendat


Another earlier photo features François-Xavier Picard, Great Chief of the Lorette Hurons from 1870 to 1883.




Sunday, January 21, 2024

Historic Paddle Photo: 1872 Mi'kmaq paddles

A very old image posted on Facebook showcases two Mi'kmaq men next to their bark canoe. Difficult with the tones in the background but you can just make out the shape of the long paddle blades. The source identifies the men as John Barrington and John Stevens (aka Big John) in Newfoundland, Canada dated to 1872.




Sunday, November 5, 2023

Circa 1860 "Pleasing the Spirits" paddle up for auction (again)

Bonham's  Auctions is featuring a circa 1860 paddle in their upcoming NATIVE AMERICAN & TRIBAL ART auction, set for 8 November 2023. LOT 84 features "A Northeastern Woodlands canoe paddle" which might be familiar to readers of this blog.


A Northeastern Woodlands canoe paddle
Malecite(?), c. 1860s
63 3/4 in.
Provenance: Private collection, New York. 
Collected in the St. John's River area of New Brunswick, Canada.

The uniquely carved stepped grip of this paddle features some floral incised decorative elements.


This paddle was originally illustrated in an exhibition catalog from 1982, Pleasing the Spirits. A Catalogue of a collection of American Indian Art by Douglas C. Ewing, Page 385, plate 474. It was up for auction back in 2009 where it fetched a realized price $2500 after being valued at $700. It seems to have been up for auction again in 2017. I made a replica from maple back in 2020 and it has become one of my favourites for relaxed solo paddling. Hopefully this treasure will go to a good home where it will be valued for the historic piece that it is.

Nov 10 2023 Update: Paddle sold for $3200 US (including buyer's premium)



Monday, October 9, 2023

Mariner's Catalog (1973) - Henri Vaillancourt Paddles

Came across a 50 year old photo published in the 1973 publication,  The Mariner's catalog, available for 1 hour borrowing on Archive.org. It accompanies a brief write-up of the Malecite style paddles carved by Henri Vaillancourt. The photo is B&W is quite dark and grainy but the beautifully sculpted blades with sharp spines are visible. 






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