Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cherry Maliseet Paddle

I scored a choice piece of black cherry stock last year that was wide enough and long enough to carve out 2 paddle designs. I decided that I wanted to attempt 2 native style paddles. The first and easier of the two, a Maliseet Style basically a narrow ottertail with tapering flat grip) and what I called a "Fusion Paddle"...an early Mi'kmaq blade with a Westcoast native style roll grip (another post needed for that one). Both blade patterns were taken from scanning and enlarging smaller illustration from Graham Warren's book and adjusting for size. The Maliseet paddle discussed in this post is 58 inches long, my ideal measurement for paddling solo.

I started by marking out the paddles and finding out the ideal orientation for the grain and blade for both. The resulting patterns fit nicely on the stock but needed careful sawing out of the blanks. I had to drill some pilot holes on the stock at set points and saw between them to crudely divide the stock into halves.

Given that the paddle blade came so close to edge, I had trouble setting the saw to allow for a curved cut, so I learned a trick from a woodworking book. Basically using a flat rasp to indent the wood just enough for the saw to bite and begin a cut. Worthwhile tip for the future.

Curves were then finished off with a coping saw. Having a bandsaw would be sweet but I've got no place for a powertooled workshop so elbow grease and the condo balcony had to suffice.


Shaving down the paddle while clamped to the patio furniture (all 2nd hand stuff anyway). To see the final shaping of the grip check out my earlier post on the Maliseet style grip. Everything was working out well until I started working on the throat and shaft (the last parts in my carving process). I started shaping down the area with a few strokes of the spokeshave, when out of nowhere buried superficially under a thin layer of healthy looking wood, a knot appears ... the worse kind too...with dead wood in the centre that dropped out and formed an angled 1/8" hole right through the shaft. At this point I realized that this paddle wouldn't be tripping worthy anymore but since Black Cherry is a premium wood, I continued with the intention of this being a show-piece on the cottage wall.

After all the sanding and final wetting of the grain, it as time for some decorating. The flat grip is ideal for use as another burning area, so I decided to burn images common to our cottage area. A Black-Capped Chickadee and Pileated Woodpecker on some White Pine (The Ontario Provincial Tree). Anyway, despite the structural blemish (not visible on these pics) I'm still quite happy with the work and it's one of three paddles gracing our cottage wall. 

Black-Capped Chickadee burning on grip

Pileated Woodpecker burning on the blade

Completed paddle varnished and ready to be dipped in the Lake

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