Friday, October 17, 2008

Historic Passamaquoddy Paddle - Part 1

About a month ago, I decided to get back to paddle making using a wood I hadn't used in a while - black cherry. The design I wanted to try came from Adney's book - an 1849 Passamaquoddy paddle decorated with a double scroll pattern on an elongated beavertail blade. In Canoe Paddles, there is a rough hand drawn sketch by Liz Regan of this very same pattern. A search revealed that the Peabody Museum also has a version of this paddle in their collection

Adney's sketch - Decorated Passamaquoddy on top

Peabody Museum paddle; Peabody Number 99-12-10/53655

I'm not the first person to try and replicate this paddle. Doug Ingram of Red River Canoe documented his version on his page on historic canoe paddles (UPDATE 2012 - unfortunately the original article is no longer online after switching internet servers). I ended up using Doug's image of the painted blade for my basic pattern.

Adneys's Illustration; Doug Ingram's paddle; Closeup of Blade
courtesy Doug Ingram -

Instead of colouring the beautiful cherry wood with bright green paint however, my intention was to burn the negative image onto the blade, resulting in a look similar to the Fusion Paddle made last year. I also chose a different grip pattern than Adney since I had already put this style of grip on the Omer Birch. Instead, I used a stretched out Malecite grip that I've begun to favour. I free-handed a similar scroll pattern on the grip area. Burning the whole negative pattern on the paddle with just a tiny flow-point tip took a while, but I'm happy with they way it turned out.

Carved out paddle; Initial pattern; Completed blade

I was actually working on filling in the remaining portions on the handle section when my wife's water broke and the chaos of the little one's birth left this paddle in limbo. It's been in my den nearly complete for a while now and I'll always associate this paddle with the early delivery. Below is a shot of the incomplete paddle posing on a glorious Autumn day with the fall colours beginning in Toronto.

Incomplete paddle

Part 2 will be posted whenever I find the time to finish this one off.

UPDATE: November 20, 2008:: Paddle now complete - read Part 2


Unknown said...

Have been paddling for over 25years and I think the style and design of your paddle is one of the best Ive seen.

Murat said...

Many Thanks Colin! Though, I can't take full credit myself as the inspiration for this paddle shape and decoration came from existing historic designs. Would you believe it hasn't even been dipped in water yet? I'm saving it to use with my nearly complete, similarly decorated cedar canvas canoe later in the summer.


Julie said...

Thanks for your efforts to preserve an important part of my own heritage from the Wabanaki peoples. I plan to use part of this particular design to create a tattoo, having realized that the shape of the paddle designs lend themselves naturally to human limb shapes. If you like I will send a pic when completed. Just as we adorned our tools and clothes, we also adorned our bodies and some of us are reviving that tradition. My father used to carve paddles, made his own/crooked knives, and my brothers continue making snowshoes. Your work is lovely!

Murat said...

Appreciate your compliments, Julie! I would very much like to see a photo of your tattoo when its done. Wabanaki artforms and scroll patterns are just so mesmerising and the bark canoes & paddles are the most exquisite designs in my opinion. You should be very proud of coming from a such a rich cultural heritage. I'm planning a future visit to Maine & New Brunswick for next year to visit and learn more about Wabanaki art first hand. By the way, if you have photos of any of your father's paddles, I'd appreciate it to add to the website's growing archive of historic paddle designs

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