Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ROM Canoe Paddles

During my recent visit to the Royal Ontario Museum to check out their bark canoes, I came across a display of an Iroquois paddle that caught my eye. The lighting inside the glass case was horrific, so no photos worked out. But, I was able to find a digital image from the ROM's site of the paddle in question. Turns out they have 3 such paddles in their collection. The one on display was the specimen on the far right.

ROM Paddles - Iroquois
late 19th - early 20th century
Area of Origin: Northeast; Ontario; Canada; North America; Six Nations of the Grand

Not very obvious from the photo, but the shaft on the display paddle was quite narrow, it looked like it was less than one inch thick. Information on the wood type was not available but I'm assuming it would have to be a strong hardwood to handle such a thinned shaft diameter. The blade design is basically like a spined version of the Attikamekw paddle design that is turning out to be one of my favourites. Also the flattened, short grip is one that I've seen before on other Iroquois paddles. Here is a shot of decorated Iroquois paddles from LiveAuctioneer that I posted on before.

Pair of Painted Iroquois Canoe Paddles, made of two piece hardwood, red and white painted blade, unpainted shaft; each 65.5" long. Ex Howard K. Echenstern Collection.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Burning a BirchBark Canoe :(

From the Official Page of Destination Nor'Ouest II, some pics of Episode 5 where the crew decides to burn their (apparently) irreparably damaged 26 foot bark canoe. The captions are my rusty translations from the original french. The 3rd picture shows the crew lashing some sort of strongback or keel to the hull with spruce root - maybe necessary if the gunwales cracked or something. In the end, they decided it should be burned (maybe for TV ratings?)... a shame really given all the work and resources that go into building one.

"Le canot est très endommagé."
The canoe is very damaged

"Les voyageurs réparent le canot"
The voyageurs repair the canoe

"Les voyageurs réparent le canot afin que celui-ci puisse porter leurs bagages."
The Voyageurs repair their canoe in order to carry their baggage.

"Les voyageurs disent adieu à leur canot d'écorce, il n'était plus possible de le réparer."
The voyageurs say goodbye to their bark canoe, it was not possible to repair it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Canoe Museum Paddle Replicas

Not so long ago, I wrote a post about William Armstrong's painting of a Hudson's Bay Store scene. It depicted a painted paddle with yellow and red checkered pattern.

William Armstrong
Hudson's Bay Store, Fort William c. 1860-1870
National Gallery of Canada (no. 30490)

Paddle Closeup

While strolling through the "Historic Fur Trade" section on a recent visit to the Canadian Canoe Museum, I came across a display with a reproduction of this very same paddle. Normally, I probably would've passed it by without much attention, but now understand a bit more of its significance.

Canadian Canoe Museum Replica

Also frequent throughout the museum are replicas portrayed in the many paintings of Frances Anne Hopkins, especially those portrayed in her classic painting, Voyageurs at Dawn.

Voyageurs at Dawn, 1871
Archives Canada Citation

Decorated paddles laying on the ground
centre of painting)

More paddles leaning against a rock face
(far right of painting)

These bright scarlett paddles were decorated with various hash marks and chevron patterns. Here are some next to the museum's huge Montreal Canoe display

Voyageur Paddle Replicas

As a side note, the museum just released the 2010 dates for their Paddle Carving Workshop - the place where I first learned this fun hobby.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Snake Eyes Folk Art Paddle

Many thanks to Ferdy Goode for sending me a link to an interesting paddle posted at Gould Auctions. Might try making one of these (yet another project!) although with the Mrs. afraid of snakes, I'm not sure if she'd appreciate this one hanging on the wall.

A STUNNING 19th century Folk Art carved and painted, full sized CANOE PADDLE in a SUPERIOR original surface. Its shaft is formed by a full relief carved red snake which has yellow glass eyes and a green belly! The paddle measures 67” in length. Found in a Greenville, Maine home. SUPERB original condition.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Refurbished Woods No. 200 Pack: Finished

Finally got around to organizing the photos of my completed refurbished canvas pack project. All that was left was the making of the tumpline. This was quite straightforward and is nearly identical to the Canoe Tump made earlier. This pack tump however, has 1" wide tails that are only 10" long to fit the pack's buckles and is also riveted rather than assembled with brass Chicago screws.

Copper rivetted pack tump; Buckled into place

When taking the pack out for a test run, it was loaded up with plenty of stuff, including some heavy junk (a few 5 pound splitting wedges, hammers, etc.). Sure enough, the frameless pack is a awkward with the shoulder straps alone. But with the tump in place, the weight is held closer to the spine and placed more strategically between the shoulders. Just like the tump carry with the canoe, you need to lean forward a bit, but at the right balancing point, even the hands can be released as you feel the weight transfered to the spine. At full capacity however, I'll likely be gripping the tump strap with both hands for a more balanced carry. Here are some lateral shots taken a while back. This past weekend, the area was hit with 110cm of snow in 48hrs and is now transformed into a winter wonderland.

Shoulder straps alone; Balanced with the tumpline

After taking these shots, I realized I forgot to give the axe holder a test run. With the axehead strapped into the holder and the handle secured with leather lace through the packs eyelet rings, the axe is quite secure in position.

Axe holder of the No.200 Pack

Overall the whole pack has now been transformed and has many more years of use left in it.

Before and...


Out of curiosity, I visited a local outfitter that had a Woods No.1 Special pack for sale ($115 CND + tax). After spending all this time working with my own version, the new models seem to be made with thinner canvas and the leather components made from cheap veg-tanned leather that had not been treated for outdoor use. I imagine that after exposing the pack to the elements of a canoe trip the leather would quickly harden and crack. The cheap splash rivets were attached with minimal support, just leather "washers" on the inside which were weren't even stitched into place. The splayed edges of the rivets were sharp and could easily tear any waterproof drybag inside the pack. Even the tumpline had sharp edged rivets protruding which I pictured cutting into the fingers of the poor soul who tried to hold onto the strap. All in all, a sad testament to the so-called "quality" of today's workmanship compared to years gone by.

New No.1 Special Pack; Tumpline with sharp rivet edges - very shoddy

Friday, December 11, 2009

Graham Warren Paddlemaking DVD

Just found out about a new Paddlemaking DVD (scroll down) from Graham Warren of Moosehead Canoes. I've already got both of Graham's paddlemaking books and this DVD looks like it would make a nice visual addition to the library.

His site has some beautiful looking screen shots as well as details of the content. The 90 minute DVD is currently only available in PAL region 2 (UK & Europe) format but a NTSC (North American) format is apparently coming soon. The disc also contains 10 full sized paddle plans in electronic PDF format to print out - very handy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Refurbished Woods No. 200 Pack: Flap & Tump Straps

A different feature of the Woods Pack compared to the Duluth style is the use of a single leather anchor for both the top flap straps as well as the tump strap buckles. Less stitching and more simple design. On this pack the leather anchors were still quite sound (top rivet hole compromised), but I thought it was still salvageable if a new rivet was simply inserted a little lower. The worn original straps were replaced with 36" long x 1" wide latigo.

Original leather anchor; New flap strap inserted

In front of this strap would be the tumpline buckle. With a folded strip of thin leather (slightly different colour) and a brass buckles (doesn't match the faded steel of the original), the tump buckle was created. A bit tricky to get all the holes lined up for the rivet. After pounding and setting the rivets in with an additional piece of backing leather on the inside (not shown), I realized I made the strap a bit too long and the buckle kept slipping down too much. Another hole was punched and a brass Chicago screw was mounted to secure the buckle into place. Bit of a mistake, but at least the screw matches the brass buckle so the whole thing doesn't clash too much. For symmetry, I ended up doing the same thing for the other buckle strap.

Tump buckle material; Rivetted into place

Buckle holes were punched in the flap strap at 1" intervals and a test run was done by stuffing the pack up with mounds of dirty laundry. The beauty about this design is that the straps can be placed over the topflap parallel (useful to secure a sleeping pad or other gear to the top of the pack) or cross ways to pack akward shaped items. Here are the two configurations below.

Parallel straps; Cross over closure

The project is nearly done. All that is needed is the making of a tump for the pack, which should be easy given that I made one already for the canoe. This one will be rivetted however.

Dec 13/09 Update - Pack is now complete. See last stage pics here

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Copper Tipped Antique Paddles

Another post from the Cherry Gallery's current selection...

Great Pair of Blue Canoe Paddles
This is a pair of beaver-tail paddles in a very appealing shade of original blue paint. The handle and lower shaft were left unpainted for comfort of use, and the blades have protective copper bands around the tips.
Circa 1920
7.5" w, 60" h

There was a recent thread on the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association Forums about replicating these copper tip protectors. The general consensus was that the drilling of holes for tacking on the metal protectors was quite damaging to the paddle. But for the history buff that may want to replicate this feature, I suppose it would add a bit of a traditional turn-of-the century feel.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Refurbished Woods No.200 Pack: New Shoulder Straps

Continuing with the Recycled Woods Pack project, I had removed all the compromised leather components from the sturdy pack and now needed to clean up the canvas. I ended up using a pretty heavy duty cleanser, TSP and it was very effective in removing most of the embedded dirt and grease, including the huge oil blot on the front. I'm not kidding when I say the wash water looked like black coffee after I was done. The great thing about canvas packs is the breathability of the material. Within a few hours of exposure to sunlight and the windy conditions on the balcony, the bulk of the pack (inside and out) was nearly dry. Below are the photos of the original condition and after washing.

Before and After shots

The TSP also got rid of the left over gunk from the duct tape someone applied to the front (probably a temporary name tag from summer camp). Although the canvas is quite faded from years of exposure to UV, I don't mind the "aged look" and am not planing on redying the canvas.

Now for the leather parts. My intention is to restore this pack to usable function while not obviously spending a fortune. So the replacement leather I have on hand will not perfectly match the dark tone of the original leather, but will do the job. Below is a shot of the leather components that would make up the new shoulder strap rig.

New shoulder strap components

The original leather anchor where the shoulder straps were attached was small and degraded. Instead a larger patch of leather was cut out and would need to be hand stitched to the canvas, along with an identical piece on the inside of the bag. The outer piece is latigo leather and the inner piece a damaged piece of veg-tanned tooling leather that wouldn't really have much other use due to its cosmetic flaws. The stitching was tedious but made easier with a specialty stitching awl - a great investment for future leatherwork, as well as pre-punching the stitching holes. My stitching job isn't machine perfect but the leather anchors are quite secure.

Handstitching the leather anchors - exterior & inside the pack

While progressing with the stitching, the holes where the copper rivets would be inserted were marked and punched out. Once the anchors were in place, 3/4" number 9 copper rivets were pounded into place. The burrs were set with with a rivetting tool, the rivets snipped and the whole thing secured into place to form a very sturdy setup.

Copper Rivets outside; Burrs on the inside (before snipping)

To finish off the straps, thinner 1" strips were rivetted to the main 2" wide shoulder straps. Didn't know which way the rivets should point, either with the burr facing out or facing in. In the end I opted on reversing the post so that the flat side would be on the inside of the straps and the preened rivet would slightly project on the outside. Duluth seems to do this with their packs and it makes sense from a comfort point of view to prevent the rivet from snagging on clothing when wearing the pack. Buckle holes punched every inch and this part of the repair all done.

Prepping the buckle straps; Rivetted and punched

Next up - repair to the top flap straps and the tumpline buckles. Next post posted here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Canoe Paddle Plans

From the 1905 online book, Problems in Woodworking, is a chapter about canoe paddles. Included is a diagram of a standard beavertail paddle with pear grip showing all the relevant specs for width, length, and thickness. Interesting to note the thinning of the circular shaft (1-1/8th inch) down to 1 inch at the throat of the blade. I generally make the shafts on my paddles 1-1/8th inch thick as well but never really thinned the throat like this plan shows. Logically I wonder if it would weaken the paddle right at this location where the large blade area of this design would presumably concentrate the most force.

Paddle Plans

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Leather Paddle Whipping

Last year I ended up using some scrap leather to make a removable paddle sleeve to protect the shaft of the paddle from scraping against the harsh aluminum gunwales of my fiberglass canoe. This design has served its temporary purpose well and has been used on-and-off with many of the paddles in the growing collection. However, with the Attikamekw design being on of my preferred blades lately, I decided that a more permanent leather wrapping was in order.

The temporary paddle sleeve

One option was to use a single piece as before and tightly stitch it similar to oar leathers documented by David Churbuck's well-illustrated blog post using a Shaw & Tenny leather kit. However, with canoe paddles, it seems that whipping the paddle with some sort of cordage is the more common route. There's a brief article in CanoeRoots Magazine(Summer 2008) on page 13 that describes whipping the paddle, though the online pics are small. Charles Burchill's page has some pics of the final result although both sources seem to favour usings modern cordage that I find clashes with the feel and texture of a traditional one-piece paddle. By the way, doing an internet image search for "paddle whipping" leads you to all sorts of nasty pics of people with bruised buttocks...should've known that before blindly typing in keywords!

Back on topic. Instead of using whipping twine, some 1/2" wide saddle string was obtained from my neighbourhood leather supply shop. Along with tiny brass tacks, my goal is to make a permanently fastened leather wrap similar to some of the Turtle Paddle brand paddles I've seen. To ensure the bottom of the leather wrap was even with the shaft, a 4 inch length was snipped from the tip to the edge. Once soaked in water to thoroughly wet the leather, the thinned end was tacked onto the shaft just above the throat.

Trimmed end; Tacked into place

Then the soaked leather was very carefully wrapped by stretching with all my strength and carefully positioning it on the shaft. Believe it or not, it was really tiring work on the muscles. The stretching is necessary so the leather shrinks when it dries and forms a much tighter grip on the wood, otherwise it would likely loosen and unravel.

Stretch and wrap slowly

Nearing the end

Couldn't take pictures of the final tacking as I had to work fast and it was a bit tricky. Essentially, I stretched the end as much as it would go and gently pressed in the tack in my thumb to mark the spot. A clamp was put on the working end of the wrap to prevent it from unravelling and with the hands free, I pulled the end back to the marked spot and hammered in the tack. The wrap was left to dry in the sun for a while and then the it was treated with SnoSeal, a Beeswax based waterproofing agent, which not only works well but smells like the tastiest thing ever. I used it with leather hiking boots and snowshoe bindings with great results

The technique involves heating up the leather with a hair dryer and then applying liberal amounts of product with a brush. The pores of the leather open with heat and absorb much of the melted wax until a saturation point. At that stage, the excess is removed with rag and the leather buffed.

Heating up the leather

Applying the waterproofing beeswax formula

Despite chilly autumn temperatures, I was able to test out the wrap during a short jaunt on the lake. You can see the water beading off the leather and after a while of exaggerated prying off the gunwales, the leather is secure and hasn't shifted. Some experts might question the use of this paddle accessory, but it doesn't add much weight, protects the paddle sufficiently, and dampens the sound of paddling with strokes like the Canadian / Northwoods which requires the use of the gunwale as a leverage point.

Waterproofed leather holding up; View off the bow

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