Sunday, May 17, 2009

Attikamekw (Têtes-de-Boules) Paddle

With the bark canoe essentially complete, I figured I'd make use of some free time making a paddle to go with the boat. Given that it is based on a solo Attikamekw (Têtes-de-Boules) Hunter's canoe, it was only logical to carve an Attikamekw paddle with it.

The blank was cut out of some yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) stock, the off cuts of which had been used to make the permanent thwarts in the canoe a while back. Adney documents a sample Têtes-de-Boules paddle in Fig.102 of his book. It's a pretty no frills blade design with a round tip and gradual straight-lined taper to the neck. Pretty narrow blade as well, I made mine 4-3/8th inches at the widest point. Adney documents two alternative grip designs, neither of which I've found confortable in my paddle making experience so far, so I stuck with the elongated grip I've begun to favour for my style of paddling. Some decorative notches were added to the base of the grip as well.

Adney's Plan; My version; Grip Closeup

As for decoration, I wanted to experiment with some native-inspired scroll designs to go with the designs I may etch into the canoe's winter bark in the future. I checked out a great online resource - Frank G. Speck's Double-Curve Motive in Northeastern Algonkian Art (1914) available through In the end I settled on a Naskapi Cree double curve pattern (Fig. 12.) because the book source didn't have any documentation on Attikamekw patterns but stated that there was similarity between tribal groups of this region

Double Curve motif

From this basic pattern, a mirror imaged design was set up and burned onto the blade. Normally, such designs would be etched on, but I'm not confident enough with my chipcarving skills to tackle that. Pyrography also allows you to add some shading, and yellow birch is a great wood to take advantage of for subtle tones. One the grip, I burned some other free hand scroll patterns and designs.

Blade pattern; Grip decoration; Whole Paddle

Being a one-piece, I'll be oiling this one rather than varnishing but will likely do that once the extreme windy weather in Toronto settles down a bit.

Nov 29/09 UPDATE - A leather wrapping has been added to the shaft of this paddle which so far is my favourite design for solo paddling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful work, I am envious of your skills.

Mark Baigent

Post a Comment

Newer Posts Older Posts Home Page