Friday, January 29, 2010

Painted Blue & White paddle

Another vintage paddle from the Cherry Gallery. Sort of like a wide bladed cree design with squarish tip.

Blue & White Canoe Paddle
Painted surface in white with a deep nautical blue handle and blade.
Circa 1930
6" w, 60" h

Friday, January 22, 2010

Poplar Diamond Passamaquoddy - Part 1

Figure 72 of Adney's book shows 3 variations of Passamaquoddy paddles. After making a replica of the top paddle, I next wanted to try the more angular diamond shaped paddle pictured in the middle of sketch.

Adney's sketch - Diamond Bladed Passamaquoddy in middle

A while back I had cut a blank out of my final piece of Yellow Poplar stock. Apart from the blade shape, I was attracted to the short, flattened grip style. Doug Ingram of Red River Canoe also replicated this design for his historic paddles article which includes some nice pics of his work.

Doug Ingram's fantastic replica

It's been a while since I've been able to do any carving. My shifting work schedule combined with poor weather and the demands of our little monkey at home have meant serious deprivation from this time-consuming hobby. Well, the universe was perfectly aligned today as I scored a day off from work, the child was sent off to day care, and the frighteningly unseasonal weather in Toronto meant the carving tools were out on the balcony again today.

Blank ready for more shaping

The blade was simple enough to shape down quickly. To work on the edges of the grip area, I thought I'd try working with the crooked knife recently sharpened with some waterstones. It worked well enough though I still have more work to do on the grip area before it's shaped to my liking.

Working with the crooked knife

I still can't believe the weather today, warm enough to eventually strip down to a T-shirt for the final carving. Ridiculous really for the middle of January!

Toronto in January???

Still more work to be done on this one. For now it's back hanging in the locker room until another miraculous day when I get some carving time.

UPDATE - April 11/2010: Part 2 of this paddle construction has been posted.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Young's Antiques Paddles

Here are some paddles from Young's Antiques in Belleville, Ontario and the accompanying description from their site.

Vintage Canoe Paddles

Item #230 a-d ( Left to right)

a. c1940 Hand-Carved Oak Paddle, Eastern Ontario - 57" L x 5.5" w - $165.0
b. Old, Painted Red Paddle, c1930's, nice surface 59" L x 6.5" W - $345.00
c. c1925 Marsh Paddle, Original Paint, One of a Kind - $395.00
d. c1960 Hand Carved Cherry Paddle - $145.00

Item c, the Marsh Paddle has an interested grip that I've never seen before, like a grip on a shovel. As ergonomic as it seems for clearing snow, I'm not sure if it'll be that comfortable while paddling. Either way, its unique explaining the higher list price.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Historical Paddle Paintings - McCord Museum

Here are two interesting paintings by Cornelius Krieghoff in the collection of the McCord museum in Montreal. The essentially represent the same scene with subtle differences between them. In both, you can see a seated figure with painted paddle decorated in a chevron pattern, a seemingly common theme in many paddle paintings.

Aboriginal Camp in Lower Canada
Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872)
1847, 19th century
Source Link

Paddle Closeup

In another similar version, the shaft and bobble grip of the paddle are in view. Also noticed that the chevron pattern on the paddle is now "pointing" in the opposite direction.

Indian Wigwam in Lower Canada
Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872)
About 1850, 19th century
Source Link

Paddle closeup

Sunday, January 10, 2010

George Douglas Bushcraft Survival Paddle

With my own failed attempt at a bushcraft paddle this past summer, I was inspired by this nearly century old bushcraft paddle on display at the Canadian Canoe Museum that has a bit of significant history. It was carved by George Douglas, who led an Arctic expedition in 1911 to search for minerals in the Coppermine River watershed. His book about the journey entitled, Lands forlorn : a story of an expedition to Hearne's Coppermine River, is noteworthy for its attention to detail and superb photographs. An online copy of the book is available at The paddle carved from knotted spruce is quite weathered but still looks functional. Curious to note an absence of any grip.

Douglas' Spruce bush paddle


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Grey Owl's Canoe Paddles

Spent the holidays quite ill in bed. On the plus side, I was able to read an interesting biography, From the land of the shadows: The making of Grey Owl by Donald B Smith. Most people know Archie "Grey Owl" Belaney as one of the greatest fraudsters of the 20th century, an Englishman who passed himself as a native and ended up becoming world famous for his wilderness writings and message of conservation. When news of his actual history broke the day of his death, the public was shocked to find out he was a "fake" who happened to also be bigamist, an alcoholic and a general scoundrel who abandoned his many wives and his children.

Despite the negativity associated with his actual life (nobody's perfect right?), his message of conservation and commitment to nature seem authentic enough. Smith presents a very objective view of Belaney's behaviour, stemming from his own abandonment by his parents to be raised by paternal aunts that culminated in total immersion into his native fantasy.

Whatever you think of the man however, one thing is certain, and that is Belaney's paddling skills improved sufficiently for him to be considered an proficient canoeist. I've developed a bit of a fascination with other people's paddles and wondered if Belaney himself had a preferred design. In the wonderful silent films from the National Film Board that made Grey Owl (and his pet beaver Jelly Roll) world famous, you see him using some sort of elongated beavertail design. Also interesting to note his traditional use of lashed paddles during the portage as well as what looks like a tumpline dangling from the center yoke.

This famous pic of Grey Owl sitting on the edge of his canoe was taken during his employment as a ranger at Riding Mountain National Park, in Manitoba. It shows a large, elongated beavertail paddle.

Grey Owl at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba.
Date: [ca. 1931]
Photographer/Illustrator: Oliver, W.J., Calgary, Alberta

Due to low water conditions, Grey Owl moved to a cabin specially built for him on the shores of Lake Ajawaan, in Prince Albert National Park in the northern part of the adjacent province, Saskatchewan. The lodge was christened Beaver Lodge and Grey Owl famously extended an open invitation to any visitor...
Far enough away to gain seclusion, yet within reach of those whose genuine interest prompts them to make the trip, Beaver Lodge extends a welcome to you if your heart is right.

Tom Buttle's travel blog page on this area has some pics of Grey Owl's weathered old paddle that used to be displayed as well as lots of photos documenting the landscape. Obviously a different one than the beavertail from the Manitoba photo, but a classic straight forward design nonetheless. I also came across this picture of the paddle blade on Flickr as well as this shot of another young paddler posing with it.

Mr. Buttle posing with Grey Owl's signed paddle

If I ever make it out west with the canoe, this is one paddling destination I'll be visiting.

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