Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Artist Profile: Martin Bellmann Canoe Art

Martin Bellmann is a self taught artist who has made some lovely paintings feature the bark canoe theme. His web page of Historical Art has wonderfully descriptive captions of his artwork. Below is a piece entitled "First Light"

"First Light"

I really enjoy the color of the wake behind the canoe reflecting the first glints of sunrise...the ideal time to capture a Blue Heron taking off in the distance. The paddles seem to reflect a more tradition, pointed beavertail shape

Another piece is "Forgotten Voices" which features a couple paddling alongside tall cliffs. I really like the perspective of this piece and the sense of movement through the water. The bow paddler looks to have a large Northwoods style paddle with a slightly elongated grip.

Forgotten Voices

There's a similar granite rock face on my cottage lack (nicknamed "Hastings Rock" by the locals) that serves as a diving platform for the more adventurous. Seeing this painting makes me eager to get the bark canoe out of storage and back on the water where it belongs.

Many thanks to Martin for permission to reproduce his work and for the inspirational art. More paintings please!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Western Cree Paddle by Mike Elliot

One of the blogs I follow keenly is that of Mike Elliot of Kettle River Canoes. Mike's artistry and skill with cedar canvas canoe restoration is just wonderful. His posts are filled with nuggets of wisdom and fantastic photos of restoration projects. A recent post about spring cleaning for the canoe included a picture of a custom made paddle in the Western Cree style with a bobble grip.

Adney has an illustration of the Western Cree paddles and noted that this tribe was the only one he was aware that had separate paddle designs for men and women. Graham Warren also has a reduced image of this paddle shape in his books as well.

Adney's Plans; Mike's Alder version

Mike generously emailed some extra details about the paddle. It is made from an 8/4 board of Alder (Alnus rubra) which was then worked down to shape the 2" bobble grip. That's a lot of extra carving! This prevented the need to laminate extra wood on the grip, as was the case with my bobble grip experiment. Never made a paddle out of Red Alder before but I just checked out the site and it is available - looks to be a gorgeous grain pattern as well. Many thanks for the paddle wood suggestion!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Artist Profile: David Wright Canoe Art

Continuing this historical art theme, I came across the artwork of David Wright. At first I could only find a few pics with a canoe theme, including the lovely work, "Quiet Reflections". It features a decorated paddle featuring a red grip and blade, very akin to the fur trade / voyageur paddles of the day.

A solitary Woodland Indian fishes
from his birchbark canoe in a serene setting

David graciously emailed an image gallery of his other works featuring bark canoes of various, including Maliseet, Fur Trade, and old style Alonguin.

His most haunting work is that "The Captives" which features an emotional scene with an unknown ending that leaves the audience in suspense.

It turns out that David has thoroughly researched these various canoe shapes and models and even has some practical experience in paddling them. He owns a 14 foot Old Style Algonquin canoe that he has paddled in the Boundary Waters. If the lines of the canoe look familiar, it served as the "model" for The Captives piece above.

David's 14ft Old-Style Algonquin Bark Canoe

Many thanks to David for allowing me to share these beautiful paintings with you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hudson Museum Paddles - Thanks Bob Holtzman

Bob Holtzman runs a great blog on indigenous watercraft from around the world which includes some discussion on birchbark canoes. A recent post outlines some fantastic museum paddles from the Hudson Museum in Maine.

I especially liked the local paddles on display, one of which Bob mentions has metal strips to repair a serious split. The bottom two are long stern paddles which seem like early incarnations of the modern Northwoods paddles documented by the Conovers

Paddles from Maine

In the photo below, I'm really drawn to the grip style of the paddle on the left, a segmented grip that is reminiscient of my own version that I'm working on. This one has much more fluid lines however, especially with the additional indented edges. Had I not already thinned out my grip and balanced the paddle the way I like it, I think I would've preferred this style. Oh well, there's always the next paddle.

Segmented grip

Also on display is a decorated paddle from the Amazon with an interesting tip, perhaps to get a grip on shallow, muddy waterways when poling upriver.

Its design is similar to another Amazonian paddle I posted on earlier from a now completed online auction.

Amazonian Decorated Canoe Paddle, 60.5"
From the Estate of John Auraden of Hamilton & Fairhaven, Ohio.

Many thanks to Bob for taking these pics and giving us an inside glimpse of what the museum has to offer. If I ever make it out to Maine, I think I'll be checking it out in person.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Artist Profile: John Buxton's Paddle Art

As a bit of a new diversion on the site, I thought I'd begin a series of posts profiling living artists who produce wonderful works of historical art featuring unique paddles designs.

John Buxton is a historical artist whose stunning works illustrate a time when birchbark canoes plied the waterways of North America. Three of John's pieces from his historical vignettes gallery feature some marvelous canoes and decorated paddles.

Below is piece entitled "New Canoe". He captures the eloquent lines and tumblehome of the bark canoe with a personalized bear claw decoration on the bow. The angular paddle being used features straight lines and a thick spine running the length of the blade.

"New Canoe"

Another piece entitled "The Agile Bark Canoe" shows a set of canoes being loaded with muskets and gear. The native in the foreground is paddling a similarly shaped paddle as the "New Canoe" but with chevron etchings at the throat and shoulders, echoing the chevron-theme decoration seen in many other historical paintings, especially that of Frederick Verner.

"The Agile Bark Canoe"

My favorite is "Dry Mocassins" which shows a solitary canoeist with his gear laid out on the rocky shoreline - very reminiscent of the Canadian Shield where I paddle. The two paddles in the foreground include another with a red chevron decoration and some curved, abstract patterns on one side of the blade. The 2nd non-decorated paddle looks very consistent with some of the Iroquois paddles on display at the Royal Ontario Museum - wide rounded tip, lengthy spine and short, flattened grip style.

"Dry Moccasins"

Many thanks to John for the permission to reproduce these stunning prints on the site. Be sure to visit his page for more of these historical masterpieces.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Feel of the Paddle

Get ready for some stunning paddle photos. After coming across this thread at the Song of the Paddle forums and the full set of pics on Flickr, I knew I had to post them on the site. These ash beauties were made by Tim over in the UK.

Tim is in the process of setting up as a wooden canoe builder & paddle maker and should have a website soon. Judging by the looks of his paddles and gorgeous BN Morris replica he'll be in high demand. If anyone is interested in contacting or purchasing some of his work, you can get in touch through the Song of the Paddle thread mentioned earlier or by email.

I think I speak for everyone when we say more photos PLEASE!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Soft Maple Northwoods with Rippled Grip - Part 2

Slowly but surely, the Maple Northwoods paddle is coming along. Given that the maple is so dense and heavy, the blade needed to be thinned considerably to reduce the weight. Many of the paddles are reduced to 3/8" thickness (3/32" edges) for flex but this one was shaved down to 3/16ths and paper thin edges to reduce weight.

Nearly Complete

The grip still needs some additional shaping and serious sanding to even out irregularities and tool marks, but overall it feels quite comfortable. The top is just nice enough to fit my broad palm and the ribbed grip sections are just the perfect width for my hands for using the northwoods stroke. Noticed afterward that the grain of the grip section seemed to curve right at the location of the rippled bumps, only to straighten again in the flat sections between - sort of like a neat contour line effect on a topo map.

Grip nearly complete

Despite not fully completing the grip, I got impatient and eagerly began decorating the blade. I first wanted to add a pyrographic version of the old copper tip protectors mentioned in a previous post. Around the blade remaining blade circumference, a basic chip carving motif was added. In the center of the blade, I ended up replicating another scroll pattern taken from Frank G. Speck's Double-Curve Motive in Northeastern Algonkian Art. Given that the this paddle design seems to have evolved from Abenaki / Penobscot origins, it seemed appropriate to use some Penobscot designs from Figure 4 of Speck's publication.

Penobscot Scroll Pattern

Pencil sketched decoration

Now I just need to find some time to do the actual woodburning. The dark pattern should contrast nicely with the pale maple wood.

UPDATE - April 19/2010 - Decoration finished - Part 3 has posted here

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Canadian Canoe Comedy

I know this YouTube video of an old Canadian comedy skit has made the rounds in the paddling community, but I still get a chuckle everytime I watch it.

Love the emergency stop in front of the clothing store and the paddling down Toronto city traffic. A canoe & a skateboard may the answer to urban navigation in my fair city.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another DIY Canvas Canoe Pack

Came across another canoe blog (in Czech) which mentions a homemade canvas pack made to resemble a hybrid of the Woods Pack and Duluth versions complete with a canvas tumpline. The google translated page has some details as well as pics of this interesting take on a classic portage pack.

Homemade Canvas Pack

Another view

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Historic Paddle Illustration - Samuel Hearne

After watching a recent YouTube set on the latest Ray Mears program, Northern Wilderness, I was interested in learning a bit more about Samuel Hearne. Came across this page with some info and illustrations of his journeys. A sketch documents the watercraft used by the Tlicho (Dogrib) tribe of the area. These bark canoes were built in a sort of kayak style that could portaged on the back like a pack. The illustration also has a small image of an angular shaped paddle (item F).

Northern Indian Canoe documented by Hearne

Couldn't help but think I had seen this paddle design before and after searching through my previous posts, I recognized the shape as one that Henry Schoolcraft documented in his journeys nearly a quarter-of-a-century later in a completely different area (1000s of miles away). This shape was described as a cedar paddle used by the fur trade companies. Might be an interested shape to copy - the straight sides would certainly make for quick and easy carving.

Schoolcraft's documented paddle

By the way, Mike, over at Reflections On The Outdoors Naturally wrote a recent post with all the relevant links to each episode of the Northern Wilderness series (my favourite is Episode 2). Many thanks for organizing these links!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Copper Blade Tip Protectors

A while back, a query posted on the WCHA Paddlemaking Forums led to a discussion about the use of metal blade tip protectors on old paddles. These pieces of thin copper or brass would be formed into a pattern, folded over the tip of the paddle, and then tacked or stapled into place. Graham Warren's original paddlemaking book, Making Canoe Paddles in Wood contains such a pattern and mentions making the tip by recycling a piece of "central heating pipe".

Two experienced posters displayed pics of their unwanted tips, some brass one from Rollin Thurlow and a copper one from Ross Bros Canoe Company

Brass Tip

Copper Tip

An online copy of Popular Mechanics (July, 1934) has a an article entitled, "It's Easy to Repair a Canoe". The pic on page 109 shows a metal tip pattern with instructions to nail it onto the front of the blade and clinch the nails on the back to prevent splitting.

Metal Tip Repair

The general consensus on the WCHA forums was that such paddle tip protectors actually cause more damage as the nail or staple holes permit water penetration and eventually lead to rot. For some paddle makers, the old-time aesthetic appeal is a desirable addition.

The beautiful paddles crafted by Doug Ingram at Red River Canoe recreate this appearance with modern materials. A post from his blog, Wood Be Creative shows the process of routing out the blade tip and filling in the tip with coloured epoxy set in a mold. This gets sanded down to the final appearance.

While I've got no intention of damaging the tips of my paddles with nails or staple guns, I'm intending to add a woodburned, pyrographic image of this tip design onto the Northwoods style paddle I'm working on. We'll see how it turns out.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Antique Model Paddles

A very interesting post on the Cherry Gallery's current items (March 2010) page...
Seth Steward Model Canoe Paddles
This is a pair of model canoe paddles made and painted by renowned Maine artist Seth W. Steward (1844-1927) of Monson. One paddle is decorated with a painting of a brook trout chasing a fly on the blade and a canoe on the handle. The other has a painting of a moose on the blade and a rifle on the handle. These are the longest Steward model paddles that we've seen.

Dated 1901
5.5" w, 45" long

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Paddle Naming Contest

One of the followers of my little blog, the folks at Sanborn Canoe Company, have a fun little promotion running the month of March. In an effort to come up with an inspiring name for their cedar laminated beavertail paddle, they've started naming contest. The successful submission will paddle away with one of these lightweight, laminated beauties.

Sanborn's yet un-named beavertail design

The online entry form has some extra hints and info along with the official rules that I've posted below:
1. Only valid email addresses are accepted.
2. Contest ends March 31st at Midnight.
3. The guys from Sanborn Canoe Co. will vote on our favorite name and after the winner has been notified we will post the results.
4. We will ship the paddle for free to the lower 48 US States. Anywhere else you pay normal shipping rates.
5. Tell your friends.

Good luck to everyone who tries and spread the word.

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