Sunday, June 6, 2010

Canoe Pole Project: Part 1

I've convinced myself to attempt another canoe-related project with basic carving tools. Lately, I've been fascinated by the poling videos on the NorthWest Woodsman site. Footage of him pushing his way up remote, shallow creeks made me want to pursue this part of the canoeing experience even more. After purchasing a cheapo ex-library copy of the classic books, Pole, Paddle, & Portage by Bill Riviere, I was convinced that I should at least try making a spruce pole.

Andy Hutyera's post on the Wooden Canoe Forums discusses plans for a canoe pole in detail, although these seem to focus on power tool usage, table saws, routers...not my cup of tea. More info the following PDF files...
Making a Canoe Pole
Poling A Canoe

A few online sources, including this descriptive one, make mention of using a prefab curtain rod from Home Depot, the aptly named "Home Depole". Others write about finding the perfect dead standing spruce tree with the perfect dimensions to chop down and finish with a crooked knife. My option found the middle ground...I ended up using one of the extra 12 ft long, 2x10 boards purchased to make the bark canoe building bed. It has been cluttering the garage floor for some time but I wanted to save it for something.

As luck would have it, there were no knots in the relatively straight grained portion 2 inches from the squared original edge. A chalkline was marked 1.5" from this edge, but later, I ended up marking out the future pole using a combination square for more accuracy. I also marked out other areas where poles could emerge, but all of these had some knotty flaw somewhere along the length. In the end, the wood was easily (but not evenly) split to reveal the rudimentary birth of canoe pole

Original board; Split out piece

Not as elegant as ripping an even piece with a circular saw, but with my growing aversion to power tools, this was the most appropriate manner to liberate the pole from the board. It was worked down with an axe, loading up chips in the communal fire pit and then further cleaned with the crooked knife.

"Semi-Old Fashioned" way of making a pole

The project gave me the first opportunity to try out the recently made Orien Blade crooked knife. The blade's offset and "crooked" blade angle took some getting used to. The blade was very sharp but tended to pull out the wood in scoops (a flaw in my technique for sure). In the end, I ended up using my flatter, home-made blade crooked knife to work down the edges. The pole is still a work in progress and will need to wait until my next trip up north to finalize.

Silent tools for the job

UPDATE: Pole has been completed - part 2 has been posted here

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