Sunday, August 29, 2010

Canoe Pole Project: Part 2

Back in June, I had begun yet another canoe related project, this time trying my hand at making a canoe pole (see Part 1). Rather than just buy a ready made wooden pole (basically a curtain rod from Home Depot), I wanted to try and make my own from a spruce board using an axe and crooked knife. Here are some shots of the process...

"Semi-Old Fashioned" way of making a pole

With some spare time during late August, I finished off the carving with the crooked knife. Of course, the pole isn't perfect like a machined rod, but I'm happy with how it turned out. Following the advice of some online plans, I left the bottom 4 feet in an octagonal shape for looks and rigidity and then did my best to round out and gradually taper the remaining length.

Carving out by the fire pit

While I could've made a hardware store style copper pipe shoe, I ended up "splurging" for a specific accessory (and support the fledging canoe poling shoe industry) by ordering a cast bronze shoe from Bruce Hooke. A beautiful looking tip arrived promptly in the mail.

Bruce's Bronze Poling Shoe; Dimensions on rear

With a basic saw cut and then back cuts with a knife, the tip was worked down to fit to shape. This took some trial and error, but eventually, I got a nice tight fit.

Shaping the tip for the poling shoe

The left-over edges were then worked down to meet the edges of the shoe for a relatively seamless transition. Before mounting the shoe with the included screws, the pole was given thorough soaking in oil which really brought out the grain. Here is the result.

Mounted Brass Shoe

The finished product

There's a bit of warping at the other end of the pole, but there's a chance that I might shorten the length once I get a feel for its use and cut a portion of this upper part off. It seems many folks use a pole around 12 feet or so, but I've read some other sources that mention a length of 10 1/2 feet might suffice depending on technique and water depth. Now I just have to paddle to the nearby shallow creek and give it a try before the end of the paddling season creeps up.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Discovered Cree Paddle in the Bush

Mark of thoughtfully sent a pic of a home-made paddle he came across at the end of a portage during a 9 day canoe trip on the Churchill river in northern Saskatchewan. Mark believes the paddle likely belongs to someone in the nearby Cree community of Grandmother's Bay. It was estimated to be about 67" long. The shaft was very rectangular with only the corners rounded off. Looks like it was quickly shaped and then sealed with blue paint on the blade and grip areas.

The blade design is a much more modern looking, fat beavertail design rather than the leaner, square sided Western Cree paddles Adney and Gidmark document in their books. I suppose when people think "canoe paddle" today, this is the shape that most commonly comes to mind.

Many thanks for the photo Mark!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Historic Paddle Art - Cornelius Krieghoff Illustration

While searching through the Library & Archives of Canada site for historical art, I came across some more work of renowned Canadian artist, Cornelius Krieghoff (1815 – 1872) which featured a highly decorated, chevron-themed paddle. Difficult to spot in the tiny pic, but the paddle is at the lower right of tree, leaning nearly horizontally on a canvas roll pack.

Indian Encampment at Falls
Date: post 1846
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1989-508-1

Chevron Paddle Closeup

Another more detailed Krieghoff painting which shows a similarly chevron decorated paddle is one of his classic works, Indian Wigwam in Lower Canada.

Indian Wigwam in Lower Canada.
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1989-511-1

Paddle closeup

If this latter painting looks familiar, it's because it is identical to that in McCord Museum collection that I posted on earlier. It seems that these chevron decorations are a common feature in many historical paintings. Not known is whether this image is based on historically accurate representation or whether Krieghoff took liberties with the painting based on previous images in historical texts

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

W. Granville Smith - Rose Among Lillies

A while back, I wrote a post about some interested canoe related art from which featured an image of a high-society lady paddling a canoe. The image was a painting by W. Granville Smith entitled a "Rose Among Lillies". Found an EBay item that shows another painting with a closeup of the detail.

"Rose Among Lillies"
W. Granville Smith, 1896


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Split Paddle Repair Article

An article found in the November 1923 issue of Popular Mechanics (p.813) has a brief writeup on the repair of split paddle.

The article mentions that if the crack doesn't extend to far into the blade, then the split can be securely stitched with copper or brass wire. After punching or drilling staggered holes 1/4 inch from the crack and 1/2 inch apart, the blade is tightly bound or clamped so the crack is tightly closed. The wire is worked through the holes beginning at the top of the split and through the alternating holes to the tip and then worked back up through the same holes. The loose ends at the top of the split are twisted tightly and then fastened to the blade with a tack or screw. It claims an oar had been repaired in this manner and still used for another season.

In any event, might be a useful repair technique in the field if a suitable bushpaddle cannot be carved. Some wire, an awl, makeshift clamp (or string binding), and a tack might be carried in a repair kit anyway.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Paddle Auction for Cancer

Back at the MEC Paddlefest in June, I met David Donaldson, who was displaying his homemade stitch and glue kayak and had intentions of making his own greenland style paddle. We've been in touch since and he let me know about his efforts to raise money for Cancer Research with the Annual Kayak for a Cure Event in nearby Mississauga, held this year on September 18th.

In support of his cause, I've donated one of my paddles to be auctioned off - the walnut-poplar Adirondack style paddle.

Whole Paddle; Barred Owl Decoration

More details about this event and David's efforts can be found on his Fundraising Site which includes mention of bidding by email to

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Historic Paddle Illustration - Robert Petley

Found some paintings by Lieut. Robert Petley (1809-1869) in the Archives & National Gallery of Canada. Petley was a military artist and an officer with the 50th Regiment who spent the majority of his tour of duty in the Maritime provinces, serving at Fredericton in 1831 and with the 71st Regiment in Halifax from 1832 to 1836. He officially documented military sites in Nova Scotia but also produced personal works with an emphasis on Mi'kmaq (Micmac) subjects.

This seems to be echoed in a work of his entitled "Interior of a Wigwam" in which there are two versions of a similar scene. In the foreground of each painting is a slender, elongated canoe paddle resting on baskets. Once again, we see a long, extended grip which seems consistent with the paddles of this region, like the ones found in the New Brunswick Museum.

Interior of a Wigwam c. 1834
watercolour on wove paper
14.7 x 20.7 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 26987)

Paddle Closeup

Interior of a Wigwam
Library and Archives Canada

Paddle Closeup

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Historic Paddle Illustration - Women Collecting Wild Rice

On I came across another work of Henry Schoolcraft entitled The Indian tribes of the United States: Vol 1 (1884). The detailed text contains lots of info regarding history, religion, arts, language, etc. Included amongst the many illustrations is a drawing of three Indians in a canoe along a shoreline gathering wild rice.

Collecting Wild Rice

One holds a very long paddle, probably used for poling in the shallows, while the others use tools to beat grains of rice from their stalks. The grip is also a simple flattened taper, more evidence that this style of grip seems to be commonly used in the past and forgotten by today's manufacturers.

Paddle closeup

Apparently, the image was originally painted by Seth Eastman in 1857 and originally titled, Chippewa Women Gathering Wild Rice. An alternate high resolution color version can be found in this post here.

Chippewa Women Gathering Wild Rice, c 1857

Newer Posts Older Posts Home Page