Thursday, September 30, 2010

Antique NE Indian Carved Paddles

Some antique decorated canoe paddles and other paraphernalia from the Cottone Auctions site. These ones have a small flattened grip commonly seen in some Iroquois paddles of the similar region as well as other souvenir paddles like the Jasper Grant paddle.

Northeast Indian Carved Paddles
carved and polychrome paint decorated
orig. patina
carved "Sitka" on back
61" long

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Historic Paddle Illustration - More Frederick Verner

Here's another painting by Frederick A Verner (1836 – 1928), a painter who's work has previously shown some sort of paddle decoration in his native art scenes. This piece entitled "Two Indians in Canoe" shows the bow paddler with a red chevron themed paddle decoration.

Two Indians in Canoe - 1899
Watercolour over graphite on wove paper
27.5 x 53.3 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 16832)

Paddle Closeup

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sevareid's & Port's Canoe & Paddles

Just re-read the paddling classic, Canoeing With the Cree documenting the momentous trip of Eric Sevareid and Walter Port as they traveled from their home in Minnesota to York Factory on the shores of Hudson's Bay. The book is not just any travel journal however, it is a fascinating historical glimpse of simpler time and ...

Book Covers

The read got me curious about the gear these 2 teens used on their trip. A passage I found which describes the purchase of their canoe states:
"Our canoe was 18 feet long, an American made cruiser model, with a wide beam and a small keel...The Sans Souci, we chistened her. That was Walt's idea. It means "without care." We painted on her, "Minneapolis to Hudson Bay." In order to beat other buyers for the canoe, which was secondhand and on which the middle thwart was missing, we had to skip some of our final examinations."
This matches the classic photo below of the pair about to launch their canoe at the start of their journey. Sure enough the middle thwart is missing (which would mean a two person carry of the canoe at each portage) only to be replaced with a massive load of packs.

Sevareid and Port launching

Further mention of their paddles is found in the equipment list that Sevareid prepares for the book. It includes mention of "three, five foot, copper-tipped paddles". I guess copper tipped paddles were the rage back then and considered necessary for expedition purposes. What caught my eye was the paddle length chosen for both boys (5ft) despite the dramatic height difference between the friends. Here's another photo from an archived article on the trip

Eric Sevareid and Walter Port at the start
of their canoe trip to Hudson's Bay
Date: 6/1930

The paddle just reaches Port's chin which is the paddle length dimension I've found comfortable to use, but look at the paddle dwarfed by Sevareid's tall frame. He makes it look like a child's toy! I wonder how it could have been comfortable for him to use?

At any rate, the book mentions how the canoe and gear were left behind at York Factory so it is likely these have been reclaimed by the ravages of time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Reshaped Birch Cree - Part 2

Reshaping and sanding of the birch Cree paddle modeled after one in the Canadian Museum of Civilization collection was completed over the summer.

Reshaped Birch Cree

Now it was time to decide on the decoration. According to various readings and museum searches, many Cree paddles were decorated in a simple manner, typically painted with boldly contrasting colours and often with stripes or other banding decorations. In particular, Garth Taylor's 1980 book Canoe construction in a Cree cultural tradition documents the building of a traditional Eastern Cree canoe made using canvas as a substitute for birch bark and has a nice illustration of various decorated Cree paddles.

Decorated Cree Paddles

A while back I had also come across a post (now deleted) on the Forums, debating types of sealants on historic paddles. One poster put up the following pics of a canoe displayed in a store with a painted Cree paddle decorated decorated with white dots.

Another decorated Cree paddle

In my case, I kept the decoration extremely simple and in this same style. The grip and rounded tip were high heat burned to resemble the decoration of paddle D in Taylor's illustration. A few thick horizontal lines and bars with circular dots and the burning was complete. Certainly more simple than the complex patterns of Wabanaki paddles, but I find it very fitting for these unusual paddle shapes.

Completed Paddle

Blade Closeup

Given the limitations of the original paddle blank picked up at a roadside sale, the blade isn't proportional to the elongated dimensions of the blades outlined in Taylor's book. Still, for 5 dollars, this discarded blank turned out to be a great little paddle.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Luc Poitras' Malecite Paddles

Blog reader Luc Poitras was kind enough to send me some pics of his 3 beautiful Malecite style paddles, complete with incising decorations and carved drip rings.

Luc's 3 Paddles

The short paddle on the left and the one on the right are made from maple. The long paddle in the middle is made from stained cedar. Here are some closeups of the blades and grips. Definitely motivating to try some incising work on some of my future paddles.

Incised Blade details; Grip shapes

Luc also sent a photo of his 3 crooked knives which are works of art themselves. One knife is made from an old straight razor blade and the other two made from files. The bulk of the paddles were carved with these knives and a small spokeshave. Fantastic work Luc!

3 Crooked Knives

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Maple Maliseet from Rick Nash

Master Paddle Artisan Rick Nash of Woodland Heirlooms has posted some some pics of a gorgeous new Maliseet style paddle. A while back, Rick sent me a photo of a maple paddle just taking shape in his workshop.

Paddle being shaped with an axe

Here are some shots of his finished work...

Maple Maliseet Class Paddle
Full Size: 66" in length
Blade Width: 5 7/8"
Incising done using nail and jack-knife

The etched patterns on the blade are similar to the circa 1878 York Sunbury Museum paddle (also made from maple) with the grip and black painted shaft resembling one of the paddles from the collection at the New Brunswick Museum.

c. 1878 Maliseet Paddle; c. 1880 Maliseet

I've posted some of Rick's works before documenting his amazing skill as a birchbark canoe builder and paddle maker. If you haven't seen these pics yet, be sure to check out his full sized Cherry Maliseet Paddle HERE as well as THIS POST. After seeing his magnificent, historically accurate work, Rick is my personal paddle making hero.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kent Lund's Frog Folk Art Paddle

Kent Lund sent me some photos of his recent creation, another twist on the Snake Eyes Folk Paddle posted back in December of 2009. Kent's version this time features of colorful frog complete with long legs reaching into the blade. The other side features the critter's lighter colored belly.

Frog paddle

Here are some closeups of his creation:

Closeup of Frog handle

The frog's legs

The paddles dimensions are 63" by 5-3/4" with a cherry body and curly maple blade. The frog has a shiny gloss finish with the remainder of the paddle sealed with a satin finish. Creative stuff and another in his growing collection of animal themed paddles.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

1878 Maliseet Paddle - New Images

Many thanks to blog reader Luc P for emailing me a link with fantastic detailed pics of the circa 1878 Maliseet Paddle at the York Sunbury Museum I posted on earlier. This beautiful paddle has some of the most intricate carving I've seen and is on my to-do list of paddle replicas.

1878 Maliseet Paddle

According to the documention, Colonel John Simcoe Saunders (1795-1878) received this beautifully carved ceremonial Maliseet paddle as a gift from an Aboriginal artisan from the Kingsclear First Nation.

In previous posts I wrote about my attempt at a Photoshop adjustment to bring out the detail and also found a Flickr photo of the paddle on display. But these new shots show the amazing detail of the blade's incised decoration.

Exquisite Blade Details

The full link with more info and photos of other native artifacts are at this Virtual Exhibit.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chippewa Canoe Paddles

Some more paddles from, these ones being Chippewa (Ojibway) paddles with straight bladed, efficient designs and simple grips.

Chippewa Canoe Paddle
Length: 56 inches.
Early 20th century
Full Link

Chippewa Wooden Canoe Paddle
From Pine River area in the upper peninsular of Michigan
Length: 64 inches
ca 1890
Full Link

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Historic Paddle Illustration: P. Grant - "Indian Encampment"

This circa 1815 painting from P. Grant entitled Indian Encampment shows a decorated red paddle at the bottom right of the image. The style seems very similar to the vermillion hued paddles used by the Voyageurs documented by Frances Anne Hopkins as well as some of the historic art of David Wright.

Watercolour, gouache over pencil
30.0 x 38.0 cm.
ca. 1815
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R9266-4148

Paddle Closeup

Supposedly brightly coloured paddles made them more easy to find if dropped in the thick brush or were used as a way of personal identification. Difficult to tell from the angle, but it looks to have a bobble style grip.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Solo Canoe Trip Report

Well, my planned 10 day solo trip to Lake Louisa in Algonquin Park never materialized. I had to frustratingly watch as forces outside of my control limited my holiday time from a planned 10 days to maybe 7, then only 4. I figured this trip was shot so instead, I headed over to some Crown Land to do a slow loop around a well documented canoe route in the Severn River Conservation Reserve.

Crown land camping means no fees (for Canadian Citizens) but it also means unmaintained portage trails, generally overused or non-maintained campsites and no other "amenities" that canoeists in an established park can expect. I'm not into the whole ultralight craze, especially on routes with relative short portages (under 1km) so ended up packing lots of food in a 30L barrel pack and the other "luxury" gear in the recently refurbished canvas pack.

After securing my vehicle at a public boat launch, I headed south down a lake filled with cottages. This lake serves as the headwaters for the Gibson river which begins a meandering flow through wetland marshes. At this point one loses sight of any other folks and I would spend the next 4 days with only an occasional bushplane flying to the nearby fly-in fish camp on the adjacent lake system to disrupt the serenity.

Start of the Gibson

Marshy banks

In some places the river narrows to just a width of canoe only to open up again. Water levels were typically low this late in the season, but thanks to the efforts of many beavers, the majority is the river is certainly accessible by canoe with some minor lift-overs and 3 short portages of 75 meters or less. It was over this marshy territory that I spotted a pair of provincially significant Red Shouldered Hawks with their nervous "Kee-Ahh" shrieks. Very cool.

Narrow Section

Beaver dam holding back a pond

Start of mini portage

Somewhere in there is a trail

After making it though some of the portage sections with plenty of blown down trees and unsure rocky footing, the river empties into a series of long, narrow lakes that loop back in a generally northwest direction. The lakes tend to have sloping granite shores making landing a tricky affair. Managed to find a very clean site on a peninsula that gave a fantastic 3-sided view of the lake. Set up my Hennessy Hammock shelter in a protected area away from the kitchen. Nice night sleeping to the sounds of a nesting Whip-poor-will and the haunting "Who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all" hooting of a Barred Owl

End of River Section

Lake Paddling

Camp Kitchen; The Sleeping Quarters

View from the hammock


The site had an abandoned buck saw with a horribly rusted blade so I'm glad I brought my own homemade version whipped up with scraps of cherry and some leftover bolts. Worked like a charm to cut up some deadfall for the fire to dry out soaked feet.

Left over saw vs. my own; Nice fire that night

Spent the next day huddled in camp as rain moved in. Stayed totally dry in the hammock with its strange asymmetrical rainfly design. Once the steady rainfall relented in the late afternoon, the winds changed and started blowing icy cold from the north. To get any cooking done, I set up a tarp windblock behind the firepit so rigged up a modified Diamond fly with a high peak but low profile. This worked to use the cooking stove that evening. Got down to 7 degrees Celsius that night but seemed chillier with the relentless wind.

Rigged Tarp against wind

Thankfully the sun came out the next day, but the winds still blew from the north (my direction of travel). It only got up to 16 C that day so I was paddling with warm merino wool baselayer and thin sweater to stay comfortable. To get to the next series of lakes in the loop involved wading the canoe through a boulder infested channel and another more significant uphill portage that follows a pathetically flowing waterfall.

Rocky wading channel; Start of uphill portage

Packed up for the climb

Reaching the top of the climb, I realized why the waterfall flow was so minimal. The largest beaver dam I've ever come across had flooded the forest floor and created a mini lake. It was eerie paddling through the stand of flooded birch that followed...

Huge dam - curves to right of photo

Shot of the dam closeup

Birch tree stand

Sure enough I spotted 2 beavers busy at work although they slapped their tails and fled underwater to safety before I could turn the camera one. Oh well. The next lake had some wonderful rock formations and much evidence of more wildlife. Fierce headwinds certainly made getting to shore for camp a pleasure. Managed to find a small sheltered site. Of course, sheltered also means the bugs come out ferociously so dinner had to be eaten on the windy point with a cap and wool sweater to beat the flies and the chilly north breeze.

"Stone beach" shoreline

More granite cliffs

New Muskrat lodge

Older lodge in another marshy area

Muskrat hiding out (left side of pic)

Consistent prevailing winds shaped this pine

Dinner on the point

The next day involved the longest portage of the trip - a mild 650 meters or so through some uneven terrain that also serves as a snowmobile trail in the winter. While lugging the gear for the first carry, I came across a pair of boots, then a single sock, then another, and then a pair of pants! This weird bush strip-tease had me convinced that the only human I'd encounter on my trip was some sort of frolicking nudist perv catching unwary canoeists at the end of the portage. Suddenly the banjo music from Deliverance started playing in my head. Coming across a bear in the woods...I'd know what to do. A naked man in the forest? Now that's just plain awkward and so I was grateful that my solo trip remained a solo trip when no one came out of the bushes to reclaim their clothing.

Boots, 1st Sock, 2nd Sock spotted and then this...

Who loses their pants in the bush?

By this time in the trip, I needed a break in carrying the canoe across the portage. Thankfully came across a perfect portage with a sturdy branch allowing you to place the bow on it to get a bit of relief.

Portage Break

The sun came out and warmed the day nicely. Here's the gear and canoe at the end of the final portage before the uneventful paddle back to the marina.


All in all a decent little getaway. Sure there are a few more scratches on the hull of the canoe after this trip, but that gives the excuse of working on the boat in the off-season.

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