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 FrontierFolk.net 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.


Bryan said...

Looks great. How do you get the burning so dark and even?

Murat said...

Thanks Bryan.

For dark shading, I use a single temperature woodburning pen picked up at an art supply shop. Ended up getting this one by Walnut Hollow. I also got some extra tips for a few more bucks, this kit here that contains a large circular tip called a transfer point. This is meant to transfer heat set decals and can also be used to transfer images from paper printed on a laser printer. If you let it warm up very hot and make slow, circular strokes, it burns the wood very evenly. Tip it on the edge and you can get a nice thick line. Of course, it also burns perfect circles so it helped with this simple design. It also matters that birch burns very dark and evenly as well.

Planning to make any more decorated paddles yourself?

Bryan said...

I'll have to look around for one of those round tips. I was thinking about making a paddle similar to this. I love the simple decorations.

Anonymous said...

Im the "Owner" of the pics of the original paddle. Its on display at Stevens Hardware in Oneonta NY. I took them while working for the New York State Historical Association and was part of a crew building birch, elm and dugout canoes. Enjoy them in good health :-) If you contact the store they can probably fill you in a bit more on the history, but from what I can remember the canoe and paddle were made about 1899 in Quebec

Murat said...

Thank you Anonymous for the extra info on the decorated paddles! I had tried to relocate the thread where they were originally posted on the FrontierFolk.net forums but the page had been deleted. I'll try getting in touch with the store for more details.

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