Friday, December 31, 2010

Photo - Historic Muskoka Paddle

Been out of commission for a while with an absolutely nasty flu that's kept me bed-ridden, feverish, nauseous and otherwise incapacitated since Christmas day...brutal way to spend the holidays but thankfully I've finally recovered on the last day of 2010. Want to wish all of the visitors and online friends to my site a very healthy and prosperous new year.

As a last post for the year, found this online exhibit of the Toronto Public Library with a photo dated 1890 showing off some paddles used in the Muskoka cottage region.

Judge Joseph Easton MacDougall and his family
proudly display their catch at their summer cottage

The lower leaning paddled has an interested scalloped mushroom grip that I've seen on a few paddle designs today.

Closeup of paddles

Wonder how many of these antique paddle gems are still in old boathouses and cottages today?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Historic Photos - Mi'kmaq Guides & Paddles

From this great Virtual Exhibit by the Nova Scotia Archives come some pictures of Mi'kmaq bark canoes and paddles

Mi'kmaq Guides with Party of Sportsmen Fishing from Four Canoes, Digby County
Date: May 1899
Photographer: J.A. Irvine
FULL Citation

Paddle Grip Closeup

Indian Encampment outside Dartmouth, NS
Date: ca. 1900
Photographer: W.L. Bishop
FULL Citation

Paddle Closeup

Mi'kmaq guides from Bear River at camp near Weymouth, N.S.
Date: ca. 1893
Photographer: J.A. Irvine

Paddle Closeup

Images courtesy of Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, Halifax, NS as per their non-commercial use policy

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Historic Paddle Illustration - More Robert Petley

Another historic painting from Lieut. Robert Petley (1809-1869) in the Archives & of Canada.

Indian of the Mic-Mac Tribe
Library and Archives Canada

The painting illustrates a hunter armed with his rifle. Slung over his shoulder is a long fishing spear and two slender paddles with flattened, elongated grips. Once again, faint etchings in the main paddle blade reveals some hash marks in a chevron motif. Given that Peltey was a Military artist, I think it is fair to assume that his work would've reflected a certain military precision and attention to detail. Certainly the paddle shape is consistent with what is found in museums of the area.


August 2016 Update: Click here to see a higher resolution version of Petley's painting.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

World's Oldest Birchbark Canoe

Via this post at comes a writeup of a new contender for the oldest "surviving" birchbark canoe in the world:

Canoe in pieces

Seeing daylight for the 1st time in years

From the pics, it doesn't look like much but it is amazing how these crafts can be restored to some basic shape and functionality. Apparently, it is thought to be more than 250 years old and was discovered in a barn on the Enys estate near Penryn in Cornwall. It is believed the Canadian boat was brought to Cornwall by Lt. John Enys who fought in Quebec during the American War of Independence.

Until now, the earliest surviving bark canoe was the famous Grandfather Akwetin canoe, a 6 meter Maliseet Ocean canoe estimated to be 185 years old and "re-discovered" in Ireland.

There doesn't seem to be any info on the tribal association of the canoe, but just on casual observation, the bow profile, and distinctive gore cut pattern all the way to the stems look very reminiscent to the c.1896 Penobscot canoe of the Peabody museum that was the focus of the WCHA's online reprint of a a 1948 article from the The American Neptune Volume VIII, No. 4, 1948.

Penobscot Canoe [Catalogue E 14268] in the Peabody Museum of Salem

Plans are the for the canoe to be preserved and put on display to the public at the National Maritime Museum before being repatriated to Canada in September 2011 where it is apparently headed to the Canadian Canoe Museum for more research. Exciting news for us on this side of the pond!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cherry Gallery Birdseye Paddles

Some more antique paddles from the Current Items page of the Cherry Gallery...

Pair of Bird's Eye Maple Canoe Paddles
These handmade paddles have eye-popping figured maple grain and a graceful shape.
Circa 1930
6.75" w, 60" h

Some close up shots of the grip reveal a half varnished - half oiled grip. You can see how the varnishing has really preserved the grain and color with the oiled grip showing how the rest of the paddle would've aged without this protection.

Check out that birdseye grain!

Also on the page is this very interesting c1890 paddle with supposed native origins...

Great Lakes Canoe Paddle
A Native American paddle made of birch, with a classic blade shape and throat scallop found in paddles from the western Great Lakes areas of Michigan and Wisconsin.
Circa 1890
5.25" w, 60" h


Never really seen the scalloped shoulder pattern on paddle blades before although the "horned grip" looks similar to some exotic paddles I've come across.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bruce Smith - Exquisite Paddle Maker

Swung by the Great Outdoors & DIY Show this past weekend at the Toronto International Centre. For a reasonable door fee, one was granted access to 4 shows under one roof (The Fall Cottage Life Show, Canadian Handyman Show, Outdoor Canada and Explore Show).

A few canoe related exhibitors were there including:
• Swift with their display of quality Badger Canoe Paddles (now including a complementary paddle sock)
Muskoka Paddle Shack with their futuristic Carbon fibre ottertail paddle
• The Canadian Canoe Museum had a booth with a paddlemaking demo and a quaint c1950's, 12ft Bastien Brothers Trapper Canoe

However, the most appealing booth in my biased opinion was the wonderful exhibit featuring the gorgeous paddle creations of Bruce Smith. The visitor was greeted with a wall to wall display of hanging paddles made from a wide array of hardwoods with unique grain patterns. A real eye pleaser was a paddle made from wormy walnut with a fusion blend of creamy and dark colours swirling around the blade. I was kicking myself for not bringing the camera!

Mike Ormsby of Reflections on the Outdoors Naturally blog was helping at the booth and was kind enough to introduce me to Bruce as a fellow paddle maker. With Bruce's permission here are some shots of some of his work from his website, including his trademark grip with a secondary position.

Cherry Ottertail; Bruce's Unique Grip

Sweet looking Walnut paddle

Collection on display

We discussed some ideas about certain woods with Bruce sharing his experience of creating a paddle made from a harvested Tamarack log. Always wondered about this tough wood as a spruce substitute. Here are some photos of Bruce’s booth at show (courtesy of Mike Ormsby)

Also on display was Mike's gorgeous wood canvas canoe built in Bruce's shop. A real stunner complete with cherry gunwales and delicately carved thwarts. What really caught my attention though were the wide, but thin ribs very reminiscient of the Chesnut Ogilvy described on Mike Elliot's Kettle River Canoe Blog. A very hearty construction that also seems easier on the knees that than thicker, widely spaced ribs on my boat. Photos by Mike Ormsby...

According to Mike O's blog, Bruce plans to hold some paddle making workshops sometime in May for the extremely reasonable cost of $100 - a real bargain in my opinion and a perfect opportunity for a novice to learn the craft from a skilled woodworker. More info by contacting Bruce directly.

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