Friday, December 30, 2011

Peabody Passamquoddy Paddle Sketch

Came across a wonderful illustration of a paddle in an out of print children's book, Discovering Canada: The Fur Traders. It is another version of the c1849, green and white painted Passamaquoddy paddle at the Peabody Museum.

I've posted on this paddle many times before as it is the basis for the paddle in the header of the site and one of my favourite blade designs. Here is the version illustrated by Tappen Adney and the new one by illustrator A.G. Smith.

Adneys's Illustration

A.G. Smith's illustration

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Canoe Accessories

Hope everyone is having a good holiday season. I've been a bit of a good boy I guess, because Santa delivered some presents in the form of some canoe accessories from Stewart River Boatworks.

My newly acquired 15 cedar canvas is a pretty heavy boat, weighing in at 68lbs dry. The ash gunnels, decks, shoe keel and heavy canvas all add up to too many pounds for my liking. Being a heavier-duty boat than my other 14 foot W/C, this one is intended to be a bit of a user for poling up rocky rivers & creeks in my areas with minimal portaging.

But since carrying the boat is always going to be inevitable, I thought I'd try out some clamp-on Portage Pads which seem to be quite popular in the BWCA - Minnesota area. Also ended up getting the waxed canvas kneeling pads. Here is all the new gear in the boat right before it was packed away for good at the end of November. This was also my chance to try out the completed Peter Polchies Ash Malecite. It's now Boxing Day and winter is barely here. A few pathetic centimeters of snow where normally it should be around a meter and the lake is completely unfrozen and open. I might've packed away the canoe too early this year and if things work out, might be able to get another paddle in.

The portage pads appear quite bulky but they get the job done, even when used on a straight centre thwart as in my boat. I'm planning to carve a non-dished, curved center yoke as a winter project and eventually will use the pads with this new replacement.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

c. 1900 Penobscot Carved Wood Paddle

Here's another antique paddle from the archives on It is described as a Penobscot Paddle, circa 1900 with a red-brown pigment on the blade. The delicately shaped handle has wonderful curved features with incised floral and C-scroll designs. It's a long one at 77 inches!

Penobscot Carved Wood Paddle
circa 1900
length: 77 inches

The same paddle posted on Skinner Auctions revealed an estimated price of $400-$600 with the final hammer price of $2,370.

Feb 23, 2016 UPDATE: This paddle is now in the collection of the Hudson Museum, University of Maine. For more images and other details see post here

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mackendrick Paddle Family Crest

Came across this interesting bit of canoe related art in a family crest that features a muscled arm holding a canoe paddle. Kind of a neat way of saying, "Don't mess with us because we'll get medieval and beat you silly with our weapon of choice - a canoe paddle."

The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada has a write up page regarding these heraldry symbols registered to the Mackendrick family. Apparently the canoe paddle alludes to the great success that family members over five generations have had in the sport of canoeing, beginning with the international success of the three sons of Mr. MacKendrick’s great-grandfather.

Curious to learn more, I searched a bit and came up with this info:
Harry F. MacKendrick (1866-1950), a prominent citizen and physician in Galt for many years, brought considerable fame to his city and to himself as a canoeist. In New York in 1890 he set a new record in winning the World Championship and with his brother, John, also won the tandem championship. Previously, when only twenty years of age, he won the American Championship at Sturgeon Point and upon his retirement it was said that he was never defeated in 122 races in "singles" competition.

His father, two brothers and he as a team member won four world titles during that era. He was talented in other sports and was a member of the Canadian all-star team which won the World's Soccer Championship in 1885.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Antique Harvard Paddle

Another expired EBay listing lists photos of a 59" paddle with a beautiful patina.

The grip has an engraved "H" for Harvard and the blade is branded with "F. Brodbeck Boston". Some research on the WCHA forums revealed that F. Brodbeck was one of the "Charles River" builders in Boston, active between 1898 to 1930 so this paddle likely dates to this time.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Penobscot Moose Paddle

From this link... a 54" paddle chip-carved and woodburned decorated by Penobscot artist Joe Dana.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Historic Paddle Illustration - Canadian Field-Naturalist

An article entitled, "Canadian Aboriginal Canoes" originally published in Canadian Field-Naturalist Vol XXXIII(2), May 1919 appears on The well written article features some wonderful illustrations of various bark canoe designs as well as sketch of some different paddles shapes (mostly NorthWest coast designs)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Naskapi Cree Paddles - William Strong Collection

Came across another treasure trove of paddle information on This publication entitled, Material culture of the Davis Inlet and Barren Ground Naskapi outlines enthographic items collected by William Duncan Strong from the Davis Inlet and Barren Ground Naskapi in 1927-1928.

Plate 49 (pg 89) features a diagram of 4 decorated Naskapi paddles accompanying the model canoes in the collection...

Naskapi Paddles in the Strong Collection

These are, not surprisingly, very similar to the sketches in Garth Taylor's, 1980 publication, Canoe construction in a Cree cultural tradition which I used in the painted decoration of my Bushcraft Cree spruce paddle. Pgs 19-20 contain a book contains a brief write-up on these paddles:

The collection contains seven canoe paddles, with handles approximately half the length of the blades or slightly less. The blades are flat or have a slight ridge down the center and vary in width from 7.5 cm to 11.5 cm. The handles widen slightly and are flattened at the end. Only two specimens show signs of use. The blades of five paddles are decorated; the decoration on the illustrated specimens, in orange pigment, red crayon, and indelible pencil, is typical (fig. 49A-D). The partridge design and a motif which Strong (1928e) called "whale tails" occur on one paddle (fig. 49B). These bands of decoration appear to be a common feature on paddles, at least as far west as the Cree around Great Whale River (Taylor, p. 94, fig. 9).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Peter Polchies Ash Malecite Replica - Part 2

The ash Malecite I'd been carving was sanded down and ready for some decoration. For this one, the intention was to replicate the pattern from one of Tappan Adney's famous sketches of Malecite Paddles...specifically the model on the left.

Adney's sketches of Peter Polchies' carved paddles

Adney's scribbled notes mention that the paddles were made by "Doctor" Peter Polchies for a Lt. Col. Herbert Dibblee. Curious to learn more, I found out that Dibblee was a famous resident of Woodstock, New Brunswick. His full name was Frederick Herbert Jenkins Dibblee which would explain the initials F.H.J.D. inscribed on the grip.

Lt.Col. Dibblee is also mentioned in passing in Adney's text, Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America on page 75...

"One of the later developments took place on the St. John River, in New Brunswick, where two Indians, Jim Paul and Peter Polchies, both of St. Marys, in 1888 built for a Lt. Col. Herbert Dibble of Woodstock the racing canoe illustrated above (fig. 66)..."
I can't seem to date Adney's sketches and there isn't mention of date the paddles were made but it seems plausible that they were carved to accompany this Malecite racing canoe which would date them to 1888.

The paddle I was replicating featured a recurrent vine motif as well as images of a cow moose and a hunter. Ruth Phillips' book, Trading identities: the souvenir in Native North American art from the Northeast mentions that many paddles were carved with basic scenes such as hunters, game animals, equipment. In this way, these paddles might be similar to the Malecite Paddles ones in the British Museum featuring similar "vignettes" of native life.

After free handing the image as best I could, the design was burned in with my pyrography unit. This was the first time I've done any woodburning decorating with ash - not really the greatest wood for pyrography. The open grain structure and relative hardness of the wood makes it burn very inconsistently and the result is quite a speckled and splotchy look. In the end it worked since the original sketch diagram wasn't crispy clean either. Instead of Lt. Col. Dibblee's initials originally scribed onto the grip, I ended up burning my son's initials to give this paddle a little more sentimental value. Here are some shots.

Replica Blade and Modified Grip

Peter Polchies Replica Paddle

Monday, December 5, 2011

Maliseet Paddle Carving Video

The Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal is on online dictionary resource with an extensive archive of videos of conversations and activities of Passamaquoddy-Maliseet speakers.

Within their pages is an embedded video showing a conversation about carving and the native style of paddling titled "I could paddle all day long" where the two elders share paddle making knowledge and chuckle about how most people can't paddle straight...I hear that! Here are some screen shots...

Also found out the Passamaquoddy - Maliseet name for Canoe Paddle is tahakon based on their searchable online dictionary.

Terms of Use Credit: Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal - Language Keepers and Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary Project.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Menomini Paddle Photo

I'm finding a bunch of different images of traditional native paddles on Page 222 of Material culture of the Menomini by Alanson Skinner has a photo of a "typical" straight sided blade design of this tribe.

Menomini Paddle

The blade design seems similar to the antique Chippewa (Ojibway) paddle from posted about here. Since the territories and culture of the Chippewa and Menomini overlapped quite a bit, similarities in paddle and canoe design would be expected.

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

Further on in the book on page 339, Alanson depicts the decorative etchings found on a Menominee paddle in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History.

The excerpt from the text describing this paddle is below:
Floral designs and "war-clubs" or "lacrosse racquets" may be noted on the canoe paddle in fig. 63. This paddle, which is 31 in. long, is in the American Museum of Natural History.

This sounded familiar and sure enough, I had posted pics of these paddles in an earlier post on incised decorations. Difficult to make out the etching details in the pics, but they are there...

Catalog No: 50 / 9792
Dimensions: L:99.2 W:10.5 H:1.8 [in CM]
Accession No: 1910-44

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Canadian Woodworking Article

The June/July 2011 issue of Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement magazine featured an article on paddle carving and paddle history written by Beth Stanley, Artisan Program Coordinator at the Canadian Canoe Museum (CCM). The fellow on the cover is Don Duncan, one of the 2 volunteers instructors at the CCM who help me kick start this paddle making hobby.

I was in the process of moving into our house when the magazine was released and now that the chaos is over, the magazine is unfortunately no longer on store shelves. It is however, found in a handful of Toronto Public Library branches so I ended up taking my bike for the 1st time since our move in June and, of course, the route was horribly steep uphill all the way. I'm addicted to paddles however so the severe leg cramps I've been experiencing since the trek are a reminder of the pain I'm willing to endure for this hobby. The article, although brief, is concisely written with plenty of of detailed pics demonstrating the measuring and marking techniques taught at the CCM's paddle making workshop.

In addition to the main paddle making article, an additional 2 page spread features a write up on different paddle grips and blades. Among the distinct paddle grips illustrated is a design I intent to carve, the St. John Malecite grip illustrated by Adney in a paddle dated to 1896-1898.

Replica of a St.John Malecite rectangular grip

If only the CCM would make their entire collection of 150 paddles open to the general public, I'd have a field day!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Craig Johnson's Gorgeous Paddles

I met fellow canoe enthusiast Craig Johnson at the WCHA Northern Lakes chapter event at Killbear Provincial Park back in September. We got to talking about paddles and he wanted to try out a custom design based on the blade pattern from my Cherry Passamaquoddy Guide, a large bladed design itself taken from the c1849 paddle in the Peabody museum. I emailed Craig a copy of this blade design which he adapted for use by combining it with an Old Town grip style he prefers.

His post "Slippery Slope" on the WCHA forums mentions how he's caught the paddlemaking bug and has already churned out 6 paddles...check them out below...all stunning!

Left to Right: cherry, sassafras, Honduran mahogany, tiger maple, walnut

Left to Right: cherry, sassafras, Honduran mahogany, tiger maple, walnut

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tappan Adney Illustration - (Killer) Beaver Ways

Recently there's been quite a stir here in Canada regarding the comments of Conservative Senator who has launched a campaign to replace the industrious beaver with the majestic polar bear as Canada's national emblem, referring to beaver as nothing more than "a dentally defective rat."

Lots of healthy online debate seems to favour the graceful but deadly polar bear as a great symbol of strength and pride, but being an avid paddler who relies on beavers for building dams and irrigating waterways in the backcountry, I'm in favour of leaving our hard-working, furry little emblem alone.

Here's another image I found drawn by Tappan Adney which appeared in an article entitled, "Beaver Ways" in Outing - Vol XLI - March 1903. It clearly shows that beavers can have tough side too...check out the hilarious caption!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tappan Adney Illustration - Moose Call

Here's a beautiful colour image by famed Bark Canoe historian Tappan Adney which appeared in Outing, October 1902, to accompany a poem entitled "The Moose Call". It features a beautifully illustrated Malecite style canoe with etched scrolls in the winter bark panel as well as a nice angle of a paddle being held by the standing guide.


THE autumn sun sinks low
Behind the wall of sombre fir
And paints with yellow glow
The mirror’d surface of the lake.
With face upturned and ear
Attuned to catch the very breath
Of dying day and year
The Indian hunter stands and sifts
The stillness far and near.
Close to the hunter’s side
The trusty paddle’s season’d blade,
By rip and torrent tried,
Now steady holds the frail canoe,
While rests upon his knee
The rudely twisted coil of bark-
Himself so still the tree
Against the fading Autumn sky
Is not more still than he.

At the gloomy edge
Of the forest dark a muskrat,
Sporting in the sedge,
Chippers to its dusky mate;
From out the misty hill
A night owl’s lonesome cry is heard—
A cry that sends a chill
Of fear through beast and sleeping
Then all again is still.
Hark! the hunter starts!
A sound borne softly on the air
The mighty stillness parts
And makes the hunter’s heart beat fast.
Tender, low, it thrills
The listening hunter’s inmost soul;
Yet resonant, it fills
The valley with an echo from
The everlasting hills!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Paddles - Passamaquoddy Cultural Heritage Museum

Some paddles from the Public Facebook Wall of the Passamaquoddy Cultural Heritage Museum. Most look to be ash but a few seem like weathered maple with their blades painted a deep forest green. The subtle variety of grips tend to have that elongated feature I've begun to favour in my paddle carvings.

Variety of Passamaquoddy Paddles

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Peter Polchies Ash Malecite

After obtaining my recent batch of lumber, I've eagerly begun carving again. In this case I wanted to try carving a wood I haven't yet worked with...ash. While I've finally acquired an old 12" bandsaw (hand-me-down from my Dad's old shop), it's been setup up north in the Cottage garage. I'm stuck in the city until the Christmas holidays so figured I'd try shaping ash plank the old fashioned way with an axe. This creates a lot of waste chips from an otherwise usable board, but this plank was quite narrow (just a bit over 4.5 inches wide) and ash isn't too premium a wood around these parts.

For this paddle, I wanted to try and replicate Tappan Adney's Malecite paddle sketches which appear at the back of John McPhee's famous canoeing book, Survival of the Bark Canoe. Adney's scribbled notes mention the paddles were carved and decorated by a Doctor Peter Polchies and were 6ft long with a 6inch blade. I intend all my paddles to be users so the dimensions were reduced to fit my preferred length of 58" with a narrowed blade width to accomodate the ash board.

Adney's sketches of Peter Polchies' carved paddles

After marking out the shape on the rough lumber, I made a few stop cuts with the saw and commenced hacking away. Now that we have a backyard instead of a condo balcony there's much more space and enjoyment to be had.

Paddle waiting to emerge

Sawing stop cut

Chopping away

Still not totally competent to chop right along a fine pencil line, so I stopped with the edges of the paddle looking a little ragged. They can easily be cleaned up later. A little trick I learned is to leave a few inches on the top and the bottom of the blank until the very last minute. Makes it much easier to handle the blank when wielding the axe.

Chopped out paddle blank

After thinning out the blade face with more axe work, I set up my portable shaving horse made way back in '08 that's still serving me well. Quick work with the spokeshave and the blade & grip were coming along nicely. Ended up with a pretty nice piece of ash - the grain isn't too difficult to work with and the pattern on one side of the blade is quite appealing. The whole paddle was thinned out quite a bit with the shaft thickness reduced down to 1" to make the whole thing light & flexible.

Set up on the horse

Grain pattern on the blade

I've purposely left the grip area a bit bulky to be true to the sketch and because of the fact that bulkier grips suit my palm just fine

Carving done

Decoration post to follow...

December 12, 2011 Update: Decoration is complete...see part 2 here

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Paddle Tripod

From the New Brunswick museum archives is this photo featuring paddles rigged up in a tripod.

Snipe Shooting near Gagetown, Queens County, New Brunswick
W. Albert Hickman
c 1900
glass lantern slide
New Brunswick Museum Collection (X15566)

The rigged tripod is similar to what I've seen documented in an earlier
post about Canadian artist Paul Kane.

Detail from Eleven Studies of Indian Life, Southeastern Ojibway
Paul Kane (1810-1871)
August 1845

A full colour painting entitled, Indian Encampment at Georgian Bay (1850) features a similar paddle tripod on the left side of the image.

Indian Encampment at Georgian Bay
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1995-215-1
ca. 1850

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Walter Walker Canoe Paddle Pattern

John Summers, the General Manager at the Canadian Canoe Museum, wrote a post on his blog about carving a paddle design by legendary Peterborough area builder, Walter Walker.

Apparently Walter had a favourite shape that was based on a late 19th century pattern from the Lakefield Canoe Company. It featured small shoulders at the top of a straight sided, narrow blade, as well as a pear grip with smaller shoulders at the base.

Walter Walker's 19th Century Lakefield Canoe Co pattern

Also found in Walter’s workshop was a split, weathered paddle apparently carved from birdseye maple. It had longer, curved shoulders at the top of the blade but features the similar style grip as the Lakefield Co. pattern. John ended up carving a replica of this (adjusted to his preferred length) out of cherry.

The museum apparently has a new display devoted to Walter's work - another reason to make the trip out to Peterborough again. Walter was actively building canoes until he turned 99 and carved his last paddle at 101!

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