Sunday, July 31, 2011

Painted Canoe Model Paddles (circa 1799)

Here are some pics of some painted model canoe paddles built for a swiss tourist in 1799 now part of the collection of the Museum of Ethnography in Neuch√Ętel. Pieces like this really give a clue to possible native decoration on life-sized paddles on the era.

Wabenaki, Huron (Wendat), Mohawk, and Algonquin converts from Roman Catholic mission villages along the Saint Lawrence River cooperated with nuns to manufacture Native "tourist art." Older traditions of doll-making were adjusted by using wax to model faces for figurines that were then clothed in the Native dress fashionable at that time. For tourists who bought canoe models such as the one shown here, their souvenir represented a vivid and portable manifestation of their more or less close encounter with the American aborigines and of the latter's ability to adopt Christianity. This one was acquired by a Swiss tourist, Jeanne Elisabeth Gugy, in

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Poling Attempt

Another small project last summer was the construction of a spruce canoe pole (see part 1 and part 2) After getting numerous questions from curious onlookers about what I was carving and why I would consider even standing in a canoe, the pole was quitely finished just in time for the paddling season to end.

This year I wanted to try and learn this new skill, so during the most ridiculous heat wave of the summer when dunking into the lake wouldn't be a concern, I tried it out. Quite happy with my cedar canvas canoe and how it performs. Most chapters about poling in books mention not to bother with canoes less than 17ft in length. My 14 footer tracked well enough and the hull design has outstanding secondary stability. The main trick was to be as loose and limber as possible - tension in the legs seem to translate into quick loss of balance and control. Here is a sequence of shots my wife took from the dock while the boy excitedly looked on...

Of course, right after I got my confidence up, I wanted to go faster to impress my boy...I sped up right to the dock with the intention of jamming the pole ahead of me to do a quick stop. All was going well and the canoe slowed to a snail's pace but the bow still nudged the dock slightly. Guess I forgot I was standing for a second because the force knocked me off balance and I face planted into the water right below his feet with the canoe shooting behind to the beach. Of course, now he thinks canoe poling is about belly floping in the water so he keeps asking if I am going to use the pole. Luckily the camera wasn't fast enough to catch me going down...but here is a shot of the aftermath

After an embarrasing fall, there's only one thing to do...get back up!

In any event, I'm eager to learn more and get out of the safety of the cottage shore and try poling up some of the local rivers which really get too low for enjoyable upstream paddling by late summer. We'll see.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bushcraft Cree Completed

Last summer, I had worked on a bushcraft cree style paddle hacked out from a chunk of 2x6 spruce with an axe and finished off over a weekend with a crooked knife.

Crooked knife work; Paddle taking shape

With an hour of free time up at the cottage, I worked on cleaning up the blade and reducing the shaft thickness my angled crooked knife, a superb tool for finishing work.

For decoration, I thought I wanted to replicate some historic line designs found in some printed texts. Spruce isn't a good choice for wood-burning decoration so I figured I could use some of the left over Epifanes enamel paint from the cedar canvas canoe to add a nice bit of color.

Decorated Cree Paddles

In the end I came up with a slightly different pattern than Paddle (D) on the far right, a museum model piece from Fort Chimo now at the McCord Museum in Montreal. Using some masking tape and a cheap foam brush on hand, the painted accents were added easily enough.. Still, my hand isn't as stable working with messy paints so they are quite amateurish

Final Paddle

Blade Closeup

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Historic Paddle Illustrations - Beothuk Paddles

Came across this historical illustration of a Beothuk canoe and paddle dated from 1773. It may be the source documented by Adney and others as the representation of paddles for the exterminated Beothuk tribe of Newfoundland. Notably, this style of paddle has a very elongated, narrow "willow leaf" style blade with a pole grip, the length of which (to the scale of the canoe) seems to corroborate its usage as an paddle for the uniquely designed seaworthy canoes of the Beothuk.

Beothuk Canoe & Paddle Sketch

Paddle closeup

My own, reduced sized interpretation of a Beothuk paddle with a cherry laminated bobble grip is still awaiting some woodburning decoration.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vintage Paddles & Poses

Another curious paddle related vintage photo...

Women with canoe paddles dressed for the chorus of the musical production of Princess Bonnie, University of Washington, 1913
Photographer: Unknown
Digital Collection: University of Washington Campus Photographs
Item Number: UWC1751

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Canada Day Paddling

My Canada Day weekend canoe outing with local members of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association got derailed with an ill wife in bed. Good news is that I still managed to score some paddling time with the little one even if it was a routine paddle around the shoreline of our cottage lake.

Here's my little guy all set with his paddle and flag...

A shot of him in the canoe...

View off the bow...

Quick pose with the auto shoot feature of the camera set on the dock...

Hope everyone got some time on the water!

P.S. I'm working on another fun child's paddle for my boy's older cousin...should have some more pics in the near future.

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