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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mister, you make beautiful paddles.
More power to your arm !!

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