Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vintage Paddle Photos - The Roaring 20s

Found another curious vintage canoe photo featuring some bathing beauties lounging around a wooden canoe dated to 1922...

The caption from the source site reads:
Six women in swimwear at the Potomac Tidal Basin beach, Washington, D.C., 1922. Actress Kay Laurell is third from right, reclining in the canoe. Others are unidentified, they may be fellow actresses, possibly from the production "Ladies' Night" in which Laurell was appearing in Washington in July of 1922; woman at back right playing "oar guitar" may be co-star Eleanor Griffith.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Leather Solo Seat

Another off-season project I have been gradually working is a leather sling seat for the 15ft cedar canvas canoe. Paddling solo means kneeling as close to the center point of the canoe as possible. With my shorter, symmetrical 14foot canoe, the bow seat is perfectly positioned to paddling the canoe "backwards" so that my rump can rest on the edge of the seat and take weight off the heels if needed. With this option and full kneeling on the bottom of the hull, paddling the 14 footer is a joy.

The longer 15ft cedar canvas logically has its seats positioned further towards the ends of the canoe and paddling in reverse while resting on the bow seat results in an awkward stern heavy position when the boat is unloaded. So a solution was in order. I considered the idea of adding a permanent kneeling thwart but then wanted to explore a more removable option - hence the pursuit of a personalized sling seat.

Tom Seavey of Azland Traditions is the creator of Original Saddle Seat. I've seen a few first hand at some canoe gatherings and have always admired the quality leather workmanship. Here's shot of one I took at the WCHA Assembly held in Peterborough back in '08

Original Saddle Seat by Azland Traditions

I'm assuming this design was meant to be used as true seat with folks sitting while paddling...it is quite wide and sturdily built. Since I was making a sling seat for exclusively kneeling, I figured that the dimensions could be narrower.

While Tom's design is stunning, there was one more issue I had with my personal style of paddling. After maybe an hour or so paddling on one side, I might switch sides and heel the boat the other way to give muscles a needed break. This means the seat would need to be able to slide from the extreme port to extreme starboard side of the boat. Tom's design with its 4 independent straps doesn't allow for instant adjustment. The buckles would need to be undone and the seat repositioned each time.

Another option was for the seat to "ride" on webbing straps tied to the inwales. Stewart River Boatworks sells a canvas canoe seat with webbing that looks promising as well but hand stitching waxed canvas isn't my idea of fun.

Stewart River Canvas Canoe Seat

Eventually, I came across BigBlue's post on WildSurvive featuring a pic of his homemade sling seat made of a combination of leather and webbing straps.

BigBlue's Leather Sling Seat

His design with two layers of leather laced together riding on webbing straps strung across the boat fit the bill. I didn't have enough leather on hand to mimic his design and wasn't crazy about the lacing idea.

So my own version involved a 8" wide by 20" long piece of veg tan leather along with two 6ft long, 1-1/2" wide straps to sling across the inwales. The straps would be fashioned into a simple belt. To prevent the edge of the leather seat from digging into the skin, I thought I would fold over the edges and lace them in place by playing around with some grommets and scrap piece of leather lace.

8"x20" piece with grommets

Edges folded in and tightened with lace

Leather is a suitable medium for pyrography and like my EBook cover made a while back, I obviously wanted some canoe related theme. I was aiming for a sort of old-fashioned, western look with a paddler & bark canoe rather than a typical horse & rider scene. After finding some clipart on the web, here is my adaptation.

Burned decoration

Of course the leather gets darker when stained and treated with waterproofing finishes but here is the completed project...

Finished saddle seat

Before the very late freezeup of the lake this year, I got the chance to try out the sling seat on a short jaunt. Here's how it looks on strapped in...

Buckled into the boat

Because of the rib positions and the dimensions of the actual seat, the belt straps don't end up running parallel so the seat can't slide completely side to side as originally intended...oh well. I also seemed to have lost one belt keeper loop that keeps the straps nice and taught at the inwale, but all in all, it worked well. I ended up moving it one rib location further astern than the pic after giving it a trial run and this allowed to get into a full kneeling position behind the centre thwart if I wanted to and then quickly come up onto the seat if needed. Overall, it was more than sufficient to support my (ever growing) weight and is comfortable enough when paddling in the kneeling position to keep the weight off the heels. Plus, being a not permanent and removable accessory, it can be taken off and put into another canoe if needed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nigel's Krieghoff Paddle Replica

Paddle enthusiast Nigel acquired an Edenwood Northwoods paddle and decided to decorate the handcarved beauty with some artwork. With his permission, some photos of his work are posted here in addition to more details on the WCHA forum. He ended up inspired by the some of the Cornelius Krieghoff paintings at the McCord Museum in Montreal which feature a colourful chevron pattern.

Aboriginal Camp in Lower Canada Cornelius 
Krieghoff (1815-1872) 1847, 19th century

Paddle Closeup

Nigel's Decorated Edenwood Paddle

Blade closeup

The grip area was decorated with a burned image a rabbit smoking a pipe, a native theme symbolizing confidence in the face of danger, popularized in the film The Edge.

Grip Closeup
The cheerful colours and stunning contrast make the paddle highly visible and everyone will know who the paddle belongs to. I'm tempted to give pyrography decoration a break for a while and perhaps try some painting. Great work Nigel!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Maine Hunters Paddle

From Windows on Maine, an image of some hunters in a canoe dated to 1887. The stern paddler has a nice looking paddle with an elongated, stepped grip. The canoe is a closed-gunnel cedar canvas canoe that would've been quite an early example of cedar canvas construction.

John Hall and Herbert Washington in a canoe on Ragged Lake, Maine. A trophy Maine whitetail buck is transported by canoe back to camp following a successful hunt at Ragged Lake, Maine in the late summer of 1887.

Paddle Closeup

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yellow Birch "Mistake" Paddle

Everybody makes mistakes, right? I've often posted about some of my learning experiences (i.e. mistakes) in this hobby, some of which end in utter disaster...like my attempt a bushcraft carved cedar paddle a while back. Here's another mistake in paddle carving, but one I think I've been able to salvage.

The backstory: Next up on my "to do" list of paddle replicas was the c1878 Maliseet Paddle from the York Sunbury Museum...see posts here, here, and here.

1878 Maliseet Paddle

This time I wanted to be as accurate as possible and didn't modify the blade or grip design, just the overall length. For the pyrography decoration to stand out though, I decided to replicate the paddle in Yellow Birch...a nice carving wood for paddles that burns very evenly as well. A suitable plank of Yellow Birch as obtained and the design all sketched out. But being impatient, I couldn't wait to head up north to the cottage where I have a bandsaw to cut out the pattern. Instead, it was back to old fashioned method of chopping out the paddle with axe and hand tools...it worked out reasonably well in Ash Malecite a few weeks before.

Big mistake. This board of yellow birch proved to be quite a challenge. I've never chopped yellow birch with an axe before and even though the grain pattern looked quite straight, it somehow kept "reversing" so that every few axe strokes, there would be a tremendous amount of tear out. Flipping the paddle over and over and and trying to chop out the paddle in this manner without causing tons of damage proved to be quite difficult and frustrating.

Along the way, I ended up tearing off a huge chunk of wood from the of shaft and the edges of the blade where horribly torn into jagged splinters... basically the original design was ruined! I was angry at myself for spending a day making nothing more than expensive kindling and never took any pictures as a result. Eventually, things cooled down a bit (thank you Elijah Craig Bourbon!) and I figured out a way the paddle could be still saved.

This meant narrowing the blade by nearly 1 inch and reducing its length by cutting off a new, flatter tip 2 inches higher. This would've made the paddle much shorter than I like, so basically the grip was extended to compensate for the blade reduction. I usually draw on on the design about 2-3 inches from the end of the board since the ends tend to have minor splits from the drying process and so there was a little wiggle room. The grip was brought up to the end of the board. To my eye...it makes the grip area look ridiculously long, but the paddle balances out surprisingly well. In order to smooth out all the mini tears and rough patches on the blade, I ended up power sanding with a ROS for a long time (sorry neighbours!) but it's a smooth as it is going to get. Here's the end result when I finally decided to take some pics...

Here are some closeups of the damaged shaft just below the carved drip ornamentation at the base of the grip. To repair, I basically mixed some woodglue with the abundant about of sawdust from the sanding process to make a putty. Filled in the gouges, replaced the broken splinter of wood, wrapped in wax paper and clamped it loosely into place overnight. After some more vigorous sanding, it's not looking that bad.

Shaft tear-out; repair job

The new blade design (4" wide by 26.5" long) isn't even close to the original Maliseet pointed tip of the orginal paddle. So I'm going to forget about making a replica with that pattern and try another attempt with some remaining lumber stock. I'll have to think about what to do for decoration on this one...

New blade design; Very long grip with drip ring carvings

April 15, 2012 Update: Paddle has been completed and decorated. Click HERE for that post

Friday, January 13, 2012

Menominee Family Canoe Paddle

Family group of Menominee in a bark canoe. The male figure on the far right has a straight sided paddle which looks similar in design to the antique Chippewa Paddle featured earlier on LiveAuctioneers.com

Two Women and Five Children in Birchbark Canoe,
Women in Native Dress, Man Holding Paddle
Menominee Indians, Date: 1925
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Full Citation

Paddle Closeup; Antique Chippewa Paddle

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Woman's Ojibway Paddle - 1929

The Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology BULLETIN 86 - Chippewa Customs (1929) has a nice image (Plate 53) and description of a woman's canoe paddle - crudely shaped from knotty wood.

The original caption
The specimen illustrated is a woman's canoe paddle (pl. 53, a) and is 4 feet 10 inches long, with blade 22 inches long and 4 1/4 inches wide. A man's paddle is usually heavier, longer, and of a somewhat different shape...

Monday, January 9, 2012

ADK Auction Paddles

The Flickr page of the Adirondack Museum has some great images from their 2011 auction. A few paddles were featured in the collection

The white painted beavertail guide paddle above (2nd from left) has a copper (or maybe brass) tip protector. A while ago, I wrote a post about these vintage paddle accessories which seem to have fallen out of favour with paddle makers today.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

1899 Penobscot River Canoe Trip Photo

From the LA84 Foundation's archive of Outing magazine is a great little article describing an 1899 canoe trip down Maine's famous Penobscot River. Here's the full link and details...

Canoeing Down the West Branch of the Penobscot (.PDF format)
Outing, by William Austin Brooks. 1899 August Vol. XXXIV No. 5 p. 473-479.

Included in the article is a photo of one of the author's guides with a clear display of his classic guide paddle...

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