Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sassafras Penobscot Replica

We here in Toronto are having one of the mildest winters on record. Up until this weekend there was not a single flake of snow on the the middle of February?!?! Being a Northern Ontario boy I find any complaints about how cold it gets in the city to be absolutely ridiculous. Man up people! In order to cure some of the "lack of winter" blues, I've been taking advantage of the unexpected temperature to get some carving done in the backyard.

Here's my attempt at replicating the circa 1900 Painted Penobscot paddle with its curvy, slender grip. The blank was sawn out of large 8/4 Sassafras board which I first ripped into a thinner board on the bandsaw and then shaped the blank. Unfortunately the blade broke when cutting this out I couldn't seem to cut properly with the replacement...too much wander. I have to figure out how to tweak this hand-me-down tool but power tools are bugging me lately. I'm feeling much more comfortable with hand tools anyway and so this paddle was again worked down with an axe and spokeshave. A crooked knife and a rasp were used to reshape the grip and correct the mistakes when cutting out the blank.

The hacked out blank

Sassafras really is a nice wood to work it. It carves so nicely and gives off a wonderful root beer like aroma, which is great if you love that smell.

Clamped to a work table to do some edge work

Here are some quick shots when the grain was wetted to reveal the muted colour of the wood.

I dabbled with the idea of making my own homemade paint with red ochre powder and linseed oil but remembered that we had some reddish paint leftover from the move into the new house. Below is a shot with a fresh coat which goes on very bright but eventually dries and fades to a more muted tone. Also shown is the original paddle along with a closeup up my replica's simple grip burnings and the final piece.

Original Paddles; Replica; Grip Closeup


Joel said...

Nice work Murat. I like those paddles. I haven't made one in a long while now, but one of these days, I will!

Is Sassafra a heavy wood? Compared to Ash, for example? I can't get any over here in the UK, and know next to nothing about it.

Murat said...

Hi Joel. Sassafras certainly seems much lighter in weight than ash...don't know the specific stats. It shares a similar grain pattern, is very flexible and apparently can be steam bent like ash as well. You can see from the photos that it has a light bronze tone that darkens with time. It can also be susceptible to blackening like ash if exposed to excessive moisture - so it needs to be routinely sealed. Overall, I'm quite impressed with it and have another blank waiting to be carved out. Shaw & Tenney claim that Sassafras is the perfect paddle making wood because of its flex, lightness, and strength.

Clarkson said...

Great paddle ! I'm going to have to pick up a piece of Sassafras and try it out . Root beer aroma sounds enjoyable.

The band saw i have is not the best, just a cheapy. i find that the best way to deal with the wander is a thick sharp blade, keep the upper guide close to the wood, cut outside the draw lines for the blank and use the stationary belt sander with a low paper to true up the blank to the lines drawn.

Nigel Shuttleworth said...

Murat, this Penobscot is the Real Deal - serendipitous breakage of a power tool has yielded a great opportunity of creating a much more authentic reconstruction of an original First Nation artefact including the carving on the handle; lovely!

Murat said...

Thanks for all the kind words, guys!

ManX said...

Thanks so much for all ;)
from the other part of the world,
hope you like my copy:
I am an amateur bowmaker and I like paddling

Murat said...

Great work ManX! If I understood your post correctly, you waited 3 years from splitting the plum tree log to finishing the paddle. It looks beautiful. I'll post pics and a writeup on the website very soon.

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