Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fort Severn Canoe Project

Paddle friend, Mike O, has been up in remote Fort Severn, the most norther community in Ontario working on restoring some of the wood canvas freight canoes used by the locals. Mike's been regularly posting slideshow updates of the team's work on his site. In one post, he mentioned that village men brought in a book with black and white photos from years ago showing the different uses of these workhorse canoes. Unfortunately the book's cover was torn off, so the title of the book is not known.

One of the shots features a man carving a huge poling paddle out of spruce. The descriptive caption explains that these paddles had a short lifespan given their tough usage. Explains why so few Native canoe paddles make it to museums...they were meant to be used and discarded. What was more important was the knowledge and skills to make another one....

April 30, 2012 UPDATE: The Fort Severn restoration project has made the national news in Canada. CBC aired a brief segment and published a small writeup on the ongoing efforts. Congrats to Mike O and the team for really making a difference in the paddling community.

May 5, 2012 UPDATE: Thanks to reader, Joe for sourcing out the title of the book. Hudson Bay Watershed: A Photographic Memoir of the Ojibway, Cree, and Oji-Cree John Macfie, Basil Johnston

Monday, April 23, 2012

Historic Paddle Art - Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait

Here's a scene by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819 – 1905), an American painter and lithographer of English birth. He established himself as a realistic painter of animals and images of Western hunters and trappers. Unlike many contemporaries, he travelled extensively in wilderness areas and later established a summer studio at a camp in the Adirondacks

American Hunting Scenes: "An Early Start"
Arthur F. Tait

The paddle has a defined ridgeline and basic T grip. Also seems pretty short from the scale of the photo. The blade is clearly painted and there seems to be some banding decoration (or maybe paddle whipping) around the shaft.

Paddle Closeup

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Another Luc Poitras Malecite Style Carved Paddle

Paddle carver Luc Poitras sent in pics of his latest Malecite style paddle complete with carved drip rings, blade spine and decorative etching. This beauty is made from yellow birch and carved entirely with a crooked spokeshave or sanding.

Given my own experience with a tough yellow birch board that was frustratingly difficult to carve, Luc's all hand carved paddle is amazing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Yellow Birch - McCord Passamaquoddy

After flubbing my Yellow Birch attempt to replicate the c1878 York Sunbury Maliseet Paddle, I ended up with a blade that was a substantially different shape - more narrow and willow leaf-shaped.

New blade design; Very long grip with drip ring carvings
Yellow birch sands to a wonderful creamy finish and the wood can be delicately burned to various shades with controlled pyrography. Instead of trying the curved floral motifs of the original design, the new blade shape reminded me of another Eastern Woodlands paddle I'd been planning to work on - the 19th century Maliseet or Passamaquoddy paddle at the McCord Museum

Eastern Woodlands
 Aboriginal: Maliseet or Passamaquoddy 
 11.4 x 150 cm 
Gift of Mr. Hobart William Molson
McCord Museum

The blade shape wasn't a perfect match and I wanted to use woodburning rather than paint. The original paddle has both green and red painted scrolls, but when trying to replicate these colours using the sepia-toned colors of pyrography, the contrast would be lost. As a fun distraction, I used photoshop to adjust the dimensions of the original paddle to fit my paddle blade and then tinkered with colours to come up with sepia-toned version. For those photoshop techies out there, I ended up using the "replace color" feature on the red scrolls along with the desaturate feature. Now the red scrolls were converted to an off-white and appeared as a nice contrast to the shaded background.

Original blade adjusted; Sepia inverted as the pyrography pattern
Here are some shots of my version. The grip on the original was painted black but I decided to take liberties with this and add some designs:

Blade closeup; Grip Closeup
Completed McCord Passamaquoddy / Maliseet

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New Biomimicry Paddle Design

Longtime blog reader Bryan (who recently started a paddling business - Cold Spring Paddling - sent me an email of a creative paddle project by Chad Townsend of Banff, Alberta. It's called the Shearwater webbed paddle which aims to combine mechanical engineering, evolutionary biology, and modern material capabilities.

Some details of their product from their website:
  • a practical application of ‘biomimicry' (copying nature's engineering / efficiency);
  • a uniquely compact paddle adaptable for a variety of water sports (webbed blade folds inward, and shaft breaks down for storage and transport);
  • an educational tool for science centers, camps, and parks.
Like many young entrepreneurs today, fund raising online is part of the process. You can read more about this inventor's plans here. As a traditionalist, I don't think I'll be carving any paddles like this anytime soon, but for any other paddlers wishing to push the design envelope to its limits, this might be up your alley.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Canoe Resuscitation - digital enhancement

Found an interesting post with a bit of rare, vintage cedar canvas canoe story. Trevor Laforce's blog, Spillway, has some posts about an original Omer Stringer built canoe he's inherited from his folk's cottage on Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park. Turns out that Omer is his great uncle and this canoe was a gift from the paddling legend. It's been left derelict for sometime, but Trevor has plans to restore the canoe back to its former glory.

Trevor used some clever photoshop to picture what the restored canoe could look like...all shiny with Omer's famous racing stripe painted below the gunnels.

Digitally restored

For the whole story and more pics, check out his posts here and here.

After this post on Beaver Canoes, I started doing some rudimentary research on Omer's canoes. Wooden Canoe issue 25 (Winter 1986) has an article which describes Omer's custom boats. Here's an excerpt...
"Omer's canoe is also unique. He began with a 15-foot Chestnut Chum, built in New Brunswick. When it was under construction, he asked that the cedar plank-and-rib shell be left without inwales, thereby allowing him to vary the sheer line after the shell was removed from the form. He then increased the depth of the canoe to 15 inches and reduced the bow height by 1-1/2 inches. With weights, he rounded out the ribs in the center of the canoe slightly. This rounding produced a canoe that was deeper and a bit more tender and maneuverable than the original Chum."

Today, Omer's personal canoe is hanging in the Algonquin Park visitor's Centre (km 43)'s the faded red one.

Photo Credit: Andre Cloutier

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ca. 1900 Adirondack Guide Paddle

A monthly favourite of mine, the current items (April) at the features a circa 1900 Adirondack Guide Boat Paddle with an interesting spined grip. This seems quite different from the circular "lollipop" grips seen commonly in this unique paddle design

Adirondack Guide Boat Paddle
This maple guide boat paddle has a roll-top handle with a prominent center ridge, and a gracefully tapered blade.
Circa 1900
5" w, 70.5" h

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