Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sassafras Northwoods Part 2

Here's an update on the next paddle I was working on - the sassafras Northwoods style paddle modelled after the one in the Hudson Museum in Maine...

Hudson Museum Paddles (Credit: Bob Holtzman)

Took advantage of the cool down in the weather to finally get some carving done in the backyard. It's been scorching here in Toronto for what feels like forever! Progress on the blade was moving along nicely. Love the smell of those Sassafras shavings while you work...

For the handle, a few stop cuts with a saw and then some work with the axe and crooked knife to clean up a bit.

Everything was going well, the grip was being rasped down to shape and then I had the urge to check the flex...SNAP!

I suppose this could've been avoided by using precision power tools but it just isn't my thing.  Still want to salvage what I  can from this project. Thought of continuing to work on the blade and rounding off the remaining shaft. Maybe my 4 yr old  can use it like a wooden tennis racket with a beach ball or something. Was thinking of carving some old school wooden tent stakes  from the left over handle part.

Any readers have some  creative ideas of what to do with these pieces?  I've already  posted a thread on BushcraftUSA asking folks the same question and some ideas are flowing in. Apparently my thread got removed because the mods think I'm a vendor trying to sell "a product". Oh well. In the meantime, if any readers here have suggestions of what to do with busted pieces, then feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kirk Wipper Estate Auction Paddles

Fellow bloggers Fiona of Badger Paddles, Mike O of Reflections..., and Bryan S of ColdSpringPaddling have posted about the upcoming estate sale of paddling legend, the late Kirk Wipper. Wipper, a recipient of the Order of Canada and founder of the Canadian Canoe Museum, had an extensive private collection of canoe related objects. The estate sale is being held on July 29th in Peterborough, Ontario by Rusland's Auction. More info in the flyer ad below:

There are quite a few paddles in this unique collection for those who want to browse through the photo collection gallery. Here are a few that caught my eye...

Item 155 - Caption says it is Haida / Algonquin...looks more like an East Coast style paddle to me...

Item 157 - Etched paddled grip...looks similar to the design of item 155

Item 164 - Decorated Paddle by famous paddler and artist Hap Wilson
Item 164 - Close up of Grey Owl etching on blade 

The event looks like a wonderful way to honour Wipper's legacy and own some very unique pieces...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Big East River Poling Trip

Ever since carving a traditional canoe pole late in the summer of 2010, I've been slowly trying to learn this new skill. Until now, I've been attempting poling around the shallows of my cottage lake getting curious looks from people warning me to "never to stand in a canoe". One of these folks was my neighbour informing me of this horrible misconception while he was showing off his $2000 stand-up paddle board and carbon graphite paddle!

Anyway, while he seems content puttering around a flat lake on his glorified surfboard my intention has a practical purpose - to use poling instead of having to arrange car shuttles when doing river  trips. Earlier this week I was able to get up north and take advantage of the long summer day to try my my very first attempt at poling up one of the local rivers - The Big East. As a trial run, I brought along my canvas pack loaded as if I was heading off for a few days of camping to see if poling a loaded canoe was any more difficult than my usual empty boat practice. Later this summer I might make an overnight trip in this area, but for the time being, this was just a day trip.

Car at access point - there's space for a few vehicles

Launch point looking downstream
Water levels are low everywhere in the region and the local Natural Resources office have declared an extreme forest fire hazard due to the dry condition. Despite this, the Big East still has enough water to float a canoe even if there are some very rocky shallows where dragging is necessary. Locals typically park a car at the Williamsport Bridge and then, once past a set of easy C1 rapids and some other shallows,  lazily meander rapid-free until they hit Lake Vernon about 4-5 hours away. Very few people ever go upstream at this point since there really is no "destination" as such and there are more rapids and shallows to contend with...perfect for some solitude and poling!

Paddling upsteam

Huge sandy cliffs along the way

Looking upstream for some prime poling territory

Poling up the shallows in still water

Wasn't expecting it, but I came some bank Beaver burrows dug into the muddy sides of the river  at the waterline. Just after taking this pic, I noticed a beaver in the distance swimming across and I managed to get a few grainy shots including its webbed feet right after doing a tail splash.

Bank Beaver burrows on the riverbank

Beaver swimming across the river

Big warning splash with webbed feet flipped up 

Further upstream was a small island where I  pulled up to take a break in the heat. The place was covered in animal tracks. Seems it is being used as a deer crossing site.

Break time on a muddy island

Deer tracks all over
Where there's deer, there's going to be predators. Here's a nice wolf print in the mud....

Wolf print
Eventually got to some rocky swifts at spent quite some time attempting to climb against the increasingly strong current. Set up the camera to take some video and timed photos of attempts...

Lots of rocks under those ripples

Finding the rock free channel

Trying to pole and take a photo - not reccommended!

One particular stretch was a fun area to practice. Spent quite a while going upstream and then turning around snubbing down. By this time the sun was beating down and after realising I had forgotten applying sunscreen, needed the floppy hat to keep cool.

Trying to pole up a channel

Snubbing downstream in the same place
Didn't end up falling out the canoe but did have many close calls. The shallow nature of the river meant that if the canoe got hung up on a rock, I had to step out and reposition the boat. By the afternoon, I was pretty bushed and wanted to take a relaxing nap and dry my feet. 

The silty nature of this river means that there are some impressive sandy deposits at certain bends. Came across a huge sand dune at one point that would make for a nice campsite. Took the canoe out of the water and tried to use the pole, canoe and paddles to rig a shelter for some shade, although by then it started getting cloudy. Here's what I came up with...

Canoe shelter with tarp, paddles, & pole

Lots of driftwood but no campfire today
As a "luxury item", I like to use an old Turkish kilim as a ground cover. After visiting family there back in '06 we picked up quite a few of these beautiful mats and this one has seen its share of family picnics and outings. The wool is warm and cozy and the loose flat-weave of the kilim allows it to easily flapped clean of dirt and sand. Nomadic shepherds there often use layered kilims as blankets, cloaks, and even fold them into a sort of sleeping bag too. A little secret I picked up on a bushcraft forum is to use an old shower curtain as a waterproof lining to prevent dampness from the ground - can't see it in the photo but it is there.

After a relaxing nap, it was time to pack up and head home. The 15footer cedar canvas was recently painted a "froggie green" colour that my son picked. The paint job on the bottom is pretty scratched up but the canvas is no worse for wear. While this canoe is more suited as a lake tripper with its deep 14" hull, straight lines and thick keel, it worked well enough for poling . But despite running aground on some rocks here and there, it held up well enough. 

Here's a short, 3 minute Youtube video of the some of the day's action...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Moosehead Beer Canoe Givewaway

Iconic Canadian brewery, Moosehead,  is running a promotion called Moosehead Journey where they visit various artisans across our wonderful country and showcase their talents. The latest episode features the fine canoe workmanship of Larry Bowers of West Country Canoes out in Eckville, Alberta. Check out this sweet video clip...

Fantastic shots of a gorgeous cedar canvas canoe that just also happens to be the prize in a draw. The contest (only open to Canadian residents) requires you visit the Moosehead facebook page, click the "giveaway" tab, hit the "like" button and enter in some details. The contest closes soon on July 8th so not too much time remaining. 

I'm not on facebook but my wife is, so "we" entered the contest together. Technically, our chances of winning are better if no one else knew about this sweet contest, but my canoe-loving (and beer loving) conscious couldn't keep this away from everyone. Besides a 5th canoe isn't go to be easy to store or explain to the neighbours. So if any of my fellow Canadians want a chance a winning a gorgeous cedar canvas canoe then here's your chance!

No purchase of their beer is necessary, but my basement fridge in my newly refurbished mancave is newly stocked with their summer sale 28 pack the Moose!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

DY Woods Canvas Pack Refurb

Great news for those seeking out some quality, vintage canoe packs! Chris A from Damn Yak Drygoods has begun to restore and sell some old Woods canvas packs salvaged from kids camps in the Muskoka region. My own pack restoration was a fun side distraction from paddle making that turned out to be very useful as my main tripping pack. In the time since, I've been routinely asked about where to source out refurbished packs like this. Chris is the only person I'm aware of who is making the effort to salvage these vintage packs and give them another lifetime of usage. A quote from his blog post:
"The goal of this project was to save these iconic pieces of Canadian outdoor history from the trash and to put them once again into the hands canoeists and adventurers alike. To breath new life into these beat up, used and abused canvas packs."

Here are some pics of the pack in its original condition...

After removing the old rivets and other weakened parts, the soiled pack was washed revealing that wonderful faded colour of a traditional pack. 9oz veg tan leather was used to replace any worn leather and is solidly secured with copper rivets. Chris placed a little leather logo on the front of the pack to add a personal touch. You can see more photos of the restoration process hereHere's the  photo of the final product. 

The price is $120 plus shipping based on customer's location (paypal only) or pickup in the Milton, Ontario area. Extremely reasonable price since some retailers are selling the "new" Woods packs at a (rediculous) price of over $230 + tax for thinner canvas, low quality leather and cheap splash rivets that would likely tear out once this pack is loaded to capacity. If interested in these refurbished old-school packs, you can contact Chris directly - Damnyak(at)

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