Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Motorized Paddle Patent

One of the more bizarre paddle ideas I've come across is this interesting concept of fitting a functional motorized propeller into the paddle blade. I came across this weird concept in Graham Warren's book 100 Canoe Paddle Designs (original post HERE).

Inventor George W Abraham filed for a US Patent on June 11, 1923. I recently found the whole writeup on Google's Patent search engine. Here is an excerpt of the inventor's application:

It consists essentially of a paddle blade of the type ordinarily used for canoe paddles, the blade being provided with a handle having a hand-grip of the type usual with canoe paddles, and the blade having at a considerable distance from its outer end an opening within which is mounted a small propeller, the shaft of which extends axially of the handle to an electric motor, the casing of which forms a portion of the handle. 
The principal object of the invention is to provide a paddle of light weight capable of all the uses of an ordinary canoe paddle, but having in addition a propeller of such small size as to be capable of operation by a light weight motor of a type suitable for use with an ordinary storage battery of small size. 
Another object of the invention is to provide a motor driven propeller for use with canoes in streams or the lagoons of parks or other places where the use of gas engines is prohibited.

Well the idea never really caught on I guess. But with canoeing slowly dying off in favour of other activities, perhaps a high powered motorized paddle would be just the ticket to get the masses of thrill seeking adrenaline-junkies into canoeing again.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Historic Paddle Photo - c1887 Canoe Paddle - Riverside, Mass

An Ebay seller claims to have a silver gelatin original photograph dated to 1887 which features a couple in an elegant canoe. To my eyes it looks to be a very old birchbark canoe since some pitched gores are just visible in the grainy zoomed picture.

Silver Gelatin Original
Riverside, MA c June 19th, 1887
This is an exceptional photograph from the late 1800's
Family of wealthy Bostonian society figure, Mr. Larry Vinton Long, a banker and broker, member of the stock exchange, and curator for museums.

The gentleman in the rear looks to be using a graceful paddle with an elongated grip...

Another photo dated to same time and place is a group shot of paddlers. The seller describes it as "Visiting Neighbors by canoe, Riverside, MA c.1887"

 Silver Gelatin Original
Riverside, MA
c June 19th, 1887

The closeup shot reveals some lovely elegant paddles as well as fancy paddling clothes for the ladies...

Paddle Closeups

If I'm not mistaken, Riverside Massachusetts is near the famed Charles River, where a thriving canoe building industry once existed. has a nice little booklet entitled online entitled  Souvenir of the Charles River (1904). While published much later than this purported photo, it shows just how popular recreational canoeing was at the turn of the 20th century. Lots of great vintage photos and ads of early canoe builders as well.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Cara Jordan Paddle Pyrography

Not sure how I missed this blog post from the Canadian Canoe Museum featuring pyrographic artist Cara Jordan. The post highlights her passion for the wood burning art form and includes some pics of some of her paddle artwork...beautiful stuff!

Cara Jordan Paddles
Photo Credit: CCM

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Another Sassafras Penobscot Replica - Part 1

ManX's recent paddle submission based on the c.1900 Antique Penobscot Paddle inspired me to finally get around and work on a similar paddle paddle blank that had been lying around.

Back when I did my own replica based on this elegant looking paddle design, the original lumber stock had been a thick piece of 8/4 Sassafras stock. At the time, I didn't think ahead and rip the original lumber down to 5/4 but rather cut the pattern out on the bandsaw directly. This of course left a comically thick paddle blank that would be extremely laborious to shave down with hand tools. It was then that I decided to rip the paddle blank roughly in half and basically end up with two twin blanks. In the whole process though the blanks ended up poorly cut, but salvageable. The better of the two blanks ended up being the replica while its twin languished around for a few a years.

Original Paddle; My Replica

Replica paddle out for a water test - See post here

As usual with sassafras, the wood is easy to carve with both a spokeshave and crooked knife. I ended up using both tools to thin the blade and shape the grip while trying to correct some of the errors from the initial sawing out of the blank.

Working on the shaving horse

As you might've noticed, this blank had one major flaw and that was a knothole that was on the upper part of the blade. Fortunately, it only projects onto one face. Here's a closeup shot of the area while the paddle was still in its rough carving phase.

Knothole on upper blade

Time will only tell if this will lead to a catastrophic break, but the grain pattern does reverse and get more challenging to carve with the spokeshave and crooked knife around this area. However, I remember a historic paddle photo of some Maliseet guides posing with their paddles. The man on the right has a paddle that clearly has a knothole in the upper section as well so this "defect" may not be in too critical a location.

Original Blog Post HERE 

I also wanted the grip area to be a bit different. Obviously there was a limitation of what could be done since it was cut to resemble the original antique Penobscot. But unlike the carved replica that featured a curvy ornamental top with sharp edges and a pronounced curvature of the grip along the sides, I was able to create a semi-rounded top and carved the sides with far less sweeping lines. Also, a subtle centre ridge has been carved down the middle, giving the flattened lower grip a diamond-like cross section. It's not finished yet, but here is the progress on the grip so far and an overall shot below...

Still working on the grip be continued

Sunday, September 20, 2015

1855 Penobscot Wedding Paddle

A great find currently up for bidding at Cowan Auctions. Lot 371 of their 9/25/2015 American Indian Auction features a mid-19th century Penobscot padde carved in cherry with decorations on both sides of the grip.


 ca. 1855 Penobscot Paddle
overall length 66.5 in. 
Provenance: Collected from a Taylors Falls, Minnesota Estate

A closeup of the grip showcases many inscribed etchings including diamonds, double curves, and a very obvious heart image at the top. Below the heart, the initials F.M.D are carved in rectangular frame.

"Romantic" Heart etching with the initials "F.M.D'

This paddle even has some decorative etching around the throat of the paddle where the distinct blade spine merges with a subtly carved drip ring. It is simple but quite pretty ...

Decoration around throat and drip-ring

If the paddle shape looks familiar it is because its nearly identical mate  is curated at the Minnesota Historical Society - MHS (collection no. 7364). More posts about that paddle here and here

MHS Society Paddle
77 inches length
6 1/2 inches width
collection no. 7364

The collection history of the MHS paddle states that it was found on the battle site of "Battle Hollow", where a fight broke out between the Ojibwe and Dakota, thus dating it to no later than 1839. The initials W.D. were later carved on this  paddle by a William Daubney (1831-1871).

Cowan Auction's description of the other paddle mention that initials "F.M.D." reference his wife, Fannie Marie Daubney and that the second paddle was carved as a wedding present around 1855.  This explains the romantic heart etching.

A noted difference between the two paddles can be found in their overall lengths  - "W.D"'s paddle is 77 inches while F.M.D's is significantly shorter at 66.5 inches. These are both quite long compared to my preferred length of 58" for practical paddling. Fannie Marie's wedding paddle also features a longer grip area with a cascading base.

ca.1839 "W.D" vs ca.1855 "F.M.D" paddle

The auction is set for September 25, 2015 and the estimated price is between $800-$1000. I'll try to report back on the final sale price once the bidding is over. 

September 26, 2015 Update: Fanny Marie's wedding paddle went for $5400 USD - over 5x the upper estimate. No word on the purchaser but hopefully it'll be well appreciated and perhaps put on public display somewhere. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sassafras Guide Paddle - Slowly back to carving

Well after receiving a wonderful batch of Sassafras stock from friend Craig Johnson last summer, I've finally had time to properly cut a paddle blank out. Since converting my cherry guide paddle into an heirloom gift from my 2nd son, I've wanted to replicate the original design to serve as a heavy user tripping paddle.

Unfortunately with 2 active boys at home and other projects on the go, it's been quite a while since the shaving horse has seen any usage. After being stored outside in a sheltered spot under an outdoor table, the horse has come out a bit weathered but still functional.

Here is the blank cut out...

A new paddle in the works

At this early stage, the edges of the paddle have been smoothed down and the carving lines all marked out for carving. I still use the method taught years ago at the Canadian Canoe Museum paddle workshop. If readers care to see that tutorial, you can read a step by step method in one of my earliest earliest  posts from way back in January, 2008.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Canoe identity mystery solved

I might have finally solved the ID mystery of the 15' canoe obtained in a trade back in 2011 (see original post HERE).

The person I obtained it from had said it was a Chestnut (missing the decal) but after posting on the WCHA forums, some better experts chimed in. Many features, like the decks and narrow red cedar planking meant it wasn't a Chestnut at all, but rather resembled a late model Richardson /Rilco, the successor to the bankrupt, Lakefield Canoe Company.

However,  there were some inconsistencies with original Richardson / Rilco builds - most notably that these canoes had narrow, tapered red cedar planking that ran all the way from bow to stern, with no goring pattern. Mine however had a distinct goring pattern with shorter pieces of planking along the bilge.

After reading a forum post by another person (Grizzle) searching out a Langford Canoe decal, it become apparent that our canoes shared many features. To my eyes the overall lines of the canoe look very much like Grizzle's confirmed Langford.


Mine before repainting

Andre Cloutier's Ravenwood Canoe blog has been most helpful in confirming this as well.  This post from 2012 discusses a Langford restoration along with some interesting history of the company. The photo closeup and detailed description of the decks demonstrated our decks were identical too....

Confirmed Langford Deck
Photo Credit: Andre Cloutier - Ravenwood Canoe

Grizzle's Deck
Source Link

My Deck

Mine also also had the bulky aluminum stembands and steel Robertson screws consistent with the company. Andre's post also helped solve the mystery of the wood used for the decks, inwales, thwart and seats. I had assumed they were made of ash, but the colour didn't seem quite right. Apparently the builder used oak which would explain the heavier weight of this boat.

The seats on Richardson/Rilco boats are also mounted on bars below the gunnels. However, it seams that Langford hung the seats with fine steel bolts with countersunk and plugged holes, whereas Richardon simply left the bolt heads exposed. Also I've noticed that Richardson/Rilco canoes alternated lacing holes on all 4 sides of the seat like so...

Richardson / Riclo weave pattern

...while the few Langford canoes I've stumbled across have straight lined holes on 2 sides like this:

Langford Weave Pattern

Grizzle's Langford Seat

While the lacing has disappeared on my canoe and the seats covered in a plywood plank, I took the time this summer at the cottage to inspect the lacing hole pattern still visible on the underside of the seat (sorry no pics). As an additional confirmation to end the mystery, the pattern matched the Langford lacing method.

A subsequent post on the WCHA forums linked to a Flickr page of Steven DeFehr who posted a web album featuring a 17' Langford Canoe from 1979. Included in his set is a document listing the various models and stats.

1979 Langford Canoe Models & Pricelist
Photo Credit:  Steven DeFehr

How the beam is measured can vary from builder to builder so the beam measurement on my canoe is a bit off. But the length, depth, rib width and approximate weight seem to line up - so it seems my mystery canoe may be a 15' Trapper model.

Despite the obvious build quality issues on my canoe I've been happy using it as my casual lake and river poling canoe. It'll be my beater boat until its time is done.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pack Cloth & Tumpline - Part 1

For quite sometime, I've been intrigued with the old system of portaging gear that involved using the tent or tarp as the actual pack. In many readings, it is referred to as the "pack cloth" method that involves a wrapping of gear in a roll of sorts and using a tumpline to carry. By the time many "classic" camping books of the early 1900s began being published, this method was being replaced by "modern" canvas packsacks like the Poirier (a.k.a. Duluth Pack) which have themselves been relegated to outdated gear.

While certainly not as waterproof as modern canoe packs, I like the concept of using the tarp for more than one role (i.e. shelter) and doing away with a pack entirely. This pack-cloth system is featured in many old illustrations and artworks. Here are a few I've stumbled across:

Abercrombie & Fitch Illustration
Original Source Link:

Cruisers Making a Portage
Phillip Goodwin

Philip Goodwin

 "BY CANVAS AND BIRCHBARK" - George MacDougall 
Outing, Volume LXVI, Issue 6 (September 1915)

Camping Out (1918) - Warren H. Miller

Camp and Trail (1911) - Stewart Edward White 

This short quaint film featuring Archie Belaney (Grey Owl) showcases the pack-cloth & tumpline in a posed sequence starting at the 5:45 mark

The most detailed description of this pack cloth method can be found in the classic read, Woods and Lakes of Maine (1883) by Lucius Hubbard. Page 102 devotes a few paragraphs describing the tying technique used by his guides with a nice illustration to accompany the text.
...The tent usually forms the groundwork, and across it on either side of its centre are laid the two ends of a long double strap, which may be made of leather, or of a piece of the inner bark of the cedar, tapering from the centre to each end. These strap-ends are laid a little farther apart than the intended width of the pack, and in parallel lines,  leaving a margin of tent more than a foot wide outside of each of them. The margins are then folded over the straps, and may or may not meet or overlap along the centre of the tent. We now have spread out before us what for purposes of this description may be called the "pack-cloth."  It is long and narrow, and at its upper end we see a wide, continuous strap, which extends from side to side, and disappears at the corners under its folds.
The strap then runs along the sides of the cloth, concealed from view until its tapering ends come out at the two lower corners. On the middle of the pack-cloth are now piled buckets, blankets, pots, pans, shoes, socks, and anything else that has no more appropriate place, until a load is accumulated larger than the body of the carrier, and of a weight sufficient to tax the strength of two ordinary men. These different things are all arranged so that no uncomfortable projections shall chafe the carrier's back.
The next step is to fold the two ends of the pack-cloth  over the articles just piled up, so that the structure may have somewhat the shape of a barrel with head and bottom knocked out. The Indian now usually stands astride of his pack, holds firmly with one hand the central part of his strap where it disappears among the folds of the tent, and pulls hard upon its corresponding end, which by the previous act of folding has been brought up and opposite to it. What was the side of the pack-cloth now becomes the end of the pack, and under the pulling process soon looks like the mouth of a bag, which is made fast by a knot in the strap. The other side is treated in the same manner, and we now have a shapely pack, with ends tightly closed. Along the top, from end to end, runs the broad part of the strap, and from the knots at the extremities of this broad part run the two long tapering ends. These are brought together under the centre-piece, crossed, and carried around the middle of the pack, where on the opposite side they are tightly knotted. The pack now is a firm solid mass, and the Indian, often unable from its great weight to lift it alone upon his back, either drags it to some log or mound, or by the aid of another person succeeds in getting under it. The broad part of the strap passes over his forehead, and sometimes, as an additional aid, a second strap passes from the pack around his chest. 

Anyway, I've been thinking of another poling trip, hopefully in the late fall when the kids are settled into school and daycare. The plan is to use this pack cloth method on a minimal portaging route just to give it a whirl. I've already assembled a bedroll of sorts and will post about it soon.

October 7 Update: Read my attempt at this pack cloth method in Part 2 of this post HERE

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Funny Canoe Commercial - Sterling Beer Ad

Here's a  vintage beer commercial featuring some canoeing (and drinking) action...

Gotta dig the jingle. Next time you dump out of a canoe, just "Pour yourself...a Sterling Time"!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Historical Paddle Photo: Update and Correction

Found out a correction to one of my favourite classic paddling photos...

 Original Post & Photo Source HERE 

When I first came across this photo on the Wooden Canoe forums, no one could identify who the people were (although there was agreement on the canoe builder). Later in 2011 I had come across an Ebay ad with this same photo claiming the individuals were actors Joel McCrea & Maureen O'Sullivan so added this bit of info to the post. At the time there was no source to the movie still.

While searching for more canoe related movie pics, I recently stumbled on the same image on and discovered some more details as well as a noted correction.

Turns out the photo is a still from the 1934 film The Richest Girl in the World and the actress in canoe is not Maureen O'Sullivan (the original Jane in the Tarzan films) but rather Fay Wray, the female lead in the original King Kong movie (1933). Being Canadian born might explain why she looks very comfortable lounging around in a canoe.

The wikipedia post for the film also includes a colourized film poster that features a mirrored image of this still in the bottom corner.

 Wikipedia Fair use Policy
File:The Richest Girl in the World.jpg
Uploaded by Laboris Dulcedo
Uploaded: 19 November 2013

Now that I knew who the folks were in the canoe, I did some more digging and found another photo still of the scene, although I much prefer the first photo

Thursday, September 3, 2015

c1900 recreational paddlers

Another series of old  paddle photos from Ebay...

The top two photos in the collage feature large beavertail paddles with elaborate grips. The blades have copper tip protectors  and a simple painted chevron pattern

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