Thursday, March 31, 2016

Historic Illustration: Micmac Canoe Fishing

With Rod and Gun in New England and the Maritime Provinces by Edward A. Samuels (published 1897) has an image of a Mi'kmaq bark canoe with Guides paddling a Sport to some ideal fishing grounds.

A closeup of the stern paddler shows the artist captured a paddle without a distinct grip...

Paddle Closeup

Live action video of Mi'kmaq paddlers using their distinctive humped ocean canoes can be seen in this earlier post HERE

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

New Paddle Pics from Max N

Max N of Woodsmans Finest has sent in another pic of his paddle creations. New amongst this set is the paddle in the centre decorated with the classic Scarlet Red HBC point blanket colours...

Photo courtesy Max Neukäufler

For a while,  Hudson's Bay was offering a generic laminated paddle decorated with this colour scheme (see link to my previous post here), but it no longer seems available on the company site. Max's version decorated with natural milk paints on the blade and grip looks much finer in my opinion

HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY Scarlet 60 inch Paddle

Along with spoons, knives and firesteels, Max has also branched out to include leather tumplines. Here's a sample of his work if anyone is interested in obtaining one...

Photo courtesy Max Neukäufler

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Canoe Poling Art

Here's a nice bit of poling artwork that accompanied the article "The Sportsman Notebook - Climbing the Pole" by (Field and Stream March 1974). The brief write up was written by well known outdoorsman and canoeist, Bill Riviere.

In fact, the image might be an artist's rendition of Riviere himself. One of my favourite canoeing books is Pole, Paddle and Portage (A Complete Guide To Canoeing) authored by Riviere.

My hardcover copy was an ex-library book dated to 1964 and is missing the cover sleeve, but the inside of loaded with wonderful photos of Riviere in his trusty Chestnut Prospector. The chapter on poling features photographs of him confidently poling up rapids, snubbing down some swifts and peacefully poling through some stillwater with a packbasket in the canoe and a pipe in his mouth.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Adirondack Steering Paddle and Oar

From, what looks to be an incomplete Adirondack guideboat set consisting of a steering paddle and a single oar...

Lollipop Grip Steering paddle and Single Oar

Closeup of Lollipop Grip 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Wool Blanket Tripping Sweater

One of the winter projects on the list this year was an attempt to make my own tripping clothing. I've got no experience with this kind of stuff and no sewing machine, but a found a few folks on bushcraft forums who made sweaters and anoraks from wool blankets.

Empire Wool and Canvas used to make something the Wool Blanket Shirt which looked perfect for shoulder season tripping in cooler weather. Unfortunately, they've discontinued making them and moved on to more complicated garments.

Discontinued Wool Blanket Shirt from Empire Wool & Canvas

Duluth Pack makes a wool blanket shirt too but their high prices and cost of shipping (especially with the Canadian Dollar exchange) made it unappealing.

Duluth Pack Wool Blanket Shirt

After finding some basic plans and watching videos (searchwords: "wool blanket anorak" or  "wool blanket shirt" or "boreal shirt"), I set about making a custom sweater with a $50 clean wool blanket from a military surplus store. This one was very clean and had none of that chemical moth-boll smell from other imported blankets I came across. The added bonus was that the 62" width was perfect for my arm span.

First, the blanket was folded (unevenly) with a bulky fleece sweater laid down as a pattern. The blanket was positioned so that the stitched bottom hem would be the front of the overall seater and the decorative stripe would be across the belly.

Using some blackboard chalk, I traced around the sweater with about a 1/2" extra seem allowance.

It was simple enough to cut out, but the blanket shifted a bit and the back side was a tad lower than the from. I also cut out a circular neck pattern at the centre point.

The many descriptions of handstitching mentioned the blanket stitch as the most practical. I used some excess waxed braided cord from the leather making toolkit to stitch up the sides.

Blanket stitching

For the collar, I took some extra material from the striped section of the blanket and folded in half stitching up the sides and then inverting.

Collar ready to stitch

At this point the sleeves ends, front  slit opening and the rear bottom were all raw cut edged. I could have left it as such but worried about fraying. Instead of using the blanket stitch again on these parts, I went crazy and decided to use a double loop lacing method with a 3/32" roll of flat leather lace. It has been sitting unused since using it to make braided awl sheath back 2010. Here is a shot of it around one sleeve end...

Lacing the arm cuff

At this point, I debated making some wood toggles for the neck closure, but decided against it when I saw some left over brown paracord sort of matched the leather lacing. Six small loops of scrap blanket material were stitched on the inside of the neck opening with their stitches hidden by the lacing material. The paracord was woven through and finished with a decorative knot.

Here's the final sweater. It is very warm and has some decent wind resistance. At least being wool, it'll be spark resistant so I can get close up to a warming fire with worry of burning spark holes. 

I guess the true measure of success was the fact my 7 year old son liked it and asked it I could make him one. There was enough material for me to make him a similar sweater without the leather laced cuffs. Hoping to get use out of these during a shoulder season trip with the little man.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Historic Paddle Illustrations: Picturesque Canada 1882 Maliseet Guides

Lovers of Canadian history might want to check out a classic two-volume work now available on  Picturesque Canada : the country as it was and is  by George M. Grant is a real visual feast. Volume II mostly features the eastern part of the country and contains some stunning etched artwork.

In particular, the chapter on New Brunswick features a section detailing two "Melicite" (i.e. Maliseet) guides running a fishing trip on the Tobique river. Page 765 features lovely illustrations of the guides poling their birchbark canoes upriver and then returning downstream by paddle..

"Poling up and paddling down"

Difficult to spot, but the seated paddler in the background canoe seems to be grasping his paddle in the more indigenous method (along the shaft) that can be seen better in this image closeup...

Page 776 has a wonderful scene of one guide carving a pole with a crooked knife while his tarp and overturned canoe form a shelter in the background. I'm still on the hunt for the perfect standing dead spruce to carve another pole from but can image a peaceful scene like this.

"Making New Pole for Canoe"

As an extra bit of current inspiration, check out Luke McNair's wonderfully illustrated article "Poling a Canoe" now online at The exciting photos in the piece show Luke poling, snubbing and even surfing ocean waves! Included in the article is a shot of Luke calmly carving a a wooden pole with his mocotaugan in a scene reminiscent of the above sketch...

Photo by Luke McNair
March 9, 2016 -

Monday, March 14, 2016

Huron / Wyandot paddle and canoe

Many thanks again to David G  for pointing me to the public Facebook page of Native American Indians - Old Photos. The site owner has meticulously organized thousands of vintage photos by identifiable tribal affiliation. Some of them include the historic paddle photos that have already  been featured on the site, but there were a few that are new to me.

The following photograph was listed under the Huron/Wyandot folder and is circa 1880. A bark canoe lays along the steps of front porch with decorative pillars.  Two paddles are prominently displayed.

There seems to be some confusion regarding the identity of the two men. The photo caption cannot place the first gentlemen holding the paddle, the man on the right is id'd as Tehonwastasta (aka Philippe Vincent).  A commenter has posted that the men are François-Xavier Picard, Great Chief of the Lorette Hurons from 1870 to 1883 and his son Paul Picard

A zoomed in crop of the men reveals what appears to be some sort of decorative pattern on the pointed blade, though with this low resolution it could just be the wood grain. The overall blade shape and slender grip seem very reminiscent of ceremonial Maliseet style paddles.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sassafrass Penobscot Paddle Replica # 2

The last paddle project from back in the fall was a crudely cut Sassafras twin blank from making a replica of the  c.1900 Antique Penobscot Paddle. This particular blank was cut rather thin, resulting in a 1" shaft diameter. The opposite side of the blade also has a nasty looking knot but it shouldn't affect its use in the water.

Where we left off in the fall...

Unlike the actual replica made with a flatter grip style to match the original, I played within the design confines of this blank and left the grip area much thicker. It has a distinct spine down the middle and is dihedral in shape with a more comfortable bulbous top grip. Sassafras has a lovely golden colour when oiled. Here is shot while the grain was wetted for the final sanding phases.

Wet golden colour of Sassafras

Instead of using paint on this one, I wanted to do more negative pyrography where the bulk of the wood is charred so that golden colour could be emphasized in the form of more double curve motifs. I had already started the work with my tiny woodburning pen instead of using the shou-sugi-ban technique recently learned about so this new decorative method will have to wait until for the next paddle in the works (likely this one here)

This time, I took inspiration for the second side of the c1849 Green Penobscot paddle at the Peabody Museum. Readers might recall that for a while, the only photo of this paddle an official catalog shot showcasing the white scroll design on a single side only. I've used this pattern twice now.

Canoe paddle, elaborately decorated. Blade painted green, double curve motif.
Peabody Number: 99-12-10/53655 
Dimensions: Length: 180.5 cm, Width: 17.6 cm, Dep: 3.3 cm
Provenance: Donor: Heirs of David Kimball (1899)

Thankfully, this paddle was chosen to be part of the ongoing exhibit The Legacy of Penobscot Canoes: A View from the River (through April 2016) where the other side was put on display. This second side of the paddle blade has a different, more complex double curve motif which was captured by some online friends and sent my way.

Photo Courtesy of John Fitzgerald and; Rob Stevens

The blade shape on the original and my left-over blank are quite different, but I set to work, free handing some double curves inspired by this new pattern. The blurry picture below shows what I came up with before the burning process started.

Pattern Idea

A nice weekend of bourbon drinking and pyrography and this is the result so far. Still some touch-up needed here and there and some oiling, but with some lovely snowfall finally happening this winter, I took some photos outside.

Decoration so far

More pics to follow when this thing is finally oiled and hopefully being used in the spring.

July 2016 update: Paddle has been oiled. Check that short post here.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Black Thunder Studio: Nick Dillingham's Canoe Paddles

Nick Dillingham of Black Thunder Studio makes a variety of heritage utility pieces and functional woodcraft. Among his many skills is his artistry with basket making and mocotaugans. Nick has also carved a variety of canoe paddles including this triple set which appears on his webpage.

The centre paddle with the painted decoration might looks familiar to readers of the blog. It is a pattern that appeared in Robert Griffing's 2014 piece, "The Paddle Painter" (see post here)

"The Paddle Painter"
©Robert Griffing

The decoration's origin may be much earlier still. Tim Kent's marvelous publication, Birchbark Canoes of the Fur Trade  features an illustration of some paddles that were made in New France to accompany a souvenir canoe model. The third paddle from the left features this serpentine patten with the scalloped border.  It seems these are the paddles made for the souvenir model "Chartres Canoe" dated to 1672, at the Musée des Beaux-arts in Chartres, France.

Browsing through Black Thunder Studio's Facebook page also showed a few closeup photos of one of Nick's other carved paddles with wonderful scalloped grip and beautiful decoration along the shoulder's of the blade.

Nick Dillingham Paddle

Blade Decoration

For anyone interested in learning from this gifted craftsman, Nick is holding a paddle carving workshop on April 23rd on Lake Olga in Manistee National Forest in Cadillac, Michigan. Further details can be found in his post here.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Historic Paddle Illustration: Another Krieghoff Print - Indian Wigwam...

Found another version of the C. Krieghoff painting, "Indian Wigwam in Lower Canada" first discussed in this 2010 post.

Indian Wigwam in Lower Canada
Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872)
About 1850, 19th century

The Toronto Public Library has a flickr page documented some works in their Special Collections. While browsing around, I came across a brighter version of Krieghoff's original oil painting. This one is a lithograph redone with watercolours.

Indian Wigwam in Lower Canada (1848)
Lithograph, hand-coloured with water colours.
Creator: Cornelius Krieghoff, 1815-1872
Contributors:Thomas Kammerer; Andreas Borum, 1799-1853
Date: 1848

Paddle Closeup

This colourful chevron pattern was the basis for Nigel's painted decoration on his Edenwood Northwoods paddle (see original post here).

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Luke McNair's Crooked Knives

Paddle maker Luke McNair has been quite busy as of late making some mocotaugans / crooked knives. The blades are made from O1 tool steel and shaped by hand with files! Each of the handles are carved the traditional way with an axe plus knife and then finally burnish with antler. The right handed knife shown below was a present for a friend. It features a carving of her dog that always crosses his paws. What a great way to personalize a knife handle!

This left handed knife with the initials “E.S.” was carved as a gift for Elspeth Soper who also built a Cree style canvas canoe and documented it well on her blog. Both this handles and the previous were carved from Rowan (also known as Mountain-Ash), which Luke collected from a fallen tree a while ago.

This final knife is one Luke deservedly made for myself. The handle is spalted beech.

Beautiful work Luke! Don't go disappearing under a mountain of wood shavings!

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