Sunday, October 30, 2016

Parkdale Maplewood Community Museum: Mi'kmaq style canoe & paddle

The Parkdale Maplewood Community Museum in Nova Scotia has a Mi'kmaq style bark canoe on display.

Accession number: 1946.Y.004 a
Date: 1862 - 1943
Measurements: 750.3 cm; 77 cm; 28 cm
Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum
As per NovaMuse Educational Policy

According to the description, the canoe was made  by  John "Stephen" Rafuse. The exterior of the canoe has painted a deep shade of green, however the interior remains an unpainted. Root lashings aren't visible and there appears to be a green painted inwale so it is likely held together with nails.

Another shot from the Museum's exhibit page shows the same canoe with a fishing net and an accompanying green paddle...

Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum

Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Paddle Fail: Warped shaft on Sassafras Paddle

Hoping that folks reading will learn from my mistakes, I've posted a few failures over the years in this paddle making journey. One such example was my doomed attempt at carving a paddle from a piece of downed cedar or the first sassafras tripper that snapped after aggressively testing the flex.

Well, here's another learning experience to share. After completing a sassafras version of the recurved cree blade,  I had decided on doing a negative burn of the simple original decoration of bars and circles. In order to visualize the result, an image of the paddle was tinkered on with photoshop.

Visualizing the burning pattern

The plan was to do a full on burn with a propane torch on both sides of the paddle with a few spots left bare in order to complete the fine details with pyrography pen. After testing and doing a single side burn on a new Sassafras Tripper this seemed like it would be without problems.

Unfortunately while burning through the shaft area on this paddle, it began to warp ridiculously so now there is a pronounced bend, both curving laterally and back to front as evident from the pics below.

Severe warp of shaft to the right

Shaft bent back from blade

Guess without planning it, I created my very first "bent-shaft" canoe paddle.

Luke McNair had sent a warning about the risk of warping if heat was applied unevenly. Did my best to consciously avoid this, but the results here are pretty dramatic. I suspect the fact that the shaft was carved down to 1" and the blade thinned down more than usual for some flex contributed to the warping. The lumber stock was also flat-sawn instead of being quarter sawn.

Either way, all is not lost. I plan to practice some etching on the burned blade and will figure out some other usage for this failure so the wood (and my efforts) aren't wasted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Katadyn Base Camp Water Filter Mod

Years ago, I purchased a Katadyn Base Camp gravity filter to avoid the chore of manual pumping for fresh water. While it was easy to use, the pleated membrane filter was quick to clog and the clean water flow would basically stop. The inability to backwash the system and the high replacement cost of the filters ($45+ CND) lead me to start using a Sawyer Squeeze system. It has a much better longevity since it can be back flushed easily but the smaller squeeze bags it came with were not ideal for large water needs. 

Both Katadyn and Saywer have since come out with "new and improved" models of their filters, but I'm not a gear head who feels the need to replace perfectly functional things just to have the latest version. The new Katadyn Base Camp Pro costs $120 here in Canada and comes with a redesigned filter and slightly altered source bag. The online reviews, however, still complain about poor filter performance. 

Instead, I read about this well known hack on the BWCA forums which allows combining both Katadyn and Sawyer systems with a quick modification. It involves sawing off the pleated membrane of a the Katadyn filter at the base, revealing a mesh particle screen at the bottom. This is returned the base camp gravity bag and the Sawyer filter is attached the outlet hose. My Sawyer kit came with the inline attachment piece already included so this setup made sense.

Here are some visuals starting with an internet image of the original filter. I forgot to take a picture of mine before cutting mine up. It was nasty and disgusting to look at anyway...

Original Katadyn filter

The filter is cut at the base of the pleated membrane, just above the blue casing by the o-ring.. This process was a bit messy as it released all the granulated carbon embedded in the interior tubing. The result is a bottom piece that can be re-screwed to the filter bag to form a tight seal.

Cut filter

The Sawyer filter is then attached to the end of the hosing using the inline attachment (grey piece) that was included in the kit.

Filter bag and Sawyer inline attached to tubing

Normally the snapped roll down closures on the bag are wrapped over a tree branch or something, but the weight of the bag has weakened the clips allowing them to spontaneously pop apart creating a watery disaster. A small amount of cordage has been added to serve as a support loop. This way, the bag can be hauled up a tree for extra gravity power. Here's a pic of it slung up a tree branch on the property.

 Suspended filter bag

The original white shutoff clip still works to clamp down on the hose, but this edition of the Sawyer filter also has one of those pull up bottle lids to also stop water flow. When opened, the filter immediately begins to go to work with a decent flow.

Water filter working

The white clamp clip can also be repositioned anywhere on the hose. When moved to the very top and clamped it allows for draining of the hose.

The other nice thing about this mod, is that without the original, delicate pleated membrane encased in the bag, the whole setup can collapse into a tighter package. Here it is all bundled up and ready for packing.

 Bundled up

On our 3 day trip to the Frost Centre earlier in the summer, the system worked flawlessly. We set it up high on tree and used the filtered water constantly to stay hydrated. Here's a shot of the little guy using the filter to fill up our collapsible water bottles.

Many thanks to the original poster on the BWCA forums for sharing his method. We'll be using this setup for years to come!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Historic Paddle Photo: Geological Survey of Canada

Here's another historic photo from the Archives of Canada.  Taken at an unknown location as part of an 1895 Geological Survey of Dr. R. Bell, the photo features men loading supplies into their bark canoes. 

Aboriginal men loading supplies into birch bark canoes
Photograph taken at an unknown location.
Credit: Geological Survey of Canada / Library and Archives Canada / PA-045620
Restrictions on use: Nil
Copyright: Expired

While the location was not recorded, the sharp stem profiles of the canoes look much like what Tappan Adney classified as the "Algonkin" type.

Old Model, Ottawa River, Algonkin Canoe

A few paddles are also visible in the scene. Here is a zoomed in version of one of the men with his straight sided paddle ready for action...

paddle closeup

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Halifax Maritime Museum of the Atlantic: Another shot of Mi'kmaq canoe & paddle

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax features an old Mi'kmaq birchbark canoe on display behind a glass case. Included is a paddle which has warped over time. A previous post from 2013 features some photos taken by Lloyd of Canoe Canada East.

Found a blog of another museum visitor who captured another angle on the paddle. It shows the extreme tapering of the grip area from the side...

Photo Credit: Marelene Hutchins 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 Aboriginal Use of Wood in New York has another online book which features some paddle & canoe related sketches. Aboriginal Use of Wood in New York by W.M. Beauchamp was published in 1905. Plate 5, sketch 22 shows another illustration of the paddle first documented in  The voyages and explorations of Samuel de Champlain, 1604-1616. This is one of the  earliest recorded images of a North American paddle although the original artist never likely saw the paddle directly.  Note the absence of any grip.

A previous post from 2010 showcased this paddle in its original illustrated context as part of map of Champlain's explorations. A native woman (obviously drawn with European bias) holding onto a child with one hand while grasping chevron decorated paddle with the other.

The voyages and explorations of Samuel de Champlain, 1604-1616

Beauchamp 's Aboriginal Use of Wood in New York also contains another re-sketched historic paddle image.

This one originally comes from Baron de Lahontan's book, Nouveaux Voyages de Mr. Le Baron de Lahontan dans l'Amérique Septentrionale first published in 1703 (see previous post here). The english translation dated to 1905 is also available on During Lahontan's journeys in New France between 1683 - 1695, he managed to record a brief description of typical paddles which included some dimensional info...

"The paddles they make use of are made from Maplewood, and their form is represented in the annex'd Cutt. The Blade of the Paddle is twenty inches long, six inches broad, and four Lines [1/3 inch] thick. The Handle [shaft] is about three Foot long, and as big [thick] as a Pigeons Egg"

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Algonquin Outfitters - Tom Thomson Paddle Art Contest

2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Canadian Artist, Tom Thomson on Algonquin Park's Canoe Lake. As part of the centennial events, Algonquin Outfitters is running a Paddle Art Contest. A modest $25 entry fee gets you unfinished paddle (or rough paddle blank) to decorate how you chose. Completed paddles must be received by August 31, 2017. An online and live auction will be held in September 2017 to determine the winners with proceeds going to various community organizations in the Algonquin Park Area.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Replicating a previous design - Sassafras Recurved Cree blade

Been working on replicating another tested blade design from earlier in the blog. Back in 2010, I came across the paddle blank at an antique sale. It looked to be a project intended for a kid that was never completed. The blank had a blade heavy design with a thinner 1" shaft thickness so using a crooked knife, it was reworked into a recurved Cree design in the collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  The full post can be read here.

The partially complete Birch blank with pear grip

Cree Paddle - Canadian Museum of Civilization

Chipping out the outline; Cleaned up with the crooked knife

Completed Paddle

Despite the thin shaft and slightly shorter length, I've been quite happy with the performance with the design and is one of my go-to paddles for casual use. Thought I would replicate the blade with another board of Sassafras but add on an elongated grip for more comfort and balance. Here's a shot of the nearly completed blank.

Not sure about the decoration yet, but I'm thinking of doing another surface burn with the propane torch.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Jonas Sjöblom's Paddle Workbench

Creative paddlemaker Jonas Sjöblom whose work has been featured here before has come up with in interesting workbench for carving paddles. Preview photos are below with the full post and detailed writeup on his on his blog Paddle Reflections.

Monday, October 10, 2016

October Listings of Antique Paddles

Once again, has posted an outstanding collection of vintage paddles and other canoe related items. Here are some choice items from this month's page of current selections...
Penobscot Canoe Paddle
This tall, hand-crafted, birch paddle has a traditional wide, flat handle and an elongated beaver tail blade. This is Native American made and likely used in Maine waters by the maker while guiding canoeing and fishing trips.
Circa 1900
6" w, 70.5" h

Model Paddles with Snow Snake Wall Hanging
This four-piece wall whimsy is carved from cedar. The model paddles' long handles have unique open centers and red painted notching along the edges. The blades have homemade six-rayed sunburst decals, perhaps representing the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. A delicate model snow snake is mounted between the paddles. 
Circa 1940-50
17" w, 7" h

Decorative Peterborough Canoe Paddles
These paddles with a pronounced center ridge were made by the Peterborough Canoe Company and retain vestiges of the company's decals on one side of the shafts. The red paint on the front and back of the blades were likely applied by their original owner.
Circa 1930
5" w, 63" h

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Late Fall Daytrip to the Toronto Islands

Back in the summer of 2010, I had brought my 14' cedar canvas canoe down to the city and spent a brief afternoon paddling the Toronto Islands. It was a nice little distraction and pretty interesting paddle in Canada's largest urban region.

This year my September solo trip plans were again completely hijacked by family responsibilities. Luckily this past week, the city was blessed with summer-like weather and I had the chance to spend a few hours back on the water, this time with the recently refurbished 14' Chestnut / Peterborough.

The main purpose of the trip was to de-stress and take the chance to test some recently completed paddles along with current designs still being worked on.

Testing out 4 different paddle designs

The wind was pretty heavy blowing SE at around 20km/hr so the portion from the Cherry Beach put-in to the Eastern Gap of Toronto's Inner Harbour was an adventure in itself. Between the waves and boat wakes, it was a real test of the little Chesntnut's ability to handle some uneven conditions and it performed well in my opinion.

Entering the Inner Harbour. Ward's Island on the left

Once around the corner of Ward's Island, the wind was completely absent and the waters were peacefully still. Below is a photo of the undeveloped area after passing the many pleasure boats of Queen City Yacht Club.

The Islands were quite serene as the various summer camps were obviously done and Centreville Amusement Park also shut down for the season. Loads of canoes were stacked on shore with no one around to paddle them.

A little while later I spotted this heron wading on the shore. This would be the first of four herons I'd see...

Next, I paddled to the "Sunfish Cut", with its view of the city skyline. It can be be very popular place with photographers. The CN tower was reflecting pretty well in the nearly still water.

Popped onto a little beach to drain the boat. The canoe is still leaking ever so annoyingly at the rear stem...something to care of next season. Also took a moment to take a photo of the recently completed Sassafras Tripper. Really liked how it turned out although I think most people would not like the amount of flex carved into this one.

Heard some flapping and turned around to find another heron spying on me at the beach stop. These guys are so used to people that nothing seems to phase them.

Off I went for more urban adventure under another of the Islands' many bridges...

Soon, the invigourating country smell of the Islands' Far Enough Farm wafted from around the corner. Hard to tell in the photo below, but there's a cow at the rear of the pen. Saw some sheep and a peacock prancing about. A rooster was crowing adding to the rural feel. Apparently the farm is home to 40 different animals.

Shoreline of the Far Enough Farm

After paddling some more, it was getting close to lunch time. Pulled into the Carousel Cafe for some takeout. I had forgotten to bring my rope on this trip, so the canoe was hoisted onto shore on a grassy slope.

Takeout time

After quickly getting my order, it was off to find a shady willow tree and enjoy a floating meal...


Like last time, a juicy burger was the selection of choice. 

Eating well

Heard some rustling in the grass behind me. Turned around thinking that I'd see another one of Toronto's ubiquitous black squirrels running about. Instead it was this MINK!

Apparently, they've been slowly colonizing the area over the last few years. Here's a link to a Toronto Star report from 2010 mentioning how they migrated over to prey on muskrats and stayed after finding easy pickings of goldfish in some ponds. This is only the second time I've seen a mink while paddling. 

After that exciting bit of wildlife spotting, it was time to rush back in order to make a medical appointment for my son. Here is the view exiting the marina where the waters were so calm.

Once leaving these protected  waters, one quickly enters back into the industrialized zone of the Portlands and Harbour. The wind I dealt with at the start of the trip continued to blow so to make it back, I had to paddle along the Eastern breakwall lined with gigantic tires. Rumbling trucks spewed diesel exhaust into the air so it didn't make for the nicest moment.

Eventually got back to the launch and found the bay filling up with thrill seeking kite boarders. Maybe one day I'll rig up a kite to the canoe and go for a ripping ride...

Newer Posts Older Posts Home Page