Monday, January 30, 2017

British Museum Maliseet Paddle Display

David A posted a photo of the full sized Maliseet Paddles in the collection of the British Museum.

 Inscribed paddles made of wood (maple).
Photo Credit: David A

Unfortunately the photograph is blurred due to the glass of the exhibit case so the etching details are not visible. But the full length of the these graceful paddles are clearly in view.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mystery Canoe Paddle Tripping Map

A post by JClearwater on the WCHA forums documented a mystery canoe paddle with a tripping route painted on the blade. This antique paddle was traced back to an estate sale with unfortunately no details known by the original owner

From the throat down to the mid section of the blade are vertical letters spelling out "CANADA"  with a faded "63" on the tip so the obvious assumption is that the trip map is from somewhere in this country's vast paddling network during a trip in 1963.

It is longshot, but the new owner is hoping someone might recognize the route based on the shape of the lakes and a few marked rapids. Note that on the far right there is an orientation arrow pointing north so the horizontal images of the photos reveal the rough layout of the route.
Possible campsites are identified with a circled X and a straight line denotes a portage connecting the two lakes on the far right.

Here is the full image of the blade...

For more detail, additional photos have broken down the paddle into sections from throat to tip...

Apparently JClearwater wrote an article about the paddle that appears in the December 2016 issue of Wooden Canoe Journal. I haven't received my copy yet to get any more details but will update when it arrives in the mail.

So far on the original thread, the best guess seems to be Rob Stevens with the Magnetewan River Circuit but it doesn't seem to be a perfect match. The owner is offering a cold lager at the 2017 Wooden Canoe Assembly as a reward to the successful researcher who can solve this mystery.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Historic Paddle Photo: Maliseets at Kingsclear

Here is another scene from a beautiful historic photo posted earlier on the blog. It comes courtesy of Gerry Biron's very educational site on Iroquois and Wabanaki beadwork.

Figure 16 – A circa 1880 image printed on a circa 1913 post card titled: “Indians on the Reservation near Fredericton, N. B.” 3.5 inches wide by 5.5 inches high. The original photo was taken during a St. Anne’s Day celebration at Kingsclear, New Brunswick. Likely a group of Maliseet. Photographer: William Taylor of Fredericton.

A zoomed in shot further showcases the beautiful lines and grip shapes of these carved paddles.

Paddle closeups

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Birch York Sunbury Replica finally done after years of procrastinating

Back in 2012 I started on making a Yellow Birch replica of the circa 1878 Maliseet Paddle from the York Sunbury Museum (See posts here, here, and here). ...

c1878 York Sunbury Maliseet Paddle

Without a bandsaw in the city, a board of 6/4 Yellow Birch stock was hewn with an axe to get a rough outline. My experience with with Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) has been mixed as the wood is known to reverse grain frequently and is susceptible to much tearing of the wood fibres. Fortunately, this board was manageable and a rough blank was worked on .

The backyard workshop in early spring, 2012

My axe skills on kiln-dried wood are less than perfect so in the end, I struggled quite a bit with the symmetry, especially on the grip area. The area above the carved drip-ring ended up being more narrow than the original...

Not really happy with the results and frustrated with the carving, I let this paddle sit around. It eventually found use as a racoon deterrent for the creatures taking up residence on our upper deck.

In the meantime, the York Sunbury Museum has since changed its name to the Frederiction Regional Museum and better resolution pics were graciously supplied by a museum visitor. So this year the paddle was re-evaluated and the symmetry worked on some more. The blade was narrowed and the grip touched up to the best it was going to be. It was tested out with other designs on a quick daytrip and functions surprisingly well even though the original was commissioned as a tourist carving. The pointed tip makes the entry quite silent

Birch Maliseet on the left

Over the last few weeks I've been burning the blade and grip using a narrow writing nib at high heat to mimic the original, complex pattern. Here are the photos before oiling...

After a few coats of oil, the thirsty wood has taken on a much more golden colour and the paddle finally complete. That took a long while!

c1878 Maliseet Replica

Friday, January 13, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: Claude Le Beau - 1739

Blog reader F Wade recently provided a link to an historic illustration (dated to 1739) being auctioned off by Christies Auction House.

The image originates from a book by Swiss author Claude le Beau who documented some of the life and customs of Native tribes of New France during his time in Quebec. A digital copy of his full text entitled  Aventures du Sr. C. Le Beau, avocat en parlement; ou  Voyage curieux et nouveau parmi les sauvages de l'Amérique septentrionale is available on

Pages 94-96 contain his description of a birchbark canoe as well as the paddles which were recreated in this image with obvious European bias.

Paddle Image Closeup

Le Beau's translated description of the paddles is as follows:
"The paddles  are very light, although made of  maple wood which is rather hard. They are scarcely four feet long, the blade takes up one and one-half feet and is five or six inches wide"

As a side note, Christies auction page has a short bio on Le Beau who seemed to be quite the trouble maker...
"...Swiss traveller Claude Le Beau, a rough character who, in 1729, left Paris for La Rochelle in a convoy of prisoners expected to remain in Canada for the rest of their lives. However, after working as a clerk in the Beaver Office, Quebec, he stole some gunpowder and set off for New England. There his activities as a counterfeiter brought him close to a hanging, and he fled to Holland in 1731. Even if only partly factual, his book describes the life and customs of the Iroquois, Hurons, Algonquins, and other tribes, and contributes importantly to the literary history of New France." 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bob Whillans Canadian Paddle Company

There is another small scale paddle maker who might interest folks wanted a custom carved paddle. Bob Whillans has set up the Canadian Paddle Company. His website is still a work in progress but the few photos showcase some gorgeous single piece paddles.

Bob is based out of Kingston but sources his variety of hardwoods from the Upper Ottawa region. Here are some of the photos pulled from his page along with a link to his contact page.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: Franquelin Map

One of the earliest representations of the distinctive shaped Mi'kmaq canoes comes from a beautifully illustrated map by Jean-Baptiste Franquelin (1651–after 1712).   Map for the Clarification of Land Titles in New France is dated to 1678. A portion of modern day New Brunswick shows three Mi'kmaq figures portaging their canoes while holding paddles in their hand.

Map for the Clarification of Land Titles in New France
 Jean-Baptiste Franquelin, 1678 

Two paddlers are seen carrying a canoe on their shoulders and another figure ahead of them is single portaging towards the coast.

Mi'kmaq Portaging Closeup

Also found another closeup image which shows the canoes and paddle shapes with more detail...

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