Thursday, June 29, 2017

North West Coast Paddle Workshop

Many thanks to blog reader, Joe, for sending in a link to an upcoming paddle making workshop where participants can carve a full-sized,  North West Coast style paddle over a 5 day session. This one is being run at the  Port Townsend School of Woodworking.

NW Canoe Paddles
August 28 - September 1, 2017
Carve a full sized canoe paddle in the Makah-Nuuchahnulth and Tlingit styles.
Register by July 13, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Removable Plank Seat Experiment

Back in 2012, I made a leather sling style seat for the 15' cedar canvas canoe. This was because I felt the trim was way off when the symmetrical Langford Tripper was paddled solo in the usual manner (by turning around and using the bow seat).

Leather Sling Seat

It worked  perfectly fine as a kneeling seat but turned out to be quite cumbersome when attempting to pole. Basically the presence of the sling required extra delicate foot work to avoid tripping when getting into a traditional poling position. Unbuckling the leather straps to remove the seat and then trying to re-attach them while in the boat proved too challenging. So another solution was in order.

The inspiration for the solution came from a Finnish design company that makes wooden children's tree swings. A carved seat with strategically placed slots for the rope to weave through

Plank seats are nothing new in canoeing history  - they were often used on large trade canoes when the crew wasn't sitting on the cargo directly. Anyway, before attempting to make anything too labour intensive, I set out to make a basic plank seat with some scraps. In this case, discarded twin bed slats left behind by a neighbour on garbage day. These 1x4 pine slats were in great condition and I've since used them in plenty of non-canoe related projects around the house.

Discarded IKEA bed slats

Anyway, some holes were drilled and notches easily cut out in the plank. Then some remnant paracord was tied together in a double fisherman's knot and looped through the inwales. There's enough slack in the cordage to wrap around a third time in order to elevate the overall height, but this is how the plank seat is setup for now.

The seat does wiggle a bit from side to side and front to back because it wasn't perfectly shaped to fit the contours of the hull at this point in the experiment. It might get shaped better at a later date. What does work nicely  though is that it can be unhooked easily on one side and then positioned on the centre thwart out of the way for clearing some leg room.

Hoping to take the canoe out poling later in the season to see if the idea works. Right now, most of Southern Ontario is experiencing record high water levels due to heavy rainfall.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

c1820 Sassafras Schoolcraft Replica

Another replica I wanted to try and carve was a paddle described and illustrated by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft  (March 28, 1793–December 10, 1864), an American geographer and ethnologist, noted for his early studies of Native American cultures. The specific paddle with an interesting banded decoration appears alongside a sketch of a fur trade canoe in his 1821 publication Narrative journal of travels through the northwestern regions of the United States.  

Page 69 of his text briefly describes the paddle:
"The Fur Companies have lately introduced the use of oars, in propelling the canoe but the natives employ the cedar paddle, with a light and slender blade. See fig. 14, plate 2. In either case, they are steered with a larger paddle, having a long handle, and a broad blade. See Fig. 2, plate 2."

Schoolcraft's steering paddle
Fig. 2

Unfortunately any meaning or significance of the  unusual banded decorative pattern was not recorded by the author. However based on the larger size and more robust construction, it is consistent with a steering paddle rather than the slender cedar paddle meant for propulsion.

Since all of my paddle replicas are meant to be functional users, this one was also proportionally adjusted to 58 inches. The result is a pretty robust blade shape with a gradually thinning shaft ending in an oval shaped bobble grip. I also cut this out of my remaining board of sassafras. Here the blade section has been more or less finished but work was still needed on the shaft and grip.

The zig zag burning was straight forward enough. At one point, I though of preparing some sort of mask and just burning it fully with the propane torch. But in the end, I just used a large shading spoon nib on the pyrography pen. To add to the aged look, the edges of banding pattern were burned at full heat while the central sections were gradually shaded in. Below is the result after oiling...

c1820 Schoolcraft Replica in Sassafras

Here's a side by side comparison.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Musee de Beaux Art: Rennes canoe model & paddle update

From the Memoires Amerique Francaise website is another photo of the 18th Century Mi'kmaq canoe model at the Musees des Beaux Arts (Rennes) - see previous post HERE.  It  appears the one damaged end of the canoe has been repaired with additional bark. The two two toned, painted paddle blade is also part of the display.

 Canoe model and 1 paddle   
Inventory number : 1794.1.782 
Collector : Marquis de Robien 
 2nd half of the 18th century 
Source Link

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