Sunday, December 30, 2018

Gear Project: Woodstove camp case

Here are some old pics of a quick project update. A while back I picked up a Kni-co Trekker stove that was used once by the original owner after realizing winter camping wasn't for him and his girlfriend. The stove was in great condition, even though I could tell he lit the stove without using a false bottom or sand as recommended by the manufacturer. He lowered the price even further when I mentioned this so got it for around 1/2 price off retail.

Canadian Outdoor Equipment sells a false bottom for the stove but it is quite pricey and heavy. Came up with my own solution using a metal pegboard from Home Depot. The length was a perfect fit and the sides were already pre-bent. Measurements showed that a single piece would be too large to try and fit through the door. So I cut a chunk out of the middle of the pegboard and fold down a single side on each piece. The two pieces cover the bottom of the stove and fit tightly with a friction fit, but can also be easily removed if needed. One piece is more narrow than the other so it can fit nested into the other when inverted. Here they are on top of the stove and then placed in the burned chamber...

Galvanized pegboard made into a false bottom.

In burn chamber

The new false bottom doesn't interfere with the storage of the collapsible stove pipe...

Of course galvanized metal can give off nasty fumes when initially exposed to fire. The stove has since been used and the toxic coating safely burned off. 

Also ended up making a carrying case of sorts for transportation and minimize any soot transfer. I used scraps of fire-retardant canvas to make a case that snaps open and closed. With some grommets and cordage, two carry handles exit from the sides to make lifting easier.
Scrap canvas pieces made opened up

The design allows for just one side of the carry case to open so that access to the stove interior is quick and easy.

opened flap to access stove door

Once everything is snapped up, the case does its job to cover the stove. In camp, I've used the empty case (still snapped into shape) as a way of collecting tinder and small branches.

Finished carry case

It was used well on my late fall trip back in October and fits perfectly on top of the wanigan for transport across portages. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Circa 1890 Cree paddle: Cherry Gallery

Cherry Gallery's monthly current selections for Nov/Dec 2018 once again features a remarkable antique paddle. This one dated to circa 1890. It has features common to Eastern Cree paddles including the reverse-spatulate blade with straight sides and the wide, rounded tip.  Normally carved from spruce, this specific paddle is made out of cedar.

Cree Canoe Paddle
This diminutive cedar paddle is handmade in the traditional shape of native Cree paddles, with a small oval grip, an oval upper shaft, and an elongated lozenge-shaped blade. The natural wood's grain on one side of the blade has an attractive wave-like pattern.
Circa 1890
5" w, 62.5 h

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Historic Paddle Illustrations at has a gallery page of artworks by Edwin Tappan Adney, the famed amateur ethnographer and canoe historian whose work eventually was published as The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America. Many of Adney's illustrations are there, including this artistic rendering of fur trade canoe ornamentation and a painted woodland paddle.

Another great bark canoe and paddle sketch features Maliseet hunters calling a moose. It was featured in the St. Nicholas Vol XXIII - March 1896 - NO. 5 in an article entitled, "Their First Moose Hunt".

Lastly is a one of Adney notes featuring the carving details and decoration of a Penobscot paddle etched with a family of moose on the blade and floral designs at the throat and grip face. His scribbled notes mention that the paddle was found at the Sportman's Exhibition, Maine Exhibit, New York in 1897 and was possibly made by a St. John Indian living at Old Town, ME.

Friday, December 7, 2018

1794 Mi'kmaq Rennes de Robien Canoe Model

First posted back in 2017 (here), the Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes has a model birchbark canoe with an accompanying paddle dating to at least 1794. The souvenir is constructed in the Mi'kmaq style with its distinctive hump amidships. It was assumed to be collected by Christophe-Paul de Robien (1698-1756), a French ethnographer and historian. After the French Revolution, his personal collection inherited by his descendants was seized by the state and distributed to what became the Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes. During the inventory process, it was inscribed with a date of 1794 although the original construction date is likely older.

Modèle de canot avec rame
Inv 794.1.782
Museum of Fine Arts     RENNES

Accompanying the canoe is a single paddle with a pole grip and a decorated blade. Although faded, it appears that half the blade was painted with a red pigment creating a simple "yin/yang" effect. The canoe and paddle as well as other curiosities collected by Robien are now on display in a special gallery at the museum. One particular visitor has captured the model and paddle in the following photo:

Additional posts on this model are found here and here

Monday, November 26, 2018

Historic Paddle Illustration - Rindisbacher Print

Here's another historic artwork by Swiss artist Peter Rindisbacher (1806-1834). This particular piece entitled  An Indian removing in the summer with his wife and family is now in the collection of the Library and Archives of Canada.

An Indian removing in the summer with his wife and family.
Rindisbacher, Peter, 1806-1834.
Library and Archives Canada,
Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana
Accession No. R9266-4116
MIKAN no. 3835262 (1 item)
Copyright : Expired

Note that Rindisbacher portrays the male in the bow with his wife steering in the stern. As in other depictions of his artwork, the female is using a paddle with a bobble grip and holding it in the "broom sweeping" style of paddling.

Chippewa Canoe
Peter Rindisbacher

Monday, November 19, 2018

Historic Paddle Photo: Madrid Columbia Expo 1892

The Historical American Exposition (also known as the Columbian Historical Exposition) was held held in Madrid in 1892-1893 to mark the four hundredth year of the "discovery" of America. Part of the exhibit included a full sized birch bark canoe featuring two mannequins and accessories. The canoe and its model inhabitants are briefly mentioned on page 184 of the 1895 Report of the United States commission to the Columbian historical exposition at Madrid. The display is described as follows:
Canoe of birch bark. — Manned by two Algonkian Indians, occupied in fishing with the harpoon. They wear dresses of buckskin, with painted figures imitating embroidery. In fishing with the harpoon it is necessary that a fisherman should guide the canoe in accordance with the orders of the one who handles the harpoon. The canoe is made of a large piece of birch bark, attached to a wooden frame; the seams and holes are calked with spruce-pine rosin. These canoes are very light and of a graceful form. Two men can carry one of them on their shoulders for a stretch of many miles, which they do at rapids. The canoe exhibited was constructed by the Algonkian Indians of Canada.

Plates II and III feature grainy images of the display where the canoe seems to suspended from the ceiling and the mannequins are forming a scene. The bowman holds a harpoon at the ready while a stern paddler guides the canoe from the rear. Better resolution photos are found on the Smithsonian Archives site:

Columbian Historical Exposition in Madrid, Spain
ID: SIA2011-1444 or 91-17920
October 31, 1892 - January 31, 1893
Citation: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 64, Folder: 2


Columbian Historical Exposition in Madrid, Spain
October 31, 1892 - January 31, 1893
ID: SIA2011-1442 or 91-17922
Citation: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 64, Folder: 2


Searching through the Smithsonian's collections, the very canoe used in this exhibit is in their online database. It is listed as USNM NUMBER: E160340-0;  a Passamaquoddy canoe collected in 1871 from Eastport Maine.

DONOR NAME: Accession Number Unknown 
COLLECTOR: Dr. Edward Palmer 
HEIGHT: 61cm
DEPTH: 33cm
CULTURE: Passamaquoddy 
PLACE: Eastport, Washington County, Maine, United States, North America
USNM NUMBER: E160340-0

Unfortunately, no details of the mannequins, paddles or harpoon seem to have been kept. I've been vigorously searching the archives for more detail on the stern paddle featured in the display but have yet to find a paddle in the collection that resembles the one in the photo with its distinct ridged grip face.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Pretend Campfire Smores Set

Here's a little off-season camping project finished up last fall. 

I ended up using some wood scrapes to make a pretend camp fire set. Left over pine and spruce stock was used to make the "firewood" and "flames" with dowels used to make some wooden marshmallows and roasting sticks.

My older son helped paint the flames for effect. We added some basswood cutoffs to make pretend graham crackers, chocolate squares and flattened marshmallows to complete the S'mores set.

The whole thing can be disassembled for storage and are currently being kept with the bushcraft toys made last winter.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Pitt Rivers Museum - Two Woodland Paddles circa 1858

The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford has quite the collection of ethnographic items from around the globe. Their main display hall is quite the feast for the eyes!

Pitt Rivers Museum

While perusing some of the online photos folks have taken of this interesting place, I noticed a full sized bark canoe tucked onto an upper shelf (top left of photo above). I believe this is the canoe that Elspeth Soper posted on her blog during her visit to the museum back in 2015. However there were no mentions of paddles. With this canoe display appear to be two full sized paddles leaning up against the hull.

Another cropped photo sourced below showcases one of the paddles with its willow leaf style blade.


I believe this might be item  1886.1.866 posted about before which features an slightly indented grip face and drip ring.

Canoe Paddle -  1886.1.866
Cultural Group: NE ?Subarctic ?Woodlands E Algonquian
Dimensions: Max L = 1945 mm Max W of blade = 164 mm
When Collected: On or before 1858 Acquired: Transferred 17 February 1886
 © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford
Source Link

But another cropped shot from a large wide angle photo of the whole display area shows a second paddle leaning against the hull...


The second paddle might be item  1886.1.867 which seems to have a bulkier grip and thicker shaft but a similar blade shape with raised centre ridge...

Canoe Paddle -  1886.1.867
Cultural Group: NE ?Subarctic ?Woodlands E Algonquian Local Name: Unknown.
Dimensions: Max L = 1710 mm Max W of blade = 160 mm
When Collected: On or before 1858 Acquired: Transferred 17 February 1886
 © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Circa 1770 Cree Paddle Reproduction - Part 1

One interesting paddle with an established providence is item NC0047 of the Splendid Heritage Nagy Collection first described in this post here.

Hudson Bay Cree Paddle
68 Inch long
circa. 1770 
Photo Credit: Clinton Nagy -

Two experts of woodland culture, Dr. Ted Brasser and the late Dr. Cath Oberholtzer provided some interesting notes in PDF format. An excerpt of the writings states the following:

The canoe paddle (NC0047) conforms to the type used by the northern Cree people on Hudson Bay. Typically, the handle is scarcely more than half the length of the paddle; in this case the handle is even somewhat shorter. This may well be the oldest Cree paddle in existence, and its decoration is more elaborate than on recent Cree paddles. Painted paddles from both sides of the Hudson Bay are illustrated in the literature. It is recorded that such paintings had a personal meaning based upon dream experiences. The zigzag pattern on this early example may stand for water.

The paddle was apparently collected by a Mr. George Holt,  a sailor and employee of the Hudson's Bay Company who active in this area between the years of 1768 and 1771. Holt even carved his name on the famous rocks at Sloop Cove - Fort Prince of Wales National Historic site near Churchill, Manitoba a few years after another well known HBC employee - Samuel Hearne. Here's are some additional photos from the June 1943 edition of The Beaver.

Along with some other artifacts obtained by Holt during his time in the Hudson Bay region, the paddle made it into the personal collection of a Dr. Andrew Gifford, a baptist minister who was appointed  the first Assistant Keeper in the Department of Manuscripts of the recently established British Museum. At his death in 1784, Gifford bequeathed his collection to the Baptist Academy in Bristol where it remained as part of the Gifford Collection. The collection was put up to be sold in 1979 where it was snatched up for the private collection of and employee of Christie's Auction who kept it for seven years before selling again. It has changed hands a few more times and is now part of the private Nagy Collection.

The original paddle is 68 inches long and was likely used as a steering paddle given its overall length and blade size (34.5 inch long by 6.5 inch wide) here. My intention was to make a scaled down 58 inch reproduction of this paddle for the WCHA Assembly display, but ran out of time before the event. Since the latter part of the summer, I've been slowly carving this out from a board of hard maple. It's been tough slog on the tools which needed to be resharpened often. Here is a shot of the blank being when it was about 75% carved. The grip and blade edges still need to be evened out but at least the wood did not tear out when hewing out with the axe.

c1770 Cree Paddle Replica in the works

In addition to carving this one out, I've begun preparing an article for submission to Wooden Canoe Journal as part of my series entitled "Paddles from the Past".

Jan 2019 Update: Continue on to Part II of this paddle HERE

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Hot Tenting on Late Fall Canoe Trip - QE II Wildlands Park

Got to spend a few days outdoors on the last trip of the year. I was invited to join two buddies to check out the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands park just a relatively short 1 1/2 hours north of home. has a detailed topo map of the region, a non-operating park with cottages on the boundary lakes. The southern end of the park is accessed through Head Lake which is locally notorious for its waves given the relatively large surface area and shallow depth. The plan was to travel northeast up the Head River, complete the short 100m portage and continue up into Fishog, then northwest into Round Lake and into Long.

The map marked 3 launch points on the southwestern shore. Just before departing, we learned of a new access point not yet on the map at the Northeastern section past the 100m portage on the Head river. It seemed to be a gift so we wouldn't have to have to cross the width of Head Lake and could easily make it up to Long Lake. Unfortunately once arriving the crew found the road was blocked with a locked gate mentioning that access here closed after October 15th. This despite the fact that the park is open year round without any set operating dates. So with a much delayed start, we eventually made it over to the H1 access point (where there were no parking fees) putting us roughly 6 km further away from our original intended launch point.

I was paddling solo in my 14 ft Chestnut Playmate. It was loaded pretty heavily with my repaired canvas pack stuffed with the homemade canvas wall tent, the wanigan, a kni-co trekker wood stove and other accessories including the wool blanket sweater and other necessary cold weather gear. Paddles were the repaired sassafras tripper and the ash Armstrong paddle.

Access point

The H1 access point was sheltered so the water conditions looked great. However, once out a few hundred meters, strong winds created some rollers. Luckily with the winds blowing from the Southwest, the journey up to the mouth of the Head River was aided by a near perfect tail wind.

 Paddling towards the NW shore

Once around the corner of the bay, the mouth of the Head River was a welcomed wind free picture of solitude.

 Mouth of the Head River

As you can see from the photos, the fall colours were well past peak as most of the leaves had already fallen. A short paddle to the 100m carry around a cascade revealed a very steep portage trail now covered in slippery leaves to contend with in addition to the awkward climb. Given all the gear, this meant triple portages. Despite the short length, the trail was quite technical requiring careful footing. We were well behind schedule given the alternate start point but rushing over this carry was not an option so this slowed the group down considerably.

 Short but relatively steep rocky climb

Once over the other side, there was a slight decent to a pool above where someone has a cottage and motorboats. At this point I checked my watch and it was exactly 2 hours since departing from the H1 access point. Had the other new access been open, we would have started further up the Head River and bypassed all of this section and likely would be approaching our destination lake by now.

Other side of the portage

The Head river widens a bit after this point until you eventually enter to park proper. A new sign marking the park boundary has the campsites illustrated on a graphic. Immediately I realized there were far fewer campsites listed on the sign than on the topo map. Apparently in an effort to preserve this high use lake, many sites have been closed and camping no longer permitted on them. Hunting is permitted throughout the park after September 14th, so it was a good thing we brought some high-visibility orange vests just to be sure.

Eventually the narrow channel opens up into Fishog Lake. By this point I was outpaced by the camping friends in a 16 foot tandem so they went ahead to scout out sites.

Bottom of Fishog Lake

Our sunny skies had faded and rain was seemingly on the way. The shoreline of Fishog still had some remnant leave colour to brighten up and increasingly dreary day.

Around halfway up Fishog, the friends had landed on a pretty site at the base of a slope. It seemed well sheltered for the current conditions. Given the fact that we had to spend a large amount of time and effort to cross Head Lake and carry over the  and decision was made to camp there instead of trying to get up to Long. 

Our remaining daylight was beginning to fade so we got to work setting up our individual tents. For this trip, I tried to lighten the load by not bringing the entire pole frame for the canvas tent. Instead the tent was suspended with a tensioned ratchet strap between two well placed trees at the back of the site. A few closet rod poles were carried to support the sides. Rather than scrounge around for wood limbs for the stove pipe support, I used two aluminum shock-corded poles lashed together. 

Drizzle and rain persisted during the late evening hours but the tent held up well and stayed dry. I didn't use the woodstove in the tent that night, but stayed reasonably warm with sleeping bag and wool blanket combo. However, upon waking early to a very chilly morning with a steady northerly wind, the stove was lit to fend off the cold. The stove worked very well. Here's a working shot with the kettle on. A bit smoky when initially lit if the door was open but no worries when the door shut.

 heating up the tent and water

Within a few minutes the whole tent warmed up and felt cozy enough to begin stripping layers. Breakfast was also begun. Before the trip, I came across a youtube vid by Mark Young showing how to make small reflector oven (similar to the famed Svante Freden design) using an aluminum oven liner from the dollar store. Following his directions, I made one that perfectly fit my 6" trangia mini pan. Normally of course a reflector oven is turned to face the flames of an open fire, but with an elevated pan and the reflector inverted on top of the wood stove, I was able to quickly bake some biscuits to go along with the morning tea.

 Reflector inverted on top of woodstove

My companions awoke and we were able to spend a relaxing morning warm and sheltered in the tent for the morning meal. Hope that the northerly wind would subside never materialized. In fact, it steadily blew into camp throughout the day. Smoke from the stove pipe was blowing sideways. The lake was too choppy to explore so we were effectively windbound.

steady wind kept us windbound

Luckily the sun was shining so after our extended breakfast/brunch we set to work processing some wood both for a hearty evening campfire and for the hot tent. It was enjoyable work sawing and splitting as a group. There was no way I could have processed that much wood on my own during a typical solo trip.   

 modest pile of stove wood

One of the members brought along a huge tarp which was promptly setup to form a windbreak by the fire pit.

Fire pit setup 

The wind began to gust quite seriously, but my tent seemed to hold up quite well.

Our evening fire was pretty awesome given all the effort the three of us expended to saw and split so much wood. Much merriment was had, but the evening was extremely cold with the wind.  Despite being layered up with thermal underwear, 2 merino wool sweaters, my wool blanket sweater, rain jacket and hi-visibility hunting vest the wind would get to you the moment you stepped away from the fire.

Start of the evening campfire

After retiring relatively late that night, I neglected to do one important thing and that was check to see if the guy-lines supporting the wall tent had loosened during the relentless wind all day. I was overly confident that the tent would hold over the night hours given the pretty wicked daytime conditions. Planning to read a little before falling asleep, the wood stove was lit to warm up. The stove had begun to die down for the night when I stripped off some layers and finally crawled into the sleeping bag but hadn't yet fully gotten drowsy. Turned off my headlamp and a few moments later, heard a loud metallic "thonk!". The outer poles on the stove side had collapsed when the wind ripped out all three guylines. Part of the tent (and silnylon tarp) had now collapsed onto the the still hot stove pipe.

Woefully under dressed, I rushed out of the tent (after struggling with a jammed zipper on the sleeping bag) and controlled the flapping tarp and collapsed tent side. It took some creative stretching but in the end I was able to get the material off the stove pipe and reset the guy-lines Unfortunately the damage was done resulting in burn holes in that corner of the tent.

More significantly, after being exposed to the chilly wind with minimal clothing I began to shiver once back in the tent. A decision was made to re-light the stove to warm up again. While I was nowhere near hypothermic, it was definitely the coldest I've been in years of tripping. With this mishap and the cold, adrenalin kept me up for most of the night. This time I made sure the stove pipe was completely cold before getting into bed again.

The wind continued the next morning with no sign of really slowing down. After breakfast, we all began breaking camp. The full extent of the burn damage at the corner was visible in the sunlight. Given the modular design with removable panels, I'm confident it can be repaired so the whole project isn't a write-off. Something to do over the winter, right?


I finished off the water in my gravity filter and discovered ice at the bottom of the bag. We would later learn that the temperature dropped to zero degrees C but the windchill was -9C.

 Ice at the bottom of the water filter bag

At least it wasn't raining when packing up so the gear was put away dry. Still the wind was whipping and gusty at departure which made for a tricky return back to the Head lake access point.

 Gear packed up for the return trip.   

Despite the serious mishap with the tent, it was definitely worth lugging all that extra gear to deal with the chilly conditions. The warmth from the stove was a mood booster and made the outdoor living much more comfortable during the unpredictable autumn conditions. Next time the whole tent frame to prevent a similar incident in gusty conditions. If all goes well, the tent will be repaired over the off season for an early spring trip in 2019.

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