Friday, December 25, 2020

Season's Greetings

Season's Greetings 

Much of the region was blessed with a thick layer of snow on Christmas day. Despite being an obsessed canoe enthusiast, I've always enjoyed the onset of winter with a proper snowfall. Best holiday wishes to everyone!

P.S. Just completed this paddle a few days ago. Post about it coming soon...

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Trapper's Canoe Restoration: Analysis of the hull exterior

After removing the fiberglass cloth off the exterior of the hull and methodically scraping away bits of resin, the cedar planking was now fully exposed. Basically the condition of the planking could now be assessed.

A centre plank has a hole and will need to be replaced. This should be an easy repair since the planking lies flat in this area.

 A more challenging repair will be at the bow stem where planking has been damaged revealing the stem piece and ribs underneath. Here the planks twist heavily but the repair should work once the planks are treated with some heat...

Some planking along the sheer line will need to be replaced. It seems the original owner did some repairs by tacking bits of wood between the damaged rib tops in a effort to stabilize the region

These discretely placed bits did their job because the region is pretty solid despite the rough appearance. They were also painted green but will become unnecessary once the rib tops are properly repaired and secured to the inwale. In total I counted 9 standard ribs tops that need to be repaired and 2 cant rib tops that also need splicing in of new wood. Can't see any cracked / broken ribs at the moment, but something might be revealed once all that green interior paint is stripped away.

The heavy layers fiberglass at the stems added stiffness to the hull but likely also contributed to the heavy rot on both stems. Once the tacks were removed at the edge planking, the missing stem tops were revealed at both ends. These will also need to have new tips spliced in...

Basically this canoe has a little bit of everything needed for repairs but it still seems to be in great overall condition for a heavily used, functional boat.

The next part of the restoration is posted at this link HERE.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Cedar "Huron" Paddle Replica

Coming across three nearly identical versions of a model paddle in the collections of the Smithsonian, New York's Metropolitan Museum and the Danish National Museum provided the motivation to attempt a full sized version.

DONOR NAME: Dr. William C. Sturtevant
COLLECTOR: Colonel C. B. Dyneley
OBJECT TYPE: Canoe Model / Paddle Model
PLACE: Ontario / Quebec, Canada, North America
USNM NUMBER: E430522-0

Canoe Model with Accoutrements
Ralph T. Coe Collection, Gift of Ralph T. Coe Foundation for the Arts, 2011
Accession Number:  2011.154.6a–p

National Museum of Denmark, Dept of Ethnography
Photo Credit: Kit Weiss
Hyslop, Stephen G. Chroniclers of Indian life. Alexandria, Va. : Time-Life Books. p.24

 All three model paddles to be made of cedar and I happened to have a scrap piece of red cedar with decent grain. A small 55 inch paddle could be made from the board after cutting around small knots. Shaping out the blank and thinning down the blade with the axe produced lots of scrap for summertime campfires.

The diamond shaped blade features notched shoulders with the face divided into faded red and blue hemispheres. The blade tip shaped into a blunt point. Ended up using some milk paints with similar colours to mimic the decorative effect. The Met Museum cites the model as being a "Maliseet style" but the Smithsonian and Danish samples mention a provenance stemming from the Quebec / St. Lawrence river valley with the Danish sample mentioning it was was made by Quebec Huron / Wendat as a tourist item. This makes the most sense as by the mid 19th century the Wendat in the Quebec city region were well known for manufacturing and marketing such models for the burgeoning tourist trade. As such I've labelled this paddle as a "Huron".

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Trappers Canoe Restoration: Stripping the interior

 One of the least enjoyable parts of any canoe restoration is the stripping of the old interior varnish. It takes time, uses smelly chemicals and cannot be rushed. This boat is made worse by the fact that the interior was coated in heavy layers of green paint. Performing the work outside is a must and during a warm stint here in the city, I set up to commence the necessary work. 

I've never stripped a canoe before, but a suggestion to first use a heat gun and scraper to remove the top layers of paint was suggested on an online forum. I started on a heavily painted section along the bilge and sure enough, most of the paint softened up and could be carefully scraped off without scratching up the delicate cedar ribs and planking. After cleaning up a small section about a foot wide, I tested out the chemical stripper in the area and the results were pretty good...

Working section by section, some parts of the hull were left with stubborn bits of paint after being scraped with heat. They required at least two treatments of chemical stripper before getting rid of the green paint leaving behind a sludge that looked like creamed spinach.

In order to access the spots under the seats, they needed to be removed. Unfortunately the steel carriage bolts securing them in place had corroded significantly and were a real chore to remove. I had to cut some of them with an angle grinder. Pounding them out with a hammer they seemed to get stuck in the inwale. So I ended up drilling a deep hole in the heads and then placing my pyrography pen set a full heat into the spot in order to heat up the bolts. It worked pretty well. At one point my finger tip touched the bottom of the cut bolt and I got a serious blistered burn.

The board covering the broken cane on the bow seat was easily removed. It seems the plank was also serving a structural purpose because the seat fell apart once removed from the hull. 

In order for the hull to maintain some of its shape, I kept one crossbar of the seat at the bow while stripping the other end. Here is the result at the halfway point...

Work progressed pretty well during a sunny period and I managed to get most of the remaining hull cleaned up. Difficult to reach spots at the ends will need to be removed once the decks have been taken out but that will wait until spring...

Just before the weather turned and snow + rain fell here in the city, I re-attached the outwales and put the bow seat back on with temporary bronze bolts in place. Still need to strip the rails and the deck on one end but now that snow is finally here, the work on the canoe has come to halt and it is being stored in a covered shelter for the winter.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Pair of Side Chip Carved Penobscot Paddles

A gorgeous pair of Penobscot Paddles is up for sale on Dated to the 2nd half of the 19th Century, the paddles were varnished at one point in their lifetime and are now feature a heavily crackled surface. The seller cannot identify the wood species as it has darkened considerably due to age.

Length: 69 inches
Blade width: 6 inches
Date: Second half of the 19th century
Materials: Long grain hard wood.
Condition: Excellent. The brown varnish surface is deeply patinated with a beautifully crackled surface.
Comments: Both paddles are finely chip carved on both sides of the paddle handles and uniquely chip carved along the handle edges of each. The chip carved designs are classic, ancient, Algonquin symbols.
Source Link

The grip areas feature subtle carving symbols along the grip face, with one featuring the sun circular sun and and a crescent moon on opposing sides.

 Most unique are the geometric chip carvings along the thin edges of the elongated grips. Most certainly these were carved by the hands of a master paddle maker.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Trapper Canoe Restoration: Removing Fiberglass from the hull

Luckily, this canoe's experiment with fibreglass happened in the 1960's when polyester resins were used in the process. This meant that over time the glass would become more brittle and could (in theory) be easily removed by applying heat to soften the structure. Apparently epoxy resins used since the 80s are much more adhesive and stick aggressively to the planking making removal much more labour intensive if not impossible.

Over the course of a few days, I was able to use a 1500W gun and start removing the impregnated cloth. Videos I've seen online often show the glass easily coming off without leaving any resin remnants on the hull. This canoe was not so forgiving. It seems the application by the original owner was quite uneven and large sections of the hull left pockets of green-coloured resin in a weave pattern once the cloth itself was removed.

Here is a shot of the final bits of fibreglass covering coming off the other side of the hull. Plenty of resin left over meant that I had to go over it again with the heat gun and methodically scrape off the green plastic bits without damaging the planking

That process took a few more days but was quite enjoyable when the cedar hull began to reveal itself.

The resin had also soaked into the natural gaps in the planking. These were a bit of a chore to remove without splitting the planking edging but were cleaned out with a cheap dental pick obtained on Amazon. I could see how some of the planking had split down the middle, likely because there was no room for natural expansion with all the gaps filled with thick resin.

Here is the canoe finally free of its 50 year old fibreglass cloak...

All those removed bits were weighed and clocked in at 10.8 pounds. Next up an evaluation of the hull now that the glass is off and the start of the messy process of stripping paint and varnish from the interior.

Read the next post about the restoration HERE

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Historic Paddle Photo: Maine Guide George Spears standing in bark canoe

Found some more historic photos on taken by an amateur photographer, Ervin S. Hubbard sometime between 1893 - 1902. This scene captures two bark canoes and guide, George Spears standing with a paddle. Though undated accompanying text states it was taken on Tomah Stream in Maine

Tomah Stream, Maine, Undated
by Ervin S. Hubbard
Ervin S. Hubbard Glass Plate Negative Collection
Digitizing sponsor George Washington University Libraries

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Trapper Canoe Restoration: Removing Keels (took the whole day!)

 Closer inspection of the 14' Trapper's Canoe revealed a bunch of home-made additions and repairs.

This model of Peterborough Canoe (Mermaid) originally came with a wide shoe keel. When the canoe was fiberglasssed in the 1960s, the shoe keel was removed and the holes in the ribs plugged with dowels and covered with a little bit of resin. You can see them in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th ribs below:

After glassing the hull, three narrow oak were mounted to the hull, each with their own fastening system in an amateurish way.

One keel seemed to have re-used the old flat-head bolts and nuts from the show keel and some were mounted with steel washers. The centre keel used a variety of Robertson screws to attach from inside the hull through the ribs & planking. Rather than re-use the existing holes from the shoe keel, the owner opted to mount with new holes on alternating ribs. The final keel was attached the other way with the screw head drilled in from the keel side and the tips piercing the interior of the hull. The intention was likely to hide the tips by embedding them into the ribs, but the original owner missed and ended up leaving sharp, exposed screw tip in the planking. You can just see the rusted tip of one such screw where the awl blade is pointing below:

Each of these stainless fasteners was heavily corroded and/or covered in paint so removing each was a battle without stripping the head. In the end, I ended up patiently heating each up for about 5 minutes with an an electric soldering pen to break up the cohesion and it really did the trick. A heat gun was then used to soften up the resin and cloth applied to the keels. It took a while but slowly and surely the fibreglass layers were removed and the wood keels exposed. All three oak keels were heavily rotted under their glass layer and basically crumbled when pried off the hull. Definitely see why glassing a hull can accelerate wood rot with canvas canoes.

All this took a very long day of dealing with corroded fasteners and such. Ended up weighing all the discarded glass covering the triple keels as well as the oak remnants and rusted screws/bolts. This little canoe surgery took off 8.5 lbs of weight.

Update: Next post on removing fibreglass HERE

Friday, November 13, 2020

Late 19th Century Chippewa Paddle

Cisco's Gallery is featuring another unique antique paddle. Described as a "Chippewa canoe paddle with scroll carving at top", the paddle was apparently found along the Fox River, Wisconsin buried. Found along the Fox River, Wisconsin stuck in the shoreline mud. 

Chippewa Canoe Paddle
PERIOD: Late 19th Century
ORIGIN: Wisconsin
SIZE: 53"; Blade 5"

The lengthy flattened grip has a simple roll top and features a scroll pattern near the top, created by boring four holes and carving out curved spaces between them. The reverse spatulate blade shape culminates in broad tip that shows evidence of natural wear and chipping into a semi-rounded end. 

Grip and Blade closeups

The paddle features similar design elements to another piece (Lot 723) included in Cowan's 2004 American Indian Art Auction which was loosely identified as a "Great Lakes Maple Paddle".

Great Lakes Maple Paddle,
length = 66.5 inches
Provenance:Ex First People's Museum of the American Indian and Eskimo 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Historic Paddle Photo: Maine Exhibit - Boston Food Fair 1898

A virtual exhibit of the American Museum of Fly Fishing showcases the guiding life of Cornelia " Fly Rod" Crosby (1854-1946). A fascinating biography along with vintage photos can be seen HERE

Cornelia was instrumental in promoting the Maine backwoods to the American populace through a series of Sportsmen's themed exhibitions in New York and Boston in the late 19th, early 20th centuries. A particular feature was to construct a themed cabin scene complete with ornaments of northwoods life. These often featured some typical Northwoods style paddles. The photo below is from an exhibition in Boston. Two paddles are prominently displayed in this posed scene.

An additional, earlier photo showcasing Cornelia's first exhibit at the 1895 New York Sportsman's Show is featured in an article entitled "Glamour Girl of Maine Lakes" by Austin S. Hogan. It appeared in the Fall 1977 issue of The American Fly Fisher. Vol 4. No. 4. This issue is available online (.pdf format) courtesy of the AMFF here.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

New Project: Trapper's Canoe Restoration

Picked up a new boat that seems a perfect candidate for a restoration...

The canoe originally belonged to Richard "Alan" Reid of Otonabee-South Monaghan who passed away this year at 93. Reid was a full time fur trapper and utilized the canoe in the Kawarthas area. A few years ago, Richard gave the canoe to his neighbour & caretaker who intended to do a full restoration but had given up on the project. According to her, the canoe was originally picked up directly from the Peterborough Factory sometime in 1950s. Apparently he used the canoe extensively for trapping beaver and covered the boat with fibreglass sometime in the 1960s.

Dimensions and build look very much like a Peterbough Mermaid. It seems to be very similar is shape and dimensions as my Chestnut Playmate / Peterborough Mermaid hybrid acquired in 2015. It's a just over 14' long, quite narrow (30" beam) and a 12" depth. Ribs are the narrow "pleasure" style (1-1/2" wide). Unlike my existing boat, this one has outwales that are not spliced or rounded off so they appear quite bulky and squarish. The canoe must've been used pretty hard by the trapper as it shows signs of practical repair / alteration.

Over the course of its lifetime, the bow deck has been replaced with a new piece of black cherry and the tip ends of the inwale spliced with a different wood, possibly oak. The seat caning has long since disappeared but the original holes are there. Reid replaced the stern seat covering with a plywood plank and the bow seat with some sort of metal mesh. Presumably it was better for usage in the winter. The original center thwart is gone and replaced with a plank.

Most notably, the flat wide shoe keel standard on the Mermaid was removed and the ribs show that the original screw holes were plugged. In its place, a narrow hardwood keel with two additional bilge keels were installed each using different fasteners. The centre keel uses square Robertson screws driven from different alternating ribs from the plugged original holes. One bilge keels uses wide slot head bolts secured to the keel with square nuts. The other bilge keel seems to have been fastened with basic wood screws but from the outside of the hull towards the ribs so that no fasteners appear on the inside of the hull. 

All three keels are covered with a thick application of sloppy fiberglass but as this was likely done with 1960s Polyester formula, it is chipping off relatively easily and should be easy to remove with a heat gun.

Once I told the seller about the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, our local chapter and my intention to work local high school kids to help with the restoration, she graciously threw in 4 vintage paddles, including two very old ones that were heavily used by the original owner. More on these paddles in a different post.

Update: Read the next post about the restoration HERE.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Rare Santee Sioux (Eastern Dakota) canoe paddle

 A relatively rare paddle find is now being showcased on Cisco's Gallery. The paddle is described as a late 19th Century design attributed to the Santee Sioux (Isáŋyathi or Eastern Dakota) from central Minnesota. 

Santee Sioux Canoe Paddle
Extra-long Santee Sioux canoe paddle from Minnesota. Carved of birch.
PERIOD: 19th Century
ORIGIN: Minnesota
SIZE: 78"L x 4 1/2"W

Though the bulk of the Siouan culture is associated with the American Great Plains, the Eastern Dakota were on the southwestern fringes of "canoe country" before being displaced by Ojibwe bands. As a comparison, see this earlier post which features sketches of Eastern Dakota peoples dated to 1851.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Historic Paddle Illustration: Satchwell - View of Montreal Harbour

Another historic illustration from the Toronto Public Library. On the bottom right corner is a bark canoe being paddled by two native occupants. Note how the paddles are being gripped...

View of the Harbour, Montreal, Quebec
Leney, William Satchwell (1769-1831) after Picture, 1830, English

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

PEM Model Anishinaabe Canoe with Painted Paddles

The Peabody Essex Museum has a model canoe made by an unknown Anishinaabe (Chippewa/Ojibwa) artist. The model and its accompanying figurines and paddles date to 1823-1825 once again featuring the dominant colours of red and black. One paddle features a black blade with the red shaft. The other features a red blade and black paint at the end of the pole-shaped grip.

Anishinaabe (Chippewa/Ojibwa) artist
Model canoe, 1823-1825
Birchbark, wood, paint, pitch
Great Lakes, North America
L: 22 3/4 in, W: 6 in, D: 5 7/8 in (L: 57.8 cm, W: 15.2 cm)
Gift of Colonel Enos Cutler, 1850, 1850
East India Marine Society Collection

This is a birch bark model canoe with red wooden thwarts and gunwales. There is a painted black band beneath the gunwales, and it has pitched and painted seams. On either side of the bow is a red painted design with a black oculus. Two carved and painted figures holding paddles sit inside.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Historic Paddle Photo: 1887 St. John River Flood

A remarkable photo illustrating a flood on the St. John River in April 1887. Ice dams caused the famed waterway to flood the banks, inundating the historic field in front of the soldier's barrarcks known as Officer's Square. The impressive stone structure with the arches is now home to the Fredericton Region Museum, formerly the York Sunbury Museum. It houses a historic Maliseet paddle carved for Col. John Saunders featured in many posts of the years

Details of this flood and the resulting damage can be read at this interesting historical data site, here.

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