Friday, January 29, 2021

Full-Sized Hudson Museum c1900 Penobscot Replica

 Many years ago, I came across a beautifully sculpted paddle being sold at auction. It was cited as a Penobscot design but was somewhat unique as it was carved from softwood rather than typical Wabanaki paddles. A long one at 77", the paddle showed signs of usage but also featured a delicately shaped grip complete with floral and geometric etchings.

Rather than ending up in an obscure private collection, the paddle was purchased by the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine. Additional photos taken by the museum of the opposite side revealed the grip etchings had remnants of red paint matching the blade.

The museum has now added the paddle to their Wabanaki  gallery as seen in this YouTube footage and it looks to be right at home in front of a 19 foot Penobscot bark canoe.

Back in 2012, I made a reduced-scaled, shorter version of this from a piece of Sassafras and burned the decoration. I've used it on occasion, but decided to make a full sized, 77" replica from a clear section of of a 2 by 10 spruce board. I started the initial shaping with an axe and have been steadily working on it on thinning out the blade with a crooked knife.

Given all the late season distraction work done on the Trapper Canoe restoration, work on this paddle was a little slow. Eventually it was shaped down and scraped smooth ready for the decoration just as the weather turned

The etching on the handle was replicated with a rotary tool and the cavities filled with opaque, red milk paint. The blade was also painted while the bright spruce was stained with a gel stain in order to mimic the weathered patina of the original. On Christmas Day, we were gifted with 15 cm of fresh snow that made taking photos even more picturesque. 

At 77" with a nearly 3 foot long blade this is the longest paddle I've attempted. Should be great for some stand-up paddling once paddling season begins again in the spring.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

NMAI Anishinaabe (Ojibway) Floral Incised paddle

Here's another interesting find in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian. Item 90034.000 is a heavily repaired paddle attributed loosely to the "Ontario Ojibwe". The paddle's original collection date is unknown but it was donated to the forerunner of the NMAI by A.B. Comer of New York City in 1919.

Canoe Paddle
Ontario Ojibwe
no later than 1919
Barcode: 090034.000
Catalog No. 9/34

Rather than featuring paint, the incised decorations feature some vine-like and floral motifs, not unlike the Anishinaabe decorative traditions of beadwork. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Historic Paddle Photo: Carving a paddle in camp

A post on features a stereograph by A.L. Hinds of Benton, Maine. Titled as " Boom House, Ambijegis Lake", the image was captured in the 1870s. It features a man in the centre of the frame carving a canoe paddle with what looks to be a small pocket knife. The paddle has very squarish lines, much easier to carve than the typically curved paddles of the Penobscot people in the region.

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