Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Refurbishing a favourite paddle into an heirloom

Six years ago, I was working on the woodburning decoration of the c1849 replica when my pregnant wife's water broke and we rushed to the hospital.

Working on the paddle the night my older son was born (2008)


For that reason, that paddle has always been linked to my firstborn so I decided to commemorate the occasion by decorating the other side with a height marker, images of his little hands, feet and some important milestones (see that full post here). It has become a bit of family tradition to take the paddle off the wall on his birthday and burn on his new height before eating the cake.The cherry wood has darkened in the past 6 years and now the "little guy" has grown up to the base of the grip on this 58" paddle.


The decorated blade


With the recent birth of our 2nd child, I decided to refurbish another cherry paddle with a similar height marker. This Cherry Guide paddle is actually the favourite all-around paddle design I've carved and this paddle has accompanied me on many excursions. You can see it in action in a few of my Youtube videos, like the daytrip to the Limberlost Wilderness Preserve.

 
Decorated and Plain sides of the Cherry Guide paddle


While not exactly the same design as the original heirloom paddle, they were both carved from the same stock of cherry and have the identical blade shape. Basically the two paddles are close enough to be "siblings" so thought this would be appropriate for little brother. This paddle has been heavily oiled over the years, but fortunately that process still permits some pyrography to be added later - another reason why I prefer oiling to varnish. The woodburning tips need to be at higher heat than unfinished wood and this causes them to collect a burnt residue needing frequent pausing to clean, so the process is slow but satisfactory. Just as last time, a metal straight edge was clamped to the paddle to burn the centre line and the inch markers.

Marking off and burning the lines

Previously, I used an old scanner to get a digital image of my older son's hands & feet. The old  scanner is broken so to get a realistic-sized copy of our newborn's hands and  feet, I pressed his hands against a pane of glass, took a photo, and used Photoshop to render the image into "photocopy" mode as the starting point for the burn.



The images were slowly burned onto the blade along with his birth details and now little brother has an heirloom paddle of his own.


Little brother's paddle details

Managed to take a shot of us practicing a paddle stroke with his future paddle on dry land.






Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jonas' Experimental Grip Design

Fellow paddle maker, Jonas from Sweden (see post here), has been busy documenting his creations over on his new blog, Paddle Reflections. He has been working on a very interesting experimental design which features an elongated Northwoods style grip with asymmetrical notches for the grip thumb.

  Shaft length: 80cm (31.5")
Blade: 74cm (29")



 Jonas' experimental grip design

At first glance, the notches reminded me of another grip design, the Battenkill Grip. Many years ago, I started a whitewater paddle with this grip design, but as my interest in whitewater paddle designs faded, I never ended up completing the paddle. For anyone interested, the April 1997 issue of Wooden Canoe Journal (Issue 80 - Vol. 20 No.2) has an article describing the Battenkill grip in more detail. Basically it is a fusion of two popular styles, the standard pear and T-grip. In theory, the flattened portion of the half pear cradles the palm more comfortably and the half-T portion allows the thumb to curl around into a more natural position while still providing a positive hold on the paddle. Here's a schematic:



Source:  Wooden Canoe Journal (Issue 80 - Vol. 20 No.2)

Jonas' creative design looks to have alternating Battenkill grips to allow for a more comfortable angle when using this lateral grip style. Here's a pic from his blog post demonstrating the grip position. It looks quite comfortable to my eyes.




His blade design is interesting as well. ..




Some Cree paddles have an indented paddle blade reminiscent of this style. Also, in the Historic Paddle Art archive page, is an undated image featuring a French trade canoe and a paddle with similar curves (original post here). I wish there were more details about this print in order to find any tribal affiliation, if any.

Undated Canot d'Ecorce Illustration


Paddle Closeup

Keep up the great work on your paddles and blog site, Jonas!




Friday, March 6, 2015

Paddle tarp cups

Always like to repurpose gear when in camp. Why should paddles only be functional in the water? Setting up tarps with canoe paddles isn't a new idea, but often the paddle shaft or grip isn't conducive to tying support lines. After doing an image search for tarp and paddles, I stumbled upon Poster Chainsaw's 2009 review of the True North tarp over on the Song of the Paddle Forums. His thread "True North Big Tarp Review" features a tarp setup with an additional accessory.

True North Outdoor Company in the UK apparently includes 2 little mesh bags with sewn webbing meant to be slipped over the grips of the paddles and provide and anchor point for the lines...

Photo Credit: Chainsaw on SOTP forums



Photo Credit: Chainsaw on SOTP forums



Photo Credit: Chainsaw on SOTP forums


It's a pretty simple design and concept. I've always gotten away with just tying a clove hitch around the paddle, but with the elongated guide style grips I prefer, the guy-lines would often slip down.  Sometimes a paddle can simply be jammed under the tarp with just plain old tension serving as a support. This little contraption looks to allow the paddles to be setup slightly ahead of the tarp which is needed in certain configurations.

Poster Neiltoo on Ni-Wild - Northern Ireland Outdoors Community - made up a similar strap device to assist setting up his hammock tarp. Here are some pics of his creation on the thread "Using Paddles with a Tarp"


  Photo Credit Neiltoo on Ni-Wild Forums


  Photo Credit Neiltoo on Ni-Wild Forums 



   Photo Credit Neiltoo on Ni-Wild Forums 


Lastly, ulltralight gear site, Zpacks.com, is selling a product called "Trekking Pole Cups". These triangular Cuben fabric cups go over the handles of trekking poles but could easily be used for canoe paddles as well. Here's a closeup from their site.

 Zpacks Trekking Pole Cups

Might be tinkering with something along these lines for another another winter project to work on using some scraps.



Friday, February 20, 2015

Canotrouge's Sitka Spruce Paddles

I recently got in touch with a fellow paddle maker over on the CanoeTripping.net forums who goes by the handle Canotrouge.

Originally from Quebec, he's now living the life most of us outdoor lovers can only dream of, way up in Canada's beautiful Yukon Territory. Here's a little writeup I asked him to provide about his paddle creations:
"I use mainly sitka spruce, because it is light, stiff and somewhat easy to get up here and at a fair price. I did a few out of cherry and walnuts, ash and a mixed of all of them, I like them also, but they are so much heavier.
I get my inspiration from the eastern Canadian first nations, but with my own touch, I'm not into accurate reproduction of let say a Maliseet or Passamaquoddy or Cree, but I use some of their characteristics to create my paddles.  
All my paddles have a reinforced tip of hard wood, mainly white ash and several coats of spar varnish (at least on the blade) after I put several coats of boiled linseed oil and or Tung oil. I some time use milk paint or aniline dye to colour the blade or other parts of the paddle."  

Here are just a few photo samples of his lovely work. More closeups can be found on his  Pinterest page...









Also very nice is the leather strap hanger found on some his paddles. It is reminiscent of the leather paddle harness sold by Norquay Canoe Co (see post here). I've recently made similar hangers from leather scraps and will post pics soon, but in retrospect, I like Canotrouge's elegant design more. 


Canotrouge's talents are not just limited to paddles. For more of artistry and woodwork, be sure to check out the facebook page for his workshop - Au Nord du Nord Woodwork.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tobique Canoe Camp

The Toronto Reference Library has a huge collection of rare books in their archived stacks. While waiting around for some medical appointments, I quickly popped in and checked out a hard to find canoeing book now out of copyright - Camping and canoeing : what to take, how to travel, how to cook, where to go by James Edmund Jones (1903). It was actually published here in Toronto and features some grainy photos of the author's style of canoe tripping.

A particularly engaging photo is one of a canoe shelter camp on the banks of the Tobique River in New Brunswick. Poles rigged up with a tarp over the canoe hull provide a minimalist shelter with logs piled up in front for a reflector fire. The guide poses with his paddle on the right.

Up the Tobique Canoe Camp


For similar historic pics of these style of camps, check out the previous post on Canoe Camp Shelters.





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