Friday, January 13, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: Claude Le Beau - 1739

Blog reader F Wade recently provided a link to an historic illustration (dated to 1739) being auctioned off by Christies Auction House.

The image originates from a book by Swiss author Claude le Beau who documented some of the life and customs of Native tribes of New France during his time in Quebec. A digital copy of his full text entitled  Aventures du Sr. C. Le Beau, avocat en parlement; ou  Voyage curieux et nouveau parmi les sauvages de l'Amérique septentrionale is available on

Pages 94-96 contain his description of a birchbark canoe as well as the paddles which were recreated in this image with obvious European bias.

Paddle Image Closeup

Le Beau's translated description of the paddles is as follows:
"The paddles  are very light, although made of  maple wood which is rather hard. They are scarcely four feet long, the blade takes up one and one-half feet and is five or six inches wide"

As a side note, Christies auction page has a short bio on Le Beau who seemed to be quite the trouble maker...
"...Swiss traveller Claude Le Beau, a rough character who, in 1729, left Paris for La Rochelle in a convoy of prisoners expected to remain in Canada for the rest of their lives. However, after working as a clerk in the Beaver Office, Quebec, he stole some gunpowder and set off for New England. There his activities as a counterfeiter brought him close to a hanging, and he fled to Holland in 1731. Even if only partly factual, his book describes the life and customs of the Iroquois, Hurons, Algonquins, and other tribes, and contributes importantly to the literary history of New France." 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bob Whillans Canadian Paddle Company

There is another small scale paddle maker who might interest folks wanted a custom carved paddle. Bob Whillans has set up the Canadian Paddle Company. His website is still a work in progress but the few photos showcase some gorgeous single piece paddles.

Bob is based out of Kingston but sources his variety of hardwoods from the Upper Ottawa region. Here are some of the photos pulled from his page along with a link to his contact page.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: Franquelin Map

One of the earliest representations of the distinctive shaped Mi'kmaq canoes comes from a beautifully illustrated map by Jean-Baptiste Franquelin (1651–after 1712).   Map for the Clarification of Land Titles in New France is dated to 1678. A portion of modern day New Brunswick shows three Mi'kmaq figures portaging their canoes while holding paddles in their hand.

Map for the Clarification of Land Titles in New France
 Jean-Baptiste Franquelin, 1678 

Two paddlers are seen carrying a canoe on their shoulders and another figure ahead of them is single portaging towards the coast.

Mi'kmaq Portaging Closeup

Also found another closeup image which shows the canoes and paddle shapes with more detail...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Miscellaneous projects using up scrap paddle wood

I've been using up the many scrap cutoffs from paddle making for a variety of projects.

Came across a neat idea for a sanding tool which seemed useful for handling the contours of a paddle, especially the shaft and throat area. It is my version of a "MacFarlane Bow Sander". I ended up purchasing a set of three 1" by 30" strips meant for a belt sander and used some walnut scraps along with a flexible strip of sassafras for the crosspiece. Also shaped some sassafras pieces into squarish dowel square to wedge and hold the sanding strip in place. Here are the pieces laid out for a visual.

The springy sassafras cross bar provides enough flex to bend and hold the sander under tension. While cutting out the slots in one of the walnut handles for the cross bar, a chunk chipped off so the slot became slightly too large. A thin wedge of sassafras must be jammed in to prevent any wiggling but the whole tool is pretty solid. It'll get some usage in the spring when I can start sanding outside again.

Also decided to use additional scraps to make some camping tools for my boys. Rather than learning proper technique with sharp tools, thought it would be proper to make some wooden toys so they could play and practice safely first. A piece of sassafras looked like an axe head to me and a cutoff of cherry had the contours of a handle. So they were put together but I couldn't find the camera to take pics at the time.

Then I read about a way to artificially accelerate the oxidizing process to turn the wood into a dark grey colour. It involves a mixture of rusty nails, vinegar and black tea.  Found the camera for this step and took pics of the natural sassafras turning into a dark black stain using this natural method. Might be a neat trick to artificially age some future paddles as well.

 Side of wooden axe head before staining

Surface oxidized with vinegar and tea mixture 

Also used some more sassafras bits to make a toy bucksaw and decided to stain "the blade" in a similar manner to look like metal. A canvas and leather case was also stitched up with some scraps.

Sassafras bucksaw

Disassembled  with case

Also still had various handle blanks cut back in '08 when making some custom carving tools. Just couldn't bring myself to burning these bits of hardwood. So these were used to make some toy tools similar to my own set for making the birchbark canoe. There's a basic belt knife with walnut handle and sassafras blade as well as a crooked knife with the same blade / handle combination

Belt Knife

Crooked Knife

Used up more bits to make a chisel, a triangular awl and even a little firesteel rod replica.

Here are all the goodies spread out on the table. Planning on making a kid's sized pack basket to put them all in so we can have some camping / bushcraft fun next season.

Camping & Bushcraft Tools

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Red Pine Paddle and Canoe Cups from Luc Poitras

Paddle maker Luc Poitras has submitted more photos of his work, including this paddle made from Red Pine:

Here are some of Luc's canoe cups made from various woods...

A crooked knife with etched handle and copper wire wrapping.

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