Thursday, November 16, 2017

Circa 1860 Maple "Delaware" Paddles

Browsing through a 1990's publication, Warman's Native American CollectiblesI came across a small listing for a pair of canoe paddles dated to the 1860's.

Made from maple, the paddles feature a wide tipped blade with long, sloping shoulders and a curious grip with 3 drilled holes.  The blade decoration on both paddles feature a blackish and brown-red dual motif (similar to the PEM Anishinabe Souvenir Paddle) and a series of dots rising up to the throat.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: Undated Verner with Chevrons

Here's a black and white image of an untitled and undated painting by Frederick Verner ( 1836 – 1928).  In the foreground is a decorated paddle resting on an overturned bark canoe.

Untitled Work
Frederick A. Verner  ( 1836 – 1928).  

The paddle features splashes of decorative paint on the blade leading up to the throat. Also just visible on the pear shaped grip is a tiny triangular motif...

Paddle Closeup

Although unrelated,  2015 auction item, the circa 1900 Folk Decorated Canoe Paddle  also has a triangular motif carved into the pear shaped handle

See Full Post here

Verner's whole scene is basically another subtle version of another titled work - Ojibway Indian Encampment (1873) described in this earlier post from 2009. That oil version, however, shows a paddle with a red painted tip.

Ojibway Indian Encampment
by Frederick Arthur Verner, 1873
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, Ontario
Object number: MS2004.066

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Two-piece wood canoe pole

Another side project this season was to construct a two piece, wooden canoe pole. My hope with this piece of gear was to have a functional pole that could breakdown for transport and be used in camp for a tarp shelter or with the baker tent.

Inspired by RavenJester's detailed tutorial, "Building aTwo-piece Home Depot Canoe Pole", I set about doing some research for the all important ferrule to connect the pieces. RavenJester's writeup mentioned a stainless steel one but I couldn't source one with decent shipping.

Instead, I ended up going a bit more high tech and order a carbon fibre ferrule meant for the thicker shaft of Greenland style kayak paddles. With a 35.81mm inner diameter and 38.6mm outer diameter, it would work nicely with the roughly 1.5" intended diameter of the spruce / fir poles.

Took some time to sort through the pile of lumber, but in the end scored a real nice piece of 2x10x8 at the local Home Depot . The board had very straight grain lines along one side with the added bonus of being knot-free in that section. I ripped two 1.5" strips and then worked the pieces round a crooked knife. This was much earlier in the season when the lawn was in good shape...

Once worked down and lightly sanded, the two pieces of the ferrule were epoxied into place. As a test, I stood on the porch steps and leaned on the pole as if pushing upstream in a hard current. The connection felt pretty solid and the poles flexed pretty evenly. In the end, I messed up a bit of the calculations so that one piece is a few inches taller than the other. I had forgotten to factor in the lag bolt at the foot.

The wood has yet to be treated. I'm thinking of painting some has marks on the bottom portion every foot or so to be able to gauge the depth of the stream while poling.

This pole is actually longer than my 11 foot one-piece made back in 2010. It's a tad over 12 feet. For the shoe I salvaged a piece of copper pipe I found in a box a scrap metal left out by a neighbour on garbage day. It has an outer diameter of  1-3/8" so I didn't have to shave the bottom of the pole too much. A large washer, lag screw and some bolts and the homemade foot is good to go.

Copper and lag bolt shoe

Hoping a spring poling trip will be in the cards...

Monday, November 6, 2017

1794 Mi'kmaq Canoe Model & Paddle - Musee Beaux Arts - Rennes

Found an image update of the the Mi'kmaq canoe model with decorated paddle at the Museum of Fine Arts - Rennes (original post here).

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

As mentioned earlier, the model 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 that inventory process, it was inscribed with a date of 1794 but the original construction date is likely earlier.

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.

Robien's curiosity collection is on exhibition at the Museum. A virtual tour and description (in French) can be read on this blog post here. Tucked on a bottom shelf is the canoe model with the dual toned, pole grip paddle displayed on top.

photo credit: Camille Janin

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Historic Paddle Photo: Standing Guide with Paddle

Here's a vintage photo from this Ebay Ad featuring a Guide standing up in the stern of his wood canvas canoe while a passenger takes a seat in the bow.

A closeup revelas the Guide's long paddle resting on the dock to stabilize the canoe. The stern seat is mounted far to the rear and high up along the gunnels.

 Paddle Closeup

Monday, October 30, 2017

Circa 1850 Eastern Woodland Paddle Replica

I've started a batch of replicas based on some historic paddles in various museums and artworks. One intriguing paddle is  Artifact Number III-X-320  in the collection of the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Candian Museum of Civilization). Described loosely as affiliated with the "Eastern Woodlands" culture, it features a two-toned painted decoration on the blade.  This dual tone motif has caught my attention recently and appears in some historic artworks by James Peachey.

Artifact Number: III-X-320
Inscription: incised on one side of blade "A. HATT"
Begin Date 1845/01/01
End Date 1855/12/31
Measurements Length 125.0 cm, Width 9.0 cm, Depth 2.7 cm

Cultural Affiliation: Eastern Woodlands

Closeup of Dual tone paddle
 "A View of the Ruins of the Fort at Cataraqui taken in June 1783 by James Peachey" 
 Credits:  Library and Archives Canada C-2031
Full post here

Normally, I like to adjust the paddle dimensions if the paddle is not my preferred functional length of 58", but this time, a decision was made to replicate the design in its original size. This one would be a relatively short 49" long.

My version was made out of basswood, a light-coloured and easy carving wood.  Unfortunately, after taking multiple photos of this paddle (and others) during the carving stages earlier this summer, the memory card was damaged and is now unreadable. All those images can't seemed to be recovered. Dah!

At any rate, after the paddle had been carved, some MinWax Gel Stain  was used to darken the paddle shaft and give it an aged look, something that might be done on future paddles as well. For the paint, I ended up using Tremclad oil-based rust paint which offers nice opaque coverage on the wood as well as being waterproof. The whole thing was finished with multiple coats of protective oil.

Ca 1850 "Eastern Woodlands" replica

The small bulb of a grip is just barely wider than the shaft and is most comfortable when holding the paddle laterally rather than a typical grip across the top. The weather has turned chilly and windy so testing this one out will likely need to wait until spring.

Side by Side comparison

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Mid 1990s Northwoods Paddles (Alexandra Conover)

From this Ebay Seller comes a pair of Northwoods paddles carved by Alexandra Conover.

Stern ( 66 1/4" ) & Bow ( 60 1/4" ) Northwoods Paddles
Source Link: Ebay Ad

Both paddles are hand signed with the inscription  "Northwoods Paddle Alexandra S.B. Conover 4/94". The shorter bow paddle is numbered 301 and the taller stern paddle numbered 302.

Monday, October 23, 2017

History Museum Mi'kmaq Canoe Display with Paddles

Mi'kmaw Canoe Builder Todd Labrador was commissioned to build a new 18.5 foot Ocean- Going birchbark canoe for the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilizations). Photo documentation of the build as well as additional information can be read in this article here.

Haven't seen the museum display myself, but found a pic online which showcases the curious lines and construction style of these ancient craft. Hanging behind the canoe are two paddles which I was able to source back to the history museum's collection.

The top paddle (Object Code III-F-364) was made in 1992 by Mi'kmaw craftsman Rene Martin. The other weathered paddle below looks to be Object Code III-J-206, an Abenaki paddle with an unknown date (but prior to 1973).

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Chicago Field Museum: Odawa and Naskapi (Innu) Paddle Display

Searching through their collections of  the Chicago Field Museum (formerly the Field Museum of Natural History)  revealed some paddles that have been part of their previous displays. Among them is a model associated with the Odawa (Ottawa) tribe acquired in Ontario for display in the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Here is a cropped pic of the paddle which features a straight sided blade shape and a small elongated grip. The blade end has been decorated with paint while the upper portion features geometric etchings not unlike the Odawa paddle at the Logan Museum of Anthropology.

Canoe Paddle
Catalog Number: 15388 
Cultural Attribution: Ottawa 
Locality: North America, Canada, Ontario, Queen Sound
Accession Number: [47] E. N. Brown (Gift)
Country: Canada 
Province/State: Ontario
District/County: Queen Sound
Collector/Source: E. N. Brown, World's Columbian Exposition - Department of Ethnology
IRN: 1056314

Also in the display is a model of a Naskapi (Innu) paddle...

Canoe Paddle
Catalog Number: 177305 
Description: paddle
Cultural Attribution: Montagnais-Naskapi
Locality: North America, Canada, Quebec, Labrador, Davis Inlet Band
Accession Year: 1928 
Collector/Source: Rawson-MacMillan Subarctic Expedition for Field Museum, W. D. Strong 
IRN: 1080712

This previous post discussed the paddle forms documented by William D. Strong during his research of the Naskapi Cree (Innu) culture in 1927-1928. James VanStone's publication, Material culture of the Davis Inlet and Barren Ground Naskapi: The William Duncan Strong Collection outlines many of the ethnographic items collected during this expedition. Unfortunately when it came to full sized paddles, no photos were taken but instead, Plate 49 (pg 89) featured a hand sketched diagram of 4 decorated pieces acquired for the collection. The model looks to be similar to Paddle A from the display.

Material culture of the Davis Inlet and Barren Ground Naskapi 

The coloured lines and markings were made with an orange / red or blue pigment, similar to other model Innu paddles in other collections (see post here). As to the meaning or significance of the motifs, page 38 has a brief writeup outlining his conclusions:

"Strong's informants, on the other hand, denied  any design symbolism or any relationship of the decorative motifs on their clothing and other objects to dream experiences. Rather, such designs as occur on moccasins, clothing borders, head-bands, and cartridge cases were purely decorative. Strong noted that design symbolism was not denied categorically but, nevertheless, in detail and with certainty. While believing it possible that people no longer remembered the meaning and significance of such symbols, he also was aware that in general his informants were evasive concerning most matters relating to religion. For example, he was certain that although the red and blue designs on men's snowshoes served primarily as identification marks, they also had magical significance. Informants confirmed that the markings brought good luck in traveling and hunting, but the ethnographer could obtain no interpretation for the meaning of particular designs"

Monday, October 16, 2017

Historic Paddle Photo: Fossil Rock - Dalhousie, New Brunswick

From the 1920 publication,  New Brunswick, Canada, available on is this image of a Mi'kmaq bark canoe taken at Fossil Rock, Dalhousie New Brunswick.

 Paddle Closeup

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Historical Paddle Illustration: Peachey - Ruins at Fort Frontenac 1783

Here is another vista painting by British Officer James Peachey (active 1773-1797). This one  entitled, "A View of the Ruins of the Fort at Cataraqui taken in June 1783"

"A View of the Ruins of the Fort at Cataraqui taken in June 1783 by James Peachey" 
 Credits:  Library and Archives Canada C-2031

The canoe in the bottom right features a decorated, dual tone paddle not unlike the paddles in another of Peachey's work from the same area, "Southeast view of Cataraqui on Lake Ontario, 1785" (see link to that post here). Unfortunately the colour version doesn't seem to be available in higher resolution but a black and white version of the scene with a better closeup is below:

Dual Tone Paddle Closeup

Friday, October 6, 2017

Musee Civilisation de Quebec Paddles

The Musee de la Civilisation de Quebec (MCQ) has recently updated their web interface and online  database and they have some wonderful, full-sized paddles in their collection. The database required searching using the French words "pagaie" and "aviron" but revealed some antique designs of various tribal affiliations.

Abenaki Paddle
Mid 19th Century
 162.7 cm x 14.6cm

Huron Wendat
 159.2 cm x 11.7 cm

Lac St. Jean Innu
Inscription painted in dark beige and red:
160.5 cm x 9.0cm

Mid 19th Century
 170.2 cm x 16.7cm 

One unusual design is a square bladed Mi'kmaq paddle with different thickened shaft design at the midpoint, presumably to increase strength.

Square tip Mi'kmaq
Mid 19th Century
 145.0 cm x 13.8 cm

Monday, October 2, 2017

100+ Year Old Mi'kmaq Canoe - Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

Came across an interesting article regarding a new exhibit at the The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

At the centre of the new exhibit entitled "First Fishers" is a  15.5 ft birchbark canoe that was constructed by Mi’kmaq builders in the early 1900s.  Constructed from oak, spruce root, birchbark and iron nails, it was made by Steven and Newel Labrador around 1910 at the Mi’kmaq settlement in Paradise for the late Rice Whitman at the cost of $1 per foot.

The canoe was apparently used for hunting and fishing in the backwoods of Nova Scotia until 1947. Passing to his son and then his daughter-in-law, Margaret, the canoe sat untouched in the basement of the Whitman home for decades.  The beautiful looking boat has survived well over the century and appears to have come with two paddles.

1910 Mi'kmaq Forest Hunting Canoe

After doing a bit more research online, I came across the page of Grant Murray Designs who appears to have been the consultant for the exhibit. The canoe has been placed in a humidity controlled case and another paddle is mounted on the wall.

First Fishers Mi'kmaq Canoe
Image Source Credit: Grant Murray Designs

The grip profile of one of the paddles is just visible resting on the thwart of the canoe.

First Fishers Mi'kmaq Canoe
Image Source Credit: Grant Murray Designs

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Historic Paddle Photo: Kingslcear FN Corpus Christi gathering

Fredericton and thereabout by the Fredericton Tourist Association (published 1906)  features many large pictures of New Brunswick in the late 19th / early 20th century. Page 24 showcases a gathering at Kingsclear First Nation. The Maliseet residents are dressed in Ceremonial apparel and a paddle features prominently in the centre.

paddle closeup

Additional photos dated to the same period from Kingsclear FN can be found in these earlier posts here and here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Historic Paddle Illustration: Alternate Seth Eastman "Gathering Wild Rice"

Here's an alternate high resolution pic of a famous painting by Seth Eastman (1808–1875) mentioned before on the blog here...

Gathering Wild Rice
Seth Eastman.
From The American Aboriginal Portfolio, by Mary H. Eastman.
Circa 1853.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Minnesota Historical Society - Blue Paddle

Another vintage paddle from the Minnesota Historical Society...

Wood canoe paddle with flared grip and rounded blade, both painted blue (center is unpainted). Attached tag reads "BOAT PADDLE/ used by early day / lumbermen on boats". 
65 inches length
6 inches width (blade)
1 1/2 inches diameter (handle)
  Creation: Not later than 1916

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September Solo Trip with Homemade Gear

Got to spend 3 glorious September days on a brief solo trip last week. Apart from getting some much needed silence & solitude, my overall goal was to test out some of the homemade gear made over the off season. Also wanted to check out the tripping capabilities of the 14 foot Chestnut / Peterborough.

In particular, the homemade wall tent made over the winter needed to be used in the field to see if it needed any tweaking. Totally copying Robin L's awesome setup, I brought along the frame made from closet rods, a wanigan, a home-made chair and other little projects. I also purchased a folding cot off Amazon and it would be the first time I slept off the ground on one. Given that the nights were to drop down to around 4 degree celsius, a bulky wool blanket was brought along to supplement the sleeping bag. For paddles I brought along the repaired Sassafras tripper and the painted Ash blade

Knew going in that with all the stuff, it was going to be a triple portage but a simple, familiar route was selected in the Haliburton Highlands. It involved a direct launch to the water from a public dock (Raven Lake Access Point) with only a single 350m portage to get into the next lake (Gun L). I'd secured the most isolated campsite on the lake which is tucked into its own private bay, but in the end, the whole lake was empty for the duration of the trip.

All the gear at the end of the only portage.

The little Chestnut performed admirably with such a load, but a 15 footer would've carried this equipment better.

canoe loaded

Paddling into the isolated bay

The small site doesn't look like much from the water. It is basically a rocky spit sticking out into the lake, but being surrounded by water, there was a lovely view from most directions and a great fire pit built in the centre.

Site 71b from the water

View from shore looking west

The wall tent was set up so that  the back side could be staked down into the thin topsoil and the front side tie outs secure with rocks.

The 7x7 tent is quite spacious already, but the storage under the cot was great giving the tent even more of mansion-like feel. The canvas tent pole case was unrolled and re-purposed as a ground sheet under the tarp. Also brought along a mosquito net that could be suspended from the tent frame  if needed. The bugs weren't bad at all, but the netting was still useful for that evil mosquito hour before sunset.

View out the tent door

There was a slight chance of rain, so like Robin, I used an old tarp on top for additional waterproofing. Dimensions aren't perfect match but at least the old tarp still has a use and isn't collecting dust in storage.

 Home for the trip

After setting up camp, it was time for a firewood run. This little part of the lake doesn't see many visitors, so the shoreline is dotted with fantastic dry wood.

Plenty of fallen birch trees meant a nearly limitless supply of guilt-free bark to really get the flames blazing.

It was a beautiful first night. The next morning was cold and misty, but magical. The tent worked very well as the whole site was covered with thick dew and condensation but the breathable canvas meant a dry and cozy interior.

Misty morning sunrise

The lake was too tempting to resist so the first order of business was to paddle around for the sheer bliss of just canoeing.  

Back after an hour or so with sunlight illuminating the whole site, I started my first attempt at using the reflector oven made back in 2015. Tried my hand at making some biscuits with whole milk powder and coconut oil.

Is this going to work?

Well in the end, the oven did its job, but the thin material warped heavily and became quite flimsy. To be expected I guess since the material was never really meant to be used as an oven. The biscuits tasted fine but investing in a proper reflector will be needed for future trips. Also realized a good pair of gloves would be smart as finger tips were singed in the making of breakfast.

After that little gear experiment, had a nice little break in a shady spot under the pines to contemplate what to do next...

A decision was made to try some fishing. Back for the May trip with my son and his classmate, I had ordered a simple little collapsible fishing rod online. Seemed like a functional little rod for the boy since since outgrowing his Spiderman plastic toy. To transport the disassembled rod and mini tackle-box, I re-used an old cigar box with a sturdy clasp. Made a little handle with jute cordage and we were good to go.

 Son's fishing set

The fish were biting like crazy during our August trip to this same lake, but I guess they figured a grown man using his son's fishing set was inappropriate, so I got zero bites.

After giving up, it was time to replenish the wood pile given the fire the night before and for breakfast.  This time I sourced an old downed maple in the hills behind the campsite. The upper limbs would need to be sawn and split. Right before the trip, I finished making a new folding bucksaw and a case based on the Ray Mears Folding bucksaw/axe case. Mine was made from some waxed tarp material and hand stitched. It's a neat way to keep these essential bush tools together. The axe fits into an exterior sleeve attached to a simple bag for the saw components. Some leather and knotted paracord secure the top flap

Saw & Axe bag closed

Opening up to get the saw

The new 21" bucksaw was made with cherry scraps. Researched some designs and decided I wanted one where the handles are slotted so the the blade could fold directly forming a guard. Using some 3/4" Chicago screws to mount the blade means that there is no fiddling with any hardware like my old saw.

 Slotted handle guards the teeth of the blade

 Handles flip around

The new tripping saw

By the afternoon , the heat missing all summer long started cooking up the site so half the wall tent was flipped up and converted into a baker tent style shelter. It provided some decent shade relief. The wool blanket was removed the cot and a perfect afternoon nap ensued.

 Flipped up into Baker Tent mode

The rest of the delightful day was spent relaxing by the shore with some coffee, some bourbon and my last H. Upmann Royal Robusto from 2011.

 Why can't everyday be like this?

The evening seemed warmer than normal so a decision was made to keep the tent in baker mode. The roof was lowered a bit and the nylon tarp added back in case of rain. It was great to sleep with the open view and feel immersed in the surroundings.

The sunset was pretty sweet for my last night...

Apart from the reflector oven fail, I feel that the field test with the wall tent was a success. Obviously the weight concerns with the frame would limit portage heavy trips. It'll be more useful for poling trips with minimal carries. A significant amount of weight could be saved by using a ridge line between trees which might be considered in the future. Eventually, I'll be adding a stove jack into one of the panels and hope to use the tent again in the late fall with a recent acquisition of Kni-co woodburning stove. More about that in another post...

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