Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Meeting Masters of Canadian Canoes

Tools of master birchbark builder, Rick Nash
I spent time with Rick Nash, master birchbark canoe builder, the other weekend with Uncle Rob. Seeing his fascinating work and learning from this incredibly insightful and hip guy was one of the highlights of my Canada experience.

Rick trying my knife
Rick has become one of the most well learned experts on restoring craft from native birchbark traditions, hundreds of years old. He knows, as best as anyone can, the forms and methods for building these canoes just as they were originally. Rick is a special energy in the canoe building world and I hope to learn more from him as I follow my path. He gave me a rock, sharp for cutting wood, just like the original way. It holds tight next to my knife in my bag, ready to teach me lessons on the rest of the journey this year.

Ted explaining the process involved in such a large strip canoe
I also had the opportunity to meet Ted Moores of Bear Mountain Boats, whom wrote the book Canoecraft, my manual for my first canoe. It was a pleasure and a honor to spent the time with him seeing his workshop. When Jeremy and I left, he talked to us about "keeping the spirit of the traditional canoes alive". An insightful and innovative man, it was a true affirmation to hear him talk about the importance of these traditions.

A bever felled log
 I I spent time, while not at the museum, in a forest near Peterborough making a paddle from a tree that a bever felled. I found a straight section and cut it from the rest of the tree.

Getting the length right
I then split the long in half to make it manageable, using a birch ballet and wedges I made.

ThThe poplar wood wasn't great for making paddles, but the experience of using hand tools is the woods is always valuable.

Wedge forcing a split

An axe helped on the split aswell

Now where's the paddle?

Cutting it to size with an axe
Once the right piece of wood was scoped in the log, I cut it to size with splits and with my axe.

 Once it was in blank form, unfortunately someone stole it while I went home for the night, so the crooked knife never got to slice the wood down to be a paddle. Oh, well, I hope they finish it!

A view of Big Toad and Moose from Jeremy's on the Indian River
I spent my final days in Canada paddling the Indian River with John and Jeremy, seeing beautiful weather and a coming spring. On to the land of the Vikings and the knowledge of the Arctic.

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