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HOW TO: spacer Build an Authentic 1/4 Scale Model Birchbark Canoe
spacer Algonquin Old Style - 13' 4" HUNTER'S CANOE

Copyright:  Mike Sillett


Introduction   -   Planning  -   Scaling The Drawing  -   Bark  -   Building Platform   -   Cedar Shavings   -   Form/Frame   -   Gunwale Cap   -   Gunwales   -   Manboards/Headboards   -   Paddlemaking   -  Ribs   -   Spruce Pitch   -   Spruce Roots   -   Stem Form   -   Stems   -   Thwarts   -   Tools  -  Uprights/Stakes   -   Wood Pegs  -   Sheathing  -   Traditional Materials  -   Splitting Wood and Roots

Title photo of Model Birchbark Canoe Building Project Subject Niches.
Model Birchbark Canoe Subject Niches

13 ' 4 " Algonquin ( algonkin ) Hunter - Old type Birch Bark Canoe

1. Introduction

Welcome to my winter project. Today is November 25, 2012. This project will probably extend well into spring, unless 12/21/12 ends it all. Stay tuned.

As of right now there is not much here since I am just getting started. However, the various stages will start to fill up as time goes on. I am totally new to this so I am learning as I go. My plan is to learn the processes involved in the building so that once done I can tackle the job full size.

This will be a 1/4 scale model Algonquin Oldstyle birchbark canoe.
I'll get a lot of help from this book -
" The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America" by Edwin Tappan Adney and Howard I. Chappelle -

Photo of the Edwin Tappey Adney and Howard I. Chapelle book - The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America

Also some various websites will be referenced that I will credit as I go.
First credit goes to I love that site. Lots of information there. Lots of inspiration there.

On the measurements page is a 14 ft. Algonquin Old Type canoe that is very similar to what I settled on because I like the look of it.
I will actually be building the 2 Fathom Algonquin ( Algonkin ) Hunter's Canoe ( from Sault Ste. Marie, fig.108 ) as depicted in the Adney book.
That one has a finished length of 13 ft 4 inches and a beam of 31 3/4 so at 1/4 scale the end result of the model will be 3 ft 4 inches long and 7 9/16 inches wide - more than large enough to give me hands on experience in canoe building but not oversized.
With a portable size like that I can do the build in various places by carrying the platform with the partially built canoe on it should I want to work on it in the living room, kitchen table or the back porch.

Except for some of the tools that I may buy, this canoe is being built solely from materials I gather locally and process for use.
There will be no bought materials - none. If I can't forage and find a specific material I will substitute something else that has a history of use in birchbark canoe building.

Project will provide 'hands on' experience in:
Planning, foraging materials, processing the foraged materials for use, obtaining or making all necessary tools, learning the techniques used in assembly and the assembly itself.

Each stage of the building process will have it's own 'subject niche' as listed in the panel at upper right. As I make some progress and make entries in any of those subject niches I will list the dates below.
A link to that subject niche is provided should you wish to go there and see the latest date's addition.

If you want to follow along and build the same canoe, or something similar, at my pace of course because I am not making any promises as it relates to pacing, then I welcome you to join along with me.

Dec. 31 - Collected hard maple for thwart making.              Thwarts.

Dec. 29 - Increased Adney's drawing size so I can now take measurements directly from it.              Scaling the Drawing.
Jan. 20, 2013 - received the 'blown up' drawing.

Nov 25 - Start of 'scaling down' and other planning.   Dec. 21,  Dec. 22,  Dec. 27             Planning / Important notes .

Nov 25 - Ordered a crooked knife from Jarrod. It is being 'made to order'.   Dec. 29,   Dec. 31,   Jan. 3               Tools.

Dec. 10 - Got a few spruce trees that were 'standing dead' for making a building platform.          Building Platform.
Dec. 25 - Took a break and decided to split Norway spruce. Not good.
April 18, 2014 - Found a bunch of red oak logs that the township shoved over the hill. The tree had been storm damaged and fell across a road. The township was in a hurry to clear the road so they cut the logs into about 4 foot lengths and bulldozed it all to the side. I got a couple of the logs to split in half and use as the building platform.

Dec. 12 - Gathered some spruce roots.   Dec. 20 - Some initial testing....       Spruce Roots.

Dec. 12 - Gathered some spruce gum for pitch making.          Spruce Gum.

Dec. 23 - Got a birch balk today and started on peg making.  Dec. 25 - finished a 'template' wooden peg.          Wood Pegs

Dec. 24 - Checked out some locations where I knew some feral white cedar lives. Cut one that has 'rib' potential.          Ribs
Jan. 2, 2013 - First start of making a rib.
Jan 14, 2013 - A winter thaw leads to discovery that a wood dump site that was found the day after Christmas is more lucrative than expected.

Jan. 5 - Traditional Canoe Materials article started.          Traditional Canoe Materials

Jan. 5 - Splitting Wood and Roots article started.          Splitting Wood and Roots
Jan. 7 - White ash

June 8, 2013 - Gathering sections of white birch balks to take home to remove bark.          Birch Bark



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