Friday, November 27, 2009


One of my students is building a Wee Lassie II this year and is working on a very ambitious feature design. Most of my students build a "feature strip" which is just that - a linear strip down the side of the boat made from contrasting wood to make beautiful patterns or stripes.

I really like the idea that he has which is to put a rather large bold design on both sides of the bow of the canoe. When I say "large" you have to realize that it consists of 12 courses of 3/4" strips! We will be assembling it as we strip the hull and I wanted him to pre-build the design so that he was sure that it was going to work. He marked out the design on a white board with marker and then cut all the pieces to fit like a puzzle. The design that he has chosen will have Poplar and Peruvian Black Walnut in what I will refer to as an "Indian blanket" design while the rest of the hull will be made from Western Red Cedar. There will be two strips of the very blond Poplar that will be interrupted by the design shown below about 12-18" back from the bow:

The contrast of the three different types of wood should be rather stunning - particularly at the scale that he is working at. When wet out with epoxy the Peruvian Black Walnut ranges from a dark chocolate brown to nearly jet black. Normally we try to use all softwood for the hull, but the Peruvian Black Walnut is obviously considered a hardwood. I use the term "hard" here in a relative term. The Peruvian Walnut actually is fairly soft and should both fair and sand well next to the much softer Red Cedar and Poplar.

You may notice a slight mis-match between the longer center pieces. The photo was taken before the student finished his trimming and the inside corners meet perfectly. I'm looking forward to posting more pictures of this boat as the design progresses.

I find the idea to be intriguing and it is really evocative of the large logos that outfitters and camps would put on the sides of their canoes. The old canoe camps would have large decals on the bow of the boat and usually a number for the boat so that they could control inventory and that their boats were easily identified from a distance. One that really sticks in my mind is that from the Darrow Camp at the Birches on West Grand Lake Stream, Maine.

Back when I was very young, my father was taking a local group on wilderness canoe trips as a summer vacation. He would take these folks up to paddle the Grand Lake Stream area and rented canoes and other gear from George Darrow who owned the camp. On his return, he would come home with little child-sized birch-bark canoe toys with the Darrow logo on them as a gift for us. - it was a capital "D" with an arrow through it, just like on their livery canoes.

When looking, for information on the Darrow Camps tonight, I was amazed to see that Darrow is still in business running canoe-camping trips. I'd heard that George had passed away a number of years ago and had wondered if they were still doing business. I was even more pleased to see that they are still running these trips with traditional cedar and canvas canoes!

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