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> Issue 10 > Page 9 - The Birch-bark Canoe

Page 9 - The Birch-bark Canoe

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1975/3/31 (1129 reads)

other side flat. With the bark up against the driven outer stake, the inside stake is "placed with the round face against the outer face of the gunwale and the top then is levered against the outside stake • the stakes are tied together, holding the bark between them. And the driven stakes are tied in pairs across the gunwale, A small block is put in fore-and-aft to give the slight rocker in the bottom. (One can be seen in the drawing Second Stage of Construction) The ocean-going vessels were often quite straight at the bottom, and those with a rocker would have one of only about 1 1/2 inches. Then thin strips of batten (long or short can be used) are raised up under the inside and outside stakes, flush to the bark. This fairs up the bark and shows exactly how much overlap there is at each slash and thus how much has to be removed to make the edges come neatly together. The V-shaped gores are now cut out, the battens removed and replaced at each slash • but the sewing is not usually done yet. First, the gunwales are sheered. (D 'TCCaJ' ST/?Cr6' ??f Sheer is the highest point along the gunwale, as viewed from the side. The weights are removed from the gunwale frame and it is lifted. This should be done without disturbing the sides, though the ties across each pair of stakes may have to be slacked off a little. Posts long enough to hold the gunwale at the proper height • a height which can be determined fairly accurately from the plans--are cut and placed under the middle thwart. A board goes across the gunwale and it is weighted to hold it in place. Some builders would insert a pad of bark or wood to protect the bark cover under the posts. Posts are then put under the first pair of thwarts, and then the second • and these are all carefully weighted. Now the seams of the gores are sewn edge-to-edge and if additional bark is need at the sides the panels are added. (See drawing for Third Stage of Construction) "The horizontal seams of of the panels were straight, or nearly so, and did not follow the sheer....When the sides were pieced out edge-to-edge, the sewing was usually done spirally, over and over a narrow, thin batten placed outside the bark cover. This batten might be ei? ther a thin sapling or, more commonly, a split and thinned piece of root." (See pho? tograph of hands sewing) "The material used for sewing together pieces of birch bark was most commonly the root of the black spruce (Picea mariana), which grows in much of the area where the paper birch exists. The root of this particular spruce is long but of small diameter; it is tough, durable but flexible enough for the pur? pose. The tree usually grows in soft, moist ground, so that the long roots are com? monly very close to the surface....In some areas of favorable growing conditions, the roots of black spruce could be obtained in lengths up to 20 feet, yet with a maximum diameter no larger than that of a lead pencil....No needle was used...the ends of the root strands were sharpened and used to thread the strand through the awl holes. Much of the topside sewing...was done with small strands made by split? ting small roots in half and then flattening the halves by scraping. Large root strands quartered and prepared in the same manner, or the cores of these, were some- tines used in heavy sewing or lashing at the gunwale or in the ends of a canoe.... Cjpe Breton's Magazine/9
Cape Breton's Magazine
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