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> Issue 10 > Page 7 - The Birch-bark Canoe

Page 7 - The Birch-bark Canoe

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1975/3/31 (835 reads)

for the 3-Fathom Ocean Canoe, for example', a maximum of 1 1/4 inches square, ta? pering slightly tov/ard the ends of the canoe, a half-arrowhead formed where the ends of the gunwales joined. (See drawing) Other tribes often beveled the outside edge of the gunwales • that place where the ribs will eventually be jammed up between the the gunwale and the bark cover • and while the Micmac sometimes used this bevel he was more likely to keep the gunwales squared and instead chisled the ends of the ribs, contributing to the distinctive tilt of the gunwale and the ample tumble-home (the inward curve topside) that marks this canoe, especially the larger vessels. An? other distinctive mark was the hogging (the upward arch in the middle) of the sheer, again most prominent in the larger vessels. This hogging would be shaped into the gunwales before they were joined together. They would be placed on the ground, soak? ed with boiling water and staked out to dry in the correct longitudinal shape. Then 1/4 inch mortices are chisled out along the inside face of each gimwale to receive the tenons of the cross-pieces called "thwarts." The mortices were cut to slant up? ward from the inside, "so that installation of the thwarts would cause the outboard face (of the gunwale) to flare outward at the top. The more recent Micmac canoes usually had no more than 5 thwarts (a middle and two pair)....However old records indicate that canoes 20 to 28 feet long on the gunwales were once built with 7 thwarts." The thwarts were made of hard maple and their shape varied apparently in accordance with the builder's fancy. The most common form was similar to those in the drawing. There is a middle thwart, and the location of the two pairs can be de? termined from the plans; for example, the Ocean Canoe, figuring center to center, it's 45 inches to the first pair, 38 inches from there to the second pair. The size of the middle thwart is the distance given for inside the gunwales, plus tenons. The middle thwart is put in first, one tenon in each gunwale. A hardwood peg is dri? ven from above, into a hole bored throtigh the gunwale and the tenon of the thwart. "The ends of the gunwale members are now brought together, and to avoid an unfair curve appearing at the thwart in place, short pieces of split plank or sapling, notched to hold them in place, are inserted between the gunwale members as temporary thwarts at points about 5 feet on each side of the middle thwart." Boiling water is poured over the gunwales to make them flexible and allow the ends to be drawn toge? ther. Denys said the Micmac did this with "fire" and possibly this was similar to the 17th century ship-building practise called "stoving" in which "green lumber was roasted over an open fire until the sap and the wood became hot enough to allow a strong bend without breakage. Wood thus treated, when cooled and seasoned somewhat. S r??//fo' Micmac ~/?oua/? IVaffr" Ca'of v H'Tff l'(Sf6r//'6' /fr?o//7 at'fro// '/'3 oyirr gi/niva/fj /7'S ' Mi'cAiM '-/''nhiAiri oceA/ic'tfoe p/rre't /=a/' 5/i/t.'/j('
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