Hey! My name is Ben and this summer I am working at the Canoe Museum. Most of my job is helping where I am needed, but when no one in the museum needs me… I get to work on my paddle.
The best part of this job is that all summer staff must pick up a fur trade era artisan skill. This includes finger weaving, using H.B.C blankets to make mittens or jackets, paddle carving, and many others. I have never been one for fine motor skills (you should see my handwriting, it’s terrible) but I have always had the patience for woodwork.
Knowing my strengths and weaknesses I chose to go with my strength- woodwork and paddle carving. I bought a cherry wood blank from Tumblehome, and after that I had no idea what to do next. Clueless I went to someone who has a lot of experience, Russ (one of our regular volunteers) was in the workshop finishing up the Umiak. After asking for help he guided me through marking the center lines, and told me what to do next while showing me the technique necessary to accomplish this step.
Each time I finish a step, I go to Russ to find out what’s next. I started with center lines, moved onto creating the edge of the blade, then hollowing out the area between edges. From there I moved to carving the grip, and am now carving the shaft.
If you want to see me continue to work on my paddle, come in on Thursday nights and take a look in the Preserving Skills section of the Museum, where you will find us summer staff hard at work on our projects. If you are even luckier you may even get a chance to work on a mini paddle using the same equipment that workers in the fur trade era would have used.
Not too long ago I had at least 30 kids and their parents come in on one night to try carving paddles. Stop by and see my progress and give it a shot!