I was loaned a book called, Cedar The Tree of Life. It told about the amazing uses the natives of the Pacific Northwest had for this remarkable wood. It was the most important wood for its ease of working. I was inspired to find a driftwood cedar log to craft a native style paddle from. I took my canoe to an island where much driftwood collects in Coos Bay. As I began this quest a young eagle circled above a stretch of beach where I soon found a cedar log.
Supplies: you will need an eagle, canoe, vehicle, rope, buck saw, axe wedges, milk jug, pack, survival gear, life jacket, draw knife, shave horse, sand paper, cod fish liver, chalk line, pencil, luck and an island covered with driftwood.
Step 1: Split Off Plank.
When it comes to finding a cedar log in a pile of driftwood all logs look the same gray. Cedar splits easy according to the book. Walk around splitting and sniffing for cedar.
The challenge was the log had a nice flat side positioned 90 degrees from where I wanted it. I could not drive the wedges sideways to split it easily. I began digging out the sand with my hands to get the log to roll over. Then it hit me If this log rolled it could pin me to the ground. I might be there until the next high tide or worse. I abandoned that plan and began driving wedges to split off a plank on the side with lots of knots.
Step 2: Repeat and Start Over.
This created a twisted knotty non paddle looking board. After 9 twisted planks I ended up with a usable board.
Step 3: Shorten Plank to Movable Length.
Eat lunch take a break and prepare to burn some more calories. Drag the canoe unloaded across the sticky mud. Drive a stake in the mud and tie up the canoe. Carry the gear and plank to the waters edge. Take a photo of the canoe at the waters edge this may be your last photo alive make it a good one. Tie the wedges, axes, maul, and saw you would not want to loose when you capsize in a pack and attach a 50 foot rope with a milk jug as a float. Untie the coil of rope and leave it in the bow with the float attached. When you capsize, the float will mark where your wood working tools are for recovery latter (if you survive.) Head into the wind to keep the waves from crashing over the side of the heavily loaded canoe.
Step 4: Don't Talk.
Thank the Eagle Spirit when you finally get back to the dock. Collapse in total exhaustion on the dock then get rest for the next part. After a 15 minute rest pack the gear to the vehicle. Carry the canoe to your vehicle on your shoulders, try not to scratch the roof or hurt your back as you put it on by yourself. Tie on the canoe then go back and get the plank. Slide the plank between the ropes and canoe. Drive home carefully.
Don't tell your wife about the Eagle Spirit, the scary crossing or the milk jug float. This will avoid another call she will make to your doctor about your sanity. Besides she might ask silly questions like, "why didn't you go to the lumber yard for a board." When home don't unload yet just fall asleep on the couch in the middle of the afternoon.
Step 5: Look for a Paddle in the Plank.
Look for parts of the plank that could be a paddle like the local natives used. They had a pointed blade and a V shape on the shaft where the grip attached. There was a smooth shoulder as the blade transitioned from the shaft. I needed some explanations as why that would be done. Thin the plank using a draw knife while clamping the paddle in your shave horse. Take out the big bumps and pop center lines on all edges with a chalk line. Draw the shape you want to carve avoiding loose knots.
Step 6: Carve With the Grain.
Cut out the rough shape including the V in the shaft for the handle grip. Carve with the grain what does not look like a paddle. You will want to have the edges thin and the middle thicker for strength. As you carve turn the paddle so it is easier to go with the grain. When the wood is splintering turn the tool around or the plank. Sometimes it helps to slice the wood. Instead of just pulling the draw knife towards you pull the knife sideways (perpendicular to the pull) as it comes towards you. It is OK to flip the draw knife upside down or even push with it. Carving is about what ever works. You can take a lot of wood off fast so as you get close to the finished thickness S-L-O-W D-O-W-N.
Step 7: Attach the Grip.
As the paddle begins to take shape you can sand it with old belt sander belts. The grip is attached by boring two holes in a block adding a bit of glue and hammering in place. Finish with linseed oil if you do not have a cod fish liver.
Step 8: Discover Why.
Abuse the paddle to discover why it was shaped that way. It makes a great instant anchor in the soft silt of the estuary. When in shallow water you can pole with it. It releases from the silty mud easier than any other shape. The shaft has a soft shoulder that allows it to paddle in seaweed without hanging up. The V grip gives a hole that makes it easy to hang up in your plank house.
It must be the Eagle Spirit that makes it so magical. (Shh don't tell my wife.)
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