Tag Archives: Nova Scotia

Malheur County, Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon – January 2021

I made a mid-Winter trip down to the SE corner of Oregon, in part to find some open space amid the pandemic, but also for my first glimpse of the Owyhee Canyonlands.  This remote area is very sparsely populated by cattle ranchers and some sheep herders.  To give you and idea, one sign I passed read, “Next gas 120 miles.”  I hit a spate of dry weather which was fortunate because the desert soil turns to a slippery and sticky gumbo when wet.  During the day I needed 4WD on the Leslie Gulch-Succor Creek Byway which is mud in winter.   Here are a few photos.   [Click on any image to enlarge, All photos copyright symbol Max Vollmer]

This was just before sunset at my first campsite NW of Burns Junction.  Overnight low was 28 degrees F, enough to freeze the mud which made it easier to break camp in the morning.

This was my setup at Succor Creek State Park alongside the Owyhee River.  Dinner that evening was Beef Stroganoff with egg noodles, sliced red pear with some cheese, and hot coffee.

Darkness fell around 5:30 p.m. and the pre-dawn light didn’t amount to much until 5:30 a.m.  That makes for a long night in the sack.  When I packed up and departed on my last morning along the Owyhee, it was 22 degrees F.  I had hot coffee and cleared out while the mud was frozen and shallow puddles were iced over, but not before picking a bunch of sage along the river bank to perfume the truck cab.

Winter colors in the canyonlands are not much to brag about.

West Greenland Kayak Paddle

I made this traditional West Greenland paddle for my son, a sea kayaker extraordinaire, out of a rough sawn sassafras 2″ x 4″.  This one is actually called a “storm” paddle because, at roughly 70″ (178 cm) long, it is shorter overall and has a shorter “loom” (the hand grip) than is true for a full size West Greenland paddle at approx. 8′ (244 cm).  While the Inuit made their paddles out of whatever wood drifted onshore, I chose sassafras, a minor North American hardwood, because it is relatively strong, light, and holds up well in fresh and salt water. [All photos copyright symbol Max Vollmer,  Click on any photo to enlarge]

West Greenland storm paddle.  [Click on any photo to enlarge]

The simple appearance of the paddle belies the challenge involved in making one.  My first steps were to mark out centerlines on both the thick and thin dimensions of the 2″ x 4″, as well as the location and shape of the loom.  These lines guided me in creating the tapers in both width and thickness of the paddle blades.

Paddle layout.

Next, I used my bandsaw to rough out the loom and then shaped the blades with a drawknife and spokeshave, finishing up with a belt sander.

Tapering the blade with a drawknife.  Note the Emmert patternmaker’s vise that holds the wood securely and in the proper orientation
Refining the taper with a spokeshave.
Note the centerlines which guided me in keeping the blade cross-section symetrical.

Refining the taper and smoothing the blade with a beltsander.

Holding the paddle “blank” in the grip of my 1930’s vintage Emmert patternmaker’s vise made this shaping possible.   The Emmert has been known to generations of patternmakers as “The Iron Hand” for its ability to twist, rotate and lock its jaws in an infinite number of positions.

The loom is shaped so that the paddler’s thumbs can grip against “shoulders” cut at an approximate 45 degree angle on one side, while the fingers wrap around a splayed  grip on the other side.  The cross sectional dimension of the loom is sized to the individual kayaker’s hands, in this case to Karl’s hands.  See the photo below.

The loom.

I finished the paddle with two coats of 100% Tung oil.  Tung oil has no VOC (volatile organic compounds),  is slow drying between coats, but offers good protection for the wood in water and can be renewed as needed.