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Back to the snow shoes

January 15, 2011

A couple weeks ago, I have to admit, I became somewhat disenchanted with my snow shoe project.  But my interest has been rekindled by the discovery, in the back of The Snowshoe Book
by, William Osgood and Leslie Hurley of a chapter entitled Making Your Own.  It shows how to make snow shoes, in particular Ojibwe-style shoes, which I find quite beautiful.  Here are a few pictures of my efforts so far.

two "Ojibwe"- style snow shoes

The book describes every aspect of making the shoes right down to dressing a cow hide to make the lacing.  I will not be doing that but am looking for rawhide (or babiche) lacing to buy. It also suggests one begin making the shoes as soon the snow has melted, so that one has enough time to make them for the following year.  I don’t know whether mine will be done for this season, but I like what I have so far.  The lacing will be a challenge.  As far as I can tell, each shoe requires thirty of forty yards of lacing.

In the close up of the toe, you can see the wood splitting out at the point of the compound curve.  The wood bent beautifully horizontally, and vertically, but at the point where it was asked to do both at once, it cracked. However, while it was still soft, I glued the splinters down and clamped them in place and they look fine now.  That part of the shoe will not be under any particular stress when they are in use, so I am not worried about their strength.

Here are the steamer and the frame:

ash sticks in steamer

close up of the toe with steamed sticks in place

top view of jig with steamed sticks in place

Lastly, here is one of the shoes with the cross bars all mortised in.  The mortising went very well.  I have one picture of a mortise, but for some reason it came out very poorly, the picture that is, not the mortise.  All the mortises (there are four) came out very well.  I cut the tenons on the cross bars first, then used the tenons to layout the mortises.  The tenons are 1/4″ in width so that I could use the 1/4″ chisel to make the mortises.

lousy picture of a pretty good mortise

snow shoes with cross bars mortised in

I also went down to the farm today.  I brought some old snow shoes, but the snow was not really all that deep on the South Shore.  In Watertown, we had at least 20″, but Cohasset had no more that 4.  There was plenty of ice in the barnyard, and the walking was quite tricky.  But once in the woods, it was beautiful.  The temperature must have been in the mid-20’s.  Chilly, but not bad and by the time I had cut down a few saplings and started hauling them on my sled, I was taking off my outer layers.  It was quite beautiful out in the woods and I wish I had taken more pictures.  Once I get going, I don’t like to stop.  But the snow was lovely.   I had on my heaviest boots, my long johns and wool pants, a couple shirts under a heavy sweater, a vest and light wool jacket,my wool toque, and my deerskin choppers over light wool mittens.  By the time I had gotten back to the barnyard, I had stowed my wool mitten liners, my vest, and my jacket.  And I still had a bit of a sweat going.  Of course, that can be a problem when standing around, especially if it’s windy, but inside the oxbarn, with the sun beaming in, it’s not uncomfortable.  It would be fun to have a wood stove in there, but I don’t currently spend enough time down there to make it worthwhile.

My sled is just a little something I slapped together last year.  When I made it, I was thinking it was just a prototype.   But it works just fine, so I don’t know when I’ll get around to making another.  Currently, I just pull it by a fairly long rope.  Most of the time, that works fine, but going down hill it can run into the back of my leg.  So, I may try making some wooden traces.  I cut a couple small trees for the purpose today, and I’ll try to attach them this week.  I may also put some low sides on the sled as well.  I want sides with holes to hook tie downs of some kind, maybe some cleats.  It already works fine, so any changes are really just fine tuning.  I do think the runners could use a new coat of wax.  They were scraped clean two weeks ago on the driveway.

I harvested quite a few promising bits of wood today.  As I was trudging along I saw a small tree with a bend in it that I thought might make for an interesting chair back, but, “What”, I thought, “are the chances that I will find a match to that?”  You might not have ever thought about it, but when you are looking for a twig that looks just so, it’s not as easy as you might think to find it.  However, not twenty feet farther along, I found a near perfect match (perfect in rustic furniture terms) and I cut them both down.

matching twigs - future chair back?

I also found many saplings which should make for excellent table legs.  All in all it was a successful foraging expedition, and Bessie dog seemed to enjoy herself as well.  As we used to say back when I worked for my grandpfather, “No injuries and no break downs, that’s a good day! “

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Robert B permalink
    January 16, 2011 8:32 am

    Looks like in the low light the auto-focus of your camera let you down. A little extra light on the subject can help this a lot.

    Great entry, really enjoying walking alongside you on these journeys, and it’s a lot warmer this way, too!

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