Making a Paper Model of an Athabascan Birch Bark Canoe

Making a Paper Model of an Athabascan Birch Bark Canoe


PRESENTER: Today we’re going
to make a birch bark canoe. This is an
Athabascan-styled canoe, and it’s made out of
paper, in this case, but looks identical
to a canoe that’s in the collection of the
Alaskan State Museum. So it has two small, single
bladed paddles to go with it, and you can see the
internal framing. This is a pretty simple
paper cutting exercise and coloring exercise. This is the inside of the
canoe, and on the back is the outside
framing of the canoe. There are directions right
here, across the top, to follow. And it says to first consider
coloring both the gunnel and the spruce root lashing
on the gunnel here and here, as well as on the back side. I’m going to start
on the back side. You can see that I’ve done
some coloring already. This is actually part of the
wood framing of the gunnel, and I’m going to
color it a dark brown. So I want it to look
like that wood framing, and you’ll notice I colored it
there and I’m coloring it here. My choice of colors
being dark brown. And then I ought to color some
of this spruce root lashing. Some traditional colors
for spruce root lashing were red, as well as black,
as well as a blue-gray. And the blue-gray was
made from blueberries, as red is from alder bark,
and the black from charcoal. That’s one way that
it could be made. OK. All right, I think I want to
also make this a little bit brown, spruce root lashing. And I just colored
that in really easily. Spruce root lashing that’s not
dyed would be this brown color. And of course, those come
from the Sitka spruce trees. That’s where they
get the lashing. The roots are dug
up and then peeled. There we go. This is a nice brown color. And I’ll go over
on the other side, and I think I’ll put a
little bit of that same dyed red on the inside. It’ll match a little
with those boulder ovals, kind of indicate
one across from the other where I’m at. And that’s the same
place that we’re going to put thwarts,
or crossbars, to hold the frame together. I think I’ve colored all I
want to color on my canoe. Notice on a original
canoe, this piece was a darker, different piece
of birch bark than the sides. I’m going to leave
that just like that. And so the next thing
we do is to cut it out, and there’s several
pieces to cut out. There’s the ribs here, as well
as the paddles, as well as this frame. I’m going to cut
off my directions and set them aside so I have
them to reference back to. And then I’m going to cut
these thwarts around here, the crossbars out. I’ll set those aside
because I need those. And then I’m going to
cut this canoe out. And I’ll lose my
paddles, either. And I’m going to cut right in–
do you see these dotted lines? I’m going to cut through
those dotted lines, like that. And then cut this little–
looks like a tab, or a tongue. I’m cutting right through the
dotted lines on that edge. And then I’m going to
continue to follow around the whole canoe frame. And again, we’re getting
where that tab is on the other end, the
stern of the canoe, the bow being the front
and the stern being the back end of the canoe. In this case, they’re
pretty much identical, but sometimes the bow, or the
stern, are slightly higher. Cut it out and I’m going
to look at the back. And it looks like it’s
cut out pretty well. Maybe I’ll get rid of
that little bit of white that’s showing right there. Right there. And right here. I don’t think it will hurt
the other side at all. It looks pretty good to me. OK. Now, we’re ready to fold
this canoe together. You’ll notice that this
has a bottom frame. This is the spruce root frame. And we’re going to gently fold
along that frame, like this. Just fold it, right
to where that’s cut. I’m going to gently
fold this side, too. It’ll sit better. And these canoes were actually
made– the real ones– they would be bending
the bark around the frame after they set the frame
on top of the bark. It starts to get a canoe shape. Then all we need to do is adhere
these two pieces together. I’m going to use tape. Really simply, just taping
both sides, just like that. I’m going to tape it right
down to where that tab is. So just tape it there. Bring that tape
around the other side. Just pinch it in,
just like that. Got a little bit
sticking up, but I think I’ll just bend
that back in, like that. So see, it’s taped together. Now, see this tab that’s down
here, I want to take that tab and bend it around
either side, like that. I’m going to set that
down for a minute and cut some little
pieces of tape for myself. This makes it a little bit
easier to handle and manage. So I’m going to cut four
pieces that are short, and a couple long pieces, I’m
going to set them right there. So I’m going to
take that tab again and I’m going to tape it, that
tab to it, right on that side, right over. Take that tab on this side. Maybe a starboard in the
port side of the boat. And then I’m going to go and
do the same thing on the back. So I’m going to get my piece
of tape, and tape here. Bring that around. Bring that up and push
that little tab in. Then I’m going to go down a
little further with a little more tape. Put it here. Just press it around on
the other side, like that. Holds that together. And then again, bring that
tab around on either side, like this. And taking a piece of tape,
taping it to one side, then taping it to
the other side. So this gets your basic
shape of your canoe. But One Of the things that
we’re missing is still, we need these thwarts
right here, like this. And the paddles are right here. So I’m going to cut
these boards out. It’s pretty simple thing to do. Pretty much just
cutting straight lines. These are extra long
because we each are going to fold our canoe and
tape it a little differently. I want you to be able
to cut the right size. So you don’t want to lose these
things, keep them like that. So there’s six thwarts, six. They’re also called
crossbars on a canoe. I have six of them across it. They’re evenly spaced. That gives the canoe frame
more stability and something to rest your hands on when
you don’t feel like paddling, I think. Let’s see. I’ve got two more here. I keep my crayons– I’ve got to put my crayons back
away because I’m done coloring. They’re white with a little
bit of writing on the back, so you want to
keep them upright. Then I’m going to
tape these, and I’m going to tape one edge of them. So I first will go ahead and
cut myself some more tape. And I need six for each
side, twelve pieces. But I think I’ll just run off
six little pieces right now. I’ll show you how
that goes together. Now I take my thwart,
I can start anywhere. I want to tape that to
this edge of the gunnel. There it is, tape down there. It’s hard to pick up. And again, I’m going to
tape this one on there. Is it easier to
see when I swing? I’ll swing that around
over the table, I should. And so I’m going right in
between the two red spruce root lashings on mine. That’s the advantage of coloring
them slightly different there. It helps you out in this step. I’m going to put one
up here, up front, and two more in the
back, it looks like. I missed one of my– oops. Taking it and turning
it red, it looks like. No matter. I’m satisfied with the
way it was decorated. There we go. OK, so you see how they’re
all hooked on this side. Now I’ve got to the
other side and cut them. So I’m going to cut myself
a little more tape here. I’m going to take this and
bend it and bring it over to this side, kind of
measuring how long I want it, and then bend it. And then I’m going to
cut the excess off. Just throwing that away. And put a piece of tape there. So there’s my first thwart. So I’m going to bend this one. Come over to this side. Kind of just loosely– not push too hard on the canoe
so it stays, keeps its shape. And tape it on that
side, just like that. And then this one,
and this side. And again. Good. Pretty simple. A little bit of work to
bring the boat together, but you have a pretty fun,
little toy when you’re done. This one’s just out of
paper, but what could we do to make it waterproof? We might consider actually
covering that whole canoe with tape before
we put it together. Or we could come up with
some kind of warm wax to paint over it. A variety of things we can do. So here’s our basic canoe. Then all we have left to
do is make the paddles. So I’m going to cut
these paddles, just the bigger rectangles. You’ll notice that this
is the back of the paddle and this side’s the
front of the paddle, and we have two paddles. So first thing I do is
cut this paddle out. And if you don’t care if
you have a front or a back, you could make four
paddles, if you wanted to. I’m going to fold this
in half, like this, so I have a two-sided
paddle made out of wood. And then I’m just going
to cut out the shape. I have this two-sided paddle. I’m going to tape that together. It looks like this. So kind of tape that together. I’m going to put one more little
piece of tape on the handle here so that it kind
of holds together. Maybe I’ll trim. A few little odds and ends of
tape, but here’s my paddle. So then I would make the
same thing for this one until I have two
paddles for this canoe. so that completes your
Athabascan birch bark canoe.

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