Stages Of Birch Bark Canoe Construction

First Stage of Canoe Construction:
A gunwale frame is used to give the canoe its basic shape. Stakes are placed in the ground at regular intervals. Instead of the gunwales, a building frame is used in some areas.

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Second Stage of Canoe Construction:
The stakes and the gunwales or building frame have been removed and laid aside. A single sheet of bark, with the outside of the bark on the inside, is aligned on carefully smoothed bed. Then gunwales or building frame are placed over the bark and weighed down with stones.

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Third Stage of Canoe Construction:
The bark is now shaped over the building bed and the stakes reinserted into their holes in pairs and tied across the canoe. Gores are cut in the bark as the canoe is shaped toward the ends. Part of the bark is shaped here and secured between the stakes and long battens. “A” shows battens secured by sticks lashed to stakes.

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Fourth Stage of Canoe Construction:
The bark has been shaped and the gunwales raised to sheer height. All stakes are placed. “A” indicates the sticks which fix the sheer of the gunwales. “B” indicates blocks placed under ends to form rocker. The side panels are shown in place and the thwarts have been inserted. The side seams and gores are sewn and the stempieces (not visible) are sewn in place to form the ends. Double gunwales (inwale and outwale) are now in place. If the gunwales and thwarts have been used as a building frame, the sides will slope inward (tumblehome) once the ribs are in place. If a narrower building frame is used, the sides will flare.

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Fifth Stage of Canoe Construction:
The canoe is removed from the building bed and set on horses for complete sewing and shaping the ends. The bark cover has dried out in a flat-bottomed and wall-sided form. The canoe is now ready for the ribs to give it a final shape.

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Sixth Stage of Canoe Construction:
The cedar sheathing (upper left) is placed in the canoe, overlapping in the middle, and held in place by temporary ribs (lower right). The wulegessis (a protective bark flap on the bow and stern of the canoe) is in place and the canoe is ready to take its final shape. The ribs are inserted in pairs from the ends and tapped in place, their ends fitting firmly between the inwale and outwale with group lashing in the space between the ribs.

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