In our long, cold winters, I often come up with ideas for woodworking projects I can do in the spring and summer when the weather allows me to work outside in the driveway. I don’t have a heated garage or store to work with and I don’t want to make dust in the house.
Usually, in mid -April, I can take out the tools and jigsaw to start working. As a rule, I was chomping on the bit and starting these projects earlier than I should and finally had to go home to warm up frozen hands and feet. Here are some of this year’s projects.
Last winter I came across a small textile basket shaped similar to a pack basket commonly used by trappers and canoeists, especially in the northeastern state. I bought it and spent a lot of time studying it in the winter months to determine how best to do this project.
At first I thought of making it a fishing creel to carry fish and/or tackle. Often these craft store baskets are not made with strength in mind nor should they when used for decorative purposes. So, the first thing I did was strengthen it by weaving in more reed where needed. I bought the reed at a rake sale.
Then, I removed the reed handle and replaced it with a skin. The top edge has very small tacks that are used to join the basket. As I left them in place, I added some brass canoe tacks to significantly add strength. Then I made a pine bottom for the inside and a cover for the top. This basket will have one and a quarter inches of green canvas straps — repurchased at a search sale — to make a harness to give it the look of a true Adirondack pack basket.
I cut some runners for the bottom of the basket and pronounced them to accept the strapping. Before assembling, I gave the inside and outside of the basket a few coats of amber shellac. This not only gave the basket a nice warm color, but also added hardness to it.
I attached the harness and made a leather hinge for the cover. Then I made a latch for the lid using an old pack sack buckle with some nice patina to secure the lid to the basket. I’m pretty pleased with how this project came out.
If you’re looking for a good book to read about a terrific canoe trip, I recommend it The Lure of the Labrador Wild by Dillon Wallace. I lent my copy to a good friend to read last winter and he liked it. Inside the front cover is a color photo of two gray woodsmen running downstream in a birch bark canoe. I copied the picture and blasted it. Then I made a simple frame for it and gave it to my friend to remind him of a boat trip that was better read than experienced itself.
Last summer while touring the Hibbing Historical Society Museum with my sweetheart Janet, I purchased a copy of the 1929 map of Minnesota’s Arrowhead. It is quite large (35 by 22 inches). I made a simple frame for that.
After cutting the frame, I carved it to look like tree bark using the Dremel tool. Then, to add more touch of realism, I added a few small stubs of branches using different sized dowels, re -carved and stained to look like a tree.
Another friend, who no longer fished trout, gave me his fishing creel. The creel itself is well made and looks new, except for the leather. All skin is dry that has rotted over the years. It’s a fun project that gives the willow an antique finish using a variety of stains and making all new leather hinges, latch and shoulder harness. I was eager to show it to him and I doubt he would recognize it. I have deceived many people into thinking that the creel is older than it actually is.
Janet was a member of the Iron Range Historical Society in McKinley and she researched a man named John Koski who lived in Angora. A very good and talented craftsman, Mr. Koski has made violins by hand from the early 1900s to the 1960s using local wood and many homemade special equipment.
The historical society had many of its patterns and tools and Janet wanted to make a simple display box to display these items. He wanted rough broken lumber so we found an old pallet, separated it, and made the box. At the time of this writing, we are in the process of arranging and installing Mr.’s patterns, furniture and two unfinished violins. Koski.
Soon I hope to make a frame for a copy of a 1925 St. Louis County map I got. This map precedes highways 53 and 169. Highway number 11 goes north to Cook, Orr, and International Falls. Highway number 7 goes to Tower and Ely.
When I was a child, my father and grandfather and I could still drive on some parts of these old roads when we hunted partridges. Now many of them are almost gone.
I don’t really have room for any more photos or framed maps, but I don’t think they’re that well put together and hidden. I can even lean them against the wall where I can look at them and enjoy them from time to time.
Well, as you can see, between fishing trips, bike rides, road trips, and scavenging sales, we’ve always been busy, because I’m sure you’ve all been. It looks like that any time of the year, and that’s all we want!
Doug Nelson lives in Virginia. He is an outdoor enthusiast and often contributes to Hometown Focus.