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Collecting and Preparing Roots for Sewing and Lashing

To a great extent, a birch bark canoe is held together by sewing bark panels and lashing together various components using split roots.  The only other things that hold the canoe together are friction, wooden pegs, and spruce gum mixed with bear fat.  No nails, metal fasteners, or modern adhesives are used.  The time that it takes to build a canoe can roughly be equally divided into three parts:  (i) time in the woods gathering materials; (ii) the crafting of the parts from the raw materials; (iii) assembly.  This page illustrates one representative example of materials collecting and preparation.


This shot from the latter stage of construction shows the difference in the  stitching of the side panels compared to that at the stem.  Note also the lashing around the gunwales. This image shows how the roots are used to lash the inwale and outwale, the topwale, and the endpiece.

The images that follow illustrate the harvesting and preparation of the roots.
  The roots need to be flexible, long enough to sew with, and strong enough to hold things together.  Perhaps the most common root to use is from the black spruce.  Alternatives, as in our case, are from jack pine.

Here I have uncovered a good prospect.
The ideal location to harvest roots is where the trees are in sandy soil.  Here Tom is checking out a pretty long root that we have uncovered.
This is the harvest of a morning's work.  This bundle should be enough for the canoe.

When back at the build site, the roots are place in water to make them more malleable.
After being soaked,  the bark is removed.  The tool we used here was a double bladed axe head driven into a block of wood.   The roots are then split length-wise.  This way, there is a flat side which lies flush with the surface that is being lashed or sewn.  It also doubles the length of material.  
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