Friday, October 9, 2009

The Rooms Harpoons and Tuktut Nogait Bow update

As the Parks work winds down I'm splitting my workshop time with some of the other pressing pieces that I need to make. I've started a Maritime Archaic Indian harpoon to be used in public programming at The Rooms, in St. John's. I'll post more on it when its finished, but here's a sneak peak at the harpoon head. I found out on Wednesday that a Groswater Harpoon that I made will be used in a future Rooms exhibit and the Thule Inuit harpoon reproduction (below) is currently on display in the Bob Bartlett Exhibit, Collecting the Arctic: Bob Bartlett's World of North . I'm glad to see this stuff getting used. I tend not to be able to get far enough ahead on my orders to be able to keep many of my reproductions on hand, but over the years The Rooms has amassed a nice collection.

The Tuktut Nogait Bow is moving along. I haven't done much on my own working copy as time gets a little more precious, but the Parks reproduction is getting close to completion. One of the interesting things that I noticed is that the short splice is made 'backwards'. Most bows are made with the back of the bow facing the outside of the tree, towards the bark. The spliced section carefully follows the growth rings of the yew, but its back faces inwards toward the center of the tree. In the photo with the inset, you can see how precisely the wood grain is followed in the artifact (the belly of the bow is facing up in both the photo and the inset photo). The body of the bow is very desicated and the growth rings too hard to see to tell if the rest of the bow is made the same way. It might be.

Remember all the trouble I've had bending wood? All of that was meant to be practice leading up to putting the bend in the limbs of the Tuktut Nogait bow. The last time I bent the kayak rib (which is doing just fine now that I built a stand for it) I put the bow in the steaming box and attempted to bend it with steam and clamps. It bent easily and when I took it out of the clamps the next day it flexed back into a straight line almost immediately. That sucked. A couple days later I was antiquing it with a blow torch and when it was good and hot I decided to try bending it using heat instead of steam. I held the torch on the point I wanted the bend for a minute or two and tried to heat it without burning or scorching it. I bent it on my knee. Given all the problems I've had with bending I bent it 2 or 3 times farther than it needed to be, expecting it to spring back. It didn't. It just cooled and held its new bend. I did put it in the same clamp set up as before, but I really don't think it was necessary. You can see the overzealous bend in the photo below, behind the artifact. After more than a week it hasn't moved. Yesterday I actually had to reheat it and bend it back. ugh.. After seeing how easy it was to bend a thin piece of yew, compared to the pine I've been struggling with all summer, I can definitely see why people say pine can't be bent.

Photo Credits:
Top: Tim Rast
Second: Elaine Anton
Third-Fifth: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
Top: Maritime Archaic Indian antler harpoon head in progress
Second: Thule Inuit Harpoon Reproduction currently on display in The Rooms' Captain Bob Bartlett Exhibit
Third: Tuktut Nogait spliced bow limb showing the wood grain. Inset and photo both show the piece with the belly of the bow facing up
Fourth: Clamping the bow to bend it. Didn't work; clamps not really necessary.
Fifth: Tuktut Nogait reproduction in progress (background) and actual artifact (foreground)


  1. Is there anything that a blowtorch can't do?

    I'm not sure why you didn't try this earlier, considering the many other uses you have described for it ;)

    It's been great fun to see the bow, and the rest of the Parks reproductions coming along so nicely.

  2. Great post as usual Tim. Throughly engaging! Hi to Lori who seems to take time out of her busy day to read my Blog! Look forward to seeing you both in November. Are you doing the show? Are you ever coming to Corner Brook???

  3. Hey Brenda - I'll be setting up for the second half of the Fine Craft and Design Fair in St. John's (Nov 11-15). I'm afraid that I won't be at the Corner Brook show this year although I really want to do that fair again sometime. I had a great time the year that I did it. I'd still like to head to the west coast to get rock, but I just don't know if I'm going to fit it in this year. Maybe if we have a really mild November I can dart out after the fair.


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