As with any sea bound crew, our menswear departments nautical theme would not be complete without our collection of commissioned water vessels, which we use proudly as part of our display.Those who have visited our menswear department in-store will be sure to know of our nautical theme throughout. This theme is reflected in our garment collections, our visual merchandising on our gentleman mannequins, and of course in our specially commissioned boats that we have on display within the department. Within these boats is our spectacular natural birch canoe, displayed proudly within our entrance.
As with any sea bound crew, our menswear department’s nautical theme would not be complete without our collection of commissioned water vessels
Our canoes are handcrafted from natural birch bark by Tom Byers. Growing up aside the St Lawrence Seaway in Canada meant Byers always lived near water. He has been handcrafting birch bark canoes since 1994 and uses traditional methods to transform the natural materials into the beautifully finished water vessel such as the ones in our store.
The traditional methods of crafting the vessel involve a number of techniques all put together to produce a high-quality finish. The first step of Byers requires him to seek out the best quality bark he can find, this location is his secret though the best diameter of the tree should be at least 12 inches – which is not in abundance within the forests.
The recommended method for building the craft is outside and upon stakes, to give access underneath the canoe looking upwards. However, Byers chooses to craft his canoes indoors and on a bed that sits at waist height. First, he crafts the gunwales and a temporary building frame to craft the vessel around. These are crafted from cedar and form the shape to the canoe, supporting the edges he is to fit at the sides.
From here he unrolls the bark and fits it to the building frame where he then sews additional pieces of bark strips using spruce roots or jack pine to fill in gaps where necessary. Once this process has been completed, Tom attaches the horizontal thwarts to the internal section of the vessel and ensures they are securely in place.
There is something inherently beautiful in a birch bark canoe. The Canoe connects us not only to past cultures but reminds us of the importance of nature in our lives. Balance, Harmony and Grace
Byer’s next step is to craft the stems from Cedar, a process he completes without the use of any power tools. This involves him cutting thumb sized widths of the wood and soaking them in boiling water to ensure they are flexible. Once they can be shaped he cuts and sews them onto the craft using roots. After this process is complete, Byers removes the craft from the building form and lays the lengths of split cedar up the inside of the craft.
The penultimate step for the canoe is crafting the ribs, which Byers carves by hand from cedar logs. After soaking them in boiling water, he firmly places them under the gunwales on the interior sides of the craft. The final step is to seal any seams on the vessel using either a mixture of spruce gum and animal fat or roofing tar, to ensure that the canoe is able to serve its purpose. This step should be incorporated into the routine maintenance of the craft due to the nature of its materials.
For more information about building the canoe, visit Tom Byers website natural birch bark canoes where you can also find contact information if you have any questions about the craft.
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