Author Archives: tadubois

The Canoe at Madison Children’s Museum

After a very busy semester, Wayne and his UW associates arranged for the canoe to be loaned temporarily to the Madison Children’s Museum.  The canoe is beautifully displayed there with a video that presents the process of building with kid-friendly captions.  If you’re in Madison anytime soon, stop by to check out the canoe surrounded by hundreds of active and curious children and adults!

In the meantime, we’ve been busy arranging for the permanent purchase and display of the canoe on the UW-Madison campus.  Thanks to the legwork of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwest Cultures, the generosity of donors like the UW Alumni Association and the Philippe and Julie Coquard family, as well as the vision and goodwill of the UW Division of University Housing and the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, we are well on our way to making the canoe a permanent part of the University of Wisconsin community life!  Stay tuned for details on coming display and dedication ceremonies.

Here’s the video that accompanies the canoe at the Children’s Museum


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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Uncategorized


ENVISION students in Madison

It was a busy week for girls from the ENVISION program, who came to Madison with their teachers to help out on the canoe, make a radio program, plan a feast, and become acquainted with the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

The girls found the Lac du Flambeau emblem at the fire ring outside of Dejope Hall.

The girls helped in various tasks related to the canoe and the preparation of equipment for the coming Ojibwe Winter Games.

Tom Loeser, chair of the Art Department, took the girls and their teachers on a tour of the Art Lofts facility, where most of the graduate students and many of the faculty in the department have their studios.

Meanwhile, Wayne was busy carving the canoe paddles out of white cedar and setting the ribs.

After the ribs were bent and had dried, they were removed, carefully numbered, and trimmed to fit in the finished canoe.  Wayne and Tim used the thinly planed white cedar slats to create a lining in the bottom and sides of the canoe. This sheathing protects the bark surface and also distributes the pressure from the ribs so that the bark will not tear.  Rib ends were honed down so that they could fit into the groove beneath the gunwales. In the initial formation of the ribs, Wayne worked from the widest ribs at the center of the canoe toward the smaller, more dramatically bent ribs at the prow and stern. Now, in setting the ribs in permanently on top of the sheathing, he worked from the prow to the center and then repeated the process from the stern to the center.

Goodman Center students came to help sand Ojibwe Winter Games equipment, see the canoe nearing completion, and plan the coming feast.

All in all it was a busy week!

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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Building the Canoe


Finishing the sewing

It was a day of finishing the bottom of the canoe.  The canoe was lifted and placed on saw horses. The long seam created by the overlapping of the two pieces of birchbark that make up the canoe bottom had to be sewn.  The remaining parts of the gores were sewn.  Patches and reinforcements were sewn in wherever the bark seemed to need a little more reinforcement.  At the end of the day, the canoe was ready for the application of sealant.

Watch Wayne and Tim at work on the main seam.


Recollect how far it’s come!  Take a look again at this video of the initial forming of the bark back in September.

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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Building the Canoe


Finishing the prow, October 29, 2013

Watch this video synopsis of the fine-grained process of finishing the prow.

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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Building the Canoe


Stitching the canoe ends

October 25.

With the help of visiting Lac du Flambeau students Aydin, Dallas, and Estabon, Wayne undertook the painstaking work sewing up the prow and stern ends of the canoe.

stern before work

The stern before work got started.

winter bark bundle

Birchbark harvested in the fall or winter is darker and especially suitable for the kind of etching and finishing work that Wayne planned for the prow and stern. Here is the bark bundle after soaking.  Wayne selected lighter bark sections for the prow and darker sections for the stern.

winter bark cut

The soaked bark is laid out and cut. Here, Wayne is cutting some of the deep red bark that will be used for the stern.

winter bark etching

Wayne took a moment to show us how this bark can be etched.  By removing pieces of the outer bark and exposing the lighter bark below, a pattern can be created.  Etched patterns will be added to the canoe at a later stage in the process.


The pieces were shaped to fit on the upper end of the prow and stern.

cutting pattern on stern

After the cut sections were set in place, the bark at the base of the stern and prow was cut in a decorative pattern.

fitting winter bark into stern

Wayne adds a second piece of winter bark to the other side of the stern.

preparing root for stitching

Spruce roots were used for the stitching in the upper sections of the prow and stern.  Each root had to be carefully prepared so that they could slide easily through small holes in the bark.

decorative stitching, stern, continues

A harness stitch was used to bind the upper pieces of winter bark to the bark below.

harness stitches stern complete

Once the upper and lower pieces were stitched together, the  lower section of the prow and stern was sewn together using a synthetic cord, as elsewhere on the canoe.  This binding will eventually be covered in pine pitch and leather.

prow bottom stitching complete

The prow with lower sewing complete.

decorate stitching, prow begins

Now the upper pieces of bark could be sewn together with roots.

decorative stitching, stern underwaydecorative stitching stern, side view

Weaving the root back and forth through the two pieces of bark and core piece in-between was delicate work and took many hands.

prow stitching, pattern continues

Wayne created a decorative pattern with the root stitching for these upper sections.

prow stitching binds front together

The pattern emerges with root stitching that is both decorative and essential to the canoe’s durability.

decorative stitching, stern, underway

The color contrast between the roots and red winter bark on the stern section was particularly striking.

decorative stitching, prow, complete

The finished prow.

decorative stitching stern, complete

The finished stern.

Watch a video synopsis of the work on the stern.

prow work underway

There was lots of other work to do, too.  The remaining gores needed to be sewn up with roots and this work went on alongside the prow and stern work.

sewing gores underway

Sewing the gores with root.

Dejope fire ring visit

Wayne and the guys had a chance to visit some of campus during their time here this week, including the fire ring at Dejope Hall, where the Lac du Flambeau emblem is placed alongside the emblems of the other recognized tribes of Wisconsin.

Big Ten TV camera man

And a crew from Big Ten TV came to document the project as well, interviewing Wayne and his assistants.  The TV crew is planning to return for the launching ceremony in late November and will produce a feature story after that. Stay tuned….

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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Building the Canoe


Envision kids work at lashing

October 23

Today Wayne returned to Madison from Lac du Flambeau with three ENVISION students and their teacher Doreen.  Aydin, Dallas, and Estabon displayed their talents for lashing as Wayne showed them technique.  Watch the lesson below!

As Wayne notes, you learn by doing.  It’s exciting to think that the art and skill of making a Lac du Flambeau birchbark canoe is being learned by a new generation.

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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Building the Canoe


More sewing and on to lashing

Wednesday, October 9 was full of work.  Wayne and crew finished sewing the gores on the second side of the canoe.  Watch the process in this video.

Then it was on to the lashing of the gunwale pieces.  Wayne worked with student assistants Colin, Chase, and Marcus to begin the lashing process essential for securing the gunwale pieces.  Watch the process in this video.

On Thursday, October 10, the lashing work continued. Wayne carved and fitted the fore and aft thwarts. It takes a keen mind to anticipate how the ends of the canoe will later cinch together when the canoe takes its final shape, and a steady hand to get the fit right.

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Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Building the Canoe