Making the North Woods Paddle
Join us as we head to the town of Willimantic, known as “God’s Country” by the locals here in Maine’s Piscataquis County. There, we’ll visit with Alexandra Conover Bennet, one of the state’s best-qualified river and wilderness guides. She is also a founder of North Woods Ways, a river-guiding service and center for preserving the skills and crafts of people of the Northern Forests. We’re here to learn about what goes into making the revered North Woods paddle using hand tools—including a time-honored crooked knife. For 38 years, Alexandra carved, signed, and numbered 552 of these prized paddles. We’ll also head out onto nearby Onawa Lake for a demonstration of the ancient, efficient practice of the North Woods paddle stroke by Alexandra in her beautiful birchbark canoe.
We’ll then travel to Orono, Maine, to spend time with Sam Martinelli. He’s the lead paddlemaker at Shaw & Tenney, the iconic Maine-based wooden paddle- and oarmaking company. (When Alexandra recently retired from paddlemaking, she proudly passed on her patterns to Shaw & Tenney.) Sam will give the viewer an up-close look at the modernized steps in making a North Woods paddle using a Shaw & Tenney’s power tools, including a router, slab saw, and drum sanders. It’s refined and captivating procedure that takes Sam less than 45 minutes!