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Maine Memory Network

Tools and Woodworking

This slideshow contains 27 items
1
Penobscot sweetgrass flat block, ca. 1900

Penobscot sweetgrass flat block, ca. 1900

Item 23462 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Tools

Maine's forests provided a wide range of raw materials that were used for shelter, transportation and medicine, and for carving household utensils, tools and weapons.

As Gluskabe taught them, Maine Indians used all parts of what they took from the forest -- wood, bark, leaves and roots.

This simple hoop was used to make flats, which required hundreds of yards of sweetgrass braid and were often used to store sewing notions.


2
Penobscot handkerchief block, 1907

Penobscot handkerchief block, 1907

Item 23461 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

This block was used to make baskets designed to hold handkerchiefs.

It has the following inscription: "Mrs. Peter Ranco, Castine, Me, July 23, 1907, Made by Peter Ranco."


3
Penobscot tatting basket block, ca. 1900

Penobscot tatting basket block, ca. 1900

Item 23463 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Carvers selected specific woods to meet their needs: flexible white ash for snowshoe frames, basket handles and rims; hard maple for canoe thwarts and paddles, and tool handles; rot-resistant cedar for canoe linings; resilient hornbeam for bows; easily carved pine for basket gauges; and straight-stocked gray birch and poplar for rootclubs and walking sticks.

This block produced a variety of tatting basket forms, such as acorn-shaped and strawberry-shaped tatting baskets, which have a loop handle to hang from the arm and a hole in the top for the tatting ball's thread to come out.


4
Splint gauge, ca. 1900

Splint gauge, ca. 1900

Item 23464 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Each artistic tradition utilized a specific woodworking tool kit.

Makers of fancy baskets used split gauges and wooden blocks or molds to ensure that the baskets they produced were a uniform size and shape.


5
Basket splint gauge, ca. 1900

Basket splint gauge, ca. 1900

Item 23465 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Fancy basket makers keep a variety of gauges to divide strips of ash into uniform widths for weavers (horizontal splints) and standards (vertical splints).


6
Splint gauge, ca. 1900

Splint gauge, ca. 1900

Item 23466 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

When basketmakers pick up a strip of ash, they can tell from its thickness, flexibility and texture how it will be used in a basket.

Thicker material is turned into standards (vertical splints), which are commonly 1/4", 3/8" or 1/2" wide.


7
Gauge for ash splints, ca. 1900

Gauge for ash splints, ca. 1900

Item 23467 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Some gauges split thinner pieces of ash, used for weavers (horizontal splints) into strips that range from 1/16" to 1/2" or larger.


8
Splint gauge for basketmaker, ca. 1900

Splint gauge for basketmaker, ca. 1900

Item 23468 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

While gauges are functional tools for the basketmaker, they also are works of art in themselves.

Many feature carved designs that are particular to the artist who made the gauge.


9
Basket splint gauge, ca. 1900

Basket splint gauge, ca. 1900

Item 23469 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Each basket splint gauge was made to fit the hand of the basketmaker who used it, accounting for the variety of sizes and shapes of handles and forms of the gauges.


10
Sweetgrass comb, ca. 1900

Sweetgrass comb, ca. 1900

Item 23470 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Sweetgrass is harvested by pulling the grass one strand at a time from the marsh.

The grass is bundled and hung out to dry.

A comb is used to remove the chaff; the grass polishes the comb.


11
Indian crooked knife, ca. 1900

Indian crooked knife, ca. 1900

Item 23471 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

The carver's tool kit included crooked knives -- one-handed knives that were pulled toward the user -- gouges, and even penknives, all of which were used to shape objects and decorate them with relief carving or chip-carved designs.


12
Crooked knife, ca. 1900

Crooked knife, ca. 1900

Item 23472 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Crooked knives are indigenous to the Northeast. They were essential tools for Native People of this region.

The ability to make and use one was a necessary life skill.


13
Crooked knife, ca. 1900

Crooked knife, ca. 1900

Item 23473 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

After contact with the Europeans and the arrival of metal technology, Native People began attaching metal blades to wooden handles.


14
Crooked knife, ca. 1900

Crooked knife, ca. 1900

Item 23474 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Crooked knife handles were made from a variety of hardwoods and antler and were carved to fit the hand of the user.

They often were decorated with chip carving and relief-carved designs.


15
Hand-shaped crooked knife, ca. 1900

Hand-shaped crooked knife, ca. 1900

Item 23475 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Users grasp the knife fingers up, with the cutting edge held toward them.

The crooked knife is used to shape objects -- sticks of brown ash for baskets, ax handles, canoe ribs, gunwales and thwarts, and snowshoe frames -- by slicing and shaving.

Crooked knives also were used to hollow out wooden bowls and dishes.


16
Penobscot walking stick, ca. 1930

Penobscot walking stick, ca. 1930

Item 23476 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Woodworking Traditions

A long time ago, a giant frog monster deprived the people of fresh, clean water. Gluskabe was summoned by the people to make the frog give back the water.

Using a giant pine tree as a club, Gluskabe killed the frog and the indentations that the tree and its roots and branches made created the Penobscot River.


-- Gluskabe legend

Carvers who made rootclubs often also carved walking sticks, which were ornamented with chip carving and relief-carved designs.

Each carver developed a distinctive style.


17
Spirit face rootclub, ca. 1900

Spirit face rootclub, ca. 1900

Item 23478 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Rootclubs evolved from weapons to emblems of power and authority, then to artforms.

This piece features a "spirit face," suggesting that it was intended for spiritual or ceremonial purposes.


18
Passamaquoddy rootclub, ca. 1880

Passamaquoddy rootclub, ca. 1880

Item 23477 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Carvers create rootclubs from saplings, using the roots and the stock that grows out of them.

Gray birch and poplar generally are used for rootclubs.

Carvers remove or trim the bark and shape the roots to enhance the spiritual, human or animal forms they see in the wood.


19
Snout rootclub, ca. 1900

Snout rootclub, ca. 1900

Item 23479 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

A carver creates this form of rootclub out of a sapling with two stocks growing out of one root system.

The carver turns one stock into a snouted animal and retains the other for the club stock.


20
Miniature rootclub, ca. 1850

Miniature rootclub, ca. 1850

Item 23480 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Found under the floorboards in a structure connecting a barn to a house in the town of Penobscot, this may have been a shaman's ceremonial club.

It is an early style in which the wood was stained, not painted.


21
Penobscot rootclub, ca. 1930

Penobscot rootclub, ca. 1930

Item 23481 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

This club is attributed to Penobscot carver Russell Joe (Granton Russell Joseph), who lived from the early 1900s to the mid 1960s on Indian Island.

He carved rootclubs, walking sticks and tomahawks for sale to visitors.


22
Penobscot rootclub, Port Clyde, ca. 1900

Penobscot rootclub, Port Clyde, ca. 1900

Item 23482 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

This club, made for the novelty goods trade, is inscribed with the names of M.R. Sabatis and J. Susep, its carvers, and where it was carved, Port Clyde, Maine.


23
Micmac waltes game

Micmac waltes game

Item 23484 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

This bowl and dice game was played throughout the Northeast.

Two players took turns throwing the dice into the bowl and received counting sticks for each die that landed decorated side up.

The rules vary, but the general goal was for one person to win all the counting sticks.


24
Fish spear, ca. 1900

Fish spear, ca. 1900

Item 23485 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Carvers created leisters for catching salmon, eels and other migratory fish species.

This example originally had a 12- to 18-foot spruce shaft for a handle.

Fishermen, using torches, attracted fish to the surface, then used leisters to spear them. The outside wooden prongs grasped the fish and the center prong pierced its back.

In 1912, salmon spearing was prohibited by state law and leisters fell out of use.


25
Penobscot burl bowl, ca. 1900

Penobscot burl bowl, ca. 1900

Item 23486 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Maine Indians used birchbark or wooden bowls to eat out of and to mix cornbread in.

Some of the bowls were 18" in diameter or larger.

This bowl has Pauline Shay's name written in it. In 1913, Shay married Andrew Sockalexis, the marathon runner, and after his death she operated a basket and novelty shop on Indian Island.


26
Snowshoe, ca. 1900

Snowshoe, ca. 1900

Item 23487 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

In regions where winter snows were not hard packed by wind or extreme cold, snowshoes allowed the wearer to walk on the surface of the snow.


27
Native American snowshoe, ca. 1900

Native American snowshoe, ca. 1900

Item 23488 info
Hudson Museum, Univ. of Maine

Snowshoes distribute the wearer's weight over a large surface, allowing them to walk on soft snow.

This 12" by 42" snowshoe was made for someone weighing about 120 pounds.


This slideshow contains 27 items