Snow shoes

During my trip to Canada I saw a lovely display at Lake Louise, capturing the past of pioneers mountaineering in the area. I was enticed by the old attributes. The skies were familiar to me but the pair of snow shoes really got me. It was right there and then I decided to make a pair in miniature. For various reasons I'd to do it quick, one of them being I'm currently working on a really neat book mill as well. 

So straight after getting back from Canada I did some research. It soon became clear various times and regions have their own shape of shoe and type of lacing, and after reading into the small hours, I opted for a type that's common in the North East of Northern America, called Huron. The weaving I choose for is a combination of modern day techniques and the 'old fashion way'. 

It started out with making a jig to bend the beech wood to shape. Normally the shoes are made of ash, but I didn't have that so beech it was. Which is perfect for bending too, by the way!

When the jig was set & done I could steam the 0.6 mm thick mm strips of beech. A simple set up in my frypan did the trick. I took the lid of for a photo, but of course they were steamed with the lid on. Less than10 minutes was more then enough to make them soft and pliable. Bigger pieces would take more time; you want all the lignin in the wood cells to become soft. But if you steam for too long the lignin will boil out and bending can then result in splits and breaking.

The thin strips cool off very quickly too, and then the lignin will harden up again so I'd to work fast. Placing the centre of a pair of strips at the tip of the shoe form, the sides were then gently bend down, till they touched at the back. I pressed the counter shapes tight to the strips and hammered them down. The four ends were held in place by a clamp. Then I let them dry over night. 

The next day I glued the strips together and put them back in the jig to dry.  Excess glue would surely bulge out under the pressure so to prevent the shoes from sticking to the jig I lined it with cling film. Simple and worked a treat. Meanwhile the braces were cut, predrilled and put into place when the shoe rims were dry.

Now it was on to the weave. Old shoes have holes drilled through the rim, to take a thread where the weave is connected to. The benefit is the thread will not wear when the shoes are worn. You don't see this method of weave as much anymore in modern day shoes, which makes sense being slightly more labour intensive. Hmmm... stuff isn't made as hard wearing any more so it seems... 

Neither was I confident enough to drill the holes in the narrow rim, and as these shoes won't get any wear anyway, I figured to simply weave (the more modern way) around the rim, instead of through it. 

I'd an option between all sorts of thread, thick and thinner... light colored, brown, beige... and after seeing some real shoes made in that color I decided on a brown, just cos I thought it looked good. Egyptian cotton, count # 30.

The edge of the weave was a challenge to figure out. Initially I thought of using a bobbin lace technique; the braid half stitch as seen here on the left. Turned out it wasn't as simple as I thought so it was back to the drawing board (computer) and just figure out and learn the way it has always been done.

Each time I'm amazed at how much you can learn from YouTube, like when I needed to learn how to cane a seat. And this time was no exception with tutorials on the net showing how to weave snow shoes! There where various methods and approaches shown but they all came down to the same triangular weave. But the best part were a few diagrams I'd found and with those I set myself down and started...

Here's the toe section finished and heel part done too. As you can see I worked both shoes at the same time, so I would be conscious, aware and remember how to tackle the particular portions I was working on. If I'd finished one shoe complete and then had to return to do the other i'd probably have had a really hard time remembering how i did it to keep them uniform.

Like I said, it was a tricky job. Mostly because it took some time to find the rhythm or structure in the weave. Sometimes it was over, over, over, and then the it was under, over, under, under... I'd to stay really focused while weaving, or a mistake was easily made... Turned out it was constantly 2 steps forward, 1 step back, taking out some and redo it again until it was right. But after a while I got it :-) Or so I thought... :-/

I'd made a start on the middle part, redid them a few times and then it went OK. When I was nearly done I encountered a big mistake in one and had to take out almost a 3th of the weave. Argh...

But I got there in the end, and here's how they looked at that stage.

Now it was on to the binding. Native shoes have simple leather strips without buckles, but now that this pair was sort of eclectic already, I figured to give them a more modern type of binding. 

On the left is a section of it; the toe part with the first of the straps. If you look close you can see they are not attached on the same side. Something I didn't found out (again!) until I was almost done so I'd to remake that... 

A few more pieces, buckles and finally a bit of leather polish/wax:


Who's up for a snow-shoe-obstacle-run?

Wow, this post turned out quite long. So thank you for reading all the way down.
Have fun,


I've not been at the bench much lately cos last month I've traveled to Alberta, Canada to visit my dear friend Gerry. And it was all and way more than I could have imagined! 

I took over 1.300 photo's. To give y'all an impression of this inspiring trip I naturally had to cut that number down a bit. ;) So here we go;

First of all Alberta is known for it's oil. So lots of donkey pomps :) The capital and biggest city around is Edmonton and it was lovely to discover its past & present and that of its surrounding area.

Straight away something amazing happened... You have to know one of the things that has been on my bucket list for half my life was to see the Northern lights or Aurora Borealis. So going to Canada I'd enrolled this website called Aurora Watch, to get notifications when solar activity gets so great, chances to see the aurora in the area go beyond 70%. And guess what?!

Second evening I got a mail! So spend that night gobsmacked... Lying outdoors on my back, mesmerized by colored curtains of light hanging from the sky. Getting brighter and then dimming. And all that time, moving and dancing like waves washing ashore. It was so surreal, amazing... so much better then I'd ever could imagine!

I've tried to take photo's but at one point I just stopped. It took away from the experience that lasted till 3 am? Then it slowly died out... What an extraordinary spectacle. We saw it again, a week later, above lake Louise, where we spend the night as we toured the Rockies. 

And those were just as breathtaking...

White tail dear casually grazing alongside a cliff

Humbling scenery and wherever you looked... so pretty

Forgive me for saying, but everything seemed so big. And then I'm not just talking bout the mountains :)

But seriously... we stayed at fantastic places, encountered nothing but kindness & hospitality and again, the vista's and nature was just out of this world...

I mean, check the size of that couple walking down the road...
(remember, I come from The Netherlands, a country that's as flat as a pancake :))

There was still some snow but the first lakes and rivers were starting to defrost, showing their famous blue-green turquoise color.

The places scattered in the Rockies are sparse. Yet, some of the ones that are there, have hotels from the days when travel was done with grandeur and in style. These are scenes from Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Luckily for us, living today, they cherish their past & legacy.  It gave us the joy to experience the scenery they're set in as comfortable as generations gone by have done. 

But the best and most astonishing of all was nature itself...

In all the little detail,

And as a whole.

It was hard to select pictures; this is just the tip. There were museums, climbing mountains, architecturally interesting buildings, hot springs, good food... and the list goes on... It was a memorable trip. But it was made extraordinary by all the kind and caring people I got to meet. I wish there was some way of showing my gratitude for all the warm welcomes I was greeted with over and over again. Thank you all!

4 poster bed

Finally! After more then 3 years, working on it on and off... I'm proud to present the first version of the 4 poster beds. 

It's been a fun collaboration piece I've made together with my clever and dear miniature friend Gerry, who used his inquisitive mind to learn how to mill with the aid of CNC. Lots of parts were drawn on his computer and milled out by him. Just look at the marvelous job he did on the delicate tapered and two sided twisting pencil posts with petit finials.

The fun part was to combine both our skills so I added more detail with hand carved acanthus leaves in the mid section of the posts. And the same theme returns in this version with the centre rosette on the headboard.

The bed is a miniature version of a modern day king size.

Wish I could jump into it, but even beter; instead I'm getting ready for short holiday that I'm really looking forward to :D

Have a wonderful Good Friday & Easter Holiday

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