Gear & Craft Workshops
We offer a variety of crafting workshops for those interested in making their own traditional gear. While there has never been a time in history where more recreational gear was available to the consumer, much of it is junk and planned to become obsolete by the manufacturers. If you’re interested in the traditional designs that have proved themselves over thousands of years, it’s often not as easy to acquire as simply stopping by your local sporting goods store with a credit card. Many of the traditional crafts are still available from craftsmen and small businesses, but you can also learn to build them yourself. Our workshops draw on the talents and skills of numerous craftspeople from around the northeast.
Wooden Trail Toboggan
Toboggans have been the preferred way to transport gear in the north woods for thousands of years. Learn to build and traditional 2 or 3 strake wooden toboggans; bending the wood, carving and shaving the coffin shape, assembling the cross pieces with copper rivets, and attaching tow lines.
Build a flexible, functional toboggan out of a single sheet of plastic with wooden cross pieces. These have gained a large following in recent years due to their ease of construction, durability, slippery nature, and bend-ability (allowing them to be rolled up for ease of transport). These are great on the snowshoe trail, but can be dangerously fast at the local sledding hill.
These runnered sleds are commonly towed behind snowmobiles. The version we build is smaller and lighter, designed for hand-hauling on packed snow or ice; the perfect thing for transporting ice-fishing gear out on the lake.
Mukluks are the warmest, lightest, and most comfortable footwear available. We make ours out of braintanned buckskin and canvas and outfit them with a felt boot liner. A rubber bottom is optional, but is a necessity for wearing mukluks to town
These are build of either brown ash or reed and are as beautiful as they are functional.
Birch Bark Baskets
Birch bark makes waterproof containers that are functional in the bush and beautiful at home.
Root baskets, also known as half-round baskets, are made of spruce roots and small sticks. They’re great for collecting wild foods and other utilitarian tasks.
Burned Bowls, Spoons and Vessels
Using hot coals from a fire, burn out a depression in a piece of wood that can be used for cooking, eating, or storage. They can be small, as with a spoon, or a large trough that can be filled with food or water. During a 30-day primitive campout in Alaska in 1995 we used such a trough to cook all of our meals for 10 days.
Bend a piece of white ash on a form, let it dry, attach the crossbars, then weave. Learn about the lore and variations of snowshoes along the way, including several different types of bindings.
A simple, effective packframe can be made in less than an hour and provide many years of service.
Self Bow – Wooden Hunting Bow
Carve a wooden hunting bow that can rival the modern, high-tech bows in performance.
Atlatl and Dart
The atlatl is the original big game hunting weapon and predates the bow by thousands of years. Your ancestors used it to hunt the large mammals of prehistory. Essentially a spear thrower, it will cast a dart with incredible impact force.
Primitive Pottery; Pinch, Form, and Coil Pots
Learn to make simple containers out of clay and fire them over a campfire.
Cordage: Fibers, String and Rope
Starting with raw fibers, learn to twist them into strong, durable cordage by hand. Then learn to make rope using both primitive and geared rope spinners.
Nets for Fishing and Utility
Carve a netting needle and gauge out of a block of wood, then use them to knit a net of any size. Useful for making fishing nets, net bags, and hammocks, among other things.
Wood and Canvas Canoe
The wood and canvas canoe replaced the birch bark vessels when demand began to outpace the supply of birch bark. Ribs are bent over a form, planks are attached, then canvas is stretched over the hull. The canvas is then filled with a secret formula and allowed to dry before being painted and the wood varnished.
Carve a canoe paddle from a single piece of wood using simple hand tools. Choose from a variety of blade and grip patterns and sizes. With proper care you’ll pass it down to your grandchildren.
A canoe pole allows you to travel up and down stream with ease, pick your way through a rapid without hitting any rocks, and control exactly where your boat goes. Carve one, learn about the types of pole shoes(the metal piece that goes on the bottom of the pole), when you don’t want a shoe, and more. You’ll also get some on-the-water experience with your new pole.
Natural Cosmetics: Soap, Hair Conditioner and Toothpaste
Making your own personal care products allows you to save money, avoid harsh chemicals and detergents, and scent/flavor according to your own tastes. We use an old, simple recipe for our soap, allowing you to add different exfolliants and scents. We also share a simple techniqe for making all-natural hair conditioner and make a batch of toothpaste that, according to our family dentist, works as well as the commercial products.
Traditional Tanning; Braintan Buckskin
We’ve been running braintanning courses for years. The finished braintan is the best material available for making mukluks.