It is then ready to be “dug-out.” The tools most useful for this purpose are the adze and axe, and sometimes the sledge and chisel. The digging out is of course the most tedious part; but with sharp tools it is a comparatively easy matter. When the great bulk of the wood is taken out, the interior should be finished with a howel or round adze; and the sides may be worked to one inch and a half in thickness if desired. The writer once saw one of these canoes of most exquisite workmanship, being only one inch in thickness, and so light as to be easily lifted with one hand. Of course such perfection as this is not necessary for ordinary purposes; although where the canoe is expected to be carried any great distance, it is well to thin it as much as possible. A gimlet or small auger may be used to gauge the thickness of the canoe, using it in the following manner: Supposing the required thickness of the wood is two inches, proceed to bore the hole from the inside of the canoe, and continue until the point of the gimlet or auger barely makes its appearance on the outside. Draw out the tool, and if the thickness measures more than is required, insert into the hole a slender piece of wood exactly two inches in length; push it in as far as it will go, and you may safely work until you reach the end of it. By this method the thickness may be gauged in different parts of the boat sufficiently to acquire a fair average thickness, [Page 261] and there is no danger of cutting through. The gimlet should be allowed to extend outside of the canoe only sufficiently to be detected, and the holes thus made will seldom give any trouble as leaks. If, however, this should be the case, a little putty or pitch will remedy the difficulty.
The “dug-out” may be constructed of any size, and of any desired shape, but the above is the usual type.
When leaks or cracks occur, they may be caulked with hemp, and smeared with pitch, which will render them thoroughly waterproof.
For lightness and portability there is no boat more desirable or more unique than—
Where the white birch grows in perfection, and the trees attain a large size, the chief material of the birch bark canoe is at hand; and although we ordinary mortals could not be expected to attain to that perfection of skill which the Indians exhibit in the manufacture of these canoes, we nevertheless can succeed sufficiently well to answer all practical purposes. The Indian canoes are often perfect marvels of skill and combined strength and lightness. These half-civilized beings seem to take as naturally to the making of these commodities, as if it were almost an hereditary habit with them; and few men, even with the most exhaustive practice, can compete with the Indian in the combined result of strength, lightness, durability, external beauty, and nicety of work, which are the united characteristics of the typical bark canoe.