The Perfect Winter Woodworking Project: Snowshoes!
Last week I was in New Hampshire taking pictures for an article. The photo shoot was in a rural area, and I couldn’t help noticing that many of the properties had pairs of wooden snowshoes hanging above a barn or a garage.
The images stuck in my brain, and when I got to my hotel I Googled “snowshoe maker.” I came across a video and article at AlaskaDispatch.com about a master snowshoe maker in Ruby, Alaska, named George Albert. The video skims over the process, but you get the idea of what it takes to create a pair of traditional wooden snowshoes—great feats of strength. Plus you get to meet a woodworker who has a true love for the craft and the tradition behind it. “I get tired,” Albert says, “but I never get tired of the work.” (The text that goes with the video gives more detail about how Albert got into snowshoe-making.)
What’s really amazing is how the bend in the outer frame is made. Instead of the wood being steamed or heated to make it more pliable, the maker typically splits the birch pieces, then makes relief cuts in strategic areas that allow the wood strip to bend to the extreme. Very cool.
By the way, Fine Woodworking did an article on making snowshoes, back in 1984 (issue #49).