Staying for Eight Weeks and Building a Boat

By Ben Roden

Last summer was my first time at Kooch. My parents signed me up for four weeks, expecting that I would get homesick and want to come home.

Even before I knew about Kooch, I liked doing things with my hands, such as knitting and sewing. Keeping in mind that I did a lot of things with my hands, you might guess that I would find something cool at Kooch to occupy my time. While packing my bags for camp, I noticed that the packing list indicated that I could bring a knife. I didn’t know what I might do with a knife, but I was intrigued.

After arriving at camp, the counselors told me that I couldn’t use my knife until I was taught how to use it safely. A couple of days later, the head of Woodsmanship, Andrew Paulik, taught us the importance of “blood circles” and the rules of whittling.

When first session was close to ending, I was enjoying all of the classes, so I kept on telling the camp director that I wanted to stay longer. When my parents came up for the

Fish Fry, I told them that I wanted to stay for four more weeks. Luckily, they allowed me to stay for the full eight weeks in the Northwoods.

After the Midsession Trip, we signed up for new morning classes, and I signed up for boatbuilding. I thought it would be perfect for me, and was excited to build a canoe. I was assigned to help make the stern seat, as well as the lashing. The lashes had to be tied very tightly to hold the canoe together.

During the last week of boatbuilding, we made paddles. I was excited to make a paddle, and I worked on it for at least an hour and a half every day. I would even show up during rest hour to make as much progress as possible.

One day, I got to use a bandsaw to refine the paddle shape. One of the most challenging parts was making the shaft round. I learned how to plane the piece of wood from four sides to eight, 16, 32—eventually sanding it down to make the shaft round. I shaped the handle into a T-grip, which required cutting the ends and bonding in a couple of pieces of cherry wood to give it an interesting contrast.

Never would I have thought, six weeks prior, that I would be building a paddle and a canoe with a bandsaw and hand tools in the Northwoods.

After returning home and struggling through a bout of camp sickness, I celebrated my 12th birthday. I received a wood carving set from my cousin. This made me remember and appreciate all the great things I learned at Kooch.

All winter, I have been carving and daydreaming about the summer to come. I am excited to return to camp and use my paddle. I have also heard that I might be able to help carve a new totem pole...

This article was originally published in the Spring 2019 issue the Kooch-i-ching Tumpline.

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