Lakeland Public Television
presents Common Ground brought to you by the Minnesota
Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Welcome to Common Ground
I’m your host Scott Knudson.
In this episode Maxwell Kelsey of Bemidji
creates authentic replicas of fur trade era
Ojibwe lacrosse sticks. dog barking My name is Maxwell Everett Kelsey. I’m a
wood worker at heart. I love wood. Keeping tools
sharp, keeping your shop clean.
Being a woodworker. Wood calls to me. The grain of the wood. I’m a
grain reader. I read the root. I read the bark. So it was only natural for
me to go to art school. I spent my time in
the wood shop. I majored in furniture design.
I got a BFA. Bachelor of Fine Arts
in furniture design. I was in the Cities for
a long time. Driving and the craziness and I needed to get back to my roots.
That was a serious serious thing for me. So coming
back to Bemidji here digging root,
working with the inner bark of the Basswood tree.
The best root I’ve found is from the sand big trees. The swamp root the outer gum is harder
to get off I think from the swamp root.
The sand gum seems to come off easier. When it’s straight out of
the ground. And now I have the opportunity to
create several sets traditional Great Lakes Ojibwe lacrosse sticks. In my junior year of
high school, Dan Ninham who was also my health
teacher he started Lacrosse And it sounded unique.
A part of why I’m doing this
project is because I do things that people
don’t technically do on a day to day basis.
I love doing not the norm, so that’s
why I’ve picked up on this and it’s been a
long history for me too. So as an artist going
back into your past and looking at the things
that really attracted you and playing around with them
in your head going should I do this or you know
oh I could do it. So here we are. I am given this
opportunity, I’m creating a set a full set 30 lacrosse sticks. Twelve on twelve play, so it’s 24, and I know that there going to get broken
so I’m going to do 30. Now since I’ve come back to Bemidji, gained more
knowledge in my craft of working with materials. Combining them to create something that
has historical significance which is really important
for me to reproduce. The shear factor on this wiigob is incredible. This is the vertical grains
of the bark. I took the bark off when it was
green in the spring. Soaked it in water for a week. Brought it up onto a
flat surface and pounded the entire length of it.
Then removed the inner bark.
This fibrous material in layers. Now it is not strong
this way at all. But the vertical
it’s incredible. It could still break just
in it’s raw form like this. So when you twist it. and it’s a counter twist it
becomes very strong. I believe that if
you got to a deer quick enough
you could snare a deer with wiigob? Along time ago I went
to the White Oaks Society. And I read up
on my voyageurs and saw the canoe maker Bill Hafeman’s
great son-in-law Ray Bozel building canoes. And playing lacrosse over
there. Making my own lacrosse sticks
while I was there. And watching Ray Bozel
build birchbark canoes. Having an appreciation for Beltrami County our local history had serious impact on my personal reflection in surviving
in the wilderness and hunter/gatherer lifestyle. which I believe is so important.
We’ve gotten so far from that where we drink in
water bottles and we don’t know where
the water PPcomes from. I would
much ratherppdrink out of a spring, a creek then I know where my water
comes from. Same with meat. So Wiigob? inner bark of the Basswood tree.
W-I-I-G-O-B A hundred foot piece of this is
very valuable in a non electrical
age. You know hand work. As a society we’ve gotten
so far removed from our natural element.
So keeping this old techniques alive
is so important, especially geographically
for me living in Bemidji. Doing these things is really
important for me. So going to the rendez-vous
playing lacrosse there. Seeing the sticks from people
who really knew what they were doing
in makingppthem and then making
my own. and learning the history. And having Dan Ninham
part of my life in middle school and joining
his lacrosse program in ’96 ’97 ’98. We played with traditional
sticks that I believe he had a Menominee man make. I have one of those sticks for
reference here.ppWhat’s so
important for me is building a stick.
I’m a maker you know I make stuff. I’m going to suck up all the infomation from
my geography that I live in to explore my art with. It’s only natural working
with natural materials. because I know where
they come from. They come from the forest. I don’t know. I respect that hunter/gatherer mentality so much. The way of living
on the edge. in the woods, the balance of
life. Living harmoniously Dealing with the seasons. You can store this for 50 years. Pick it up and twist it. You know actually this is… This stuff
right here is ten years old. That’s what is incredible about
this. Same with the wadap? The spruce root. You wrap it up and let it dry. Fifty years will go by and you
can maybe even a hundred.
Take it down and if it was a cool dry place. By soaking it and heating it
you can reuse that material. I have respect I’m always wanting
to gain knowledge. So for me doing these things it’s respect and so for me it’s exploration of learning. Which is so important for me
cause I just want to continue to
grow and grow and grow. It’s obvious for me
to want to pick up on my natural surroundings
in Beltrami County and learn the lessons and the stories of the forest.
Something that really interests me
is I have friends who are re-reenactors. They are very strict in their reenacting
where they only create things that were historical
objects that were documented which
is very important. So recreating documented objects historically is
very important for me. That’s specifically what has gotten me
on this project with the lacrosse sticks is Constantine Beltrami in 1824 – 1835 traveled in this area he brought back a lacrosse
stick back to Italy. which is now in Bergamo. That is the oldest
surviving lacrosse stick historically.
I’m very excited about recreating this object
and having whites and natives and blacks and hispanics
everyone youth play using a historical stick. Which is very important
I think an ancient game. This is the
hard work. Now we’ll split and we’ll bend.
So we’re going to split this
Ash. Now this log right here is
two years old I believe and am going to quarter this. I’m going to find the crack the
natural crack in this. I believe this is going top
down, which you want to go top
down. But you can go the way too
I don’t think it matters. I’ve
done it all. You don’t know until you do it. And you don’t know
until you do it wrong about twenty times.
So that’s what is really important. Is doing
it and doing it over again. And hopefully not making
the same mistakes. like hitting yourself
in the leg with the mallet. So we’ll continue this here. hammering spike So we’ll continue this. Almost there. hammering spike There we go. Cameraman: What are you looking
for in that wood? In this wood I’m looking for the
straightest grain possible You need to let the material
speak for itself. So you’ll know when it’s good
and straight grain is good. hammering spike hammering spike hammering spike hammering spike hammering spike So pretty twisted. This wood is tough.
Ash is tough. That’s why we are using it. There we go. Okay look at this grain here.
When I say I’m a grain reader this yeah it gets chunky
cause it bends. And there was a branch here. So it affects the grain
internally. But from here down it gets real
nice. We’re looking for
approximately 52 inches. You want green ash.
You want as green greenest wood if you
are going to bend a 4 inch diameter circle.
A basket. So the greener the wood the
better. The more humidity in the
material the easier it bends. We’re going to steam box the
wood. On a molecular scale the steambox will infiltrate
the grain and heat up the sapwood. That will allow the grains to slide on itself. Instead of the shear factor no sliding just
shearing. be able to create that radius up to probably one inch. You can bend it like a ribbon. So that’s what draw
s me to this material is the capabilities of it. Ash, Cedar, Birch, Oak you can steam anything. This will become
a lacrosse stick. This is a sizable material here
so I can make the handle quite
long so possibly a defenders stick.
We’re breaking down the this material here. I’m looking
for the heart wood. I’m looking for the inside
of the wood. The exterior wood will bend fine too.
That’s saturated with humidity. But for the real
strong consistent wood, I’m looking
for the sap wood. The bark would obviously
be here and this is just a new wood. Whereas this
is the heart wood. The darker the true sap grain. hammering hammering hammering
The nicer bend that you get you’ll achieve
from splitting the wood. Because it splits down the
natural length of the grain. or finding, searching
out that grain if you are going to cut it on a
saw. The woods going to tell you what it wants and what it
doesn’t. If it wants to become the object it will. It’s all
about reading the grain. So let me just work through this
and then we’re going to start whittling it down and turn on
that steam box. I’ll get this
whittled out boys. I’m just seeing where
we’re at here length wise.
I’m looking for roughly 51 inches which will
end up 36 inches. which is typical for my size to scope the ball. So I’m looking for a height
relative to the relationship of my hand to the earth. I’m making the end fatter so it’s easier to split. Because I’m searching for
that interior sap grain. This is more manageable. size material to work with. It would help if I used the back of this hammering hammering hammering hammering hammering hammering hammering wood splintering wood splintering Something that I was
looking at here is I made a master pattern.
When you make a pattern you think this will be easier.
Yeah I’ll just whip this
pattern out well there is four steps usually to making the pattern. You remake just like the
canoe you remake to go through the learning process
you are constantly are remaking
things and refining them. My point is I’ve refined this
pattern about four times. I finally got to the pattern
that I felt suitable. So when I’m looking at
the material that we’ve split out of the wood. It looks
like a split piece of wood. But when I hold this
up to it. The natural splitting characteristics of
this to the design of the lacrosse
stick. Which tells me that
historically how the materials split and how the game was played happened very naturally. I’m going to line this up so
we will be bending this part I’ll be removing this material
down. And then squaring this up. You have to envision
it to really bring the life out of it.
So finding that soul in the wood will shine in the
end. Especially with bending because trust me. I’ve broke ten sticks in a row before
I finally made a healthy bend. So I’m going to make some
marks here and then we will be draw knifing this
down. I think I’ll start draw knifing this now. So I made this contraption, It’s a shaving horse. Colonial tool. I made this
contraption to fit in the back of my
vehicle. wood splintering And I’m reading grain but this grain is good. So I have to be careful to not
get to thin on the end. We’re creating the spot in which the bend will come back around for
the hoop of the stick. So I’m using this shaving horse to just break
down the material. Refine the shape. I don’t want to get hasty. cause I could ruin this piece.
If I get ahead of myself and too confident
with my knife I’ll make this length too short
and then I won’t be able to complete
the loop. You have to read the grain. You can
take away too much. You know when you are
splitting naturally, look it. I got a little thin so
it will still work. but you got to be real careful
of how much you take and how
much you don’t This actually is probably going
to be a good right hander. It’s got a little right hand
swoop to it. I’m refining the intersection of where the bend will come
around and meet the handle here. I think this one is ready to
go. So this is my steam box. operation. Pretty basic here
cinder block keep it off the grass. I got a hot
plate. I’m heating grandma’s cooking pot. I put a faucet in
here with a two stepper so I got two hoses that are feeding boiling water
into this box. I’m looking for a temperature
of 212 degrees. You know 45 minutes to an hour for this to really heat up.
So I’ll be able to tell when this is hot
by feeling up here. These need to steam for about 45 minutes.
So you can see that. Don’t want to
loose to much heat. These will actually be
suspended in here on wires. I’ve got wires. So it can be 360. Steam penetration.
I’m thinking about 40 minutes or less. So these have been in here
for about a half hour. and are full saturated. So we are bringing them in over here to our mold here. And you know I only have about
2 minutes to work with them. This one I can tell that I need
to refine ppa little bit more on
the end. So on the fly here.
Get this transition a little bit more even so there
is not a hump in the bend when
it gets down there. I always give myself excess. So I know I have excess. I need to keep the band on the
back supportive. That is what helps it from not splitting out. Awesome job. Awesome. Beautiful look at that. Cameraman: How’s it feel when something just goes
together perfect like that? It’s awesome! So this is the stick now in the mold
and it’s been drying for 24 hours. So we
are about to take it out and see what
it looks like here. It will get a little bit
bigger. But I will be able to
tighten up the radius. I’m looking for a 4 inch
diameter. I need to get a clamp we’re going to set it at
the 4 inch diameter. clamp it. I’ll make a
measurement to cut and a measurement
to create another notch. And you’ll see when
I create the notch that the lashing,
the wadap lashing will seat against this single strongback tying this tension in. So I need to drill the holes in this here,
make a couple measurements. and then we’re going to
affix the net onto it. Take my chisel and
now I’m going to cut the notch where this will seat. I want
the shoulder here. We’re going to move
material on this side. Now see what we’ve done there.
I want to make sure that I reinforce this back part of the stick.
So I’m going to make sure that I don’t trim this too short,
because when the wood travels
around the circle it actually acts as a reinforcer
if I can put part of the netting through
those two pieces. I’ll mark where I think
that is appropriate. Just going to double check here
okay. and use this for a reference here. So I’m going to
cut this right about there. sawing wood I can probably use this crooked knife. This is the right way to do it.
And you know you’re not going to do it right the
first time ppand that’s with
anything. Well we’re ready to drill a
hole. And then we’ll lay out our hole pattern and we’ll
get a net on there. I’m going to try and champ for
the edge of this hole so when that root comes through
it doesn’t lay on a sharp edge and shear off. I’ll bend this
back up and it will seat against
the lashing that will be right here. So this root
has been soaking for awhile. And I harvested
it this morning. actually. That’s why it split
so nice and the gum removed of it so nicely.
I have two choices pieces here. Now it becomes the basket here. I’m going to stick it in there. to start. And I’ll push it through. I’ll get it get it. Get it around a couple times,
get it even here and see what I’m dealing with and
then I’ll really crank down on
it. I just want to get it in
there and make sure that the seat is seated. I’m going to go around three
times and then I’m going to do half hitches. And you know what since I have all this nice
material we’re going to do three maybe four on this one here.
I’m going to trim it. here. When it dries it will tighten
up. I’m going to transfer my holes
from master stick here.
Always have a sharp pencil.
We’re going to create the basket out of the wiigob I twisted up earlier. I am beveling the edges of the holes that I just
drilled. So my cordage will be supported on it’s edge. I’m using very traditional
materials. Long time ago they
used these materials in their lacrosse sticks.
Now a days it’s a lot newer materials. So I’m
happy with the basket depth and I’m going to knot off the end of this. And then
I’m going to trim the rest here. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Thanks for watching.
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