How to Make Snowshoes: New England Native American Styles

Learn how to make your own traditional-style snowshoes with these diagrams and instructions for constructing and lacing the frames.



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Penobscot above) and Abenaki (below) styles are later developments, with sharper toes and filled toe and heel spaces with weaving tied to a selvage thong.
C. KEITH WILBUR
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The longer, narrow bear paw with a tail is most appropriate for open country and racing.
PHOTO: UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON LIBRARIES/ERIC A. HEGG
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Cut two forms from 3/4" scrap wood. Each square equals 1 inch.
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Wampanoag Style: The bear paw is the earliest shoe with one-piece frame, rectangular weaving and no toe hole.
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With the drawshave or crooked knife, trim both split surfaces flat. Clamp a 3/4" strip of wood, and pencil each edge.
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Blocks of wood are nailed 1 1/4" from the form where the wedges enter. Twelve wedges are needed. The opposite end of each block is 1" from the form.
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Nail the two forms to a piece of plywood or several lengths of wood, nailed together by several crosspieces behind.
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With the two forms prepared, search out several straight, knot-free ash or hickory saplings. A length of at least 7' for each frame is needed. Square down to 3/4" with a drawshave or crooked knife, or select a tree of 4" to 5" at the butt end. Split down the center with chisels.
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Cut cross fibers free
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Mark the inner face and shave the two ends and center to give easier bending.
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To make the crossbars, split out four pieces 1 3/8" wide and 5/16" thick. Place each in position behind the frame and mark. Add 1/4" to fit into frame. Make a series of drilled holes 3/16" in diameter and 1/4" deep. Cut away the wood between and fit the crossbars.
C. KEITH WILBUR
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This face will become the outer surface of the snowshoe frame. When squared, the stave will be 3/4" × 3/4" × 7'.
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Cover both ends of the steaming box with several thicknesses of burlap.
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Snowshoe Frame with Crossbars
When the crossbars are snugly in place in the frame, drill holes at the tail and push through a finish nail that extends 1/8" on both sides. Bend both projections with a hammer for a secure closure.Tidy up the shoe by sanding the frame and slightly rounding the edges. Apply several coats of a rugged spar varnish. 
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Measurements vary according to the scrap wood available and the diameter of the can. Raise the staves off the steambox floor with pieces of wood at each end.
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Starting Snowshoe Lacing
To start lacing, mark off the frame measurements as shown. Make a slit near the end of the lacing, then feed the lacing through and snug around the first mark. Keep lacing tight.
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The crossbars should be rounded.
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Snowshoe Lacing Step 2
Continue following the lacing pattern to create the hexagonal filling characteristic of the earlier New England snowshoes.
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Secure the lacing by nailing the tab to the frame. Reinforce the four toe cords and the two toe-bar straps, and finish with a knot.
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Snowshoe Lacing Step 1
The lacing pattern begins by going back and forth horizontally to form a strong anchor.
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Snowshoe Harness Ties 2
Tying the Harness: Properly tied, the foot should not slide forward to collect blisters. The tie should also be loose enough not to chafe the top of the moccasin. A twist of the foot should shake the snowshoe free.
C. KEITH WILBUR











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