More on How to Make Homemade Wooden Snowshoes

Inspired by a previous article, learn mow about how to make a pair of traditional showshoes including information on traditional American Indian bindings.
January/February 1982
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This illustrations shows some of the basic American Indian bindings used on snowshoes.

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Anyone who's read Carl Heilman's article "Make Your Own Snowshoes" already has a good grounding in the art of fashioning the practical — and fun-to-use — winter footwear. However, after going over the finished piece, Carl has kindly provided us with some additional information (and a few points of clarification) that should help anyone who's tackling the project.

First of all, Carl points out that it's possible to split two bows from each quarter-log if you lay them out parallel. After a bow is split off (either by using a circular saw to rip the length of the log at a point 1 inch from the hand-split edge, or by gradually tapping an axe along a line parallel to the hand-split edge), excess wood can be removed from the heartwood side with a power saw to produce the roughly 1-by-1-1/8-by-8-inch bow, which is then shaved into shape. (If you don't have access to a shaving bench, the bow can be clamped to a solid surface while you work it with a drawknife.)

Carl also cautions snowshoe builders who choose copper nails to connect the two halves of a shoe's tail not to drive the fasteners through the wood. Instead, drill the bow first and then cut the nail to a bit longer than the width of the tail and washer, slip it through, and gradually peen the end of the nail over the washer with many light taps from a ball-peen hammer. (By the way, the tail of the snowshoe aids in "tracking" . . . that is, it helps keep the shoes pointed straight ahead as you walk through the woods.)

When choosing your lacing material — either rawhide or neoprene — keep in mind that the former will prove best for dry snow, while the latter is a better "all condition" lacing. (Rawhide will become stretchy and soak up water in wet weather, but not so badly that it can't be used under such conditions.) And — when lacing rawhide — do stretch the material, but use common sense and don't apply too much force.

As you walk in your snowshoes (you'll probably want to wear them with high-top moccasins and wool socks in dry snow and felt pack or good leather hiking boots will serve under most conditions), be careful not to allow one shoe to step on the other and remember never to let a snowshoe "bridge" between two high points.

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