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.
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.