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Before Spar Varnish

What was used to protect wood snowshoes and to keep the rawhide from stretching/sagging?

Beeswax and pitch.

Beeswax is one of those things I keep in my supplies. Got a nice cake of it from the hardware store. It keeps my Opinel knife moisture free and working nicely and my firesteels from corroding. Seriously useful stuff. 

Much thanks guys.

Varnish has been around a long time.  The Chinese made it from beetles. 

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ppine said:

Varnish has been around a long time.  The Chinese made it from beetles. 

 Isn't that shellac that is/was made from beetles? Records of it date back 4,000yrs but it was used before that...

Okay before varnish, shellac. 

For traditional canoeists, shellac is the preferred finish.  Many use it from the waterline down on wood and canvas canoes. 

I am not sure if much was done back in the day to preserve snowshoes.  Those that used them, used them a lot.  I used to go through lignostone edge XC skis every two or three seasons, and I don't live in snow country.  Given the relative low durability of the materials, a set of shoes likely also wore out after a few seasons of heavy use.

Ed

Thanks Everyone. Its ALL quite helpful.

White ash and rawide snowshoes last a long time if you keep them out of the rocks. Snow is a forgiving surface.  

ppine said:

White ash and rawide snowshoes last a long time if you keep them out of the rocks. Snow is a forgiving surface.  

 They really are tough and rugged considering what they can carry and endure.

I would love to watch a pair be woven.

Old Guide said:

ppine said:

White ash and rawide snowshoes last a long time if you keep them out of the rocks. Snow is a forgiving surface.  

 They really are tough and rugged considering what they can carry and endure.

I would love to watch a pair be woven.

 

I guy named Kilpatrick wrote a book on snowshow making and furniture. 

Its not really that hard if you follow his instructions. 

These were made  with maple also I prefer to use braided nylon it lasts 4x longer and then coat the shoes with a fresh coat of marine spar varnish every couple of years 


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Paul those are sweet. I have a pair like those but not homemade.

Thanks.

A good long lasting waterproofing can be made of pine needle sap. Simmer pine needles in water  and add more as  the old ones loose their pitch. Then remove the needles and slowly simmer the water/pitch mixture down like making maple syrup. Then wipe/brush the sap residue on whatever you want to waterproof and when it cools and hardens its as hard as steel. I learnt this while making mountain man gear in 1990.

Another way is to chop up prickly pear leaf pads into water and do the same simmering and reducing the sap. That I learned from a guy in New mexico who built a adobe house and mixed the prickly pear sap into the adobe mud, when it hardened it was water proof all the way through, kept the mud from eroding away. Use the sap to varnish wood of the snowshoes.

Thanks Gary, great old style tips.

When I was a kid, my Dad had a pair of very fine Salish made snowshoes like the ones shown by Paul, except with a finer weave.  He paid 50 cents for them and still has them up in Seattle.   I have a pair of Tenth Mountain Division ash and rawhide shoes from World War II.  There is nothing wrong with them. 

Some of those real fine weaves were gorgeous shoes . A real talent to put some of those patterns in. 

ppine said:

When I was a kid, my Dad had a pair of very fine Salish made snowshoes like the ones shown by Paul, except with a finer weave.  He paid 50 cents for them and still has them up in Seattle.   I have a pair of Tenth Mountain Division ash and rawhide shoes from World War II.  There is nothing wrong with them. 

 I wonder when the military switched from wood and rawhide shoes, to aluminum frames with steel webbing?

Less maintenance and lighter weight. 

ppine said:

Less maintenance and lighter weight. 

 No doubt, especially the maintenance, but when?

a google search for "prater snowshoe dope" will get you he info on how to make an old time snowshoe waterproofing. it consists of 8 parts shellac, 2 parts fir tee pitch, and 1 part beeswax. heat the ingredients but do not boil. apply with a brush. i've used this recipe and it works quite well especially in wet snow when other waterproofings tend to fail.

Much thanks lazya4

i actually used pitch from sugar pine. i also used bees wax over paraffin. it worked so much better than spar varnish or urethane in wet cascade snow. it isn't as pretty as spar, not nearly as clear. 

October 25, 2021
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