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Chestnut Snowshoes

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by Bruce Whittington, Oct 11, 2021.

  1. Bruce Whittington

    Bruce Whittington Curious about Wooden Canoes

    My stepdaughter's partner lost his father a while back. He inherited a Chestnut canoe, model unknown as it is still in northern BC. He had seen my restored Chestnut Cronje and was interested in learning more about them. He also inherited three pairs of Chestnut snowshoes and he recently gave me one pair (I think this is the bribe so I will help him with his canoe . . .) I'm curious to know more about them.(The leather harnesses were made by his dad, and are very supple and no mildew). From threads on the forum I suspect these are late-vintage; they have what looks like rubber-stamped printing on the underside, the company name and the size, 12x60 (they actually measure 11 and a bit by 63 and a bit). On the upper surface of the fore crossbar there appears to be a bit of adhesive remaining. I have heard about Chestnut decals but wonder if near the end they used adhesive labels? And last question, I gather it is okay to varnish these? I would use marine spar varnish, not urethane. I might use them very occasionally so mostly just want to protect them. IMG_7517A_resize.jpg IMG_7518A_resize.jpg IMG_7519A_resize.jpg
  2. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Great score! That type of shoe is known as an "Ojibwa" pattern, with the pointed forward end, and 12" x 60" was probably the most common size. They are designed to do well in deep snow (thus the high turn-up on the tips to get them up on top of the snow for beginning your next step) and best in pretty open terrain. The long tail is to make them track well as it drags behind, functioning kind of like a keel. As snowshoes go, they are also one of the largest patterns for good carrying capacity. You can go over them with a little sandpaper to help ease any rough spots on the wood and then varnish them well. Not only does this protect the wood, it keeps the rawhide lacing from absorbing moisture and stretching. Store them in a place where they aren't likely to be encountered by mice, as they can eat rawhide.

    The places where that type doesn't do so well would be steep slopes (they can slide out from under you) and thick brushy areas because of their length limiting your maneuverability. I don't know whether Chestnut was actually making their snowshoes themselves or just sticking their labels on something made for them. Those Ojibwa shoes are a dead ringer for those made by Snowcraft, one of the major producers of traditional shoes back in the day. The Ojibwa shoes in this photo are old Snowcraft shoes, though I pulled the rivets at the ends and rawhide-wrapped them instead - primitive old style. If you are new to snowshoeing, be advised that you shouldn't expect to float high on top of deep powdery snow, as it's not likely to happen. Trying the same thing without them will shown you how valuable they are though. Also take it easy at first. They will quickly point out that you have muscles on the inside of your thighs that aren't used to being used much for walking. :)

  3. OP
    Bruce Whittington

    Bruce Whittington Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Todd, thanks for this most helpful information (as usual on this forum). The last time I used snowshoes was (yikes!) about 60 years ago as a Boy Scout in Ontario. They were more like your Yukon style, and fastened with lengths of lamp wick, which I found ingenious and surprisingly sound. My brother-in-law and his wife ski and snowshoe at Mount Washington here on Vancouver Island, and often ask if we will join them. I think they use high-tech type snowshoes, and it is mostly on groomed trails etc. But it would be fun to try them--they get lots of snow up there. We don't get much around home, and usually it is wet, but sometimes we get a dump of nice fluffy snow, and I will give these a try around home if we do. By the way, I notice that the cross bars on mine are narrowed at the ends compared to your Ojibwas; I don't know if that means a different factory, or just evolving manufacturing processes.
  4. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Doing a little digging I found this and fairly far down in the text it says that Chestnut also supplied the armed forces with thousands of pairs of snowshoes. That would indicate that they were most likely building them themselves, rather than just dealing them.

    Fredericton City Hall, York Street Audio Tour, Fredericton Heritage Trust, New Brunswick, Canada (

    You may not be as fast on a prepared trail as your relatives will be on their little aluminum-framed snowshoes, but at least you will win the style points - especially with a bamboo XC ski pole for support. If you can find an old red/black buffalo plaid suit with a Mackinaw jacket and matching knickers you will even get bonus points.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2021
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  5. Graham

    Graham Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    The catalogues show lots of pictures of snowshoe manufacturing at the factory. Here's a set of 13x52 with a decal underfoot. Not sure how old they are.

    Attached Files:

  6. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I found this in one of my files.
  7. Jon Bouton

    Jon Bouton Sucker for an Indian Girl

    Great information, Todd. Not expected on a forum about wooden canoes, but I can reminisce on use and shape of snowshoes which, like canoes / kayaks were once hand made and now are mass produced and discarded when broken. The Vermont Forestry Division issued me a new pair of Tubbs green mountain bear paws in 1973. They are great for most winter days here after fresh snow settles a little as long as there is no icy crust. Fresh, deep, fluffy snow? Change plans and stay close to the office or the road because lifting each foot and snowshoe halfway up to knee height to get them above the snow surface before stepping forward gets old fast! However, I now have a pair of Pickerel/Alaskan snowshoes that we’re my dad’s and they make all the difference on those infrequent deep, soft snow days. The other extremely bad conditions for the green mountain bear paws is a thick icy crust. Without the ice cleats of all the newer aluminum or plastic snowshoes, those wood and neoprene snowshoes have all the traction of flying saucers. They took me on several unplanned downhill rides between or into the trees. :). The bear paws, modified with some home made traction, replaced snapped cross bar, layers of varnish and several binding replacements stayed with the State of Vermont when I retired 6 years ago. Truth be told, I purchased a rugged pair of aluminum mountaineering snowshoes with crampons some time ago as my “go to.” snowshoes, but I love getting out the ash and rawhide pickerels or cross country’s when the snow’s a bit soft and everyone else is post holing on their lightweight, mass market, recreational snowshoes.
  8. Mud Bug

    Mud Bug Hand made things are better

    My dad has a pair of Iverson's in the Ojibwa pattern, a lot like yours, and I have a pair of Iverson's "Modified Bear Paw." It's been years now since we've snow showed together (he's 85) but I do remember his giving more flotation than mine, but the pointed ends do catch more brush, like Todd has already said. No matter though. It's an excellent design.
    A snowshoe is helpful even in shallow snow, because your foot doesn't slide backwards, so you can take long strides. (You probably already know this.)

    If you want to have a really natural feel, wear them with moccasins. You'll be that much lighter and freer and will probably be lighter footed than your rubber-booted friends with their aluminum snowshoes. Make a pair that'll fit over two to three pairs of wool socks, and you'll be very comfortable. I mean, if you're going for class, you might as well keep going with it. ;) Mocs are really very easy to make. The pair I'm wearing, which are an Iroquois design, took just over an hour from layout to wearing--and that's hand stitching. If this interests you, I could show how to make a pattern to get you started.

  9. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    There's a blast from the past. It inspired me to dig around in the closet and find my pair of Palmer McLellan moccasin pack shoes and give them a fresh coat of wax. I bought them specifically for snowshoeing about 50 years ago from a mail order outfitter in Massachusetts called "Moor and Mountain". Looks like they will still work OK. I'm not so sure about me though.....

    pmc.JPG DSCF3540.JPG
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  10. patrick corry

    patrick corry Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Oh man... those moccasins bring back memories. I bought a pair of the Palmer low moccasins (double sole) on my first Algonquin trip in 1968. They have disappeared after several moves, and I regret the loss. Best moccasins ever! If I recall, they have a strip of leather continuous from the sole which extends up the heel, thereby avoiding the seam which wears out on other double-sole mocs.

    I too remember Moor & Mountain! Sort of like Skyline Outfitters in Keene, NY which long-preceded the current go-to shop, Mountain Man in Keene Valley, NY
  11. Mud Bug

    Mud Bug Hand made things are better

    Those look neat!

    Here's a pic of the Iroquois design I like to make. One seam up the front; one seam down the heal. No gathering, no fuss. Easy as pie. Soft sole so you feel the earth beneath your step and can curl your foot as you go. Very in touch. This pair is big enough for two decent wool socks. For the summer, I make them smaller so it's just leather against my skin. Very nice feel, and as light as you can be.
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