Sunday, 18 November 2007

The Roycroft Snowshoe

In England it is now rare for us to get sufficient snow fall to use snowshoes, but in Lapland they will prove very useful. While on a Winter Wilderness Survival Course taught by Mors Kochanski in 2006, I learned to make Roycroft Snowshoes. On the course we used young Spruce, but here I am using Willow (Hazel also works well).

Gather five sticks roughly the same length as you’re height. They should be about the same diameter as a pencil at the narrow end. Remove any side branches and then the bark.

Once all five are completed they should be tied together about two fingers width from the end (I use a constrictor knot).

Now cut a piece of wood to roughly the same dimensions as a bow-drill hearth and the span of your hands in length. Balance the snow shoe on your finger to find the mid-point of the shoe, and then place your heel at this point and the piece of wood beneath the ball of your foot. Now lash the piece of wood in this position to all five stick (I used a Jam Knot and cut notches into the piece of wood to help hold the lashings in place.

Tie the thick ends of the sticks (the back of the snowshoe) together, leaving a space the width of your finger between each (I tied four overhand knots to act as spacers). Now secure another block of wood where your heel rests on the shoe (using the same method described above), which should be about two fingers in front of the pivot point.

Now using either a piece of ribbon, cord or elastic lash around the shoe and over your toes, tying the two ends on top of your toes as shown below.

After tying the knot on top of the toes, bring the two ends around the back of the heel and tie off using a reef knot (this knot is obscured by the bottom of my trouser leg in the picture below). This will allow your foot to pivot on the shoe as you walk, but still keep the snowshoe on.

The snowshoe is easier to use if the tip of the shoe curves up at the end, so tie a cord between the tip and the block of wood and leave until the wood has dried out.

Repeat the process for the second snowshoe and hope there is sufficient snowfall to be able to test them.


sam said...

I might have a go at something similar this year if there is enough snow in the woods.
I've also seen a picture of a temporary ojibway snowshoe in "Wildwood Wisdom" which looks trickier but might be worth a go.
How small a roycroft snowshoe do you think you can get away with on about a foot of snow? I've seen Mors' video and he mentions up to 6/7 sticks for someone around my weight (heavy! 200lbs) but with fewer and short stick on less snow. Did you get any more advice in person?

Fenlander said...

With only a foot of snow you may only need three sticks (that's how many I used on the course). The standard length is as long as you are tall. If you have sufficient snow and materials why not start with three and then experiment by adding more and post on your site which give the best results.