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The Maori Canoe

The Hollowing-out Process

The Hollowing-out Process

The process of hollowing out a log for a canoe-hull is described by the word waimanu. The dubbing-down of the exterior is the tarai process. The stone adze employed is a toki; when used for this purpose, a toki tarai waka, or canoe-hewing adze. These were of different sizes and forms: some were big, heavy, thick tools for rough dubbing work; others were lighter and thinner in the blade, for scoring and secondary adzing; while yet others were still lighter and thinner in the blade, being used for light finishing-work, the final dressing of surfaces. For this latter task an adze of greenstone (nephrite) was highly valued. This stone being of a tough nature, it did not readily break or chip; it is also extremely hard, and the blade of such an adze can be made much thinner, to carry a lower angle, than one made of any other stone.

The labour of severing the head of the tree, when felled, would occupy some days, possibly four or five, or even more in the case of a big trunk. It was effected by means of fire and stone adzes. When the fire had charred the wood to the depth of 1 in., perhaps less, the fire was removed and the charred surface chipped off with adzes, and this process was continued until the trunk was severed.

The canoe-makers had now a huge log, 50 ft. to 70 ft., possibly even more, in length, and 5 ft. to 7ft. or 8 ft. in thickness, to handle page 90—no light task with their very primitive appliances. If, on account of a shake or other defect, it became necessary to roll the massive log over ere the hollowing-out could be commenced, the task was one that called for ingenuity and the co-operation of many men, for implements were of the simplest nature, and timber-jacks yet in the lap of time.

Fig. 21 A Maori Stone Adaze.

H. Hamilton, photo

Log-rolling.—Mr. White has a note to the effect that "logs were turned by means of long sticks curiously fastened by flax ropes." This does not seem to be very clear, but may refer to the takawhiti method, or to that known as poipoi The latter consisted of converting the log into a form of Spanish windlass. A hole was made at each end of the log, and in these holes were inserted the ends of stout saplings, to the outer or upper ends of which ropes were fastened. A number of men hauling on these ropes gained great leverage by this appliance in turning a log over. A doubt exists as to whether or not it was a pre-European usage; it is by no means certain that the Maori possessed tools by means of which he could form such holes in a log, the working-face being so small. My informant, Tutakanga-hau, of the Tuhoe Tribe, was not sure that the method was an old native one. (See fig. 22, p. 91.)

In the takawhiti method of turning a heavy log a pole was lashed to the log, near the ground, on the off side—that is, on the side from which the log was to be rolled; two ropes were fastened to this pole, led up and over the log, and trailed forward on the hauling track, to be grasped by the haulers. To fix the pole in position, two cross-pieces were placed across the ends of the log, one end of each page 91
Fig. 22 The Poipoi Log-turning Device. As explained by Tutakangahau, of the Tuhoe Tribe. (See p. 90.)

Sketch by A. H. Messenger

being lashed to the pole, and to the other ends was secured a rope. One end of this rope was tied to the end of one of the cross-pieces, the rope was then led along the log, pulled taut, and made fast to the other cross-piece, thus gripping the pole tightly to the side of the log. By placing the pole below the greatest diameter of the log it follows that it could not slip upwards when the strain came on it. The log would be rolled on skids, and when, in turning it, the pole rose too high it was shifted lower down. (See fig. 23, p. 91.)
This method was employed on the east coast, and probably elsewhere also. It is a form of parbuckling, and is quite feasible; but the rolling of the log would necessitate the lowering of the long
Fig. 23 The Takawhiti Log-turning Device.

Sketch by A. H. Messenger

page 92spar or ricker several times ere the log was turned completely over, the grain being secured, of course, by a series of chocks. In some cases the long, pliant, and strong supplejack, or pirita ( Rhipogonum scandens), was employed as a rope. The ends of these canes were pounded and bruised to facilitate splicing.

The Maori well understood the use of wooden levers and hand-spikes, termed hua and tuauau, and made much use of them in log-work.

A form of parbuckling, called taki-a-rnanu, or takitaki-a-rnanu, was described by the late Tuta Nihoniho, of the east coast. The following notes were supplied by him: The parbuckle, or takitaki- a-manu, was used in conjunction with levers, and when a long,
Fig. 24 The Taki-a-manu Log-rolling Device. As explained by Tuta Nihoniho, of the Waiapu district.

Sketch by A. H. Messenger

stout rope was employed, so that a large number of men could "tail on" as haulers, it would undoubtedly be of great assistance in the work. The double-rope parbuckle does not appear to have been used by the Maori. If used without the help of levers, then the single-rope parbuckle would not be so effective as the double one, unless, indeed, two single ones were rigged, one at each end of the log—which was sometimes done, according to our informants. (See fig. 24.)

In rigging his parbuckle the Maori fastened one end of the rope to a stout root, or the butt of a tree, some little distance in front of the log to be turned over—rolled. This rope was then passed page 93underneath the log, right over it, and again underneath it, then again up and over, and trailed out along the ground at right angles to the log. A large number of men then took their stations by the side of the rope, grasped it, and hauled away, their strenuous efforts being rendered simultaneous by means of a time-giving song chanted by a fugleman. I am not satisfied that the above was a pre-European apparatus.

The term tuauau seems, on the east coast, to be applied to both levers and handspikes, though used in different ways. Again, the expression takitaki-a-manu appears to be also applied to anything in the form of a retaining wall, such as slabs placed behind a series of posts in order to prevent earth slipping down.

The levers used in the turning of heavy logs were manipulated as with us, one end being thrust under the log, and a heavy block provided as a fulcrum. These levers were long, stout rickers, and would be manned by as many men as could conveniently grasp them. In the case of a long heavy log there would be a number of such levers employed. This log-turning was often an exceedingly heavy task, and in some cases a great number of men must have been employed at it. The task of turning over a tree-trunk perhaps 5 ft. or 6 ft. in diameter at the butt end, or even more, and 60 ft. or 70 ft. perhaps in length, is a colossal task when performed with primitive appliances, as we know full well. It is a very different proposition when you are provided with timber-jacks or a Dolbeer logging-donkey.

The hollowing-out of a dugout canoe-hull was a long and laborious process. To hollow out a canoe as the log lies on the ground, a row of small fires was kindled along the trunk as far as the riu (hold) was to extend. After burning for some time these fires were removed, and the charred wood was chipped away with stone adzes. Then fires were again kindled and the process repeated. R. C. Barstow, in his paper on the Maori canoe, says: "Fire and adze partially hollowed out the hold, dry rewarewa ( Knightia excelsa) wood being used for the charring [ kaiwhiria wood was also used], the amount of excavating done at this stage depending upon the distance to which the canoe has to be hauled and the danger of its splitting on its journey." As an old native once explained this process to the writer, "the adze employed was a stone one; the other adze used was fire." The stone adzes could not be used to the best advan-tage at such work. It must ever be remembered that these tools were not well adapted for cutting across the grain of timber. A surface to be adzed was first scored across the grain, and the timber-surface then hewn off sideways, with the cutting-edge of the tool page 94in line with the timber-grain, as we often see a steel adze used. Thus the adzing was really a form of splitting: chips were split off the balk or plank. The first process of rough dubbing was done with a big heavy adze carrying a high blade-angle, and known as tiwara or wahanui, the word toki often being prefixed, as toki tiwara. Lighter adzing—taking off small chips—may be described by the term hemihemi; this applies to the finishing-off (whakanakonako) of an adzed surface. These expressions are not universally employed: such terms differ in different districts. (See Museum Bulletin No. 4, p. 135, 1st ed.)

A roughly adzed surface may be described as tarai putaratara, or tarai matapo. The adzes (toki) employed in fashioning canoes were of different sizes, form, and material, as explained in Dominion Museum Bulletin No. 4.

The first rough adzing of a surface, as in hollowing out a canoe-hull, left the timber-face in a rough condition—hacked, bruised, and jagged with slivers. It was now that fire came into use, and fires were kindled and kept burning along the trunk in order to burn out the bruised, splintered, and worked surface of the timber. This double process was repeated until the experts announced that the roughing-out process was carried far enough; that the interior lines of the canoe were being approached; that the use of fire must cease, and the remaining timber be hewn off by experts with stone tools, until the unmarked and eye-defined lines of the interior of the hull were reached. This final stage of the work had to be slowly and carefully done, in order to leave all the interior curves perfectly symmetrical. Hence such work was very frequently examined by keen-eyed experts, who noted any slight protuberance of timber that needed attention.

There was always one expert, if not more, to watch the work, to check any worker in danger of hewing too deep, and generally to supervise the work. Such a man might, with a piece of charcoal, mark any place where a thin piece had to be adzed off, but very often such slight hewing was done entirely by eye. In some cases a stick might be used in measuring, as when regulating the width of the hold.

The stern of a canoe being somewhat wider than the bow end, it was usual to make the butt end of the tree the stern. The log might have to be turned over prior to beginning work on the hull, in order to take advantage of some peculiarity in its shape. The form of the canoe was not marked on the upper surface of the log prior to commencing the roughing-out; the Maori artisan ever trusted much page 95more to the practised eye than we do, and did but little in the way of measuring.

The hewing of a canoe-hull was not completed in the forest; it was hauled out to the coast, or banks of a river or lake, while still rough and unfinished, before it was reduced to its proper lines, so that the thickness of the wood might prevent the hull splitting in case of any mischance in hauling. It sometimes happened that when lowering a hull down a steep sideling the ropes carried away, and the hull would fall, slide, or roll to the bottom of the hill; some have
Fig. 25 A Canoe in the Making. Steel-tool work.

Partington, photo

been so ruined by breakage or splitting, and much labour wasted. Having hauled the thick-sided, rough-hewn hull to a place near where it was eventually to be launched, the adzing-down and finishing-off of the hull was proceeded with, after which came the job of fitting it up. For this task a shed, composed of a roof only, was often erected over the canoe while it was being finished off. The tools used were not taken away from the place while the work lasted, and in some cases, as when an important high-class canoe was being made, the workmen had special garments for wear when working. When quitting work these garments were left with the tools in a hut at the work-yard, and the workman retired from the tapu place to don his ordinary garments elsewhere ere returning to his home.
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Men were allowed to be spectators of canoe-making operations, but not so women. For if a woman passes over the place where the canoe is being made, ka oma nga atua, the gods will desert the place, for the passing of the female organ over the ground has desecrated the tapu of the spot; it is a pollution resented by the gods, who will desert the canoe and have nothing more to do with it. Hence, when that canoe is finished and taken out upon the ocean the gods will not protect it from danger, and it will probably capsize, or some other serious mishap will occur. This must be so, because it has no protecting atua. When the canoe goes out to sea it will be attacked by Tawhiri-matea (personified form of gales), whose enmity towards Tane (personified form of trees—hence a canoe represents Tane) has never ceased, whereupon Tane (i.e., the canoe) will suffer, or perish, on account of being defenceless; it has no gods protecting it.

A northern native states that when the labour of hewing was brought to a close for the day the chips were covered up, lest women trespass on them which would be woefully unlucky.

When a workman was about to commence to give the surface a final dressing (the whakarau process) he would throw a small stone into the hold, to preserve his knowledge of the art of canoe-hewing (tarai waka).

Mr. T. Roach, of Otaki, has stated that he knew a blind native who used to work at fashioning canoes with an adze. He kept to the true lines entirely by touch; he would hew away with his adze for a while, then stop and run his hand over the hewn surface in order to detect any irregularity of the surface.

Of the burning-out process "W. B.," of Te Kuiti, has written as follows: "The bole now lies prone, cut to length, and the side for the riu (hold) turned uppermost. Then a fire is built along its centre, lengthwise, and slaves stand ready with water-gourds, and watch where it over-croaches to quench it. The fire dies: the charred wood is chipped off, and so the body is rough-hollowed. Then the master mechanics approach to shape and trim, leaving proper projections to be bored for the rauawa (gunnel-strake) lashings, and the inside is finished. The shell is now turned over and the outside rough-hewn to approximate form, and four posts, two at each end and side, equidistant from the central or keel line, are firmly fixed in the ground. From post to post, at each side, a fine strong cord is stretched, from which all final measurements are set off, which, assisted by the expert eye of the master, ensures that both sides be exactly alike in outline of curve…. During these labours no food must be brought near the work, no chips hewn therefrom burnt at the page 97mess-fire; all is done in fear of the gods, of something omitted, ensuring later mischance. Every section of work began with its appropriate propitiatory invocations, as by ancient ritual established, and all thoughts are intent upon future success. For, from the day in midwinter when the sap is low and the tree is felled, two—nay, three years may subtend until the master says 'Toia te waka kia manu ('Launch the canoe that if may float'). At which operation a slave is sacrificed, and his blood sprinkled upon her side in the taingakawa (sanctifying) ceremony; the name is allotted, and the labour is done."

The above account of the hollowing-out task is, of course, a much condensed one; it was a very long and tedious job. In the later stages of such work fire could not be employed, the stone adze alone being used. The remarks concerning the use of taut lining-cords, stretched parallel to the keel-line, from which offset measurements were made to align the work, are of much interest, and illustrate the ingenuity of the Maori artisan.

It must be distinctly understood that the Maori had infinitely more faith in his old-time gods than we have in ours. If a fortified village, or house, or canoe lose its protecting genii or gods, then it must be abandoned, or disaster will come upon the inmates. Without the protection of the gods it is impossible to prosper—nay, it is often impossible to live.

We have seen that men only were allowed to approach a canoe when under construction. But it is not the case that all men were so permitted to go to the shipyard. Any man known to be of an irresponsible nature, or stupid, was debarred from such a privilege, lest he take some article of food to the place, which act would pollute the tapu and cause the gods to desert the place and the canoe. For the same reason all dogs were kept tied up during the task of canoe-making, lest they defile the tapu in a like manner.

Mr. Lambert informs us that he saw an old native finishing off a new canoe with a stone adze about the year 1866. This was up the Whanga-ehu River. The native had put a certain amount of water into the canoe, which he then tilted at different angles, and he then seemed to be able to more easily detect any superfluous thickness or protuberant parts in the sides of the interior of the vessel, which parts he re-dressed with his stone implement.

Tuta Nihoniho contributes the following note on the above subject: When a canoe was being made, women and children were not allowed to approach the scene of operations—it was tapu to them. In some cases a rude fence or barrier was erected round the page 98canoe. No food could be taken to the workmen at the place where the tree was being felled, the hull being hewn out, or the canoe being fitted up. The workmen proceeded to the encampment or village for their meals, or such were brought by the women to some place removed from the tapu work-yard. The hulls of canoes are rounded to a considerable extent, and no prominent keel is observed in the central parts, but only near the bow and stern. It is the rounded bulge in the sides of the canoe that supports it, and keeps it from sinking too deeply. If the sides were hewed straighter the craft would be unsteady: the bulge imparts steadiness.

About the final act in finishing off the hull of a canoe was a holystoning process. A number of men worked at rubbing the surfaces with pieces of sandstone.

Mr. John Mackie has related an account of a partially made canoe found by him many years ago near the banks of the Manga-whero tributary of the Wai-ngongoro River. This hull had been almost finished when it was abandoned, and some small trees 6 in. to 9 in. in diameter were growing in it; the hull was totara, and by no means badly decayed. This hull had been made in two pieces of unequal length, and the workmen had commenced to fit the two pieces together—that is, to make the haumi join. The interior of this hull seemed to show traces of fire having been employed in the hollowing-out process. The hull was about 10 ft. in length and 3 ft. beam.

When the hull of a vessel was being finished off it would be launched in order to see how it rode. By noting any list in the craft, adepts were enabled to decide as to which part must be further hewed down.

Mr. Barstow states that the operation of redubbing and hollowing-out of the hull "is repeated as the timber seasons after the canoe has been in use." This remark might apply to inferior, small forms, but a first-class canoe would be pretty well seasoned and dried out by the time it was finished.

Mr. C. Hedley, in his Ethnology of Funafuti, writes: "A glance at a stone adze in the exhibition-case of a museum might not impress a spectator with a high opinion of its utility, but on first occasion on which I saw a stone adze used my previous ideas on this subject were promptly dissipated. Passing a canoe-builder at work in Kere-punu, British New Guinea, I observed him hewing with a steel tomahawk, while beside him lay a rotary stone adze. Being requested to show how the latter was employed, the native obligingly laid aside his European tool and resumed the Papuan one. Three years' page 99daily toil in the Queensland bush with an American axe had made me familiar with its use, and it was with the critical eye of a fellow-craftsman that I watched the Papuan axeman. I expected to see him chop with short, light strokes; but with astonishment I saw him plant his feet firmly, swing his adze over his left shoulder at full arm's length, sliding the left hand down the handle in doing so, and then, rising slightly on his toes, bring it down with all the force of every muscle in his arms, back, and legs. After freeing the chip, the adze went up and round and down, and down again, in the most workmanlike style. Under these blows a rain of chips—long broad chips—sprang from the adze-blade over the heads of the bystanders. The aim proved equal to the force, as a strip of timber disappeared inch by inch under well-directed, even strokes."

There is no evidence to show that the Maori ever employed the rotatory adze, as some term it, of Melanesia. The Micronesian form of that tool was used by a few western Polynesians, as in the Ellice Group; apparently it was introduced through the Gilbert Group (see Hedley's Ethnology of Funafuti). There were three different forms of this interesting implement, and, like the pump-drill, it was evidently creeping eastward when Europeans entered Polynesia. Some thin stone blades from the Solomons and New Guinea, employed in this manner, show an axe-like blade with bevels on both sides fairly equal; but if the pronounced adze form, such as we see in New Zealand and many other isles, were so manipulated—the blade so turned as to bring the cutting-edge in line with the handle—the tool would not be a true axe, but would resemble a squaring-axe, such as we use in hewing balks of timber. This is obvious. Heavy stone tools showing two equal bevels, with the cutting-edge in the axial centre of the implement, are found in New Zealand, but the common Maori implement was the adze.

A remark in the Catalogue of the Bishop Museum of Honolulu, 1892, concerning a form of stone adzes, runs: "In a form much used for the interior work of a canoe the stone is so mounted as to turn to one side or the other, thus becoming, as needed, a right or left-hand adze." After nearly a half century's experience with timber-working tools the present writer is unable to understand the expression "right or left-hand adze." One might as well speak of a right or left-hand knife. An adze is not a squaring-axe. It may be that the Hawaiian tool could be used as a right or left-hand hewing or squaring axe. Our carpenter's axe and squaring-axe can be hafted for right or left-hand use, but if you so haft an adze as to bring the cutting-edge in line with the handle, then it is no longer an adze.

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The following communication is of some interest; it deals with the adzing of the exterior of the dugout hull:—

Native Department, Wellington, 12th January, 1911.

Greeting! When a boy I took a particular interest in canoe-building operations, tarai waka (canoe-hewing). Being already aware of the pakeha [European] penchant for leaving his woodwork smoothly planed, I was struck by the fact that the Maori deliberately left the outside of his canoe widely grooved with narrow intervening ridges, thus:

Fig. 26 Hull of Canoe. Showing the ngao-tu style of hewing.

H. Hamilton. photo

I therefore asked one of our old tohunga tarai waka [canoe-hewing experts] what the object was in doing so. He explained to me that the tola umarua (double-shouldered adze) was specially made to pare-ngarungaru the exterior of the canoe—kei piri te wai ki te waka (to prevent the water from clinging to the canoe, and so impeding its progress). The object, therefore, was to break up the water which the canoe was passing through, and so to give it greater speed, or to make the business of paddling easier.

There may be science in this. Note the polished exterior of the pakeha racing-skiffs. Does not the water cling to the sides and act as a break from end to end?

Kia ora.

Hare Hongi.

P.S.—The interior of the canoe was comparatively smooth.

Apparently some experts only finished off the outer surface of a vessel in the above manner, while others hewed it so as to leave a smooth face.

In speaking of dugout crafts of the Burmese, Mr. F. A. Page writes: "It requires skill of the very highest sort to take a tree-trunk, often more than 70 ft. in length, trim it, and fashion it into a thing of beautiful outline, with a proper sheer to it, the bow and stern page 101 Fig. 27 Illustrating three methods of hewing Timber with Adze. rising proportionately above the waist." These remarks might well be applied to the work of the Maori tohunga tarai waka, or canoe-hewing experts.