I have admired the work of Meriwether of Montana and Whiskeyjack Paddles for awhile, both owned and operated by Danny Brown from Whitefish, Montana. Danny recently got in touch with me, and we discussed the axes and paddles that his respective companies craft in Northern Montana. Meriwether, in particular, also provides a number of other products that I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on, including the Meriwether Flask, which I included in December’s gift guide.
I was curious about how the paddles and axes were crafted, particularly the axes. Having done little woodworking myself, I had assumed – like many others I know – that axe handles should be made of hickory, the strength of which is renowned. Meriwether of Montana crafts their axe helves with maple and walnut, which are cut into strips and carefully laminated. This laminated construction is known for its strength, which Danny illustrated with the example of glulam beams, widely proven to be stronger than solid sawn counterparts.
Whiskeyjack paddles are also laminated, incorporating 25-50 individual pieces of cedar, which are cut and painstakingly glued back together. The result is a paddle that is both light and strong, made for backcountry paddling.
After my interaction with owner Danny Brown, I understand more fully how much effort goes into these axes and paddles. They are truly works of art, and Danny and team are clearly working hard to produce some very quality pieces of functional craft. I look forward to stopping in on them on my next trip to Montana (a field test might be in order!).
Below are some photos Danny sent me of both the production process and the products.