Haapio

The Mother of All Boats 17/Feb/2011 - 1/May/2011
Wood floats on water. Everything started with this observation. First people moved short distances on one stock but soon they started to work wood so that it would better match its purpose. When a stock was gouged out, the result was a ruuhi, a dugout boat.

 

The goal of the aspen dugout construction was to have a light and easily manoeuvrable boat. A dugout made of aspen was usually called haapio. When one or two additional boards were lashed to the side of an aspen dugout, a boat was born. The aspen dugout can with reason be called the mother of all boats.

The Finnish traditional knowledge describes in detail how to make an aspen dugout: "A nine-cubit-long stock was cut and pealed from a healthy 100-150-year-old 15-inch-thick aspen. The front and rear ends were carved roughly with an axe and a plane so that the width of the side hit the longitudinal wood. The smoothed out trunk was then set on notched ridge planks.
The process of digging was begun with an axe. When a gap the width of a palm had been carved with it, an adze was used to make it deeper. The thickness of the side was explored by knocking and sticking with an awl. The inside was smoothed with a spokeshave using crosswise movements. A fire with the same length as the dugout was made next to the dugout at half a meter's distance. Its heat was used to expand the sides which were then supported. The dugout was simultaneously tarred inside, and the final form was made with help of big stones that were put inside. Finally the dugout was equipped with arches, seats and additional boards on the sides.
A tarred dugout could easily last as long as four ordinary boats. It was so light that one person could easily carry the eight-cubit-long boat."

The boat has been an inseparable part of the Finnish everyday life, thus appearing in folktales, old rhymes and riddles. It was thought that the technique to make dugouts disappeared in the 1940's. The exhibition proves that the skills are still alive. It is characteristic of the phenomenon, however, that the skills are fostered by a group of wood artists. Boatyards do not have ideological experts of this special technique.