Fish Wheels, My Grandpa Rudy, and the model of a model.
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This fish wheel sticker was produced by my Patreon backers in February 2021! Thank you to all my Patreon backers for supporting my creative work!
So in this blog post, I'm kind of going to share my some of my personal connections with the fish wheel and why I was excited to make a sticker of it.
Before I begin here is a bit about fish wheels:
"A fish wheel is designed to catch fish using the current of the river to power it. The wheel consists of a spar pole or axle which is what the whole wheel turns on, (think of a ferris wheel if put in water with the bottom part only in water) and a center pole was installed the current of the river would catch the seats and spin the ferris wheel, same concept with the fish wheel. The fish wheel is built with 2 paddles opposite each other and 2 baskets opposite each other. the 2 paddles keep the wheel turning in the water and the baskets (big dip nets) are used to scoop up the fish. The baskets and the paddles are on an axle that is placed on a raft that floats the whole assembly in the water. On the raft is a fish box that holds the fish that the wheel catches. The baskets are designed so as the current turns the wheel and scoops up the fish the fish get directed out of the basket into the box till picked up. The wheel is set where current is strong and there is usually an eddie right below the wheel where it sits. the fish will come into the eddie (or back current ) for rest and then shoot into the main current and get scooped up by the wheel. To keep the fish wet we used coffee cans on the side of the wheel mounted on the box side so it would pick up water then as it turned it would splash water on the fish to keep from drying out and keep the flies away." -My uncle Chris
So, my connection with fish wheel's mostly comes from my connection with my grandpa Rudy (on my mom's side, fun fact, both my grandpas had the name Rudy). I like to imagine think that I inherited at least some small percentage of grandpa's craftiness. Grandpa was old school cool. I'll tell you why.
Growing up I recall visiting him and Grandma Alice in Nenana regularly. My favorite thing to do when we got to their home was to go to his little wood working shop and check out all his models. He built models of fish wheels, caches, cabins, fish traps, and more. He would sell these models to tourists (a maker entrepreneur!)
Grandpa was a bad ass though, an OG MAKER. The models were just a side hustle, the tip of an iceberg of knowledge and skill that I got to know. Grandpa used to build these for real. Like put it on a river and feed his family. They literally grew up without money, so it was a vital source of livelihood for my mom and her siblings. If the family needed anything, like to live, he built it. He built boats, cabins, food caches, dog sleds, everything.
So, anyways. In January I asked for suggestions for stickers and fish wheel was the number one request. And I loved the concept because of these connections. One thing about the Patreon that is really special to me, is that the support I receive is an opportunity for me directly to spend time developing skills that I may not be able to afford the time for in other circumstances. One skill I am working on is CAD modeling (3d modeling). So I decided to make a 3d digital model of the fish wheel for this project. And, so, I asked my mom for a photo of one of grandpa's model fish wheels. Not as bad ass as grandpa, but pretty good way for me to develop skills I wish to acquire.
And I used photos of this to build my CAD model. I used Shapr3D, an iPad CAD program i've been meaning to learn to build it.
Eventually I settled on the profile image to capture the distinctive almost ferris wheel look. I then exported the design to Procreate and illustrated it into the sticker.
Well, I'm not sure what i will do with the CAD model. Maybe make a 3d printed model? I'm not sure yet, I'd love to hear your suggestions. At the very least it was nice to be able to connect with my grandpa in one small way, by being able to closely study and emulate his work (albeit in digital form).
EDIT: It also came to my attention that my Uncle Chad has been working on re-creating one of his model fish wheels during the pandemic as well! I guess this is part of what it means to know that a passed loved one is still living on through us.
Here is Uncle Chad's process work next to one of grandpas:
See you space cowboy....