Monday, May 12, 2008

Viking Age Ship Building Tools

I'm trying to get myself back on to Ontario Time, and plow through all the data from my Denmark research trip. I hope to write up a number of shorter reports of various topic aspects of what I saw over the next several weeks. This pieces may prove pretty random, as they are likely going to follow other ongoing projects as I get into them...

I got the following information from Tom Nicolajsen, one of the lead boat builders at Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde:

1) You need two weights of axes - a heavier weight (2 kg) shapping axe and a lighter weight (1 kg) trimming axe.
2) On adzes in general - there are no tool marks resulting from their use on any of the Skuldelv ship finds
3) On the 'Bayeaux Axe' - there are no tool marks resulting from their use on any of the Skuldelv ship finds. Tom did note that this type 'makes work faster and easier'.
4) The small fine trimming adze from Mastermyr has proved 'not very useful'
5) STRONGLY recommends the use of a bow drill mounted spoon bit for drilling plank rivet holes (5 - 6 mm). This to avoid repetative stress (wrist) damage that results for the heavier 'cross' style mount (as suggested from Mastermyr) Save this heavy mount for the larger sized bits required for treenails.
6) Rivets set using two hammers (on the Mastermyr pattern), one at roughly 1.5 kg as the 'anvil' and a lighter 500 - 600 gm for the striking.
7) Shallow grove scraper is used not for decoration, but to make the line required to hold tarred rope caulking. This tool actually has the same grove pattern on either side of the central stop.

He further suggested that these tools should be provided:

- bow drill with spoon bit at about 5 - 6 mm

- caulking scraper
- roughling axe

- trimming axe (the one pictured was 'Tom's Favorite')
- heavy and light hammer ( already in smith's tool box ?)

- smoothing plane

He said the general method of work was to split out the planks, shape the rough contours as required to fit with the axes, then smooth the surfaces with the hand plane. They had two, the roughly 5 cm wide blade from Mastermyr looked the most used.

He did not talk much about saws, instead saying that all the shaping is done with axes.

Although he did not mention them, several wooden boat clamps are necessary. The ones used at Roskilde are closer to 60 - 80 cm long. They also are using (admittedly) modern threaded rods and thumb nuts - historically these clamp using wood wedges.

One of the objectives for my museum viewing was to gather information on Viking Age knives. I was surprised that at least for Denmark, AXES greatly outnumber knives (at least as represented in collections on view. I must have seen (and photographed) at least 50 Viking Age and Early Medieval axes. (The ones above from the National Museum in Copenhagen) There is a clear design difference between the various combat axes, felling axes and those intended for wood shaping in general.

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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