building the world’s most iconic viking ship, part 4

Ships built with overlapping planks like Viking ships are called “lapstrake” in the USA, in the UK we call them “clinker built”. I had never known why until I hammered home one of the rivets that is the key to this construction and asked what it’s name was in Norwegian, it’s called a klink and the verb klinking fits perfectly as you’ll see from the video at the end of this post.

These are the tools for the job, a fairly small cross pein hammer, a copy of a 9th century one of course, a rose head boat nail  and a rove, that’s the square washer which fits tightly over the nail head and when driven down on to it grips hard.

So now the finished dressed board is clamped in place for the final time and holes drilled through the 1″ overlap  with the board below. The nail is driven up through the hole and the rove driven down on top using the hammer with the hole in it to push the rove down tight. It’s a noisy job if you are doing it all day so here Jan is wearing a mix of Viking clothing and ear defenders. You can also see in this picture the scarf joint where two planks join end to end. This is a simple chamfer, the joint is sealed with woolen cloth and pine tar and two klinks will go through the scarf to hold it tight.

Now the end of the klink needs to be cut off this is a 2 person job with sharp cold chisels.

and finally we get to the klinking first a photo, this is where the end of the klink is hammered in such a way as to spread it out into a sort of dome that holds the rove very tightly in place. First you tap with the cross pein to spread the klink and then flip the hammer over and go round and round the outside to dome it nicely.

 When it’s done it looks like this. This is one of mine and goes through a scarf joint.

That’s my klink, it really is a great feeling to be a small part of this project and to know there is some of my work in the final ship. As the timber in the ship dries it will shrink slightly and all these klinks will need hammering again to tighten them up, I don’t know just how many there are but it must run into several thousand and no one is looking forward to that job.

and now a little video clip of klinking

In the UK with our often acidic soil conditions when we do find old clinker built ships the klinks are often the only thing to survive when all the wood has been dissolved away. That was the case at our most famous ship burial Sutton Hoo  this image shows the klinks or rivets in place and the outline of the boat in the sand but all the wood was gone.

The same is true for the ship found recently in Scotland, the only Viking age ship burial so far found on the UK mainland. It will be interesting to learn more of that find as it is excavated.

Just a couple more posts to come now showing all the replica Viking tools, and some more shots of the boat and it’s fantastic carvings.

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2 Responses to building the world’s most iconic viking ship, part 4

  1. Gorges Smythe November 17, 2011 at 3:02 am #

    It amazes me what a shallow hull they had.

  2. Dec June 26, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    It would have been a nice touch if each plank-maker had been allowed to leave their makers mark on their work, albeit with a small and subtle runic inscription… but I have to assume after all that work that you know exactly where your plank is, and would be able to find it again in a heartbeat.A fantastic experience. Hopefully we will get to see it here in Ireland at some stage. Viking longships have a habit of washing up here on our shores…

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