building the world’s most iconic viking ship, part 6

 Well I think it is time for some tool pictures. The tools made for the building of the new Oseberg ship form the largest collection of replica Viking woodworking tools in the world. This is the main tool room. It’s easy to see at a glance whether a tool is missing at the end of the day, this helps when you are tired and it’s dark.

Those who have followed my blog for a while will know I have a bit of a thing for axes, these are long bladed hewing axes for finishing the surface I got on really well with the top one, the other worked OK but was just not as sweet for me.

Lots more pics of axes now, Thomas Finderup could tell you everything about each axe, the location and date of the original find, which smith made the replica etc. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to ask about each axe and record it but I do know Thomas spent some time recently working with the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo on a book on Viking woodworking tools so I look forward to that being published.

 This is the one I fell in love with, totally sublime to use, a snip at £350, one day maybe

I love this tool, so simple yet so very very effective. It works like a scratchstock and puts two decorative grooves and even distance in along the edge of the planks.

These two tools fascinated me, they look remarkably similar to North West Coast carvers crook knives and when I look at NWC art and Viking carving I can see similarities in form. Often the tools you use tend to create certain forms. Again I am afraid I don’t know where the original was from but it will be 9th C

People sometimes ask me about the quality of tools in earlier periods or even, “what did they do before they had steel?” There is a common misconception that steel was invented in the industrial revolution, actually it was only the mass production of cheap homogeneous steel which was created by Huntsman’s crucible process, just down the road form me in Sheffield. In Viking times they had excelent steel and knew how to use it, much as Japanese sword and tool makers work from detailed knowledge of materials with very simple technology so the Viking smiths created excellent tools and weapons with high carbon steel edges.

In 1998 I visited the archaeological site of Novgorod in Russia. I was mainly there to see medieval bowls but there is much interesting information on tools too. This image shows the gradual change in composition of knives over a 500 year period with the black being high carbon steel and the white area being softer, tougher iron.

At a glance it looks as if knives are getting progressively better until you know that level 5 is about 1425 level 28 is 960AD, in fact the early knives are the best ones.

And finally this one is for Kari an archaeological drawing showing one of the small bladed planes, most of the ones we used had slightly broader blades but the same principle. It seams to be drawn with the blade over the pin but it clearly goes underneath.

One Response to building the world’s most iconic viking ship, part 6

  1. Leigh February 13, 2015 at 1:23 am #

    Hi Robin
    could you tell us more about the book from the Viking Ship Museum on Viking woodworking tools?
    I would love to see that book