more bronze age woodworing

Another update on the progress of the bronze age Dover boat. Ancient woodworking specialist Damian Goodburn visited last week and declared this the most complex example of prehistoric woodworking ever reconstructed. Well there is a lot of headscratching and thinking involved and I have to say my understanding of the bronze age has been transformed. The Dover boat is very complex, even our half scale replica is a big boat requiring major team effort for several months, the full scale being twice as long, twice as wide and twice as thick would be 8 times as heavy so where each of our main timbers can be lifted by 3 people when fully thinned down the original would have needed 24 people. There is a whole lot of putting the boat together and offering timbers up, scribing the lines where they fit then taking apart again, time consuming and hard work but with 24 people per timber it becomes a huge undertaking.
The only previous attempt at this sort of work was the reconstruction of the Ferriby boat the team I am working with carved the timbers for that reconstruction but it was put together by modern shipwrights Geoff Bird. Geoff came down to see our work in progress and shared these photos of the Ferriby.

 This is Geoff showing Richard how they did the stitching, the originals were stitched with yew withies, for the sea trials we will be using modern lashings as they did on Ferriby but we will also experiment with some yew withies. This is tightening the stitch with a Spanish windlass type contraption, it generates huge pressure.

 Finishes trial stitch held in place with oak wedge ready to be cut off.

 Now a couple of photos to show the boat as it appears when we put it all together.

 Here you can see the joint between bottom and side timbers, not bad for rough carving with bronze tools. The next stage is to scribe the line and then cut a rebate in the base timber that the side timber sits into.

 This angle shows the shape of the boat nicely.

 Marking the line to cut the rebate.


 and whilst it’s all together we also mocked up the front end, the two sheets of ply act as winding sticks and help us sight through to ensure we cut a clean edge at the front in a single plane, this will help a lot when we come to fit the front section board in there. That is a rather three dimensional piece which was impossible to draw from the plans because we did not know how far up and in the other timbers would move with steaming. Now they are in position we are able to take measurements across to a waiting tree and my last job last week was roughing out that piece. I finished late though and forgot to take pictures.

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One Response to more bronze age woodworing

  1. Tim Rast April 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    Thanks for the updates and photos – this is a fascinating project. I'm very jealous.

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