Bending a Plank with Fire

So hot right now!! 

 

Getting the fire ready

Getting the fire ready

  The general notion that people from the Viking age were primitive has been widely contested. The idea that they were simple farmers and raiders, just spending their time wondering where their next meal would come from, could not be farther from the truth. These people were highly advanced. Most of their methods of boatbuilding have not changed in 1200 years.  The Gislinge boat is a great example of this.

    The Viking ship as a whole is about as advanced as you can get. The construction of this ship is incredibly well thought out.  I'm sure trial and error has a lot to do with it but never the less it is still genius in design. Built for ocean exploration as well as every day use, the Viking ship could not be more versatile. The use of "green," cleaved wood allowed for extreme flexibility. A strong keel and a shallow draft made portage and river exploration very easy. And the shape itself made for speed at sail or while rowing. The ability to achieve this shape could not be possible without the use of fire, water, and steam.    

 

The bow of the Oseberg Ship in the Viking Ship Museum in Olso, Norway shows the extreme shape of the Viking age ships. 

The bow of the Oseberg Ship in the Viking Ship Museum in Olso, Norway shows the extreme shape of the Viking age ships. 

   Bending a plank using fire is not that much different than the modern way we steam bend today. 

  • Step 1:  Make the plank. (Obviously right?)
  • Step 2:  Soak the plank.

 After we have finished shaping and cutting out the plank (as seen in past posts) we set the plank in the fjord. This allows the wood to soak up the water in the cells and makes it easier for the bending process. This step is not a necessity but it really helps and also helps prevent the plank from burning.

  • Step 3: Make a fire. 

   Abput 45 minutes before you are ready to bend, get the fire going. You want it to be quite hot but without flames. Flames will just burn your plank. Obviously there will be some flames but the less the better. You want to use good hard wood to get a lot of embers going. Image that you are going to roast marshmallows.  If you don't know how to do this re-evaluate your life. If you have been hewing for most of the day you should have plenty of wood to burn. Find a fire proof container and add 2 to 3 gallons of water. Put this in the fire and wait till it starts to boil. This will be a good indicator that the fire is hot enough and you can to start to heat the plank.

   

 

This is what you want. 

This is what you want. 

  • Step 4. Start heating your plank. 

   Take the plank from the fjord or whichever body of water is closest and place it over the fire. We use a chain between two fixed places to keep the plank out of the fire. Make sure whatever you use has the ability to be adjusted according to the heat of your fire. A foot to a foot and a half is a pretty safe bet for the height. 

   Once you have the plank over the fire you can start flipping it. Flip the plank every 2 to 3 minuets to start, then increase the intervals as the plank heats up. Each time you flip you should add the water from the boiling pot. Make sure you do this to the top of the plank. This may seem obvious, but some people...... We use a common mop. When the plank is first on the fire allow it to heat up, don't put the water on right away. As the plank gets hotter you can start to put the water on closer to the time when you flip. The last 3 to 4 flips you can apply as soon as it's turned over. Make sure to regulate and control your use of water. You don't want to put the fire out and you don't want to run out of water. If you have to add water you will have to wait for it to boil again and you don't want that. When you apply the water make sure that you cover the entire surface. If you don't, you are likely to overheat or burn the plank. Over heating will cause the plank to crack and compromise the integrity of the wood.

Here's Martin wetting out the plank before he puts Its on the fire. Just a good idea to start.

Here's Martin wetting out the plank before he puts Its on the fire. Just a good idea to start.

The plank on a nice hot fire

The plank on a nice hot fire

Wetting out the plank

Wetting out the plank

  • Step 5. Getting Bent.

   After 20 to 30 minuets of flipping and wetting out you should be ready to bend her on.  The plank should have a nice golden brown color and be pretty hot to the touch. Once again much like roasting a marshmallow. Don't wet out the last two flips. Let each side dry out. When this is done, grab some gloves and a few bros and bring her to the boat. You should have everything you need ready. All your marks as to where the plank should be should be on the plank. You will also need a few clamps. The more the merrier I say. 

  On a side note.... Clamps were commonly used during the Viking age. Findes dating from the late 700s show oak clamps that are not too different from the ones we use today.

 

Reconstruction of Viking age clamps

Reconstruction of Viking age clamps

Clamping in action

Clamping in action

From the Farioe Islands

From the Farioe Islands

Also from the Faroe Islands

Also from the Faroe Islands

   So with all your clamps in place and a few willing friends go ahead and bend her on.  

   Start at the hood end. Either the stem or stern depending on which section of plank your doing. Then slowly bend her around taking care as to not go to fast. You don't want to brake it. At this point you will find out if you have thinned out your plank correctly. As I learned 5 mills will make all the difference. On my first attempt I found out that mine was too thick and it wouldn't make the bend without cracking.  I had to take it off, thin it out and try again the next day. This is quite embarrassing, especially if there are 40 people visiting the museum standing behind you and watching this all go down. My general day to day. But with a little luck my second attempt was a success and the plank bent like butter. Allow to cool and harder over night and you can start to fit.

Successful second attempt

Successful second attempt

   So with all this being said, 1000 year old technology is tried and true. And next time you're reading Hagar the Horrible remember that if it wasn't for these "primitive" Vikings your little Nuttshell Pram wouldn't exist.....

image.jpg

Pattern Making on the Gislinge Boat

Tic-sticks laid out on there stations ready for marking the angles on the pattern.

Tic-sticks laid out on there stations ready for marking the angles on the pattern.

  There is no record of Scandinavians using patterns during the "Viking Age" but they certainly had the capabilities. They had nails, they had marking tools, they had battens, and they could make thin pine sheets but whether or not they used this method is unknown. But during the reconstruction of the Gislinge boat we use both pattern making and going directly from the plank. This will explain the pattern making method we use. 

 

  The Gislinge boat, like most Viking ships, is a "clinker-boat" or "lap-strake."  That means that the planks over lap eachother. As opposed to a Carvel planked boat which the planks meet tightly on each edge, giving the hull a smooth look.  The most common method of pattering off a Carvel plank is called "spilling." This is the act of making a patter in a negative space between two planks or marks. Normally when building on forms. This can also be done with a "clinker-boat" but you will need forms or molds. The Gislinge boat is build in the traditional manner. From the keel up, without forms. 

 

 

  

Example of a "clinker" or "lap-strake" boat from the Faroe Islands

Example of a "clinker" or "lap-strake" boat from the Faroe Islands

Example of a "carvel" planked boat. The schooner Amistad.

Example of a "carvel" planked boat. The schooner Amistad.

  Building without forms or molds poses a few problems. First, you don't know where the planks will land. And second, you don't know the angle or flare of the planks going outboard. When you build using forms, the ends of the outer most edge of the planks are defined right on the form translated from the lofting, this allows you to spilie your plank to your markings. You also have the angle of the planks right there. The forms will also be make to the lofting so the angle is already defined. All you have to do, if your lofting is correct, is lay the plank flat to the form and you have your angle. The way this is rendered in the traditional building method is by using what are called "tic-sticks." 

 

Tic-sticks for planking a Viking ship with markings for angles in Roman numerical 

Tic-sticks for planking a Viking ship with markings for angles in Roman numerical 

  In order to find the plank widths and angles on Gislinge boat they've come up with a rather smart and easy method. The information needed to find angles and widths for the planks come from a line plan determined from lofting a scale model projected from the original Gislinge boat.

  

Projected half-breaths of the planking

Projected half-breaths of the planking

Triangulated langths from a determined center line. 

Triangulated langths from a determined center line. 

  Using the information from the plan, marks are made on the tic-sticks to triangulate the angles. Each station is marked and a center line is run from each stem. These points are used to find the langths and angles of each plank.  

 

Tic-sticks laid on corresponding stations and a string is run to determine a center line.

Tic-sticks laid on corresponding stations and a string is run to determine a center line.

   On one side of the tic-stick is the width of the plank and on the other is the langth from the line. 

 

Plank widths for station 1A

Plank widths for station 1A

   Each plank langth is represented by a mark and a number. Each station has is own stick. 

 

image.jpg

   After the width of the plank is marked on the pattern or plank if your going without a pattern, the tic-stick is tuned around and flipped over to determine the angle of the plank at that station. 

 

Ture checking his angle on the pattern just after he asked me if he wanted me to have him take his shirt off.   

Ture checking his angle on the pattern just after he asked me if he wanted me to have him take his shirt off. 

 

Right on the mark. 

Right on the mark. 

   Getting the right angle on the pattern is very important.  The idea is to have the pattern lay naturally and not force it into place. If you move one section you have to make sure there isn't any edge-set in the other section. Edge-set is a forced radial bend in the pattern and this is "very not good" as Ture says. It may look ok on the boat but when you put the pattern down on the planks to make your marks it won't be the same line. The edge-set leaves a memory in the piece and will return and your line will be bogus. You don't want that.

   After you have gotten all your marks lined up and your angles set you can draw your line following the top edge of the previous plank. Always remember to add the overlapping edge when you transfer your line. On the Gislinge boat we are using a 3.5 cm overlap. It really sucks if you forget to do this. Trust me. 

 

Ture marking his line.

Ture marking his line.

   After all your marks have been laid and you have double checked your angles and you feel confident we take the pattern off the boat and get ready to lay it out. This is a rather easy step unless you forget which marks are yours. The tendency is to use only one patten for every plank so by the third or fourth plank it can get a bit confusing if you don't make it clear which one is yours. Trust me.

 

Distinctive marks laid out on the plank.

Distinctive marks laid out on the plank.

Some how you get the plank end angle and a nice fair line from all this.  Each boatbuilder has their own marking system. Mine is shapes from the Lucky Charms box and a series of numbers (Not shown)

Some how you get the plank end angle and a nice fair line from all this.  Each boatbuilder has their own marking system. Mine is shapes from the Lucky Charms box and a series of numbers (Not shown)

Pattern laid out. 

Pattern laid out. 

Ture transferring his marks.

Ture transferring his marks.

   After the marks are laid out, assuming that you haven't forgot which ones are yours, you can lay a batten. 

 

Don't worry, that hook is natural. 

Don't worry, that hook is natural. 

   After a good bit of standing and starring at the batten we go ahead and draw the line. After the line is drawn you can proceed to cut your line. Making the same scores when shaping then you can go back and cut to the line.

 

image.jpg
image.jpg
Line roughed out

Line roughed out

Stem detail cut in. 

Stem detail cut in. 

   And with all this done you can start to shape your plank.

  Whether or not if the Vikings used this method of patter making or any at that is unknown. Most could probably plank a ship by eye. But this is a very effective method, whether you're building a Viking ship or just a regular clinker ship. Have fun.

England and the far NORTH, otherwise know as Scotland

Viking Expansion Into Scotland

 

image.jpg

The earliest Viking activity in Scotland was the attack on the monastery of Colmcille on the island of Iona in 795. Just two years after the raid on Lindisfarne. Over the next 50 years the raids continued unabated around the western coasts. 

 

Loch Houren leading to the Isle of Skye

Loch Houren leading to the Isle of Skye

By the mid-9th century the emphasis on raiding turned to settlement. By 900 AD settlers, mostly Norwegians, were well established in the islands and along the western and northern coasts from Galloway to the Moray Firth. In Orkneys and the Shetlands the native Celts were completely overwhelmed by the newcomers. In the Hebrides and the south west they were soon intermarrying with the Norse producing a hybrid people known to the Irish as the Gall-Gaedhil ("foreign Gael"), from which Galloway gets its names. Resulting influence on the Norse from the Celts was the adopting of Christianity before 900 AD.

         "They plundered the Hebrides, reaching the Barra Isles, where a king called Kjarval ruled .... There was a fierce battle ....  After many had fallen on both sides, the battle ended with the king taking flight with a single ship ..."   -Grettir's Saga

 

Guests from Overseas. Nicholas Roerich. 1901

Guests from Overseas. Nicholas Roerich. 1901

The most important effect that the Vikings had on Scotland during the 8th and 9th century's was the brake up of the existing power structure. In 800 Scotland was devided into four ethnic groups: the Picts of the Highlands, the Scots of Dalriada, the Britons of Strathclyde and the Anglo-Saxons of Nortumbria. All four suffered from Viking attacks, but the Scots seem to have been weakened less then there counterparts. Taking advantage of this and turning circumstances to their advantage, they overran the Picts in 844, the Strathclyde Britons in the 920s and the Lothian in 973, to create the kingdom of Scotland. 

 

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

Norse contacts with Scotland certainly predate the first written records in the 8th century, although their nature and frequency are unknown.  Excavations at Norwick on the island of Unst in Shetland indicate that Scandinavian settlers had reached there, perhaps as early as the mid 7th century, consistent with dates produced for Viking levels at Old Scatness so the Scandinavian influences in Scotland and Britian it self have been impacting the area for centurys.

Today the Norse influence remains mainly in place names. In Orkneys, Shetland, and Caithness, almost  all placenames are of Scandinavian character. Scandinavian placenames are also evident in the Isle of Man, Cumbria, Yorkshire and the East Midlands in East Anglia, the Hebrides and Galloway. 

Wooden boat building is still very prominent in Scotland. FIfe, Glasgow, Wick and Edinburgh are still very active in the trade. The double ended and clinker built design of the Viking age ships are still very common and can be seen throughout the northern coasts and outer islands. The influence of the Norse exspantion in Scotland and Britain remain a common to this day, further expressing the importance of there endeavors.

 

A medieval map of Britain from the manuscript of the Abbreviatio Chronicorum of Matthew Paris, dating from the 1250s.

A medieval map of Britain from the manuscript of the Abbreviatio Chronicorum of Matthew Paris, dating from the 1250s.

Map of the Viking exspantion in Britain

Map of the Viking exspantion in Britain

Isle of Skye with sheep. (Sheep are not Vikings) 

Isle of Skye with sheep. (Sheep are not Vikings) 

 The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

   On a stormy day on the 8th of June 793 AD the monks of Lindisfarne were observing St. Medards day. Without warning Norseman from what is now believed to be Norway came ashore with there longships.  They attacked the monastery, taking everything they could handle and killing or enslaving every monk in sight.  In the “History of the Church of Durham” by the monk Simeon it's described as thus:

     "On the seventh of the ides of June, they reached the church of Lindisfarne, and there they miserably ravaged and pillaged everything; they trod the holy things under their polluted feet, they dug down the altars, and plundered all the treasures of the church. Some of the brethren they slew, some they carried off with them in chains, the greater number they stripped naked, insulted, and cast out of doors, and some they drowned in the sea."

    The raid on the small island Lindisfarne off the coast of the Knigdom of Northumbria in north east England in 793 AD is arguably thought to be the beginning of the "Viking Age." 

 

A Double ended work boat on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The 16th century Linidisfarne Castle can be seen in the background

A Double ended work boat on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The 16th century Linidisfarne Castle can be seen in the background

  Although the raid on Linidisfarne in 793 is thought to be the start is was not the first raid in England. In 789 three ships from Horthaland in Norway arrived in Portland. The Kings reeve Beaduheard, believeing them to be merchants, ordered the crews to go to the royal residence at Dorchester. Needless to say this did not go well for Beaduheard. He was killed. 

   The scribe of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded:

    "This year King Bertric took Edburga the daughter of Offa to wife. And in his days came first three ships of the Northmen from the land of robbers. The reve then rode thereto, and would drive them to the king's town; for he knew not what they were; and there was he slain. These were the first ships of the Danish men that sought the land of the English nation."

    The 793 raid, however, marked the beginning of an era of increasingly large and devastating assaults on holy places.  The twin foundations of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow suffered the second recorded attack on a monastery in England, in 794.  After that, the pace of raids quickened. It's considered the start of the "VIking Age" do to the increase in activity but more importantly the arrival of the sail in Norse shipbuilding.

  

The Tune ship at the Vinking Ship Museum in Olso Norway, built around 910 AD, shows the advancement of the mast step and sailing rig that allowed the "Vikings" to expand into the east and beyond. 

The Tune ship at the Vinking Ship Museum in Olso Norway, built around 910 AD, shows the advancement of the mast step and sailing rig that allowed the "Vikings" to expand into the east and beyond. 

   With the end of the "Viking Age" in 1066 at Stamford Bridge and the Battle of Hastings (more on that later) and the conversion of the "Vikings" to Christianity, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne rebuilt and is to this day know for its Abby. But the influence on boat building and boating as a way of life prevails. From fishing and lobstering to sailing and pleasure boating, the wooden boat remains a fixture of the Holy Island. 

 

image.jpg
image.jpg
Linidisfarne Castle and the spot marker of the original monastery of the 793 raid

Linidisfarne Castle and the spot marker of the original monastery of the 793 raid

image.jpg
Ruins of the 11th century Abby built after the end of the "Viking Age" 

Ruins of the 11th century Abby built after the end of the "Viking Age" 

Over turned boats turned into work sheds

Over turned boats turned into work sheds

image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
The road in

The road in

image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg