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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Viking Ships at Roskilde

Today is smelter prep / workshop day for DARC, against our upcoming spring smelt on June 14. So I wanted to get my presentation version of my Denmark images sorted out and transfered over to DVD. At this point I have taken the various panoramic images I shot and patched them together. As a bit of a break from my concentration on iron smelting here, I have posted a couple of images from the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde.
View of the interior - Note that the ship is tied to the dock on the STARBOARD side.View of the hull at the waterline on the port side
The first are two views of the 'Ottar', a reconstruction of Skuldelv 1. This is a knorr (knarr over here), an ocean going freight vessel. The original was built in Sognefjorden Norway. This is the hull that Paul Compton's 'Viking Saga' is based on.
The specifics from my notes:
length - 16.5 m
width - 4.5 m
capacity - 20 tons / 35 cubic meters
draft (laden) - 1.3 m
sail speed - 12.5 knotts (empty?)
construction - Denmark, circa 1030
View of the interior, this ship tied 'to port'.
The last I am pretty sure is the reconstruction of Skuldelv 6. This is a medium sized coastal working ship for fishing or trade. There were a number of boats at the museum dock on this basic pattern These are obviously the work horses of the sailing programs there.
The specifics (from the text):
length - 11.2 m
width - 2.5 m
capacity - 3 tons
construction - Norway, circa 1030

I got more detailed in my notes with the other museums I visited. I had wandered over the dock area before the museum opened in the morning to take these images. My main focus at the Viking Ship Museum was actually on construction and especially working tools. (This related to an ongoing project for Parks Canada to produce a complete set of Viking Age ship building tools.)

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Revised Ribe Bead Furnace

On my first evening in Ribe, I had arranged to meet with both Michael Nissen (iron) and Trine Theut (glass) from the Ribe Viking Centre. I offered to buy them dinner against pumping their brains. Trine had corresponded with Neil already about aspects of Viking Age glass bead making.
She had described her latest variation on the set of of the furnace. The next morning, I had taken what I had accumulated in my rough notes into this drawing.The suggestion of moving the inlet for the air blast both to the side and up off the floor of the furnace was my own suggestion. This based on my experience working with Norse blacksmith's equipment. (Curiously, she and Michael, who works 'two booths over', had never really discussed fire set ups before this evening.)

The next day, I had arranged a visit to the site to meet with the curator. Michael kindly offered to drive me out there and show me around his specific area in detail. Trine has her work station set up inside one of the period A frames (see the posting on tents). I was able to get a number of shots of the actual furnace she is working with: Showing the working area framed at the top of the furnace. From the rear, showing the low mounted belllows input hole. From the front, showing the charcoal feed port and the annealing pots used to plug this.
Effectively what Trine has come up with is a charcoal fired 'torch'. Once the new fuel is burning relatively smoke free, the front loading port is closed up using one of the 'annealing cups'. This forces all the hot combustion gases through the small hole into the upper working area. At this point she can use more or less standard lampwork techniques to work the individual beads. She says her control has improved drastically with this set up - as well as ease, speed and worker comfort. Charcoal consumption has also been reduced.My revised working drawing of a possible set up.
The small circular pan now becomes a much more obvious and useful tool. It can be used to slowly heat pieces of glass towards working temperatures without shocking the surface. Individual fragments of colour or braided threads can be warmed then placed around the hole to be picked up on the hot glass bead as it is worked. The initial gather of glass is applied to the rod / mandrel by first heating the iron to orange. Note that the mandrel is now not any place near heat except for its working tip.

Expect several versions of this small (easy to build and transport) clay cobb furnace to be set up and tested over this summer.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Viking Sites in Orkney

Just in the order we visited them...

The Orkneyinga Saga Centre and Earl's Bu are outside Orphir Church. Link to all three here.

A fun place with a building (pictured) containing 8 panels discussing the location and its connection to the Orkneyinga Saga. I think the best part is that the panels are pictures and laser printed text pasted onto boards, with hand drawn titles. Someone cared enough to work on this. There is also a 17 minute film playing when you want. Outside is the ruins of the Earl's Bu and an old partial church. But the church was built later then the Viking Age.

The Brough of Birsay. The Brough is on a tidal island so seeing it is dependant on low tide. And it was fantastic! Lots of the remainders of a Norse settlement. Similar to L'Anse aux Meadows but on the slanted side of an island. Lots of different house layouts. Again there is a later period church.

Maeshowe was next on the list. The guide was absolutely delightful and really brought the place to life. No pictures were allowed inside the tomb but the Viking graffiti was right there, right in front of us. Not in a barely discernable scratch but in clear lines that were readily readable. There's a book that we bought that has great photographic plates of every last one of the 41 runic inscriptions found. it's called "The Runic Inscriptions of Maeshowe, Orkney" and it's written by Michael P. Barnes.

The guide's pronunciation of the english translation of the runes (and in one case Old Norse) in a Yorkshire accent was pretty funny. Don't go here if you're claustrophobiac - the entrance walkway is 10m (30 feet) long and only 1m (3 feet) high. The chamber itself is tiny, and deeply inside a hill.

Do go here if you love really _feeling_ history!

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Tents - Ribe Viking Centre

Sam wrote:

I need to make new A-frame for a tent ... What size boards have some of you used for an A-frame?

(Readers should refer to the section on the DARC web site depicting past camp presentations for images of various A frame tents the group uses.)

I take it you have a COVER for a standard 'wedge' tent?
First decision is if you want the beams inside the canvas (like I set mine up) or outside (Like Neil and most others do ). Advantage to inside is that it holds the tent sides open better. Disadvantage is that you need a larger hole at the peak for the boards to fit through. Its also more difficult to set the tent up. Outside planks with an X of ropes from corner to corner is the way most people solve the sagging sides but keep the tent fast to set up.

See the set of plans on the Encampment part of the Wareham Forge web site

So you are making measurements for the side rails and the ridge pole from the length of the canvas. Again along the ridge line and each of the sides (likely the same measurement). Then you add on the extra for the joints and pins, maybe an extra 6 inches on either end.

The bottom of the three end boards should be the length of the base line of the door end and back end of the tent. Plus the extra for the insert of the side rail beam. If you check the plan drawing you can see what I mean.

On the two uprights, the measurement is taken from the corner of the base line up to the peak. Then you add on the joint amounts for top and bottom (as with the bottom beam). On top of the planks goes the allowance for any kind of carved head you want to add to the finished support structure. Typically this amounts to 8 - 12 inches extra on each of the four pieces.

The actual Oseburg tent is something like 16 x 16. Neil's tent is patterned on that version (bloody huge). My own is about 2/3 scale, with the side rails at about 10 foot and the carved boards at roughly 11 feet. Fits very comfortably on top the Astro.

Consider your materials in terms of cost and strength At a rural building supply, you can usually get 'barn pine' - used for exterior planking on barns. The cost for this rough one side in 1 x 12 inch is roughly $1 per foot (Ontario Canada). With a large table saw that you can use to rip these in half to 1 x 6 planks. I have standard 2 x 4's and ripped them as well, down to 3 inches wide, for the two side rails. Taken together this modifies the look of the boards away from 'non standard' lumber.
I strongly suggest using a complete sapling as by far the best material to use for the ridge pole - in terms of strength vs size. A little hunting and you should be able to find a spruce or pine sapling the right size for the ridge pole. You will need a piece long enough when cut to span the ridge, typically this will work out to be roughly 4 inches at the base, tapering to about 1 1/2 where cut at the top for length.

Just for comparison, here are a couple of images of tents from the Ribe Viking Centre. For background, this is an 'open air museum' as they are called in Denmark (living history site for us NA's). It is loosely broken into three sections. The first is a recreation of a large section of the original market place layout of Ribe itself, as it existed in the Viking Age. A timber plank street is flanked by regular plots. These are bounded by ditches held in place with low withy sections.
The original Ribe Market would NOT have had any permanent buildings. There are several in the re-creation, each some variant on the 'pit house'. These are small, shallow dug outs that have roofs of either thatch or turf, used as various workshops (more on these in a latter posting).
A couple of details on the tents which may prove interesting. First, there were at least five on site that were part of the permanent fixtures. (I was visiting in late April. The site was closed at that point, with normal season opening at least two weeks off.) These are all fairly large, built around a roughly 12 x 16 foot print (maybe more in some cases). Large enough that Trene's bead making furnace is operated without problem from inside the tent for example. This is the tent workshop in the image above.
The covers are set up with pockets along the edges, both sides of the door and on the lower bottom seam. Into these slotted pockets are run thin natural poles. (Denmark has no shortage of willow to provide the thin straight saplings.) These poles are then lashed to the wooden frames. This method is considerably more durable than the rope or leather ties commonly used on our reconstructed tents. The covers themselves are all a modern heavy commercial tent canvas. Some were dyed most were the standard (unnatural!) bright white, with brass grommets showing. (Remember that these are in constant public use, so squint a bit as you look at them - and be forgiving.)
Several of the tents were also set up with the method of opening the sides up as awnings seen in the image above. (This tent was the storage and working area for the archery field.) The addition of the extra side board and linking rail is certainly more durable than the 'single pole' method that I have used in the past for the same effect. Significantly more material required, and thus unlikely inside a strictly historic context.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

New in the Library

These are the titles I picked up in Denmark at the various Museum gift shops:

Swords of the Viking Age - Ian Peirce

Viking Aros - Moesgard Museum

Building Customs in Viking Age Denmark - Holger Schmidt
(I think Neil already has a copy of this one)

Early Iron Production - Lars Norbach
(I had a worn photocopy of this)

The Vikings of Ribe - Stig Jensen

Ribe Sudier 1 & 2 - Claus Feveile
(in Danish with English summaries - the primary report)

Roar Edge - Anderson, Crumlin-Peterson, Vadstrup & Vinner
(in Danish)

The Skuldelev Ships 1 - Crumlin-Pedersen & Olsen
(the primary report)

All the books will be on view at the upcoming weekends at the Wareham Forge. (Smelt prep on May 31 and Smelt day on June 14)

You may also be forced to endure a long travelogue with hundreds of images. Expect Neil and Karen will be equipped with the same from their current trip...



Wednesday, May 7, 2008

National Museum of Scotland

Back to Neil and Karen's travels. :)

Remember, our esteemed leader went to Denmark, Neil and Karen went to Scotland and Iceland. We'll both be posting - don't get confused. Driving on the left is bad enough.

We went in here around 12:30pm and emerged 4 and a half hours later with 650 photos at closing time. :) We'll share those some other day.

These broaches were found at Ballinaby, Scotland. That's all the information the display had.

It's actually frustrating - no artefact number, nothing. Getting more info about some of the fun stuff - like a glass tesserae found at the Brough of Birsay is going to be tricky.

And the displays didn't exactly suit photography, some of the exhibits - like the robots - seemed designed to make photos impossible.

This is a great interactive exhibit for the kids - Dress up like Vikings! I'm squatting quite low because the dress is sized for kids. There had several interesting ideas for teaching kids.

This is a display of a reconstructed viking grave. Its nice to see details like that at a museum rather than just a static display of an artefact in a case. Still the Peterborough museum's artefacts in action was even better.

Karen and Neil

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

COPENHAGEN - field report

My guess is I've shot about 600 images or so...

The National Museum was less impressive in terms of the collection that was available. The Medieval and Renaissance gallery is a lot of church related stuff. There was a section on daily life and the trades, but the artifacts from my period of interest were quite limited. In Denmark, the Viking Age is considered part of the Ancient history area. May have something to do with the country considering itself the 'oldest monarchy in the world'. I guess they figure they beat out the UK by a few years. So its more like 'before kings' or 'after kings'.
They do hold the majority of the materials from Greenland. Most of which had been yanked for an upcomg special display. All the textiles were gone. Sorry.
I still did manage to take at least 50 images. Everyone will get sick of axes! I did ramble through the later materials taking shots of stuff that would interest many of my other artist friends.
One of the big surprises was a collection of objects (admittedly small) from a Danish attempt to find the North West Passage - in around ** 1650 **. Three of them actually made it back after a winter on the ice (Remember that is what killed Franklin's much better equipped expedition the better part of 200 years later.)

There has also been a bit of interesting forged iron around Copenhagen as well as the stuff in the National Museum. I'd guess most of it from the 1700's. At one point the city was obviously equipped with gas street lights. Many of the hangers are distinctive. There are any number of old sign hangers around as well. The area of Copenhagen within walking distance is composed of older buildings, plus the palace, govenment and large warehouses from when this was a major shipping power.

A piece of intelligence - forget the free bicycles. Oh, there were lots of them being pushed around all right. They have these distinctive solid plastic disk wheels (in place of spokes). Built in city maps of the downtown tourist areas too. But did I see any place to pick one up? Not until the very end of most of an afternoon hoofing it around. One lone (loan) bike chained to a stand - about three blocks from my billet. You put in a 20 DK coin (about $4) which you get refunded at the place you chain it back up again - assuming you can FIND the place you chain it up. Might as well not even be available. Supposed to be something like 2000 of them, and I only saw ONE not already spoken for. This is the off season too.



Monday, May 5, 2008

Neil and Karen go to Iceland

Made a quick stop in the home country on our way to Scotland to pick up a few things...

The quality of the cooking has gone downhill since we were last home.

The Viking Village doesn't have a good reputation for it's authenticity. Fortunately for Neil, it only does dinners and we couldn't stay around that day. Maybe on the way back through Iceland at the end of May. I happen to enjoy schtick quite a bit. :)

Found this bit of Viking inspired art in the middle of a roundabout in Njarðvík. Well, at least the sword is Viking inspired, even if sticking it in a stone isn't. ;)

Now, this on the other hand, has some history. It's a Viking boat called the Islendingur, which is based on .... well heck, I took a picture of the text too.

More later...

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      Updated: 4 Dec, 2007
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