DIY Viking Boat Building

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The purpose of this article is give you, the aspiring shipwright, a practical guideline to building your own Viking ship. The Vikings raided and colonized towns and cities stretching from North America to the Caucasus Mountains to North Africa--and their primary mode of transportation? Their ships. Although it will take some doing, perhaps some blood and sweat, and certainly a fair share of tears, a Viking ship can be built by any industrious, dedicated craftsman.

Things You'll Need

  • One tree, cut to desired length of ship
  • Hand axe
  • Assorted power tools
  • Saw
  • Wood plane
  • Sander
  • Rivets and nails
  • Be realistic. Come to terms with the fact that if you're a dedicated, semi-skilled craftsman, even one with some carpentry experience, you will be completely at a loss with regard to building a traditional longship. Longships are too time-intensive and costly for any single person to build. At best, you can hope to assemble a relatively sea-worthy Viking faering. The faering is approximately the same size and dimensions of a traditional rowboat.

  • Choose your wood. Traditional Viking shipwrights started with the keel. The length of the keel is determined by the length of the tree. As cutting down a tree may not be feasible, find the appropriate-length timber at your local hardware store or lumberyard. Note that traditional faerings measured between 20 and 30 feet in length.

  • Cut the keel. The keel is, in essence, the spine of the boat. Cut the keel into a T shape.

  • Get straking. Begin to attach the strakes. The strakes are the planks that radiate out from the keel. They should be fastened into place using the rivets and nails. The rivet nail is "clinkered" to its counterpart and rounded with a hammer. Continue overlapping the strakes until you reach the desired height. It is imperative you keep both sides of the emerging hull balanced.

  • Get ribbed. Once your hull is the desired height and all the clinkering is complete, it is time to reinforce the hull with interior ribs. The ribs can be screwed or nailed (your preference) into place. For the faering to have any hope of a long sea life, it must be ribbed.

  • Get seats and oarlocks. Once the ribbing is on place, seats can be screwed or nailed into place. A typical faering has two plank seats with corresponding oarlocks. The oarlock will, as the name implies, keep the oars in place.

  • Get coated. Cover the faering with sealant. Be sure to proof both the interior and exterior, and do so repeatedly. Between three and five coats should be sufficient. Allow to dry.

  • Get oars. Cut your oars to length, and be sure to cut an extra set in case of accidental lose or damage.

  • Get wet. Ease the faering into your local lake, river, or ocean and enjoy.

Tips & Warnings

  • The purpose of this article is to give you a wider perspective with regard to the time, materials and efforts involved in building a Viking ship. Crafting a viable ship is a time-honored skill passed down through generations from shipwright to apprentice. There are no easy answers, no shortcuts and certainly no prefabricated kits.
  • Please consult a qualified shipwright or carpenter before embarking on this project. Never use tools--especially power tools you are unfamiliar with. Safety is always a concern. Furthermore, be sure to contact your local zoning board or park ranger before cutting down any trees.

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