Thursday, 6 September 2007

Migrating to own domain.

This blog has been moved, please update the links. This adress will not be maintained anymore.

The new adress:

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Just for a few days

I'm migrating the blog to wordpress and it's own domain. To not lose any comments I'll disable the comments for a few days and not post again until the new domain is up and running with the blog.

There will also be some changes in regards to the goal of the blog itself. From strictly displaying skills, I'll focus more on the experience of it all, in an attempt to catch the interest of more readers. Not that I'm not satisfied with the primitive skills nerds that already read this blog... :-D


Saturday, 1 September 2007

Another Bone Knife

Bone knives are excellent for tasks requiring a more sturdy edge than stone normally is. For example, while cutting true tinder fungus with a stone is a pain, shaving it off with bone is easy. Bone is also sharp enough for cutting non-fibrous vegetables, gutting fish and skinning small animals. In the latter task bone has the advantage of not normally being sharp enough to slice through the skin, especially if you have a rounded tip on the knife. Though I prefer to work with fresh bones I have been in short supply of bones for a long time since last hunting season so in this case I had to use an old sheep leg bone I found in a field.

Start by sawing halfway into the bone at the lower end margin of where the blade is supposed to be.

Score around the sides and top so that the front piece is freed from the rest without cracking the rest of the piece. Score almost all the way through. Using water will help a lot.

Split from the top and break off the waste. This waste piece was made into a small chisel. It might not be of very great utility, but I'll try it on green wood.

Afterwards the blade was ground thinner and pointy. For cleaning fish I would ideally want a thinner tip, but I want a stronger edge on this one for broader application.

I already had a birch bark sheath from a now broken knife to reuse.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

The Allround Hunter

My brother Laje do have some rather interesting updates on his blog now. It has been a very good start on the hunting season for him. I am very much looking forward to tanning that fox. Out of prime fur season it is, but the case skinned hide will make a nice bag or similar nonetheless.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Fish Trap

I've finally finished my fishing trap. This is the style Patrick McGlinchey uses and Jon have also made one of them. This trap is all willow and was quite frankly a pain to make. The willow bark works fairly well as a binding, but it takes time processing as much as you need. Compared to wickerwork it also seems to slip easier.

The result is fairly pretty and I look forward to testing it, but the next time I will make a trap in the same way as the burden basket a little while ago. This method simply takes way too much time to be worthwhile.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Two New Creations

Nothing great to report. I've been gathering some nettle fibres for fishing lines, a carrying net and a fishing net. I have tested some new techniques for making willow basketry, since this was a crude attempt at a burden basket I will not post anything about the techniques I've tested them further and gotten better at it.

Both Patrick McGlinchey and Jon_R have recently been experimenting with coiled basketry and that has inspired me to give it a go. To start on this type of project I needed to make a needle first. This one is out of a thin, flat section of reindeer antler. I expect the thinness to be an advantage in this kind of work.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Sub-arctic Food Plants

The subarctic region has few food plants. Most of them give a fairly low output, energywise. It's fish and game that are the major sources of food there. Here I show you three plants that has a fairly good output. If you have a woman or two ( ;-) ) gathering these plants for several hours of the day I think you could at least achieve almost the needed calorie intake, at least combined.


You can not eat too many of these berries, but they contain a fair amount of sugar and vitamin C. They also store quite well. The Saami hid these for the winter under overhanging waterfalls. I love the taste of these and snack or gather them whenever they are available. The actual colour is more yellow than on the photo.


Viking era candy. All the plant is edible. Very spicy and too much flavour to eat alone in my opinion. Very good boiled with meat or fish. It's not so abundant and can be difficult to find in quantity. Also contains vitamin C.

Alpine Bistort

The whole plant is edible. The seeds taste a little nutty, but are hardly worthwhile collecting and processing (winnowing). Quickly fried in the coals, the roots which can be of quite decent size, taste almost like french fries.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

In the News

The currach I made at Lofotr got some press attention. It was published in the local paper Lofotposten. Here is the scanned article. I'm sorry for the curled paper causing the bad scanning.

Small and Simple Antler Comb

Start by scoring and breaking off a palm of antler. The antler in question here is reindeer/caribou antler. As usual, use hot water when working antler.

Score or scrape along the edges so you can split the piece with a wedge. My split wasn't totally successful, but I actually think the result got better because it ran off. It gave a stronger handle.

Start scoring the teeth.

The teeth should be rombic in cross section and of course have a little spacing in between. This you can achieve by scoring, splitting and abrading with a rough piece of quartzite between the teeth.

The handle was engraved with a stone flake. Take several turns, score first superficially, then deepen the grooves. The grooves can be highlighted with a mixture of charcoal and wax (best in my opinion) or charcoal and fat.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Summing Up the Stay at Lofotr

For six weeks have I now worked as a craftsman at the Lofotr Viking Museum and I am now back in Trondheim. The total production of items (during work hours) was:
  • 3 needles of whale bone.
  • 1 needle of elk (moose) antler.
  • 1 large fishing hook of cow bone.
  • 1 medium sized fishing hook of elk (moose) antler.
  • 1 engraved cloak pin of cow bone.
  • 1 netting needle of cow bone.
  • 1 engraved button of whale tooth.
  • 1 coracle/currach.
  • 2 hide scrapers of reindeer (caribou).
  • 1 small engraving knife of iron.
  • 3 slate sharpening stones.
  • Hafting for a bowdrill bit of iron.
Unfinished projects:
  • 4 metres of a 50 metres long salmon net of linen.
  • A composite antler comb (reindeer/caribou antler).
Not much may some say, but keep in mind that this museum has on average around 500-700 visitors per day, making questions from the public a major occupation.

Some of the projects on the photo below.

A closeup of the cloak pin. Poor quality because of the bad light in the house.

The museum owns three viking boats. This is the larges one. Note the new horse head in the front, carved by Doreen Wehrhold.

Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to go back next year to finish the unfinished projects + do a number of new ones.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Sailing with a Viking Boat

Yesterday I was out on my second sailing with the small viking boat called "femkjeipingen" because of it has room for 5 rowers. This is a very quick boat, even for one person to row, so I imagine it would be excellent with five. Sailing is however of course more desirable. The wind this time was almost absent and changed direction all the time, but at the end of the trip we had very good wind. With it's large single sail this boat is very quick, but two people is really too little as you need more people to redistribute the weight in the boat as needed.

I sat on the rodder, while Flurin, a travelling blacksmith from Switzerland sat in the front. Note that this photo was taken when the wind conditions were less than optimal.

This is a boat I WANT! But I guess I have to make myself a large currach to sail instead.

Here is a photo of the chieftain's hall taken from distance.

Thursday, 2 August 2007


I have learnt quite a bit from my the last currach/coracle/bullboat I made. On that one I did a lot of mistakes, most of which I managed to avoid this time. This site also gave me a lot of needed new inspiration.

First of all, what you need to get is a cow hide (or some other large animal). Making the frame takes about 1 day, but dehairing the hide in a stream takes substantially longer.

The frame is started by sticking a circle or semicircle of an equal number of rowan rods into the ground. They don't need to sit deep, but they should preferably be stuck to an angle outwards.

Next you start a special type of weaving where you bring in one and one rod so you get a type of diagonally overlapping weave. The currach site explains it better.

The secondary weaving is done in the ordinary fasion with one round at the time before starting an opposite one.

Bend the withies down and pull 2 and 2 over eachother. This will give the boat a slightly more rectangular or square appearance in the end. Tie the crosspoints with strong cordage or leather. There was in my case no need for it to be weighed down for the recommended 10 days.

Take the dehaired hide and stretch it gently on. Use the longer parts, the legs and such for rope and tie it to the frame. I didn't bother to cut the protruding points and they made it easier to tie the hide to the frame.

The currach ended up quite big and very stable. Here is a photo of two of the viking voluntaries, Brage (14) and Gaute (12), rowing the currach with oars.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Hide Scraper

Making this type of hide scraper is easy. First score around the edge of a reindeer/caribou "skovle" (what we call the flat pieces of the antler here). Brek off the irregular front and then score along the sides. As usual, using hot water will help you a lot. Split the piece along it's lenght. Tidy it up and make the lower edge sharp.

This type of scraper is quite effective, but the width is too large for my strength at least. Adding a long handle to it would make it better of course, since you then could put a lot of weight into it. It is used with a chopping motion, or by forcing the corners under though points. These scrapers were used to scrape both the flesh and hair side of the skin of the new coracle/currach/bullboat I've been making for the museum. A post about that will hopefully be up within very few days.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Fuedalism Alive and Well in Britain

A young friend of mine, named Jon is now being cut off from moving around on the estate where his father works. Their house is surrounded by the estate, so he is now really confined to walking on the roads and their own lawn. He is very much into outdoor life and crafts and is very responsibly behaving towards the environment. If he or anyone else in his family trespasses his father risk loosing his job.

I try to avoid posting things with political content, but I find this really appaling. I consider it the right of every human to be able to move around in their surroundings.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Viking Era Shoes

I've been to the Viking Museum Lofotr for over one month now. There I have been making quite a few items which I'll post over the next weeks. PS! A warning for the purists: These things are not made with stone tools only.

The shoes were made on an evening course run by viking era shoe maker Fanny Larsson (she makes shoes on order for those who are interested). Though they are a little too big for using without woolen socks they are very comfortable. The pattern is taken from Hedeby, currently in Germany, but formerly in Denmark.

I've used these types of shoes and my bare feet only now for almost 5 weeks straight and the 2 times I've tried on my modern shoes it has been an awful experience.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Birch Bark

I gathered a lot of birch bark for personal projects and courses while I was at home. Some is spirally cut and will be used for a rucksacks or shoes. This is a photo of some of it. All was gathered with stone tools.

This cup was made due to the need of a container to keep my worms in when fishing. This type of cup is readily made and discarded and can be used for drinking from too, but due to the simple fold it does not hold water perfectly.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Going away for a bit

I'll be gone for about 2 months. I'll first go home preparing for some courses this winter, later I'll go work as a craftsman in a museum up north. It is this museum, if you by any chance are there within that timeframe chances are you'll see me making something in the longhouse.

Have a nice summer.

PS! For all I know, Robert may still post from time to time...

Sunday, 3 June 2007


Here is the arrowsizer I started making before Christmas. It is carved as an eagle flapping it's wings. More detail may be added when I feel my skill is up for it. I think it looks acceptable regardlessly though.

Aspen Bark Container Part 2

The container is sewn after it is dried. I drilled the holes with a flint tip. The rim was willow bark and so was the lashing. There are many possibilities of how to do this. If you use a good type of bark, which doesn't curl that much, you can butt the sides against eachother, but with aspen you pretty much have to overlap. This basket type is very sturdy and well worth the effort in making.

Saturday, 2 June 2007


My kids and I took off an afternoon to work on a wikkiup in a place that we have thought would be good to do it. We picked a spot right on a creek where there is a natural spring and we've been to the spot enough to know it doesn't flood at any time of the year.

Right near this spot are old broken cottonwoods which tend to break off in large splinters that leave huge slabs of material to use as shingles. There are also some green alders that were washed away at the bank and were blocking the creek somewhat. Alder, no matter if it's green or dry is very brittle and pretty large trunks can be broken off.

The point of this exercise is to show my kids that good dwellings can be made with what is available. When it's done is should be fairly rain proof and tall enough to have a fire inside. Right now it's drying a bit as it is very heavy from being green and the large slabs are still wet with the rain we've been having.

In the above picture you can see how we used the natural forks of the trees to make an interlocking center. You can make the center interlock very tightly by laying everything down on the ground first and interlocking it while it's on the ground. Then you raise it up in the middle and keep pushing it up. The increasing angle will really help bind the forks together.

The above shows the large slabs of cottonwood that will overlap as shingles.

This last pic shows the approximate size of the shelter. I can easily stand up and have room to reach up still in the center. It should sleep 4 pretty comfortably.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Aspen Bark Container Part 1

This type of container is to me the quickest way to make high quality containers there is. It has the limitation that it is to a great deal only usable in spring and summer. After the bark has been folded you have a ready made container. To make it more durable and useful however, it is an advantage to dry it before you do the final steps. Otherwise you will experience curling and shrinking of the bark, making the construction loose and without a great fit.

First choose a section of Aspen (or specie with bark of similar structure) which is fairly straight and knot free. Score around the tree in the top of the piece you want, and do the same in the bottom. Then score diagonal line connecting the other two. Make sure you score all the way into the wood. You will kill the tree anyway, so there is no reason to be careful.

I use my flat moose antler wedge to pry loose the bark.

Determine the middle of the sheet by using a folded line. I have no picture of the process, only the curled sheet.

Score a shape across the sheet, resembeling the cross-section of a convex lense. I did this on free hand this time, but to get a more regular and beautiful shape you could make a simple birch bark pattern.

Fold it over and pull it over a log stump, bind around and leave it to dry. This is to prevent it from curling inwards. Not very easily achieved primitively, so I am currently testing another method, which I have never seen demonstrated anywhere. If it works out well, it will be presented in a book.

Heat Treating Rocks

Norway is full of rocks, but very few of them have any particular value in knapping. Flint is only occationally found on the southern coast in small pebbles and rhylite in one location in the west. Quartzite is too hard, quartz breaks a little irregularly and lots of others are more or less useful.

I had heard that quartz responds to heat treating, so I decided to test high grade quartz, quartzite and something that resembles metabasalt. The flakes, no more than an inch thick, were buried a few centimetres below the surface. A small fire was made on top and maintained for between 1 and 2 hours.

I then brushed the coals aside and let the ground cool for a little while. My immediate reaction when digging up the flakes were that the pieces of quartz seemed more shiny and glossy. There was no visible difference on the quartzite and metabasalt.

When testing the pieces I found that the quartz knapped much easier. The flakes travelled easier and didn't step in the regular fashion. It also felt sharper. On the quartzite, which supposedly doesn't respond to heat treating I found a small positive change, although it may be just my bias. The metabasalt just became more brittle and crumbled under any flaking.

I didn't expect any change during such a short time of exposure to such relatively small temperatures. As the results were quite pleasing, I'm not sure much more would be recommended with the quartz, since it may become too brittle, but it may be worth experimenting with higher temperatures and/or longer time in the ground with quartzite.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Beaver Tooth Bracelet

I've made a bracelet for my oldest daughter, Alva. She doesn't want to wear bracelets yet, so I'm thinking of making a longer string and turning it into a necklace instead. It is made from broken beaver teeth and willow bark.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Sewn Birch Bark Box

Birch bark is extremely versatile and resilient. Consequently it can be used for making a lot of different things. You need bark of a certain quality to make this type of box.

Take a long piece of bark and roll it up double. Sew it up with some type of cordage. For such high strain, static applications, split spruce root is ideal.

I had limited amounts of spruce root available this time, so for the rest I used strips of willow bark. The bottom of the box and the top of the lid is doubled with bark in two different directions for added strenght. Stitching across the grain is always important to do when using birch bark. Otherwise the bark will most likely split.

That's the basics of it all, an excellent box for storing all sorts of small items. There are many tips and tricks regarding fitting and similar that doesn't fit in here. A more in depth tutorial will be in the upcoming book(s).