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.