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Viking Ship Models


We specialize in Museum quality scale Viking ship scale models built from the Gokstad and other Viking ship plans. We can build to suit a variety of size and budget requirements, depending on the model. Understand the these models are built with an exceptionally level of detail required to keep the models authentic..

Captain Magnus Andersen's replica of the Gokstad ship Viking in New York Harbor in 1893.


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Ship Construction Methods Pg. 1

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Gokstad Viking Ship Construction Methods Pg 1


The following account is the result of an examination of the Gokstad ship (1943-44)


At the first glance it is evident that the Gokstad ship is a handsome vessel, well built and adapted to its purpose, a work of long experience and fine craftsmanship. But in order really to judge and appreciate it, it is necessary to study the details of its structure, because it is the details that show how thoroughly everything has been tested and thought out. Shipbuilding in the Viking Era was the final stage of a long development, the result of seamanship and technical skin which had gradually achieved that classic standard of which the Gokstad ship is an example. Only a close examination can show us how each part of the ship has its definite function, and how well every detail has been designed to serve its purpose. The following account is the result of a new examination of the ship (1943-44). The old description by State Antiquarian N. Nicolaysen (1882) was bound to be unsatisfactory as the ship at that time had not been restored to its original form. Now, on the other hand, the dimensions may be corrected from the restored ship. Particularly regarding the stem and stern of the ship, it has been established that they differ from the old measurements in that they rise higher and more sharply. This is naturally a great improvement in the profile of the ship as a whole.

Mr. Fr. Johannessen, a distinguished nautical engineer who has devoted his life to the study of Viking navigation, has kindly taken a personal share in the investigations, and has checked our statements of measures and dimensions. We have also had the invaluable advantage of discussing with him the various technical and nautical problems that the ship presents. It is to be hoped that Mr. Johannessen himself soon win publish a thorough, technical account of the Gokstad ship. Meanwhile the present work is the first to give an accurate and complete report on how the Gokstad ship was built.

The Gokstad ship is 76' 5" (23.33 m) long, between the extreme points fore and aft. Greatest width is 17' 6" (6.25 m.). The height from the bottom of the keel to the gunnel amidships is 6' 4 4/5" (1.05 m). The ship's side above the waterline amidships is 3' 7 1/2" (1.10 m.), and it draws 33 1/2" (0.85 m.). The weight of the hull fully equipped is estimated at 20.2 metric tons. Art exact copy of the ship had a tonnage of 31.78 registered tons. The ship is built of oak throughout arid consists of keel, stem and stern, ribs with crossbeams and knees, and planking. In addition to this come the special supports for the mast and all outer equipment., rudder, mast and yard with sails and cordage, Moor-boards, oars, anchor, gangway, baler etc.


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The keel is in one piece, cut out from a selected, straight grown oak, and has a T-shaped section. It is 14'/z" (37 cm.) high amidships, increasing to 1 f t/z" (42cm.) aft, and 1 J3/4' (40 cm.) under the bow. The underside amidships IS 3' 7 1/2" (13 cm.) wide, and the side facing the bottom of the ship 3 3/4" (10 cm.). Each side of the upper surface has a projecting ridge on to which the first strake is fastened. The width on the upper surface is thus increased to 7 3/4" (20 cm.). Simple as it may be, the keel's profile is nicely balanced for the greatest possible strength and the least possible weight The keel forms a very flat and even arch from fore to aft, so that the ship draws 1' 1"  cm.) more amidships than at the ends. This is also a masterly feature, as it makes it easier to turn the ship about, causes it to lie high on the water and increases its capacity, as the greatest draught is where the hull is broadest.

We see from this that a shipbuilder in the Viking Bra knew how to shape the keel so that it would serve its double purpose perfectly. It reinforces the entire hull lengthwise from stem to stern, and at the same time it gives the ship strength to resist the pressure from below in heavy seas. From the account given elsewhere elf older types of ships we leave seen that this part of the structure was long all unsolved problem which made it particularly difficult to build ships of larger dimensions. Before the invention of the keel, a broad bottom-plank had to suffice, as in the Nydam Ship. This was a weakness that had unfortunate consequences for the shape of the hull. On the Kvalsund boat, a couple of centuries before the Viking Era, we still have the bottom-plank, but now furnished with a projecting ridge along the middle, giving some strength although it never could be quite effective. In a boat found at Holmedal in Sunnfjord the development has advanced one step further. Here there is a real keel made in one piece with a broad bottom-plank, but with the weakness that the angle between the plank and the keel is apt to give way and break under pressure. Finally, in the viking ships, the bottom-plank has been discarded altogether, so that the keel alone can be given the shape most suitable for its purpose. This solution may seem simple as Columbus' egg, but nevertheless it cost centuries of trial and error. Now, for the first time it was possible to sail into the wind.

To each end of the keel is joined a special piece which forms the transition to the stem and stern, both by a slightly ascending curve and by a higher, sharper transverse section. At the ends of the keel the projecting ridge gives place to a rabbet to which the the ends of each strake is fastened. The keel, transitional pieces, stem and stern are connected by scarf joints. That is to say that the two pieces to be joined are cut at an angle where they overlap, and then they are riveted with sturdy nails, two rows to each joint and four treenails in the upper scarf. In this detail the Shipwright also shows great progress from the techniques known from the ships of earlier clays. In both the Nydam ship and the Kvalsund boat the connection between the keel and the stem and stern is made by a flat joint (ends of planks not cut obliquely) and overlapping horizontally fastened with treenails, no doubt a less durable method for such an exposed point of the structure. It was this point that would bear the brunt if the ship were to be stranded; even in the times of the sagas it is mentioned several times that the transitional piece might be torn off if the ship struck a shoal. The stem and stern are each in one piece, and of the finest materials in the entire ship. Both are unfortunately incomplete now, as the tops have rotted away. The piece that remains of the stern measures 9' 9" (3 m.) cord length, that of the stem slightly less. The greatest width is 17 3/4" (45 cm.) with a sharp profile, narrower at the the stern, the inner side having a rabbet into which the ends of the planking are nailed What remains of the Gokstad ship is enough to show how the stem and stern rise in an elegant elegant curve from the keel, but it is unfortunately insufficient to tell us anything about their height or how the tops were made. Only one little thing is discernible, just at the edge the remaining piece of the stern. Here there is a moulding that follows the inner side of the stern in a uniform curve. The curve is interrupted, but begins again after a short intervening space, now ascending vertically. The lines here show with certainty that the stern has broadened appreciably toward the top, but give no indication as to how the top was finished. It is, however, permissible to point to a closely analogous case, viz. the stern of a rather large vessel found in the marshes hear Sunnanna, Ryyfylke. The size of this stern is about two thirds of that of the Gokstad ship, and thus it gives a fair idea of the vessel to which the stern belonged. Here too, just as in the Gokstad ship there is a characteristic break in the transition from a uniform projecting curve to a vertical line. Here the top is intact, cut into a high point which rises flush with the edge of the sheer strake. There is a stern of a similar shape on a drawing of a boat made on the floor-board of the Oseberg ship. Evidently this was quite a common way of terminating the stern in the Viking Era, but that is naturally no proof that the Gokstad ship had just this same form. On the other hand it is evident that the Gokstad ship did not have a dragon head of the type found on the Oseberg ship, although it may have had a similar ornament in another form. The dragon-head was usually detachable, as we know from the saga: Now Olav Trygvason is afraid, he dare not sail with the head on his ship.

Bard is the old name for the ship's prow, and that accounts for the fame of Erik Jarl's ship Jernbarden (fern=iron) which had iron pieces fastened to the stein. The word barge is also used poetically for ships in general.

Joined to the keel, stem and stern is the planking, the skin, which forms the bottom and sides of the ship. The planking of the Gokstad ship consists of 16 strakes, each overlapping the one below, and fastened to it with round-headed rivets driven through both planks from the outside On the inside the nails are riveted over a little, square iron plate called a clinch-plate (ro). Only on a small part of the ship, close to the stem and stern, are the clinch plates on the outside, as there was not room for using the hammer on the inside. With this exception, riveting on the outside was considered slovenly and unsightly. The nails used in the Gokstad ship are about 2/5" (1 cm.) in diameter, and have intervals of about 7/2" (18.5 cm.). All joints in the planking are made as scarf joints with three nails across, of which the two on each side are driven through the adjoining strake. An old rule in those days was that two joints should never be placed directly one above the other. Should this happen it was considered a defect, the strip was pieced. This has been carefully avoided in the Gokstad ship. Another fine point was that the outer end of the scarf-joint always pointed aft, so as to shed water and ice when the ship was in motion. A competent man would naturally see to it that all such rules were observed iii the construction of the ship. While the planking was being built. The grooves and joints were caulked with animal hair. Loose, woolly threads, approximately as thick as a finger, were spun loosely together in a thick cord, presumably with a thin, hook-shaped twig like those seen used with the boat builders in North Norway. The caulk was dipped in tar and placed in a groove near the lower edge of every strake, so that it was pressed lightly together when the planking was riveted Every seam and joint was carefully caulked, as were the Joints between the planking, keel, stem and stern.


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