Archive for July, 2010

The second shoe is well on its way to being assembled. I will turn it tonight, and then start stitching the sides and attaching toggles.

I should work on the comb, or the line winder, or an extra needle, or…. but tomorrow I am taking time off to go with my daughter and several friends to see the Maxville Highland Games.

Pictures of many recent projects have finally been uploaded to my webpage, which you can find on the links page.


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I finished the sheath for my knife last night, so decided to post a few pictures.

Norse women’s knife and sheath. The handle is birch; the end piece is a small square of brass; the sheath will tie to my tools cord with the lucet cord.

Knife in the sheath.

The lucet on the left is patterned after a Swedish one. A similar model was found at York, but with much shorter tines. This one is made of a bird bone. The lucet on the right is patterned after 16 that have been found at York. It is made of a deer leg bone. Both are Viking age. They aren’t quite as easy to use as my more modern wooden lucet, but it may just be that I need more practice.

I have no evidence for this style of wooden netting needle in the Viking period. However, it is a traditional design and can document use of fishing nets to the Viking period.

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  • knife completed
  • scabbard started
  • 2 bone lucets made (1 from York, 1 from Sweden)
  • line winder cut out
  • netting shuttle sanded and ready for use
  • pieces for composite comb cut out
  • apron dress completed.

The apron dress was an interesting experiment. I put side gores in with bias to straight edge, similar to the 10 gore dresses outlined in the Museum of London book. I also made it extra large, then pulled it up high in the back and used fairly short straps. The front and under the arms was gathered to give the dress some shape. There is a piece of gathered wool (from Birka?) that is consistent with this interpretation of the dress.

The line winder is probably a smallish version of one found in The Vikings by Graham-Campbell (p 60). It is made of whalebone and the author says it provides evidence of long-line fishing, so I assume it is fairly large, even though no size is given anywhere. A small version would probably work nicely as a lucet. I took the largest beef legbone in my hoard and cut out a rough pattern. I will need lots of trimming and sanding to be useful. When I get back from l’Anse aux Meadows, I will probably decorate it. The original has an elegant bird on the bottom, plus a ring dot design.

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I headed down to the basement workshop at around 7 am to tackle the knife and cut out several bone projects. I drilled out the handle with three different sizes of drill bit. I started tapping the handle into place. I tapped and tapped and tapped. Very little happened for a very long time. Then the handle split.

I got out a length of birch and cut another handle, thinking that birch is a little softer than oak so it might be more forgiving. I drilled out the handle again. I tapped and tapped. The handle split.

I cut another handle, being very careful to avoid any spots with knots. I drilled, using the larger drill bits to go deeper, and filing out any narrow spots, and tapped and tapped, then cut away the split handle.

I cut another handle. I used the larger drill bits even more, having scoured the house for a drill bit larger than 3/16 and smaller than the next size up I was using. I filed away more narrow spots until I was certain the knife was going to slip all the way through with no tapping (which would be bad). I tapped and lo and behold – the knife was in plac, and the handle didn’t split. I whittled two pieces to fill in the half-moons on either side of the tang, then tapped them into place with no splitting!

The end of the tang sticks out a bit farther than I would like, but I can peen it over a piece of copper. I am now cutting out the second piece, as I made the hole in the first one too big.

It is now almost 3 pm.

To be fair, I did accomplish a little bit of other stuff at the same time. I sawed out most of a bone line winder (patterned after the whalebone line winder in The Vikings by Graham-Campbell p 60), a lucet made from a whole bone (so the string goes down the middle of the bone like the knitting nancys of my childhood – from the Viking Artifacts book by Graham-Campbell), and the side and tooth plates for a composite comb.

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Today I made a large netting needle out of a scrap of pine. I have enough left over for a second needle. It was all done by hand – hand sawed out, then hand drilled a bunch of holes, then cut out the bits between the holes and trimmed everything up with a knife. It still needs some sanding and final trimming (it got dark and the mosquitoes were too vicious to keep working outside) but overall, I’m quite pleased with the result.

I also got most of a deer bone lucet made, patterned after those found at York. It still needs a bit of polishing, the centre cut out needs to be widened into less of a V and more of a U, and the points aren’t yet pointy enough, but another half hour or so tomorrow should do it.

The knife job is worrying me a lot. I started drilling the hole for the tang by hand, but it was taking forever. Eventually I broke down and used a power drill. I need to widen the top part, but I have already measured the drill bits and that should be easy. I hadn’t planned to do a through tang, but I don’t see any other way to get the tang in place. It is too long for any of my drill bits to go all the way through the handle. Tomorrow I’ll shorten the handle, drill in from the bottom (please pray that the holes line up!), and then cut out a piece of copper for an end plate thingy. If I do it right, the tang can be peened over a bit to hold everything firmly in place.

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Shoe update

When I bought new glover’s needles a few weeks ago, I accidentally bought a size larger than those I had been using. I then got stuck on the project again, as I was afraid the holes would be so big the shoes wouldn’t work. I needn’t have worried. In fact, the replacement needles are sturdier which means I am stitching much faster now. this is especially important as it appears I forgot to pierce all the holes in my shoe sole while I had access to an awl at the shoemaking class in May. My beading reamer isn’t nearly as effective (surprise!).  In the past two days, I have managed to stitch about 1/3 of the second shoe. At this rate, I may actually succeed. An added bonus of using the new needles is that I am able to save the thinner old needle for sewing the side seams – since this involves stitching into the cut area rather than straight across, a smaller needle may be essential.

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I don’t know of any evidence that Viking Age women wore underwear. Indeed, information on women’s underwear is generally pretty sketchy until relatively modern times (ie 4-500 years ago). I have decided not to let the facts inhibit me, since I had a huge pair of braes that had been made for a friend a few years ago. He wasn’t happy with them, but the linen was too nice to toss, so it has been sitting in my fabric pile for a while. I calculated that if I cut the braes carefully, I would actually have enough for two pairs of drawers. They look like a pair of men’s swim trunks, with a drawstring waist, except for the rather large middle panel that allows me room to sit (or have second helpings).  I assembled the first pair this evening. All that remains now is to finish the raw edges on the seams, sew in a new waistband, and make myself a drawstring.

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