Reply To: Building the Viking longship

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Frank Scott

    Interesting question. Cannot find any hard references, but it seems that saws did not come into wide use in Northern Europe until 13th century.

    It has been observed in the reconstructions of Viking vessels that radially split planks are particularly strong as none of the fibres will have been cut across. The chapter on The Viking Ships of Skuldelev in Jenny Bennett (ed) Sailing into the Past: Learning from Replica Ships (Barnsley, 2009), contains a useful discussion of this issue.

    By contrast, if a tree has spiral growth, or lots of knots, it is unsuitable for split planks, but can produce sawn planks, albeit of inferior quality. Gillian Hutchinson, Medieval Ships & Shipping (London, 1997) in discussing tools notes that the English seem to have stuck with split planks for some time longer than others. For Grace Dieu (early 15th cent) although the keel has some saw marks, the planks were all split.