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1/50 Viking Longship – Drakkar Amati Catalogue # 1406/01 Longships were a type of ship invented and used by the Norsemen (commonly known as the Vikings) for commerce, exploration, and warfare during the Viking Age. The longship's design evolved over many centuries, beginning in the Stone Age with the invention of the umiak and continuing up until the 6th century with clinker-built ships like Nydam and Kvalsund. The longship appeared in its complete form between the 9th and 13th centuries, and the character and appearance of these ships have been reflected in Scandinavian boat-building traditions until today. The particular skills and methods employed in making longships are still used worldwide, often with modern adaptations. They were all made out of wood, with cloth sails (woven wool) and had numerous details and carvings on the hull. Longships were characterized as a graceful, long, narrow and light, with a shallow-draft hull designed for speed. The ship's shallow draft allowed navigation in waters only one meter deep and permitted arbitrary beach landings, while its light weight enabled it to be carried over portages or used bottom-up for shelter in camps. Longships were also double-ended, the symmetrical bow and stern allowing the ship to reverse direction quickly without a turnaround; this trait proved particularly useful at northern latitudes, where icebergs and sea ice posed hazards to navigation. Longships were fitted with oars along almost the entire length of the boat itself. Later versions had a rectangular sail on a single mast, which was used to replace or augment the effort of the rowers, particularly during long journeys. Drakkar are only known from historical sources, such as the 13th-century Göngu-Hrólfs saga. Here, the ships are described as elegant and ornately decorated, and used by those who went raiding and plundering. These ships were likely skeids that differed only in the carvings of menacing beasts, such as dragons and snakes, carried on the prow of the ship. These carvings allegedly protected the ship and crew and warded off the terrible sea monsters of Norse mythology. It is however likely that the carvings, like those on the Oseberg ship, might have had a ritual purpose, or that the purported effect was to frighten enemies and townspeople. No true dragon ship, as defined by the sagas, has been found by archaeological excavation. Extract from Wikipedia The kit This isn’t a new kit, and in fact I know this was once released under the name Oseberg Viking Ship, again by Amati, some years ago. I know there to have been at least two boxings of this over the years. In fact, some vendors still have it listed as this, or may even carry that older kit in stock. I’m unsure as to when the kit changed its name to the current Drakkartitle. The kit itself comes in a high quality, glossy and attractive box, carrying a colour image of the profile of the vessel on the lid, and accompanying small detail photo. It can be seen on the lid that the 1/50 scale equates to 44cm length. Inside the box, Amati has given some strength to the packaging my adding a card shelf to make the interior shallower and preventing the contents from rattling around because there is surprisingly little timber by the way of sheets, than you might expect due to the way Amati has approached the design. A Plywood sheet contain the keel which incorporates the curved bow and stern, plus also the nine bulkheads that are notched to match their respective positions on the keel. As you see, the construction is quite traditional in this respect, and the shallow draught of the ship is the reason for a relatively low number of ply sheets. Now, whilst there is of course some strip stock in this kit, the ship’s planking isn’t associated with this. Instead of what would be a rather complicated method of planking, this particular model is provided with two sheets of thin, laser-cut planks which are perfectly shaped to follow the contours of the hull, and also sit within the stepped recesses of the bulkheads. These planks are produced from very thin plywood and just require the scorched edges of the parts gently sanded and then sitting into the recesses. Those bulkhead recesses will need to be slightly sanded for the planks to fully conform, and most definitely at both stem and stern. This is clearly shown in the accompanying instruction manual. It is also necessary, again shown on the instructions, to trace a curve to stem and stern, which sets the line against which to plank to. Also presented in plywood is the main deck, in two large main pieces, and three small sections. With the model planked and the tops of the bulkheads previously sanded to conform to the keel, these can be attached and then planked with the supplied strip stock. Deck planking is done in short pieces that only span between each former. I’m pretty sure that these sections could be removed on the real thing, and tools, weapons and food stored in the void below. Strip wood stock is included for the deck planking, and dowel for the mast and oars. Timber quality is excellent, with tape holding together the various bundles. A smaller piece of walnut sheet is also included, and this contains parts for the rudder paddle, oar storage frames, rigging blocks, belaying posts and bases etc. Laser cutting quality is nice and fine with only minimal timber to snip through to release each part. For protection, all timber sheets are placed in a thick, clear sleeve, as are the instructions manual and plans. Fittings Sitting on top of the timber sheet is a vac-form plastic box with a removable clear lid. The box has six compartments holding a few loose wooden pieces, rigging cord, as well as the metal fixtures and fittings for the Drakkar. The small number of loose wooden pieces are for the cleats. These just need a little final shaping before use. A large bag of metal shields is included, with their respective bosses and timber details cast in situ. I’m unsure as the metal for these, but they aren’t white metal, and possibly some alloy. They have also been given an aged finish, but I would carefully paint these to make them look more realistic. A single anchor is provided in metal, utilising a wooden stock, and a small length of brass chain is provided for this. A small number of cast white metal parts are included, and these are for the ship’s dragon head (with separate horns and tongue) and a deck bucket (slop outtoilet?), longbow, axe etc. The casting here is very nice and when painted, should really look the part. A bag of brass nails is included, and these are well-formed and sharp, unlike some I’ve used over the years. You are best drilling a small pilot hole before applying these, so you don’t split any timber when you drive them through the hull planks and into the bulkheads. As Viking Drakkar were of a very shallow draught, the mast needed something substantial to hold it in place. Under the deck would have been a keelson to locate the base of the mast, but above deck, this was achieved via a hefty wooden block. That had a wedge as part of its structure. As far as I can tell, these were called the mastfish and wedge, respectively. For some seriously interesting information on these vessels, check out this link: http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/norse_ships.htm As well as two sizes of rigging cord for standard and running rig, a piece of sailcloth is also included. You will need to make the sail yourself, including the diagonal strips that run at 90 degrees to each other. You need to sew along the edges after folding them in, replicating the looping stitch that should be seen. One thing you’ll need to do is to buy some fabric paint for the sail stripes. Aging the sail can be done with the age-old method of soaking in tea, should you wish. However, another method is to soak in a Potassium Permanganate (KMNO4) solution. Only a little is needed, and you can gauge the finish on a test piece as the colour develops when you remove from the solution. Also included is a chest that can be sat on the deck as extra detail. This is cast from a cream-coloured resin. Plans and instructions Amati include an 8-page basic instruction manual for this model, guiding you through the principle steps of the model and explaining the various key areas of construction. Illustrations are in line drawing format and are clear to understand, despite the Italian text. A separate sheet with English annotation is also supplied for those of us who haven’t grasped the rudimentary elements of that beautiful language. Of course, a plan is also included for the model which describes things in greater detail, including the rigging stages. This is also typically easy to understand and also contains the shapes for a good number of kit parts, so if you were to screw up, then with a little extra timber, you can right your wrongs. Conclusion As I originally stated, this isn’t a new kit, but it is one that has stood the test of time and for me, still ranks as the best-looking Drakkar you can buy in kit form, and certainly the most authentic in appearance. I know some people don’t like the plywood planking, but as you shouldn’t need to thin the planks much (if at all), then this doesn’t feature as an issue for me. Some timber edges will need to have the charring from the laser cutting removed, but again, this isn’t a problem as far as I’m concerned. Amati has designed this kit to be relatively straightforward and they have succeeded. As far as price goes, it can vary, but I’ve seen in in the UK/EU for around £90 to £100. I’ll start my own building log of this on Model Ship World very shortly. My sincere thanks to Amati for sending this kit out for review here on MSW.