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Viking Longship by Binho - Dusek - Scale 1:72 - Model based on the 11th Century Skuldelev 2 wreck

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Hello everyone, this is my first build log and my first model of any kind in over a decade. I used to do plastic. My only experience with woodworking was shop in school, and helping build some sets for plays in University. This will be my first wooden ship build ever. I've chosen Dusek's 1:72 scale 11th Century Viking Longship kit. It seems relatively simple, with minimal planking and rigging. Hopefully it is a good starter ship!


I'm a big fan of these later Viking ships since seeing them at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark. It's really worth a visit if you are in Copenhagen and are looking to do a day trip. Roskilde is a nice town in general, with a beautiful Gothic cathedral.


In the 1960's during the construction of a sea wall near the village of Skuldelev in the Roskilde Fjord, five well preserved Viking ships from the mid to late 11th Century CE were discovered. The archaeological excavation and investigation of the site determined that the ships were probably sunk intentionally with the aim of blocking the channel, as it was the most direct navigable route to Roskilde. At the time, Roskilde was one of the most important Royal and Ecclesiastical centers in Denmark - Roskilde cathedral is still the burial site of the Danish monarchy, in fact. The ships included an ocean going trader of the 'knarr' type (Skuldelev 1, which Dusek also sells a kit of), a large ocean going warship of the 'skeid' type (Skuldelev 2), a small coastal trade ship (Skuldelev 3), a smaller coastal warship of the 'snekkja' type (Skuldelev 5), and a fishing boat (Skuldelev 6).


This Dusek model is based on Skuldelev 2:


Skuldelev 2 measured approximately 30 m in length, with a breadth of 3.8 m, an estimated displacement of 26 tons fully loaded, and a shallow draught of about 1 meter. They estimate it had about 30 rowers on each side and that it could perhaps carry an additional 40 warriors, for a maximum complement of 100. This makes it one of the largest Viking warships found to date (I believe a larger one was found in Norway since then, but it's much less complete). It was built entirely of oak. Construction can be dated by tree rings from one of the oak timbers to about 1042 CE, and from analyzing the wood further they were able to tell it was built in Dublin, Ireland. Eventually it made its way to Denmark were it was sunk in the fjord around 1070 CE. These ships were clinker built, using shell first construction with relatively few frames which were inserted as the shell was built up. The overlapping planks were nailed together with iron nails, and were fixed to the frames with treenails. While we were at the Viking Ship Museum, they were working on a new replica of the coastal trader Skuldelev 3 using only traditional tools and techniques, as they've done with all their reconstructions:




Skuldelev 2 is the least well preserved of the five ships. The bow and the lower midship area are the most intact, including the mast step and the stem post. The stem/stern posts of this era are very interesting and quite different from the ones on the earlier Oseberg and Gokstad ships found in Norway. As you can see above, they were one piece and carved with fake planking lines, with notches for accepting the actual strakes. Not sure exactly what the reasoning is for this development. Here is a closeup of the stem from the Skuldelev 3 wreck, and it's parallel in the Skuldelev 3 replica under construction:




Both a replica and a model of Skuldelev 2 can also be seen at the Viking Ship Museum:



The replica is called the Sea Stallion of Glendalough and I think she's a very sleek and attractive looking ship. She's fully sea worthy. In fact, they sailed her to Ireland and back in 2007-2008! There is even a BBC documentary about the trip, showing how dangerous open ocean voyages on these ships could be - they were initially delayed by storms in Norway, and when they eventually did set out they were caught in a different storm. One of the crew members got hypothermia, the rudder strap broke, and so did one of the shroud pins. They had to be towed by the support ship for awhile until the storm passed and they could fix everything! Looked pretty cramped (you sleep on your rowing bench), cold and miserable. Can't imagine sailing to Iceland in one of these. There's some videos on YouTube showing her in rough seas and under sail. In earlier sailing trials they were able to get her up to 11 knots, but they reckon she could do 15-20 - so she was a fast ship. The results of the rowing trials aren't available yet, but the replica of the smaller warship Skuldelev 5 managed about 3.5-5 knots, so I'd imagine it would be similar if not faster.


The Dusek kit does not have the complex stem/sterm post of the actual ship, but that's fine since it's a small model! Most of the parts are laser cut in plywood. Dowels are supplied for the masts, spars, oars, and shield bosses. There's some long pieces with square or rectangular sections for the benches and some internal longitudinal supports. I think it's a very good quality kit, but it's my first one so I don't have much to compare it to :) Here's when I first opened the box, showing how it was packaged:



The manual is well illustrated with good instructions, and some nice full scale plans are provided too. My only small quibble with the manual is there are some grammar issues, but nothing that makes the instructions unintelligible.


Last weekend I had the house to myself, so I eagerly got started...but it's been rough! I got too excited and did too much without thinking things through, despite reading the warnings on this board beforehand. You live and learn, I guess!




So I started by laying out and gluing on the stem and stern pieces (front is on the left). I noticed there was a bend in the keel, and using an iron with a steam function I was able to iron it out, mostly. I only saw the trick of soaking it and weighting it much afterwards, unfortunately.



Here's where things started going really bad. Before gluing the frames to the fake deck as per the instructions, I tested out how a few of them fit in to the keel. The keel slots were too narrow however, and one of the frames got stuck and snapped. Luckily I was able to glue it back together without much trouble. I then preceded to widen the keel slots and tested the fit with a scrap piece of wood of the same thickness as the frames. I didn't test the frames again because I got too afraid of snapping another one.


I did not consider that the slot in the frames might need widening as well... so I glued the frames to the fake deck, and the next day after it all dried I started popping the frames in to the keel. Of course, popping means the fit is too tight. So I tried to get the frames out, but they wouldn't budge, and when some of the rear frames did come out they came out fast and partially snapped the fake deck. Gah! Since these frames are only to guide the planks and have to be cut out afterwards anyways, and since the fake deck will be covered with veneer, I decided to just glue everything down as is and get on with it...and that's when the bend in the keel came back with a vengeance!


As you can see, it's pretty nasty! Does anyone have any advice on what I should do? Should I try disassembling it and starting over? maybe with a scalpel I can loosen the frames. I was thinking I could also the clamp the keel so it's straight and then do the planking only on one side first, to pull the bend outwards and straighten it out. Then do the planking on the other side later?



I've started on the oars and shields too, since there are 60 of each of them. I'm on a budget, so I've been using a power drill, a small file, and sandpaper instead of a lathe. I had two oars snap in this first set of fice, but I was able to glue them back together. They are going to be bundled on deck like on the picture on the front of the kit, so I'm not too worried if they don't look nice - I'll put the ugly ones at the bottom. I'm more just trying to get a handle on turning wood in general. For the shields, I've had trouble with the bosses. The razor saw I have is not fine toothed enough, and the 3 mm dowel has been falling apart when I try to cut out a small piece for the boss. This weekend I'm going to search for a better saw!


So yeah, this is where I'm at. Not a good start at all! Haha. This is a learning experience though, so I figured I was going to make a lot of mistakes to start off with. Can only improve from here, right?


- Alberto


Edited by Binho

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Not to worry, Alberto. There are very few things that can't be mended with a bit of work, and even the best of us have sometimes forged ahead where angels fear to tread and had to go back and start again. Stick with it; you'll get there.


Regarding the bent keel, there are various posts on the forum on how to fix such things (though of course unfortunately I can't remember where I saw them). If worst comes to worst, it might be necessary to make a new one. Is the keel made of ply? If so, it's not an inherent twisted grain problem as I faced when I started my dromon.


If you used PVA (white) glue on the frames you can dissolve it by soaking in isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol). Both that and methylated spirits (ethanol with 5% methanol otherwise known as wood alcohol) are commonly called rubbing alcohol, but isopropanol is the only one that works on PVA, as I discovered to my cost.


One thing is that you've learned an important modeller's lesson. Don't glue unless you know you've got it right. You'll find a lot of modellers "dry fit" things together before they add glue. It can prevent a lot of heartache.


And don't give up because something occasionally goes wrong. With patience and perseverance you'll get there, even if you have to retrace your steps once in awhile. Speaking for myself, and I'm sure for everybody else on the forum, there's no build that ever goes perfectly. And as your level of skill improves and your own standards for your work raise, you'll find ever new and more interesting mistakes to make!


Having said all that, I'd like to add that you've chosen a beautiful ship to build. I'm sure it'll turn out to be something you'll be very happy to have done.



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Gidday Alberto.

I will add my comments, for what they are worth, the isopropyl alcohol is a good idea if you used P.V.A. and wish to take things apart. Personally I would start over as the warped keel needs to be straightened or remade. I understand your budget constraints as I operate on a shoestring myself. I can only reinforce Stevens comments above. I learnt the hard way in my exuberance re dry assembly before finally gluing up. 

Most problems can be overcome and by the tone of your post you have a very positive attitude which is admirable.

As I stated these are only a few of my personal thoughts. Others will undoubtedly offer other remedies or approaches. 

I wish you all the best in your build.

P.S. I found the intro fascinating.


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I think we have all had these hiccups during a build at one time or another. As Mark and Steven have mentioned above, always dry fit until you are happy the parts fit together well.  


Regarding the keel, you could use the planking to straighten out the warp, but I don't know how successful it would be in the long run, as there would be more stress on one side than the other and I would be worried if the planking came undone over time. I have never had a problem with a keel and have never tried it, but I'm sure if you search 'warp keel' in the search box, you will find some solutions that have been tried and tested.. I personally would undo the frames (if possible) and start again.


I'm sure you will find a solution and your longship will turn out fine.

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Thanks for the encouragement and tips guys! I’m going to try dissassembling everything, straightening it all out, and then dry fitting before I re-glue everything.


I’ve been using wood glue (Elmer’s brand). Would isopropyl alcohol work on that too? Taking a quick look online it says warm water with vinegar or denatured alcohol.


Is PVA preferable for these types of kits?

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I just looked up the constituents of Elmer's wood glue (we don't have it by that name in Oz ) and you can find them at https://www.ehow.com/info_8205845_elmers-wood-glue.html . So it appears that it is either entirely or mostly PVA, depending on the variety. I'd say isopropyl alcohol should work on it, but you'd need to try it out on a sample piece first. Make sure you use enough to dissolve the glue - just a wipe with the alcohol won't be enough. But the good thing is the isopropanol evaporates fast. It also doesn't smell bad (rather sweet, really).


Regarding which glue to use, each modeller seems to swear by his /her own favourite. Some use CA (superglue), others epoxy. I tend to use PVA mostly, but it's definitely a matter of personal choice. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. There have been several discussions on the forum about relative merits. Epoxy and CA give off nasty fumes, and CA sticks your fingers together, and apparently starts to crystallize after about 10 years and lose its integrity. That's from reports by other modellers, but others swear by it. 


The main disadvantages of PVA are that it takes a while to dry, it's vulnerable to water (ok under most circumstances as you're not going to leave your model out in the rain) and I've found in my case the joints can be flexible, which can be a problem if you've put together a complex assembly of fine parts which then go out of true the moment you breathe on them. I've had this happen several times, but I think the main problem there is not the glue, it's the fact that I've used butt joints instead of something that ties the piece together, so the glue is just there to keep it all together instead of doing the major work of joining. I doubt that this would be a problem in your Skuldelev model. They've thought it all out in advance - I've been designing as I go. 


So if you're doing well with Elmer's, all well and good. I'd agree with Vulcanbomber that you shouldn't use the planking to try to straighten the keel. Try isopropanol on the glue and either straighten or replace the keel. And good luck with it!



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Thanks Steven! We just ran out of our isopropyl alcohol, so I'll need to get some more. I think I'll stick with wood glue for now. Used to use superglue when I made plastic models, and never liked how it stuck my fingers together.



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