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James H

1:35 Viking Knarr - Dusek Ship Kits

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1:35 Knarr – 11thCentury Viking Ocean-Going Cargo Ship
Dusek Ship Kits

Catalogue # D007

Available from Dusek Models for €149,00

 

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A knarr is a type of Norse merchant ship used by the Vikings and was constructed using the same clinker-built method as longships. ‘Knarr’ is the Old Norse term for a type of ship built for long sea voyages and used during the Viking expansion. The knarr was a cargo ship; the hull was wider, deeper and shorter than a longship, and could take more cargo and be operated by smaller crews. They were built with a length of about 16 m (54 ft), a beam of 5 m (15 ft), and a hull that was thought capable of carrying up to 24 tons. It was primarily used to transport trading goods like walrus ivory, wool, timber, wheat, furs and pelts, armour, slaves, honey, and weapons. It was also used to supply food, drink, weapons and armour to warriors and traders along their journeys across the Baltic, the Mediterranean and other seas. Knerrir (plural) routinely crossed the North Atlantic carrying livestock such as sheep and horses, and stores to Norse settlements in Iceland, Greenland and Vinland as well as trading goods to trading posts in the British Isles, Continental Europe and possibly the Middle East. They may have been used in colonising, although a similar small cargo vessel (the byrthing) is another possibility.

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Only one well-preserved knarr has been found, discovered in a shallow channel in Roskilde Fjord in Denmark in 1962. Known as Skuldelev 1, it was placed among two warships, a Baltic trader, and a ferryboat. Archaeologists believe that the ships were placed there to block the channel against enemy raiders. Today all five ships, known as the Skuldelev ships, are exhibited at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde.

 

The kit
Dusek models manufacture three different types of Viking vessel of which this is just one. They are also available in 1:72 and 1:35 scales, with this review kit being in the latter scale. I’m unsure of the actual initial release date for this kit, but I can’t see any information going back further than a handful of years. For those who are space-conscious when it comes to starting new projects, then the Knarr shouldn’t be too hungry of your shelf real-estate, even in 1:35. Finished dimensions for this are given as:

 

  • length: 440mm
  • width: 300mm
  • height: 400mm

 

The model itself is quite a simple affair, by any standards, and is packaged into one of Dusek’s very sturdy and thick cardboard boxes with a nice glossy lid depicting three views of a completed model. I know the timber looks to have a strange finish, but it’s thought that Viking vessels were generally protected with a layer of tar, from around the 8thcentury. It could also be used to waterproof sails. The box model shows a suitably weathered Knarr that’s obviously been much used. Indeed, the model is also laden with cargo, which is also included in this kit. Inside the box, several sheets of laser-cut timber are wrapped in a layer of clingfilm, plus there is a bundle of dowel/strip, and a further bag of components. A single sheet plan, instruction manual, and a parts map complete the package.

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If you’ve read my review on Amati’s Viking longboat, then you’ll see that this ‘s construction is very similar to that in many respects. Construction begins by taking the false keel and slotting onto it the series of eighteen bulkheads. These bulkheads are flanked either side by the raised section of deck in their basic plywood form. The area between these deck sections is totally open, that is, simply the full depth of the hull. This was for storing cargo. Those ply sections are now sheathed in short lengths of planking. In this kit, these are supplied on the one thin sheet of pearwood veneer, and they really do look great. Another large frame section is then installed which encompasses both the cargo hold and raised deck sections. In all, that should provide a solid basis on which the next stage can be begin. That is the planking.

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Now, here’s where you see the similarity to the Amati kit, with the bulkheads that are channelled out for the planks, and those very planks are supplied pre-cut on three thin sheets of plywood. The shape of the hull with the curved and clinker-laid planks is quite obvious when you look at the shape of them on the sheets, and of course, you lay the lower, garboard plank first. You will need to refer to the parts map as no parts on this model are marked on the sheets themselves. With the planks, each sheet is also engraved with an arrow to identify the bow direction of the Knarr. One thing the model instructions doesn’t mention is any possible bevelling of the bulkheads prior to planking. You will need to check this as you begin the process by laying an initial plank and seeing how it fits. Before all planking is added, a series of keyed frames will be added to the cargo area, onto which the upper plank strakes will sit. 

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In all, there are TEN sheets of timber here (9 x ply, 1 x pear), plus a nice little bundle of timber strip, all of high quality. Laser cutting, whilst leaving scorch marks, is very good, and of course, the hull will be finished in a colour to represent tar, so there’s no real need to start removing that char. Just get on and enjoy building the model. 

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Masting and rigging a Knarr is quite simple. In fact, the model only has TWO wooden, double blocks! Thee mast only has five rigging points, and the single yard has just three, of which those two blocks are obviously used. Rigging cord is supplied and this has the natural appearance of the material, as it should, and with that brown hue that could be indicative of some previous tar application. Three sizes of cord are supplied on spool/card wraps. 

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When it comes to sails, some almost pure white cloth is supplied, and the quality is excellent. You will need to use the drawings and instructions to make and sew your own finished items, and I also suggest you soak the finished items in some strong tea to age them and give them that appearance of worn tar. You could also dye them red, and then age by using the tea-dye trick. You’ll need to work on this aspect, as you would with any ship of this sort of antiquity. 

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A cargo ship needs cargo, and there is plenty here in the form of crates and barrels. The crates much first be assembled as small plywood jigsaw puzzles and then swathed in some of that tea-aged fabric you used for the sails, creating a package. Some of the cord is then used to tie then up. Each barrel has to be constructed around a plywood core. Onto this sit the pearwood exterior parts, such as the engraved head parts and the staves. Dusek has finished item lashed with rope. I don’t know how accurate that would be (or strong enough in the real world!). You may wish to use some thin metal foil, painted. 

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This model also contains a display stand within the sheet parts, again, shaped to accommodate the clinker planking.

 

The instructions and manual are so simple to follow and should present the modeller with no problems. The English annotation is excellent.

 

Conclusion
This really is a lovely kit and will build up into a most unusual model. You really can let your imagination go as to how you finish this with regards to final appearance. Maybe time to watch the recent History Channel series, Vikingsand enjoy the stories of Ragnar Lothbrok. I’m pretty sure these vessels are in the series, so it’s a good excuse for some televisual research. Materials quality is excellent with no warping etc. and the sheet of pear for the deck planking and barrels is an unexpected bonus.If you want to see a Viking vessel that is more of a fighting and conquering classic, then we’ll be reviewing another Dusek kit in a couple of weeks or so. Stray tuned!

 

Highly recommended. 

 

My sincere thanks to Dusek Models for the review sample seen here. To purchase directly, click the link at the top of this article.

 

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An excellent review and a fine-looking kit! I can't for the life of me, though, figure out why manufacturers are still using the old-fashioned kit blocks, which look terrible, when much better blocks are available. That's a very minor complaint in this case, since the cost of replacing a whopping two blocks shouldn't break anyone's bank.

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