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I'll have updates on the hull later, I don't feel like writing it all up at the moment, but I do have something non-complainy to post about! I tried painting my first figure today and don't think it came out too bad. First time I've done this at a scale above 1:87 model railroad figures. I'd love some feedback on realism, etc. Meet Sihtric:






The one thing I know is true is that his skin tone is rather off; he has a sickly zombie warrior of the dead look. I'm working with what I have on hand and struggled to get a proper skin tone. I swear it looks worse in the photo than it does in person.


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Looks good to me, Eric

All natural colours, well shaded.  The shield face is particularly good and wooden.

so, yes Sihtric does not have the glowing skin he might hope to have but he has just rowed across the North Sea and leaped out on an unfamiliar beach.  He has probably never seen soap in his young life and will not wash on fresh water till the settlement is subdued.

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I like the look.


Am I right in thinking he's wearing ankle boots and leg wrappings (known to the Vikings as wickelbander and to the English as winningas)? If so can I suggest making the boots and the leg wraps different colours so you can tell which is which? Although modern re-enactors usually make wickelbander out of strips cut from a piece of fabric, back in the day they were woven (from wool) as narrow strips.


One other comment - as someone rich enough to have a sword and helmet he looks a little scruffy. The Vikings were great show-offs and would flaunt it if they had it. So I think the helmet, for example, would be shiny silver rather than blackish or rusty. Maybe he's been living a hard life recently. And perhaps a design on the shield? (see http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/shield/shield.html for some info on that).


(well, you did ask . . . :P)

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Most sources agree that Scandanavian cultures of this period were actually rather fastidious for their times, bathing regularly and giving high priority to grooming. Combs were standard possessions for both sexes. Saxon accounts seem puzzled by the Viking emphasis on cleanliness and appearance, with one source suggesting that "English" women showed a resulting preference for Viking men. So he might be dirty by our standards, but he's a neat freak for his time. That being said, I'm a strong believer in weathering things to "look" used, because in model terms an accurate level of cleanliness or shinyness often ends up looking fake even if it's "right".




That's a good tip. I perused a bunch of reenactor photos and a lot of them seemed to use the same color for the wrapping and the boots, so that's what I did, but I'm happy to take your advice. I can shine up the helmet a bit, too. As for the shield, it's cast in pure wood while the other two figures have designs already cast into the shield, so I thought I'd leave his blank for a contrast even though I know that in reality he'd almost certainly have his jarl's design painted on. What I might do is wait until I decide on a shield design for the whole ship and then paint his to match.  I wanted him to look more like a lowly warrior (perhaps, as you say, down on his luck) though I agree that the nice sword and helmet contradict that.  This is partly because the other two are clearly wealthy jarls (mail shirts, magnificent cloaks, etc.), so I wanted someone who looked more like a regular warrior; maybe his jarl supplied the helmet & sword.

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Eric, that's a very well thought out reply. I didn't realise Sihtric was the lowest status of your figures. In which case I  think you're right emphasising the contrast with the other two. Generosity to your underlings was very much part of the Viking (and generally northern mediaeval) culture. Lords were referred to in poems as "ring-givers" and their generosity was made much of. - it's one of the main things that kept their followers loyal. Maybe Sihtric was poor but had distinguished himself by an act of conspicuous bravery, so was rewarded by his jarl?


The account relating to English reactions to Viking cleanliness is a single instance, and was written several centuries later. Doesn't mean it's not true, but needs to be taken with a grain of salt - in my view too many people take this one mention as a blanket description of all Vikings everywhere - and for example it;s contradicted by Ibn Fadlan's account of them as "the filthiest of God's creatures", describing how they shared the same washing bowl and each man washed in it, spat in it, then handed it to the next. However, Ibn Fadlan was writing for a fastidious Arab audience and I think he's likely to have sensationalised his account to increase its effect.


Don't take too much notice of what re-enactors do. A lot of them get it very wrong - I ought to know; I got the reputation of being an authenticity fascist when I was re-enacting. Some of the stuff was pretty damned bad, but mention it to the person (politely and helpfully) and overhear one of the older guys saying to a newbie "Oh don't listen to him . . ."


And no need to put quotes around the word "English" - that's what they called themselves; the Englisc folc [folk] (sc pronounced as we now pronounce sh) or the angelcynn [English kin]. The word Saxon would have made a pre-conquest Englishman think you were referring to someone from Germany(!)

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Sihtric v. 2.0 with silver applied to the helmet and sword, and darker boots. The helmet looks shinier than it really is due to my use of flash; I actually dulled it with a black wash to have the same tone as the rest of the figure.





Louie, I quoted "English" because my mental frame of reference is fairly early on, before the idea of "Anglaland" really came into being and Anglo-Saxons primarily thought of themselves as being of Wessex, Mercia, etc. rather than a unified "English" culture. The argument regarding cleanliness isn't just based on that one account, but on the prevalence of things like combs, and various incidents recorded in the Icelandic sagas. I do agree that to Arab cultures of the time, everyone else was dirty and that only tells you so much. I mean, at least they had washing bowls!


As for Sihtric, the name was very specifically chosen from a character in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Tales series for precisely that reason; someone raised from unfortunate birth to a higher status due to exceptional service to his generous lord. The other two will have similarly representative names.


Keep the insights coming. For the rest of you, I promise to get back to the actual vessel soon and not completely derail this thread with figures.


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That's very good. He looks a lot better. I'm a big fan of shiny.


Here's the helmet I made to wear at the battle of Hastings re-enactment event (on the actual battlefied) in 2000. 




I've always been a great exponent of the idea that if you could afford a helmet you'd have kept it shiny.  You could see your face in this one. And I inscribed the nasal with 11th century "Ringericke" style knotwork (with wolves on the eyebrows). Unfortunately after I got home we moved house and the helmet vanished - I suspect the moving men who I was silly enough to show it to. After all that work! 


Yes, combs were very common. Usually made of antler (which I discovered is actually bone - it's just an extension of the bones of the body - but is configured very conveniently for making combs and falls off the deer's head each year - how convenient is that?). I got right into bonework at one point and made one comb for my lovely wife and started another but never finished it (ran out of antler). There are huge numbers of Viking and Anglo-Saxon (for lack of a better word) combs in museums, and it's possible to date them by their shape and decoration. The fineness of the teeth of some of them is unbelievable - I've no idea how they managed it with hand tools. Very highly sophisticated technology. 


And yes, the concept of "Englaland" was, if you like, created by the Vikings. They destroyed all the independent English kingdoms except Wessex, and when Aelfred the Great defeated them, the treaty divided the land into Danelagh/Danelaw and Aelfred's realm, he became the "king of the English folk". His kingdom was expanded by his successors, taking more and more of the Danelaw until everything south of the Scottish border was one kingdom. Several of the pre-Viking Anglo-Saxon kings had achieved the status of Bretwalda [effectively High King] by defeating their neighbouring kingdoms, but none had managed to unite the whole country under one rule as the Vikings did by default. Interesting - if there hadn't been Viking invasions, there wouldn't have been an England . . .



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I live, I learn.

I was aware of the Viking love of making a good impression; my observations were mainly that Sihtric had just leaped out of Eric the Masterbuilder's Drakkar after a sea journey of several days and could be expected to be a little on the grey side of skin colour,

I suspect, too that working and rowing on a ship made for inherent grubbiness, as tar, fish oil, lanolin and other pungent substances were everywhere.


Like his helmet and bootees!


As an aside, I have sailed a Thames Barge (Ironsides) in the week after the sails had been "dressed" with the red substance which characterises the "red fleet".  Mentionable constituents of the dressing are Red Ochre, fish oil, urine (traditionally horse). 

You might be amazed to hear that the dressing transfers itself to halliards, sheets, stays, crew, crew's vehicles, crew's families, etc.  

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So I think I've figured out the basic reason for the planking problems I've been having; it's partly my fault and partly the kit's.


Jump way back to the initial assembly of the framing and review this image:




Most of the frames are pre-notched to help guide the clinker planking into place (these are the frames that will have to be cut away above the deck once the hull's shell is complete). But the last frame at bow and stern is NOT notched; these are Y-shaped and are meant to stay in place. You can clearly see the difference above.


The instructions do not tell you how the planking is supposed to interact with these Y-frames.  In the absense of any guidance, I assumed that (1) you were meant to glue the planking to them since they were permanent and (2) that their lack of notching meant the planks were supposed to lie smoothly against these (i.e. that clinker should transition to carvel by this final frame). Otherwise, why not notch it to accomodate the overlapping planks (laying clinker planks against a smooth frame provides almost no gluing surface and looks strange)?


Assumption (2) seems to be the source of my worsening trouble with plank shape. I have been trying to bend the planks into a shape that becomes carvel by the Y-frames, as otherwise their design made no sense to me. I finally realized that, if you let the planks overlap each other until just before the stem or stern, they actually go back to following their design curves rather well. But that was not at all intuitive to me based on kit design and poor/vague instructions. Here's another view of the transition from notched to smooth frame at the hull's current level of completion:




Once I realized that I needed to keep the overlap going all the way to the bow, things went back to planking smoothly, but there is an awkward looking transition between the two approaches. In the next two photos you can clearly see that the top three strakes have been done the new way while all those under them transition to carvel around the Y frame rather than right at the end:





Although I find this rather annoying, I saw no way around it because contining to force the planks into the other arrangement was becoming increasingly problematic. I wish I could go back and redo all of this but I can't/won't. I'm planning on doing quite a bit of finishing work on the hull and think that the overall model will hide this to all but the most discerning eyes. I don't plan on submitting this to any contests.


You can also see a rather obnoxious aspect of kit design. Look at the very ends of each strake, especially in the upper of the above two photos; these have widely varying widths that stand out like a sore thumb and look terrible. These strakes should all be flowing into a continuous, uniform final pattern rather than some being twice as wide as others and even widening as they reach their end. This isn't my fault, it's 100% how they're designed and laser cut. There was nothing I could do about this; trying to cut/sand the thick ones down would have ruined the pre-cut curves. As discussed a while back, I plan to fill, carve, and sand these plank ends into a smooth transition into the stems, which is also why I didn't worry too much about the current ragged curve they form. So I'm hoping this, too, will fade in the final model.


The stern is worse than the bow; for whatever reason the Y frame there guides the planks better and this doesn't look so bad (though you can still see the different in plank end width):




I have two strakes to go before the planking is done, but it's going smoothly again now that I understand what I should be doing. Here's the hull overall:




So I'm rather upset at the poor instructions and kit design that led me astray, as well as my own poor judgement in not realizing sooner what the correct approach would be. I was so locked into the assumption that I had to fit those planks smoothly onto those Y frames that it took me far too long to come up with a better way. Live and learn. Anyone else who builds this, LEARN FROM THIS MISTAKE and you might get a much nicer hull.


Anyway, almost there and then hopefully the more fun stuff starts. Thanks for sticking with me and for all the advice and ideas that helped me continue to think this through. I hope the final product is worthy of your loyalty.



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Cathead, I think your post above will be valuable to anyone who takes on - not only this, but also other model kits.


One thing I'm particularly impressed by is that you've put the time and effort into working out what went wrong and why - that some of it was the fault of the kit's inadequate instructions and some was your own assumptions - particularly when it doesn't really matter any more because you've already worked out how to remedy it and moved on. But that you've shared this information and your conclusions with all of us is a tremendous boon.


It's good that you're now in a position to (once you've fixed it) leave this planking issue behind and carry on with more interesting and enjoyable aspects of the build.


Keep up the good work, mate. This is one of the better logs to follow, simply because you are doing this extra work and explanation as you go - we all hit problems, but it's very good when the nature and cause of the problem and how it was overcome are explained.

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I completely agree with what Mr. L Fly has stated above.  Your persistence in understanding and correcting the problems you’ve had with this kit is admirable.  I’m happy to see that you didn’t surrendered and kept seeking solutions.  Hopefully you will have enjoyment in its construction as you move forward.


Very nice paint work on the figures by the way.



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Thank you, I suppose I should retract some of my criticism. Although I note that none of those strakes appear to get wider as they reach the bow, unlike on the model. I reviewed photos of Skuldelev 2 (on which this kit is based) and there are some narrower strakes, though again they all consistently get narrow toward the bow rather than varying in width. But I will not worry about it too much.


Thanks to the rest of you too. 

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Thanks for posting and good luck moving forward. Indeed, this should be helpful for future builders.


I've run into a similar issue on my Amati build, fairly serious it seems to me. I'll try to post an update to my build log with a similar hope - offer help to the next beginner tacking the kit.


Still, you've got a nice boat looking here.

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More progress: the hull planking is done:




However, finishing it demonstrates some ongoing frustrations:




Above, you can see that the planks don't follow the intended curve of the hull but bow outward. I clamped them to the frames every time I glued in a new strake, but they insisted on bowing outward as soon as the pressure was released (and keep in mind that they cannot be glued to the frames, which need to be cut out above the deck). And I soaked, bent, and dried each strake, so they conformed to the intended shape as much as possible. So instead of the final strake being nearly vertical, it bows out at something like 30 degrees off  vertical. That'll make hanging the shields awkward.


Also, if it wasn't clear from the above photo, the planking finished well short of the actual frame height by as much as a full plank width: 




I knew this was occurring but could do little about it. It happened because the notches cut into the frames to hold the planks in their intended position allowed for almost no overlap between planks (i.e., almost no gluing surface between them in the clinker overlap). They simply didn't hold together when placed in that arrangement, so I started subtly shifting each plank a little bit downward to allow for sufficient contact. This snowballed until, by the end, they came out a full plank short (which is why you can see the frames sticking up rather than being nicely hidden behind the uppermost strake).


Proof that I needed the extra overlapped gluing surface comes from the fact that even so, several of the strakes have become separated and you can see daylight through them, even though I used plenty of wood glue and lots of clamping (I will need to do quite a bit of filing to eliminate various glue spots squeezed out from between the planks). So goodness knows how many planks would be popping loose if I used the kit's ultra-thin pre-arranged overlaps.


Finally, remember my annoyance with the Y-shaped frames at bow and stern, the ones that don't get removed and that I assumed the planks needed to be glued to because otherwise why are they there? Well, here's what happened when I started letting the last few strakes following the natural clinker curve of the hull rather than forcing them into those Y frames:




You can clearly see how that frame forces the planking into a sort of unnatural curve that messes with the natural flow of the wood, and how the last few strakes just don't match it at all. I would have been better off completely ignoring that frame and just letting the planks flow naturally from the previous frame to the bow/stern. As it is, it looks ridiculous because the lower part of the hull is contorted inward and the upper part doesn't even touch this frame. This is at the bow; the stern isn't quite as bad but still not good.


As always, I'm open to the idea of user error here if the kit designer intended something else to happen, but I'm a reasonably experienced builder and the instructions and plans were of no help whatsoever in understanding what was supposed to be done here.  I'm still sticking with the idea that this is the roughest the hull will look and I can improve it. Once I do a bunch of sanding and filling (especially at bow and stern), start painting the planking and detailing the interior, I think most of these issues will vanish from casual sight and I don't intend to win any contests with this thing. I have a clear plan in my head for how to make it look cool overall for most viewers.


Speaking of which, I balanced the ongoing annoyance with the kit by having a lot of fun painting another figure. Meet Ragnar, again named for a character from Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Tales, this time a moderately wealthy jarl (no, not Ragnar Lothbrok). The shield design was premolded so I had little choice regarding its shape.






Here are Ragnar and Sihtric together:




Note anything odd? They're supposed to the same scale, but either Ragnar's a giant or Sihtric is about 10 years old (despite the beard). Sihtric is close in scale to the model (he works out to be around 5'7" (1.7 m), just about average for men of that era. Ragnar, on the other hand, is closer to 7' tall (over 2 m). I just won't place them next to each other. 


I'm finding that I really enjoy figure painting. Oh, before Louie corrects me, I know most shield rims were leather rather than iron. I like the visual symmetry of the black rim but am considering repainting it brown, torn between accuracy and aesthetics. Anything else that might be correctable, let me know!

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Sorry to hear about all the difficulty you've been (still) having with the planking. Unfortunately I can't suggest any remedies. Is this a "thing" with kits of clinker-built (i.e. Viking) vessels? As you know, you're not the only one having trouble, though Balclutha's is a from different manufacturer. As I'd been considering making a (scratch-built) clinker vessel, it makes me very wary - though I suppose if I get to cut my own strakes to shape I've nobody to blame but myself if I get it wrong.


Regarding Ragnar's height, I wouldn't worry too much - Harald (Hardrada) Sigurdssen was reportedly 7 feet tall - according to the sagas, before the battle of Stamford Bridge his opponent  Harold Godwinson of England promised him a grave larger than usual because of his height. Harald had a mailshirt that reached to his ankles, known as Emma (the mailshirt, not the ankles).

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Finally catching up on your build. It’s looking like you are overcoming the hull obstacles very nicely. It won’t be long before you can put that part behind you and move on to hopefully less frustrating construction. 

Love the figures. Your choice of colors is very realistic. I wouldn’t worry too much with the scale difference, from here it looks as though Sihtric is somewhat crouched in a stalking position so he would appear a little shorter than Ragnar who looks to be posed ready to launch his spear. 


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I started sanding the hull, smoothing off each strake and getting rid of any glue, while blending in the bow and stern planks. Here's an example so far:




The difference in color from the stain wearing off doesn't matter as I'm going to paint all these darker. Probably didn't need to stain at all but I wasn't sure of that when I started. Here's an end view:




I think it's starting to look nicer already. Having a lot of issues with planks popping loose, I've had to reglue three different stretches where the seam came undone. Not at all pleased with how fragile this is even with my extra gluing surface. 


I also finally started working on something more fun: a proper figurehead. There's a lot of disagreement out there about these, with different original sources and academics contradicting one another. This is especially true for the idea that figureheads may have been removable, the idea being that you would remove them when approaching friendly shores to avoid frightening land spirits but would keep them in place for more aggressive landfalls. This is mentioned in some Icelandic sagas, but to my understanding no archeological evidence for this has been found.


I decided to add a removable figurehead to my vessel as (a) I love the concept and (b) there is at least cultural support for it. I'm not trying to recreate the original vessel here, just my version of a wealthy jarl's warship. I based my design from several actual carved dragon heads found in various archeological contexts.


I used a piece of the same plywood sheet from which the keels were cut. This ensure that the wood was the same thickness. I used a piece with a curved edge on the outside (this came from the inside of the stem) and traced a rough concept onto it:




I then roughly cut this out and did a lot of filing and sanding to get closer to the right shape:




To mount this on the bow, I made use of the three-layer plywood, which likes to separate along the surface between each sheet. So I cut down the stem and cut away the outer two sheets to leave just the middle one in place:




I then carefully cut away the inner piece on the end of the figurehead to make a matching slot:




You'll also notice that I carved some patterns on the figurehead, again loosely following various real items. I again took advantage of the three-layer plywood to develop some details in the teeth and nose, though it seems this photo doesn't do it justice. Will try to take a better one in daylight.


So here's what the semi-final product looks like:




Needs some touchup work but you get the idea. I have two thoughts on the eye: either leave it empty like that or run a rod through it so the eyes stick out from the side of the head. Leaning toward the latter (will try to take better photos in daylight). I'm also going to drill a hole through the mount to simulate a large peg that might have been used to fix this in place (and remove it). I'm going to highlight the carved patterns in different colors.


None of this is permanent, but it was fun to develop and starts to give the vessel a unique feel. Thoughts?

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That's a very good figurehead indeed. Very much in the spirit of the Viking carvings of this type that have been found in archaeology, and well carried out.


Regarding the eyes, most seem to have just been carved into the wood, but there is one, by an unknown artist modernly known as the Academician because of the sophistication of his work, that has little metal plates (probably silver) as the eyes.


Visiting the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo - Road Trips around the World


Not suggesting you try for this level of result at home kiddies, but it does support your idea of making the eyes different.

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Thanks, Louie! Good to hear that I'm on the right track. As you suggested, not going for anything fancier, I don't have the skill and the plywood is hard enough to carve at this level given its coarse, strong grain.


Here are three options for the dragon's eye. 















My current plan is to have the figurehead itself the same dark color as the hull, but the carved designs, teeth, and eye highlighted in colors like red and/or yellow to match certain strakes on the hull.


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