A bit of magic….?

Throughout the project I have been very watchful about alignments of the various components, especially that the keel is horizontal, and that the frames are perpendicular and at right-angles to the keel, horizontal, and in good alignment with each other. All these factors are very important in making the ship have the correct shape.

It was a perpetual fight, really, to achieve these alignments, and early pictures show sticks nailed to the frames at “Xs” and braces at the tops of both stems (these are the vertical parts of the keel, one at each end).

More than once I found to my shock that there was something wrong, and that caused a lot of concern as it’s hard to correct once things are fixed in place: as the planks are attached to the stems, they have the effect of “locking-in” mistakes, and the longer they are allowed to stay, the more the effect and the harder it is to fix it.

Fast forward to just 3 months ago, when the planking was nearing completion, when I started to notice that the stems were not lining up! I had to force the forward one to one side while locking the after one in place (vertical). I worried that this problem would persist and even get worse with completion of the planking, as each plank attached would lock in the problem. My “solution” was to put in ratchet straps from the keel frames on the left (port) side to the top of the planks on the starboard side, and force the planking into shape. The idea was that the port side was “correct” and the starboard side had to match. This has significance in many ways, as overall shape, width of each side from the centerline and even the height of the sheer line (the top edge of the final plank) is affected. And, of course, the alignment of the stems! I strung a line inside the ship from front to back and compared the widths from the center to the edge at several places, and tightened the straps to make them match.

The idea was that the straps would remain in place until all the permanent frames were in place, as that would lock in the final (correct) shape.

I was very anxious about all this, because if it didn’t work, I would end up with a ship that was twisted and that would not be possible to correct without a LOT of taking apart and redoing.

So I carried on, installing the frames first on the port side and then started on the starboard side.

There came a point in which I just had to know if it was working, so I went back to checking alignments and widths, and, to my utter amazement, EVERYTHING WAS FINE!

The stems were perfectly perpendicular, and shape of the sheer line on both sides matched, the half-widths were matching, in other words, Sleipnir was nice and symmetrical!

My relief was immense! I had dreaded that things were going to be wrong. It seemed to me that Sleipnir was responding to my work, saying “you’re doing good… carry on!” Of course, that was all in my imagination. Nevertheless, I have felt much closer to her, if that were possible, and today I gave her a pat and smooch on the top plank.

My friend and fellow shipwright Eric Friberg, who lives in Anacortes, Washington and builds lovely traditional boats, said about this story “sometimes we get lucky”. Well, I think it was something more than that, but that’s between me and Sleipnir….



4 thoughts on “A bit of magic….?

  1. Hi Tom, Sol here….by absolute coincidence, on a Facebook group about Vikings, someone mentioned “a guy who’s building a replica ship somewhere in California” and I knew it could be you. Fantastic project! Just wanted you to know that I’m impressed with how beautiful it looks, and that I’m glad for you.


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