New Turnshoes for Mikhail

posted Jul 29, 2018, 6:11 AM by Mikhail H-   [ updated Jul 29, 2018, 7:36 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir ]


My almost-finished turn shoes just got swiped by the boy so I had to to power through Version 2. Oh well...didn't like the fit anyways.

Here is the results:

Went with toggles on inside of foot. Waaaay easier to do up, and historically correct too.
Final coat of coconut wax applied to upper.
It's what I had available and it keeps leather products water-resistant and soft.
Not needed on sole for reasons listed below.

Split leather top with thicker (x2) sole attached via flesh stitch. +1 on period use of differing thicknesses.

Thicker sole after hardening saturated with thinned rubber glue product has resulted in non-slip and water-proof surface.
Period practice was to use many different types of liquids to do this such as tree sap.

All seams saturated with same thinned rubber product to seal and strengthen. The addition of the fourth strap nicely covers the seam and the little oval left exposed by pattern.
Addition of elements such as straps documented easily as initial shoe design AND during repair of shoes based on remnants recovered. See research links below.

This seam pulls open the most so I happily continued filling this spot with sealant...think I got easily over 10 coats in. Leather seemed very happy to soak it up and then grab onto additional coats.

Same split leather used for toggles and loops.

Inside of straps.

This is how I attached the toggles. The thin leather straps are pulled into a series of TIGHT  punched holes.
I thought I would then be able to adjust as I needed. Turns out to be true, in fact shoe adjusts nicely without my needing to do anything.

This pattern was built around my foot shape WHILE wearing these excellent hard insoles.

I now get full arch support (important when all armoured up) and the hardened sole and the hard modern insole protect my feet from rocks and such while keeping me comfortable.

Here is a video of me talking about some key tips. See other videos below for  basic process.

YouTube Video

Helpful Turnshoe Videos:

My research has come across a great little stop-motion 4 minute video for a Scandinavian Turn Shoe.

Process shown is the same as we show people with a couple important differences.

Points to add, when taping to foot to create form, place plastic bag over sock to allow pattern to relax fully.

Note the use of glue to 'place' the location of the upper to the sole.

YouTube Video

These are great for giving a more details of the process.

YouTube Video


- Here is a very good source for Medieval leatherwork:

Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York Published for York Archaeological Trust by the 2003 Council for British Archaeology By Quita Mould, Ian Carlisle and Esther Cameron

Check page 106 for good general shoe summary.

- Here is an interesting excerpt source for Medieval shoes found at Netherland finds. Some of them are 'interesting' as they contrast the first source findings...

Eight Exceptional Shoes from the Netherlands by o. Goubitz, 1996

... and is mentioned in the top reference here:

Boots of this basic design fastening with toggles passing  through  triple  flaps,  termed  ‘lobes’  by Goubitz in his discussion of the type (ibid., 426–32), have been found in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland in contexts dating to the 9th and 10th centu ries (ibid., 428). They occur at Hedeby dating between the 8th and 10th century where they are described as Carolingian shoe Type 8 by Groenman-van Waater-inge  (1984). 

They  also  occur  in  rather  fragmentary form  at  Deventer  dated  to  the  9th–10th  century (Goubitz  1997b,  425),  and  a  range  of  other  sites  in the Netherlands including Dorestad, and at Wroclaw in Poland where it is dated to the 10th century (ibid., 428,  431).

These  triple  flap-fastening  boots,  particularly those with the longer, more pointed flaps, are comparable to the flap- and toggle-fastening shoes from York (Style 4).

An example fastening with a double flap  from  Dorestad  shows  the  closest  similarities (ibid.,  fig.6).  The  Carolingian  boots  however,  differ from the York shoes, and the few examples from elsewhere in Britain, in their method of fastening.

At York the toggles are attached to the flaps and pass through fastening loops attached to the quarters. The Carolingian boots all fasten with toggles that are attached to the quarters and pass through fastening holes in the flaps (lobes). Only at Middelburg does a similar arrangement of fastening appear to be recorded (Hald 1972, 110, fig.139 after Hendriks 1964, 115, 25a)

I find interesting the reversal of toggle/loop location.

Birka Pouch with intergrated knife sheath

posted Jul 29, 2018, 5:42 AM by Mikhail H-   [ updated Jul 29, 2018, 5:54 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir ]

My old rabbit fur pouch has been passed on to my daughter. It is too small for my needs and looks better on her than me. Its design is also very generic SCA.

I liked the look of more organic Birka pouches which was also more period for me. With that in mind this is what I came up with to minimize the belt real estate. At first I was very unsure of having a pouch that hangs low from a single strap. My old one had two straps and hung directly below my belt.

Instead what I now find is that this design functions better and moves with my garb as I walk, sit or run. I also find it naturally moves out of the way when sitting in backed chairs or getting in and out of vehicles.

I can now carry more with less clutter immediately attached to my waist.

Latched but not 'locked'. This is good enough for wandering about merchants row assuming no pickpockets and/or heavier activity.

Strap latch removed. Even now the weight of the flap keeps the pouch closed-ish.

Full open reveals hardened leather keeper. I have noticed that the tighter neck of the pouch opening, while allowing my hand to reach in easily, tends to keep contents from immediately bouncing out. Smart design element there of the Birka pouch.

Closed and locked.

View from above showing removal of knife.

Reworked knife out of sheath. Rebuilt this as well. I liked the look of aged copper.  Also played around with copper/brass composites.

Back of pouch showing hardened leather sheath formed to knife then stitched to pouch. If I was to do it again, I would not harden the sheath first as that make reversing the pouch a real bitch.
Also shown is Chicago rivets used before I was sure of exactly how long the hanging strap needed to be. Will replace with copper rivets when I get a minute.

Runes and decoration.

Decoration extends full length of strap.

Tent of Ravenspeak - A Rebuilding (2 of 2)

posted Sep 10, 2017, 1:16 PM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Sep 13, 2017, 2:25 AM by Mikhail H- ]

written by Freydis.

We are House Ravenspeak.  Ravens Peak?  Raven Speak?  Raves on Peak?  Yes!  In A.S. 30 (CE 1995), when we were finally able to move from our old canvas Sears tent (a brown-and-mustard hand-me-down from Freydis's parents "medievalized" by covering the external metal poles with matching mustard-coloured dagging) into our dream period pavilion, we knew precisely two things: the structure of it should be based on our very good friend (he was Best Man at our wedding) Connor's fantastic Norse tent; and we knew we wanted to have the finials carved.

Carved finials (the bits of the vertical wooden legs sticking up above the ridge pole) are of course de rigeur for Norse tents.  The Gokstad tent (found with the 9th century Gokstad ship in Norway) had carved finials, pretty similar to the carved bedposts found in the Oseberg ship burial; and pretty much every Norse tent since has had them as well, and if you see one that has just the plain boards, it is probably because they simply have not yet been able to do the carving.

Or, you know, it's the thrall tent.

British Museum pic
We were deciding what the name of our fledgling, at-the-time two-person Norse household should be at the same time as we were trying to decide what design we should put on the finials.  Long story short, we decided to adapt the design of a bird from an Anglo-Saxon shield mount (generally interpreted as an eagle, although to our eyes it always looked more like, and made more sense, as a raven) as our household crest, putting it onto our banner, and carving it into the peaks of our 2x6"  tent beams.

And that way, see, we are the household with the ravens on the peak of the tent.  Ravenspeak!  But also, it could be referring to Hugin and Munin (there being two of them there, of course), and the way they whisper into Odin's ears all that they see in the world each day.  Plus, as a nice bonus, the construction of the frame of the tent being literally strong enough for an adult man to climb up and sit upon (while waving a battle axe, to boot), it could even be raves-on-peak. Har.

And so we are House Ravenspeak, with the big Norse tent with ravens on the peak.

Connor had built a super spiff Norse tent a few years earlier, and it was fantastic.  At a time when a lot of the Norse tents being sold commercially in the SCA called for the inverted V (or A, which of course is why it's called a Norse A-frame) of the vertical legs to not be joined by a third, horizontal beam along the bottom, with the long edges of the fabric being held down by stakes in the ground (more like a tarp draped over a ridge pole with doors added than anything else), he had added a horizontal beam at the ends, which kept the vertical beams stable; and had added rope cross-bracing which kept the whole thing stable; and supplemented the ridge pole with additional horizontal beams along the long edges at the lower extremities of the wooden beams, so each point of the vertical triangle of wooden beams at each end was joined to the corresponding angle at the other end.  This, together with the cross bracing, made for an incredibly stable and strong frame (we've actually used ours to pull an engine out of a car).

Now, I don't believe he was the first to have those additional two bottom poles; some other tents ditched the stakes and had a sleeve at the bottom edge of the fabric that the bottom poles went through, instead.  However, it could not ever be made completely taut, and I seem to recall that Norse tents tended to be pretty small (despite both the Gokstad and both the Oseberg tents being pretty close in ours as ours--although this is likely more a reflection of the capacity of the vehicle being used to attend events than anything else) and had something of a reputation for leaking.

So far as I am aware (Connor can correct me if I'm wrong!), he was the first one to lace his walls taut.  The footprint of his tent is 8 x 10', with it being proportionately tall; and he would thread a rope back and forth like a corset, through grommets along the long bottom edge of his walls (which wrapped under the lower horizontal poles--which the originals did seem to use in both ship finds), up over his ridge pole, and down to the next grommet on the other side.  This allowed him to snug the walls taut.  The downside was that it was time-consuming especially with him having to climb onto and off a chest to reach the ridge pole if he didn't have someone there to help, and a bit fiddly.

So we really, really liked his design, considering the construction far superior to any other Norse tent we had seen.  And hey, his 8' x 10' footprint worked perfectly well for him over the course of a weekend, or even a week-long event; heck, I think he once went camping in it for a month, didn't he?  Lots of room for his bed and a chest of stuff and some floor space to get dressed in.

But there were two of us, so we might want a bit of a bigger bed, so maybe we ought to bump it up to 10 x 12'?  Maybe a bit bigger, if we want to be able to host friends inside as well.  12 x 14?  Hey, if we make it 12 x 16' we can hang a small brazier from the ridge pole down one end!  That would help a lot to heat it on cold days (the Clinton War, the big annual event in An Tir, was at the top end of a desert, so while it could be approaching 50c in the daytime, at night it would get freezing; you could even see your breath!).  Plus morning coffee could be had without leaving our tent, ha ha.  Hey, what if it rained for the whole event?  Wouldn't it be great if it was big enough that we could live comfortably in it for the whole weekend without feeling cramped?  Or a week?  And still host friends?  Better make it 13 x 20'.

So we priced out fabric (sadly, the strong canvas we wanted didn't come in colours, then; the only way we could get colour would be to go with plastic awning-type stuff, which is the only reason it's not striped), and the place we talked to would also sew it up to our specifications for 10% of the purchase cost, so why the hell not, right? So we did up plans, and built our frame while they sewed, and went to pick it up--and they'd done something weird with the bottom angle on the doors, which resulted in them only hanging right if it was 16' wide, instead of 13'.  Which is why the tent on the front page is so tall and pointy; we took that photo as soon as we'd gotten the fabric home and the tent set up, and the frame is still built to be 13' wide.  Good thing we had to buy 16-footers to be able to get the right length, and hadn't cut them short yet!

And that's why our old beams had an extra hole drilled through three feet from the ends.  The End.

--Naw, not the end, of course, ha ha.

So we were a bit put out, because we'd very carefully planned our tent over the course of a year or two, taking into account every factor we could think of, and this wider, lower set-up looked squat and unwieldy, comparatively speaking; and of course one couldn't walk so close to the edges without hitting the walls.  However, the actual width of clear walking space hadn't changed much; the lowered walls gave us extra storage space along the sides, out of our walking area; and the lowered ceiling would still be able to accommodate our lanterns (kerosene hurricane lanterns, which give great light and, with five of them, plus whatever candles and/or lanterns on the tables, heat the tent up beautifully when the doors are closed) without us bashing our heads on them or being so close to the roof that they'd be a fire hazard.

So in the end, we stuck with the 16' width, which is how we copied Connor's 8 x 10' tent but ended up with one 16 x 20'.  The End.

--Except that while we used Connor's lacing idea to keep the walls taut, in a tent with a height of around ten and a half feet, lacing it up over the ridge pole wasn't feasible.  Also we didn't want to deal with such a long rope, or so much work.  So the bottoms of our walls are an extra three feet long, with a sleeve along the edge, into which we thread a 16', 1/2" mild steel bar.  We have cut five notches into the sleeves (at either end, in the middle, and halfway between the two), and instead of lacing it back up the inside of the walls, we have five ropes (although we've used ratcheting tie-down straps as well) with sliding knots that go around the bar, accessible through the cut slit in the sleeve, at the bottom of one wall, along the floor, and to the corresponding slit and the bar for the other wall.  And the ropes lay along the grounds so they're easily accessible, and there's only five of them (three if we're just setting up quickly for a day-long demo), so it goes quickly, and then the ground cover--rugs and furs--covers them up so they aren't a tripping hazard, and we put the knots on the end that is under the table so you aren't walking on them.

Old beams; new boards
And that served us well for twenty years, at which point we repainted the metal, Schedule-40 poles, and replaced the wooden end beams, as after two decades of being stored outside (especially with the one recent winter where they were accidentally parked directly on an anthill--we're more careful now) the wood was beginning to look delicate.  So last Spring we retired the old tent beams (turning them into supports for our new tourney table this year), made a new pattern for the ravens so we could copy them over faithfully, and redesigned the knotwork into what is intended to eventually be a runesnake, probably.  And then made an MDF template for routering out the knotwork so we could get it done before we all died of old age.

Old beams; new table legs!
As we did last time, we only fully painted and did knotwork on one end's beams, so as to differentiate which end was the front door.  As I recall, we originally only did that on one end (although we did cut the ravens out at both ends) because we were racing to get it done for a Clinton War, and didn't have time to fully do both ends as we had originally planned.  However, we realized pretty quickly that it was actually useful to be able to tell which end was the front, there not being any other way, what with there being doors at both ends, and so we went with it.  Honestly, that tent has had something of a history of deviations from what was originally intended ending up to be design improvements, eh?

It has stood up remarkably well, especially given its age.  Last summer we did need to do some very minor repairs, as some damp got in somewhere or other along the line, causing a few scattered small holes, which we were able to patch with the current version of the fabric, which is I believe Sunforger, and which is still treated for fire-, water-, and mildew-resistance, but which no longer has the slightly greasy feeling ours has, nor the smell of the treated canvas.  Also, it now comes in colour, including the full period palette of traditional vegetable dye colours, so if you're looking to make a period tent, check out the colours they've got these days!  In period, tents were extremely bright and colourful, and the only reason, so far as I am aware, that SCA period tents tend to be in natural canvas is because either the coloured stuff isn't available treated at all, or costs significantly more than the natural stuff, and happily that doesn't seem to be the case anymore!

So!  Sunforger canvas, thread count of 20 x 40 as I recall, natural undyed colour, treated during manufacture for water-, fire-, and mildew-resistance (although still don't put it away damp, of course).

Three Schedule-40 steel beams with as I recall an OD of 2"; they will easily take the 1 1/4" dowelling we use to peg the whole thing together.  A snug fit is not required, nor is it desired, as it then wouldn't come apart if it rained.

Six 2 x 6" wooden beams, just whatever cheap but relatively clear, straight dimensional lumber we could get, with holes for the dowelling cut 2" on centre in from the lower ends, and I believe 19" down from the ends at the peak, making it slightly broader than it is tall at the points, and allowing room for decorated finials (in our case, the ravens), given that planks over 16' long are difficult to source.

Five 18" long 1 1/4" wooden dowels, just cheap softwood (at that length hardwood isn't needed structurally), and one longer, 3' one for the peak over the front door, so the metal pipe our banner hangs from can slip over the projecting part and stay put.  Ideally this happens while the tent is being set up and that dowel at the piece is still within easy reach; in practice it gets forgotten as often as not and devolves into Drunken Norse Drinking Games (tm), or we have to drive the truck up so someone can stand on the hood, or someone needs to stand on someone else's shoulders, or to climb the tent itself... You see how it goes. Heh.

Above: Staining the new beams.

Left: Freshly-carved new beams with router templates for the knotwork.


Painting the ravens and the knotwork black.


Old tent; new beams!

Also a bunch of rope, which at this point is made locally here in Nova Scotia by an old retired fisherman, which is pretty cool.  Right now the five lanterns hang from S-hooks (just cheap ones from the dollar store) hanging from ropes that go up to the ridge pole, and then down to and around one of the lower poles, so they can be raised and lowered for lighting and filling easily; but one of our first forge projects will be five decorative hooks, along with five pieces of decorative, period chain to run from the lanterns to the ridge pole (although it will still be rope from there back, due to friction issues and to save the fabric from potential damage--besides, it blends better against the wall).

We are still super happy with our Norse tent, both the design of it and the materials of which it was constructed.  It is sturdy, and free-standing, and the whole thing can be picked up and moved as needed if you have people on all for corners, and it can, if really needed, be put up and taken down by one person (although a couple extra to make sure it doesn't slip as it's being erected are absolutely needed if it's going up on concrete), although of course that takes a lot longer.  We also designed a spreadsheet program to take fabric shopping, into which one can input the length, width, and height you want your tent to be, and the cost and width of the fabric you're looking at, and it will calculate how much fabric you will need to buy, including for the doors and with the seam allowances, and give you the total cost, before and after tax (link to follow).  This was desperately needed when we were trying to build our original shower tent (which was a big red and green Norse tent, 16' long), and we were having difficulty figuring out if it was better to get Fabric A, which was cheaper but narrower, or Fabric B, wider but more expensive--and what about Fabric C, or D, or or or...  We took off to the nearest Tim's for half an hour with a pen, some napkins, and the Palm Pilot (yes, I know we're dating ourselves; it was the mid-Nineties), and banged out the equations needed and whipped up the spreadsheet, which has been a great tool for us ever since. Pythagoras' Theorem ftw!

--Yes, we have a pick-up and a trailer.  The old canvas Sears tent fit into the Honda Civic; but this one don't, ha ha.

Knife Throwing in SCA East Kingdom

posted Sep 1, 2017, 5:24 AM by Mikhail H-   [ updated Sep 3, 2017, 12:10 PM ]

 One of the activities in the SCA that has become recognized is 'Weapons Throwing'.

Now there is a marshalling structure for it and even Royal Rounds. This is new to me....back in the day, being Norse in the SCA we just threw spear and axe for giggles. Grand games of Spear the Beer, Spear the Bagel, spear catching a la 'Viking Sagas', Spear the Pumpkin (hint: the pumpkin/beer can/whatever is lobbed high at the spear wielder) Bagel the Spear, Flag the Spear and oh yeah Spear the Target Cardboard Box.

I built a number of spears which are now considered almost too heavy for this sport. Who knew? Lady Fallon was however very patient with the silly Norse folk from the past who showed up with toys different, and allowed us to demonstrate that they work.

They were a little hard on her targets (sorry!) but we did cut her a bunch of new rounds to make up for it.

I mentioned her patience, right?

Suddenly I find myself on the warranted Throwing Marshals list for East Kingdom. Dammit, made another list....

So I guess I should try and get that stuff happening so here is a target based on a extremely small stump left behind at last event. 3", 8" and 14" circles is regulation for Royal Rounds, so I first built a template. This way we can have a standard established for all painted rounds. Plus, lazy.

You can see how this round is just a tad undersized for Royal Rounds.

Good enough for practicing  knife throwing though.
First batch of throwing knives.

10" long, 1/4" steel ,straight backed, and painted hi-vis yellow for easy of recovering them in the bushes or grass.

All edges and point have been softened for ease of handling with a high polish put on the side edges based on how I tend to throw.

They seem a nice weight thanks to the thickness. I will probably make more this size and some 12" with some wider stock.

Will post the chipped up version once they get put to use.

Depending on the way the weight helps with penetration I MAY refine the edge (currently 1/8" radius)

 Video helps.
Here is a quick and rough build of stands that collapse nice and neat.

 And a walk around and demo of how it stores.

Coffee Urn & Triptych

posted Jul 26, 2017, 4:43 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Sep 1, 2017, 7:24 AM ]

Two related projects on one page! Woo!

So the SCA group we're playing with out here in Ruantallan, the Stronghold of Ravensdale (the Annapolis Valley area in Nova Scotia to the modern world) got its hands on a coffee urn, meaning when we had feasts (especially ones in the Great Gules Hall, or involving Garb Sledding, or other times hot drinks might be appreciated) we had the ability to make decently-large quantities of hot drinks (mostly hot apple cider at this point), which is great! However, of course, the stainless steel cylinder isn't very period, and gets too hot for it to be able to simply be painted. So I made a little free-standing screen, based on Medieval triptychs, with a cut-out for the tap in the centre piece, to stand in front of it so it isn't too glaringly modern on the table. As the urn itself was donated to the group, I donated the screen as well. It was a lot of fun to make.



Medieval screens seem to most commonly have arched tops, although flat ones were around as well. I wanted to do arches, on the basis that they looked more period to my modern eye; but due to needing to hide the urn, and not wanting the top to project substantially above the top of it, a rectangular one would be more practical. My compromise was to do arches sticking slightly above a rectangular background, with the background chiselled slightly down from the rest of the panel (all made out of scrap skin ply we had kicking around from another project), to help isolate the main part. I think it came out very nicely!

The Medieval triptychs,  not intending to hide something else, folded inwards; this one folds back to wrap around the urn. The hinges are strips of bias tape, securely glued with carpenter's glue. The background and gold was painted with dollar store craft paint, with the design itself done with gouache (which is an amazing alternative to acrylics; beautiful coverage! Try it if you haven't yet!) and then carefully sealed with multiple coats of an external varnish, so it could at least be wiped down without smearing the art.

The shields are showing the devices of Ravensdale (that being the proposed device at the time, since changed slightly), East Kingdom, Tir Mara (our principality), and Ruantallan, with the devices for the kingdom and principality being closer to the centre. The flowering tree over the Ravensdale device is an apple tree, added because that version of our device didn't have the apple branch earlier (and the current) versions had. The Annapolis Valley is known for its agriculture, particularly apples. Very pretty in the Spring; there's a lot of orchards around. The other side has basic Tudor roses. If I had to do it over I would have made the apple blossoms a lot larger; being so pale they're hard to see.

We also have a raven stooping over the couple, also to tie it back to Ravensdale (and incidentally to House Ravenspeak, heh).

It works very nicely and looks pretty awesome if I do say so myself!

A little while ago, though, I came across another coffee urn at Value Village (the (un)official sponsor of the SCA, lol), this time of plastic that didn't get too hot to be painted. So I painted it up directly, woo! Tried to make it look like pages of Medieval illumination, with three period recipes for hot drinks, one on each of the three sides, with the intervening legs painted gold and decorated with stick-on jewels (held more securely with crazy glue). This one I'm keeping for now; but I may either sell or raffle it off when we eventually get posted elsewhere; we'll see. I might end up keeping it. But it's nice to be able to have the choice of two hot drinks (alcoholic mulled wine and non-alcoholic hot apple cider? Coffee and hot water for tea etc? Hot tea and cold water or juice to drink? The sky's the limit!).

Again, painted with the cream ("Antique White," I think?) dollar store craft paint and gouache and varnished, although I did end up using an ultra-fine point Sharpie to do the calligraphy. Hey, if you do that yourself, test the varnish you want to use before applying it to the work; ends up that the first varnish I used makes Sharpies run. Aargh. And of course I did the front first since I didn't have enough time to do all three sides before the next feast. Happily it's not really noticeable (especially by candlelight) until one tries to actually read it. For the other two sides I gave it a couple of coats of a matte Krylon finishing spray (<3 Krylon) and let that thoroughly dry before using the proper finishing varnish that will allow the inside to be washed without wrecking the paint. That was happily enough to keep the Sharpie intact. Needed quite a lot of pens, too! I went through I think three at least per side; dollar store Sharpies don't seem to have too much ink in them. Mind you, I had to outline and then fill in each letter (plus all the illumination), so I suppose that does come out to a decent amount of ink all told. I experimented with the chisel tip markers, but they couldn't get me as fine lines as I wanted, and my calligraphy pens's tips were too stiff; I didn't trust them to be able to draw on the hard plastic (even with the paint on there) without scratching off the paint or ruining the tip. Plus I thought the ink would run too much.

Pretty spiff, eh?


A neat happenstance is that it sits just high enough off the table for an LED tea light candle to be slipped beneath, which makes it a bit easier to see the tap, and which also makes it look like it's got a small flame beneath it somewhere keeping it hot, which I like a lot.

The recipes:

Clarrey. Take kanel & galinga, greyns de paris, and a lytel peper, & make pouder, & temper hit wyt god wyte wyne & the þrid perte honey & ryne hit þorow a cloþ. (14th Century English recipe).

Caudell. Draw yolkes of eyron thorow a streynour with wyne or with ale, that hit be ryght rennyng; put therto sigure, safron, & no salt. Bet well togedyr; set hit on the fyre on clene colys. Stere welle the bottom & the sydys tyl hit be ynowghe scaldyng hote; thu shalle fele be the staffe when hit begynnys to com. Then take hit of and styre alwey fast, & yf be nede, aley hit up with som of the wyne; or yf hit com to hastyly, put hit in cold watyr to myd syd of the pot, & stere hit alwey fast; & serve hit forth. (15th Century English recipe).

Potus ypocras. Take a half lb. of canel tried; of gyngyuer tried, a half lb.; of greynes, iii unce; of longe peper, iii unce; of clowis, ii unce; of notemugges, ii unce & a half; of carewey, ii unce; of spikenard, a half unce; of galyngale, ii unce; of sugir, ii lb. Si deficiat sugir, take a potel of honey. (14th Century English recipe).

--Yeah, I have no idea what half of those ingredients are. Long pepper, cloves, nutmeg, I can get; no idea what spikenard, galyngale, or grains of paradise are. Google is a thing, though, so I assume I can easily find out if I care; I only was looking for period hot drinks of a good length to fit onto each side, ha ha. Obviously the first one went onto the front; needed the extra space for the tap.

Also, I have to admit it was weird to be lettering (and reading) "Potus" over and over at the beginning of 2017. Hopefully this will just be a historical blip, but right then, with Trump being the current (and recently-inaugurated) President of the United States ("POTUS" for short), yeah, a little weird. I kept side-eyeing the spelling.

Thanks to A Boke of Gode Cookery for the recipes! Fantastic resource; you guys should definitely check it out.


posted Jul 21, 2017, 11:06 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir

Having and using an actual forge is a common SCAdian dream, and one we've both had for a very long time. Hey, guess what; we've made one!

It's a single-burner propane-powered forge, with a "Mikey-burner" version of a Venturi burner (no, not our Mike, different one, although they've talked). It has a loop in the propane feed path that allows the propane to be cut back to an "idle" of 3.5 psi when the metal is being worked, rather than being heated, with the turn of a single lever valve. I say "idle" in quotes, though, because it ends up it works efficiently enough, once it's heated up, that it doesn't actually need to be kicked up off idle to use!

It has openings both front and back, so long stock can be worked as well; one can only work a small section at a time on an anvil anyways before the metal cools off too much and needs to be reheated, so this will allow us to do not only smaller projects like knives and decorative S-hooks, etc, but longer things as well, swords, tripods, whatever. So long as it can fit into the width of the mouth, the length isn't an issue.

Currently it's out at a friend's place, in his garage, having been set up and tested there last Sunday. It works really well! It's very well-insulated, so external heat is really decent, and even at an idle the thin metal we were working (a thin piece of rod Mikhail quickly bashed into an S-hook to give it a try, and a piece of bar stock he's working into a single-edged knife, possibly a small saex) heated up so quickly that, as quickly as such small pieces of metal cool off, less than thirty seconds of working time on each, I'd say, he could work on one 'til it cooled, pop it back in, grab the other, work it for a few seconds until it cooled, pop that back in, and by then, the first piece would be ready to go again. Heck, it's got enough room and heat to spare (even with the doors at either end only open a small gap to feed the metal into) that if we can get a second anvil built out there, we could absolutely have two blacksmiths working with it at the same time, one out each end of it.

Incidentally, for all those fearing Mikhail's threats to start in on it at events as soon as the sun comes up, before the heat of the day hits (which ought to be starting this Carnivale, in a few weeks, at the same property as is currently housing the forge), working heated metal is, happily, does not ring nearly as loudly as the metal hammer on the metal railroad track anvil, which manages to vibrate at just the right tone that a slightly hung-over brain melts at. It ends up. So that's something.

Here's a few quick pics of the forge, and Mikhail and our friend, Ulrich, whose house this is, giving it a go.

Tourney Table Two

posted Jul 14, 2017, 6:58 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir

Oh my gods, this table. This table is cursed.

Okay, so back in the day, we had a tourney table, as one does, because being able to sit around a table and not eat off the ground is awesome, and it makes managing game boards easier. It's a table; you guys all know why one would have a table.

But when we moved up to the Interior of BC, like just about everything else, the much dryer air made the joints pop apart and since we weren't playing with the SCA anymore we didn't bother fixing it, so of course now we need a new tourney table, along with a new everything else.

Last year (A.S. LI) we got two awesome, wide pine boards from a local guy with a saw mill, and laminated them together (a task made much easier by our biscuit-cutter); but didn't have time for anything else beyond slapping a quick coat of finish onto it before we loaded it into the trailer for War Camp, still drying. And of course over the winter the sides kind of curved up a bit, because of the width compared to the thickness (it's only about an inch thick, but the boards are around 17" or so wide), so this year we wanted to finish off the rest of the table, and not just have this flat surface we had to stick on top of picnic tables or saw horses to use.

It should have been so simple. So simple, you guys.

We wanted to flatten it out again (accomplished by the simple expedient of leaving it lying flat on the floor of the garage for a month or so), and then laminate narrower boards around all four edges, to make it a bit larger; visually frame the nice wide boards in (they are two consecutive slices off the same beetle-kill tree, which had a nice blue stain from the beetle kill up one side, so we glued those blue sides together and now have a nice blue V running up the middle); and to help stabilize the grain against movement from temperature and moisture. Then we wanted to add wood along the edges, to make it look thicker and give it more visual weight without impacting the actual weight much (as a tourney table, it needs to be something that can be moved easily by one or two people).

And for the legs, we wanted to do another trestle style table, but more stable than last time. The last one had carved legs attached permanently to the underside of the top with hinges, that folded down, with a horizontal board near the bottom to keep them apart (which made a good foot rest, which sadly the current version does not have), and a great big X that was wedged into place in the gap between the underside of the top and that board, and the legs, which gave it lateral stability. But because it was held in place with just a wedge relying on friction, sometimes it would get kicked out of place, or fall out if the table was lifted and carried, and then it'd get wobbly. Plus, having the legs attached to the table made it heavier, and, not shovelling grain for eight hours a day anymore, I am not nearly as strong as I was. Plus, it's nice if the kids can help haul and set up stuff!

So we were looking at designs online, when Mikhail had a great idea: The legs of a trestle table often basically form an X. Why not take the tops of our old tent poles, with the carved ravens, and use them?

Long story short, that's what we did, and it looks great, and is super stable and can be lifted and carried in and out of the tent as a single unit with no issues (as the legs bolt to the underside of the top, which has screw-in anchors inserted into it), and nothing can accidentally be kicked out of place, and I think even more people can fit around it, and because the stretcher down the middle is now solid, we can hide the beer kegs behind it and you can't see them (although better camouflage for them is on the extremely lengthy To Do list).


Doesn't it look nice in the sun?

You can just make out the blue pine beetle stain down the middle on the right; it's more obvious in person.

Side view showing the old knotwork on the stringer. It's all been glued into one big piece; but the wood is so old and dry it's surprisingly light.

The two tenons give it more stability. Those freshly-cut ends (and the ones on the sides of the feet) we did contemplate keeping as is, as they sort of tie the top and the legs together; but we're going to sand off the finish and age them to match the rest of the beams instead.

You can just make out the two hex bolts going into the underside of the top of the legs on this end, right by the ravens' noses. You can also see how thin the top actually is, here.

And here it is in situ, in our tent, at War Camp, A.S. LII! You can just see the beer kegs and CO2 tank tucked in underneath on the left; the taps are under the fox fur on the table.

Long Version: Holy cow; this table top is cursed. Oh, man, you guys.

So, okay, we had three weeks and three weekends between Mikhail coming back home after being away for work for a while, and when we wanted to leave for War Camp, since we wanted to head out near the beginning of the preceding week, on Tuesday. So, sure, finish off the table, make five more tourney chests, and make a new tourney bed. We already had a bunch of the wood, we knew what we wanted to do, whatever. Should be lots of time, right?

This freaking table ate up two and a half weeks of those three weeks. Two weeks and two weekends were just trying to edge in those middle two boards!!

See, in order to laminate two edges together, you have to have perfectly-mated edges. A gap of even two millimetres is going to crack. So, we needed to cut perfectly straight edges, with no more than like half a millimetre deviation over the length of the edge (because of course, any deviation would effectively be doubled when applied to both edges). But, not a big deal. We set up the fence on the table saw, ran the pieces through--not straight. Hell. Fine; we ran them through the edge planer; that's precisely what it is for: bringing edges to perfectly true.

Not straight. Aargh.

FINE. Set up a straight edge along it and use it as a guide for the skill saw.

Not straight.

Aarghaarghaargh. FINE. Hand-plane it. Shouldn't take much to correct that tiny deviation, right?

Not straight; and now, not ninety-degrees either.


In the end, we had to set up the straight edge along one edge, trim it with the skill saw, and then, keeping the straight edge in place and using it as a guide, butt the other edge up against it and run the saw along it again a few times until they matched perfectly, even if there was a tiny deviation in there somewhere. Had to clamp it down hard; if a clamp slipped, or we hadn't trimmed a piece quite enough, we had to start all over again.

Ask me how I know. ><

Plus, damned near every power tool that went near it died! The biscuit cutter died just after we got the last board framed onto the top, so we couldn't use it on the vertical boards along the edges (where, at least, it wasn't so desperately needed). Couldn't fix it either, alas; something modular died. The orbital sander mysteriously died as well, although happily I was able to get into it and get it going again (I suspect a brush somehow got knocked out of alignment on the electric motor--but how that happened while just sanding and not by dropping it or something, I have no idea). Even the belt sander somehow sucked its own tail up, which is not something we have managed to do in our previous twenty+ years of woodworking. Luckily Mikhail was able to yank it out again and the damage to the cord was minimal.

The thing was cursed!!

Luckily the legs went a lot smoother, and look great, if I do say so myself. It is really cool to have that piece of history, the ravens that watched over us as we took the Warlord of the West hostage that one An Tir West War; who oversaw our ridiculously huge Clinton War encampment, and the negotiations for the Dog Meat War; who witnessed our marriage on the half-scale replica of the Gokstad ship we helped the Burnaby Scandinavian Centre build, preserved and still being used in the current iteration of our encampment. Plus, as Mikhail says, it's very period for the Norse to reuse and repurpose items, heh.

It's basically done now, thanks to the fifteen+ -hour day week-long push leading up to War Camp ("Maybe we can still finish it all in time to leave Tuesday morning? Tuesday afternoon? Wednesday? Okay, Thursday morning, right? Thursday afternoon? Okay, dammit, the event is starting in like an hour; can we leave now?!"); but ideally we'll sand down the freshly-cut ends on the feet that were not hit up with the wood-aging formula (ironed vinegar and tea; see post here under Projects for the recipe), age those bits and the pegs too, and then give them a coat of finish. And give the top a light buff and several more coats of finish as well; we had to take a scraper to parts of it after The Great War Camp Tablero Fencing Championship Tourney Prequel, wherein we learned that a cloth game board with lines drawn on in marker + rum + a table finished in a 3/3/3 mix of boiled linseed oil, mineral spirits, and spar varnish = felt lines on the table top. Aargh.

Cursed, I tells ya.

Hey, we gave the players a copy of the rules to Tablero de Gucci the evening before for them to go over, and we told them it was usually played with beer or the equivalent. Not our fault they grabbed bottles of rum for a drinking game instead!

Ziacomo from our local group, Ravensdale, almost winning the tourney due to the top two fighters being slightly incapacitated was a complete coincidence, we assure you. Heh.

Aging New Wood

posted Jul 8, 2017, 1:45 PM by Freydis Egilsdottir

To make our new brazier and tourney table (here in A.S. LII, as opposed to the ones we made back in the day, around A.S. XXX), we used bits of our first wooden beams from our big Norse A-frame, first shaped and carved lo these many years ago, but since the victim of rot. They weren't strong enough to reliably hold such a large and heavy piece of canvas in place any more; but there was still good wood in there, and of course a lot of personal history. It was under the watchful gaze of those ravens that we took the Warlord of the West hostage, raided the dining hall at the Midsummer Festival, got married...

But of course, while the outside of the beams was beautifully greyed and weathered, anywhere we cut was exposing fresh wood, and any other wood we incorporated wouldn't be grey, either. I vaguely remembered seeing something online years ago about spraying fresh wood with bleach to make it age faster, but I believe that was on a time scale of months, and we needed to make the fresh wood match now.

So I did some research, and the Internet pretty much agreed: The best and fastest way was something called ironed vinegar; and it was going to take a full twenty-four hours to make the mix, and that could not be sped up.

And it worked beautifully, so I want to thank everyone who has already shared the recipe online, and to share it here as well, to be able to find it again easily, and to share what we used and our experience with it.

Basically, take a couple steel wool scrubbies, tear them apart, stuff them in a nicely-sealing jar, and dump a bunch of white vinegar over it. Give it a shake, and leave it for twenty-four hours for the acid of the vinegar to break down the fine iron of the steel wool. --Yeah, we gave it closer to eighteen hours; but the longer the better and I consider myself lucky it still worked.

Now, that recipe will darken and age the wood, make it more brown apparently; but what we wanted was to make it more weathered and grey. The process is the same, except instead of using plain steel wool scrubbies, take a couple with the blue soap impregnated into them; the blue dye helps get the right tone. And instead of white vinegar, use apple cider vinegar. Shred, soak, wait.

That's Step One, and the lengthy part of the process. The good news is that it doesn't go off, so once you've mixed it up you can hang onto it for the next time. Step Two is to make some very strong black tea.

Now, it doesn't matter if the tea is warm or cold or what when you use it, but it does need to be black tea; it's the tannins that are needed, eh, so green or herbal teas won't work. Also, apparently, while coffee will work in a pinch, tea has more tannins and works better. We've only used the tea so I can't compare, but the tea (Tazo's Spiced Chai) did work really well. --Incidentally, the tea will not keep, so don't bother hanging onto any leftovers; but it's only a matter of like ten minutes or so to boil a pot of water and give a bunch of tea bags a good steeping, so hanging onto it wouldn't save much time anyways; it's the vinegar that takes the prep time.

Okay, so now, paint the tea onto the wood you want to age. Just slop it on there. Once the tea is on, paint the ironed vinegar on over top. You do not need to wait for the tea to dry (apparently it doesn't make any difference). Now, most of the websites I read said you could see the wood changing immediately, so when next to nothing happened, we were extremely doubtful. Don't panic! The chemical reaction between the tannins in the tea and the ironed vinegar occur as the liquid dries, so after half an hour, forty minutes or so, there was a noticeable difference. Here, check it out:

The two vertical boards forming the ends of the A are the original beams, weathered grey over a couple of decades. The two short horizontal beams are beater wooden pallet wood, not aged at all; and the ends of that pallet wood are freshly cut. Incidentally, both those horizontal pieces are cut consecutively from the same long board. It was kind of hard to tell if it was having any effect on the fresh cuts on the table legs, so, since these two pieces weren't attached to anything yet, I painted the tea and ironed vinegar on one piece (the one on the right, above) and left the other piece alone. This picture was taken maybe an hour or two after being treated.

Here, have a closer look. The untreated piece, that horizontal, fresh board at the end of the black metal box, that stands out like a sore thumb against the weathered upright:

--and the matching piece on the other side, cut at the same time from the exact same piece of wood, treated an hour or so earlier with the tea and vinegar:

Looks great, doesn't it! You'd never guess that it had been cut the day before, nor that it wasn't the same age as the older beams. It blends beautifully!

A couple of final thoughts:

First, these are both softwoods, most likely spruce. I don't know how it would work on hardwoods, but I imagine it would still improve things, if not necessarily as drastically. But that is not experience speaking; we've only used it on spruce.

Second, it worked fastest and most noticeably on the cut ends. It did work on the rest of the board, as you can see; but it turned the cut ends first; I suspect because the severed fibres wick up more tea and therefore contain more tannins. Make the tea good and strong, like, five tea bags in half a litre strong, and make sure you're pouring boiling water over them, not just hot water, to get the most out of them. Best way to make tea, anyways, using actively-boiling water.

And third, don't bother standing and watching it; it doesn't work that fast. Don't be disappointed when you apply it and nothing happens immediately! But it did work really, really well, and we're really pleased with the ease and inexpense of the technique, and with the results.

Brazier Part Deux

posted Jul 8, 2017, 12:50 PM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Dec 26, 2017, 6:28 PM ]

For years and years we used our round portable brazier, made from the largest, thick wok we could find in Vancouver's Little India, and a folding, detachable base with our ravens done in scrolled round stock bars as filler and support. It was lovely and worked very well; but as we weren't expecting to ever do any SCA camping again (and didn't see any opportunity for any other period Norse camping in the foreseeable future) we left it with friends in BC. Of course, now that we are back in the SCA, and enjoying it a lot (the people of Ruantallan are absolutely lovely), we need some sort of portable camp fire, both for cooking over, and for sitting around in the evenings. And getting the brazier shipped over to Nova Scotia from BC is proving a wee bit of a challenge, as the bus can do it but is really expensive for something that large and heavy, and shipping it other ways is slow and of course requires coordination of schedules.

Our brand-spanking new old brazier!

So this is a marvellous opportunity to do something different to replace it. We looked at a lot of different brazier designs, both Norse and SCA (Pintrest really is useful for that kind of thing), and eventually came up with one we liked, something completely different.

What We Liked About The Old One:

-Super portable
-Looked good
-Very contained; we were occasionally even allowed to use it during fire bans

What Could Be Improved:

-It was just a little too low; the bottom was I think 12" or so off the ground, and while the grass beneath would not catch fire, it would dry out and wither. Also, one had to bend over a lot to cook on it, which is not ideal for middle-aged backs and knees (or when small kids and/or dogs are about)
-There wasn't any way to hang pots or tools over it; it needed a separate tripod (which we didn't really have--well, okay, we did have the tripod as you can see, but not any means of hanging anything from it)
-There wasn't any work space around it; all prep work had to be done elsewhere unless I wanted to bring a chest over, which would (a) get in the way and (b) get messy

Last year or the year before we got a nice, tall, free-standing two-burner propane cook stove on sale from Canadian Tire, which is absolutely fantastic for making coffee in the mornings (boils our 30-cup percolator in about ten minutes instead of the hour and a half it takes over the fire); but which one can't really grill meats over, and which is isolating to use. Yes; we get all the nearby work space one could wish for, and nearby pot and utensil storage; but it's in the kitchen tent, the interior of which is currently almost entirely mundane, so not a space people hang out in. So whoever is cooking on it (me; it's me) is in there by themselves while everyone else is chatting in the tent. Also, of course, it's not really a good tool for hanging out around to warm up on cold nights.

So! We looked at loads of designs. We wanted something that would pack up relatively small (we have a truck and a trailer; but we like to limit dead space), but that would go up easily (ideally with one person); would have the working height be at a convenient level; have at least some work surface nearby; and have the ability to hang pots at variable heights. In addition it needed to be reasonably period for Norse (or at the very least, not glaringly mundane, which of course the propane stove is). And what we ended up with was a design that is apparently originally based on a fire-box depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry:

Image of a cook fire from the Bayeux Tapestry

As you can see, in the top half of the picture there, there is some kind of raised, semi-enclosed platform which is holding the fire. Anchored on either side is a spit, depending from which, above the fire, is a pot.

The SCA seems to be interpreting this (especially Norse and Anglo-Saxon personas) as a Norse A-frame supporting a box, of either wood or metal (when filled with sand, the wood is perfectly safe from the flames), with the ridge pole providing a point to hang pots and tools. A variation which looks lovely but would be less portable for us has a large wooden frame that is filled in with sand or earth and resting on the ground containing the fire.

So we went with that, and boy howdy, are we pleased with the results!

Our new brazier in use at War Camp

Our new brazier in use at War Camp

The vertical legs are the old bottom beams from our Norse tent (in the background; we replaced the beams last year and cut up the carved vertical pieces to make the legs of the table in the tent). The horizontal wooden beams at either end of the fire box are old pallet wood that we don't care about; it's just there to be a sacrificial piece of wood between the flames and the legs if needed (it was; I put too much oil in the griddle, which you can just see hanging below the lamp, and it spilled into the fire a bit with predictable results). The sides of the fire box used to be the leg-supporting bracket under a table from a primary school; we snagged it for the table top (which we used as a work bench); but the legs, at like 18", were too short to be useful to us so we tossed it into the scrap pile, where the legs remain. We spot-welded a sheet of 14 gauge steel from our armouring supplies to the underside for the bottom (spot-welded rather than a continuous weld both for speed but also to allow drainage when it rained--which it did, copiously, until everyone else left, and then it was predictably lovely for days on end); and Mikhail and Karl, with pliers and brute force, straightened out the lip at what is now the top edge to gain another half inch of height to the sides, as we weren't sure if it was deep enough to contain the fire properly (it was). Karl showed an unexpected talent for getting that reshaped edge nice and smooth!

The three pipes, on the two sides of the fire box (welded in place) and the ridge pole from which pots, chains, and utensils depend, are from a weight-lifting set-up we haven't used since 2009 but have dragged across the continent, so it's bloody well time it did something useful, heh. We did give them a fresh coat of black paint but it didn't stick well to the chrome so we'll have to redo it, possibly with some primer involved.

You can see one of the movable wooden counters in place to the right; the other one is hanging off the side of the box by its lip on the other side. I really, really liked them. One only needs quite a small fire for cooking (compared to the larger fire needed for a dozen people to sit around in the evenings), which means it only takes up about a third of the total bed. The second third is covered by the counters, which, being movable, means the fire can be built on the downwind side of the brazier so the work area isn't smoked out. The middle third is a great place for drying out wet logs and keeping food or water warm, and beneath the counters is a wonderful place to keep kindling and tinder dry. Larger firewood can get stacked beneath and still have some protection from the weather.

The griddle was made by Mikhail and Karl and is just more sheet metal, cut in a circle, with a small wedge cut out so it could be very slightly folded inwards into a very shallow cone, so liquids would more or less stay in place. A round metal rod sticks out the bottom an inch or so (required to give it more contact with the sheet so it didn't snap off) and is formed into a hook at the top.

The great thing about it was that we were able to make it 100% with materials we had kicking around, so it was super easy on the pocket book. Even that nice dished pot hanging over the fire was just a wok I had, but rarely used, with the handle knocked off, hanging from a three-part chain from a dollar store plant basket, and some larger chain we had kicking around for something or other. The only thing I actually bought for it was dollar store S-hooks!

The one issue we did need to resolve with the design was lateral stability. It tends to want to wiggle from side to side. We stopped that in our Norse tent with the X-shaped ropes you can see up the inside wall; but of course we can't do that here without severely impacting usability. In the end we made the two small legs you can see underneath by laminating some strips of heavy maple wooden flooring from a neighbourhood renovation together and using them as bracing, to create a sort of a tripod with the legs of the A-frame beneath the box. They attach to the box at their upper end with hinges, and for transport are folded up against the bottom and held in place by a bungee cord wrapped around the middle of the box. To use them, they are just folded down and wedged into place by stomping them into the dirt. Works well enough for now. Nice and stable, and doesn't block access to nor storage space for the firewood beneath.

So there you go: Our new brazier! I really liked using it. It's a very practical design, and it gets me out of the kitchen and into the living room, so to speak. You can see people sitting at the picnic table just behind me; I was able to still socialize with everyone else while I was cooking.

We do have a few finishing touches we want to make still; we want to cut the finials into something decorative (you can just see one of our raven finials sticking up past the far side of our tent), which is why they were left so long; and we want to fire up the forge (propane-fired, which Mikhail finished right before he had to ship out for courses for two months and hasn't had a chance to use since) and make some more period chains and hooks. The griddle's bar will also be replaced by some nice thin square stock with a nice twisted design in the rod and a nicely-worked hook at the top. We wanted to cook some steaks on the last night as well, and found a round grill we could hang from the plant basket chain over the fire at a thrift store; but we want to make a nice, period one of those as well. We'd also like to add notches up the sides to support a spit, which aside from roasting meats gives something to act as an anchor to pull the pot one way or another. I can slide the chain from side to side; but I can't push or pull the pot from its hanging position right now. I could also use a poker and some bellows! Good thing I have good lung capacity, ha ha.

We'll see how much of that gets done before the next event, in what, four weeks? Oh, lord...

Rowing Chests

posted Jun 23, 2016, 1:44 PM by Mikhail H-   [ updated Jun 23, 2016, 6:34 PM ]

We used to have six of these back in the day, for storage and for seating around our table in the evenings; but left them behind in BC, not expecting to need SCA gear out here.

Now we are replacing them.

These are based off the Oseberg and Gokstad rowing chests. We copied the Gokstad proportions fairly faithfully, and after using them for close to ten years, found them a solid, practical, and lightweight chest. One of our biggest changes was to make the front and back out of tongue-and-groove pine wainscotting boards. One package makes one chest, with actual proper boards for the top and sides; the bottom, which of course is usually not visible, is just some plywood.

The top and sides provide the bulk of the strength, while the wainscotting front and back provide lateral stability while keeping the weight down. These are surprisingly light!

You will notice as well that the sides extend down into legs, keeping the bottom slightly off the ground. This seems to have been a pretty standard design for Norse rowing chests (they sat on these sea chests, rather than benches), and it allows for water to slosh along beneath the chest while still keeping the contents dry. When camping, they keep the contents out of the damp and mud; and are more stable to sit or stand upon than one with the entire bottom in contact with uneven ground.

Also, the sides and back are not completely vertical; they kick out at five degrees. This makes them more stable, and allows them to stack. Empty, we've had them stacked as much as five high, and they could probably go higher; it's just hard to reach after five. Even full, we've had them four high.

Once we get a second coat of varnish on, we will add rope handles either side. The handles have a loop in them that allow a pole to be threaded through for carrying between two people, over the shoulder. Not really needed when there's just garb in there; but handy if it's full of portable holes. The loop prevents it from slipping sideways.

Originally we had six: Two for garb; one for lanterns; one for feast gear; one for non-refrigerated food; and a last one, lined with styrofoam, that was a cooler. We hope to make at least four for War Camp; we will need the seating as well as the storage, as our family has grown since the last time we did this!

Norse Tourney Chests

And here's the old chests in action! Wassail!

Here is an export from the original AutoCAD design.

Here is a revamped version in Sketchup.

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