Viking Funeral Ship

One of the more unique and interesting projects I’ve worked on was for the family of a longtime commercial fisherman who had passed away.  He was of Norwegian descent and had always told his kids he wanted the classic Viking funeral where they sent the remains out on the deceased's long ship then lit it on fire.


So, at his memorial service he wanted a Viking ship to burn.  His only real stipulation was that it had to be longer than his friend’s memorial ship had been. I figured eight feet was a good length. I was working completely without plans, just putting something together that looked right.


I had some locally cut Alaska yellow cedar so I used that for the keel.


I then use some plywood molds that I trimmed and tweaked and I walked around and looked at and trimmed some more until I felt it looked right.


I used the molds to make sawn frames out of yellow cedar which I screwed to the keel.


After that I screwed the shear clamp to the frame tops.


Once the shear clamps were in place I started at the garboard to install the planks in a lapstrake style.

 Upside Down viking ship frame

I used three layers of eighth inch luan door skin for each plank, laminating in place with wood glue. Since the end result was going to be a bonfire I fudged a little on the particulars and made up the gaps with tub and tile caulk. The bottom three strakes (planks) on each side had so much twist and shape in such a short distance that the door skin was the only thing that would work

 Planking viking ship

The top two strakes, however, I used Alaskan red cedar that I had planed down to three-eights inch. On the door skin “planks” I used bronze ring shank nails to fasten and on the red cedar I used #8 stainless pan head sheet metal screws.

viking ship planked upright 

Once the top two strakes were on I put the “covering boards” on over the shear clamp and frame tops. Then it was time to prime the outside of the hull.

 viking ship hull with primer

I have no idea how authentic it is compared to 800 A.D. longships in appearance but it absolutely looks like the replica Viking ships sitting on the dock next to the Sons of Norway Hall in Petersburg, Alaska so that's what I went with.

 Painted viking ship

The inside I sprayed with varnish for no real reason other than because it's red cedar and it's beautiful. The mast step is a chunk of red cedar that I milled on my lathe and hollowed out so the yellow cedar mast could slip in and out for transport.

 viking ship interior

I added the curly tail and the shields. The dragon head that goes on the bow was made of clay by an artist friend of the deceased's family.

 viking ship with sheilds

Finally the float test.

 viking ship in harbor

The family came and picked it up and took it to Petersburg for the service.  I understand that she performed up to expectations and everyone involved were pleased. I knew the guy I built it for and I know he would have gotten a huge kick out of it, especially since it was bigger than his buddy’s.

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