Runestone scroll – May 2019

This is my first runestone that was based off the Uppland Sweden standing runestones. It’s based off of one that I can’t find online, but is in the Dover press ‘Viking Designs’ book, and I can find the rest of the ones on the page, so I’m assuming it’s just not digitized yet. If it does not actually exist, it’s at least very much in keeping with the style, so I feel it’s ‘close enough’.

Here’s the finished scroll –

Now to tell the story…

The award write up I received, told of a brave viking warrior who has joined our society in the last year or so, and has made every effort to better himself in the art of war. It was suggested that he would enjoy a scroll with runes on it, which immediately my mind went to carving him a stone.

I passed the award recommendation to fellow Silver Brooch Sisuile Butler who had told me a few weeks earlier that she loved writing words. (Music to the ears of most scribes!) While she worked on the words, I got to work on the stone.

I had planned to raid the stash of flagstones that Leanne and I had bought a few years ago for such projects, but due to scheduling and such, it was easier to just go get another batch of them from Home Depot. (Plus, now I have my own stash, just what my scribal closet needed…) So one of the many rainy days of April, I went over to the local Home Depot and grabbed two bags of soaking wet stones. Had the weather or light been better, I’d have picked out the perfect set, but given the conditions, I went with two sets and hoped for the best. Once home I set out all the stones I had acquired and found one that would stand up on one side and look about right for the job.

Then I started researching which design I wanted to put on the stone. My initial goal was a man fighting monsters, but the people on these stones are pretty strange looking and few and far between, so I had to go with creatures fighting creatures. While browsing through “Viking Designs” I found one that matched what I was looking for:

I then spent a few days trying to find which stone this design is from, but eventually gave up.

Next was the challenge of how to transfer the complex design to the stone. I had originally planned to freehand the design, but since this was more complex, I decided to transfer it onto the stone. I did a few trials using various chalk and carbon methods but they wouldn’t stay on the stone or didn’t show up well enough. I eventually found an article on the web suggesting that you paint the surface and then transfer the design to the surface, then carve the design onto the stone, so I tried this on a piece of scrap stone and it worked wonderfully!

So I painted the stone white, and transferred the design using homemade carbon paper, this didn’t leave dark enough lines, so I went back over all the lines with a pencil. I then inscribed the lines on the stone using a knife. It was difficult to see which lines I had already inscribed, so I used an orange marker to keep track. Once all the lines were done, I washed the stone with soap and water. While waiting for it to dry, I tested the colors I had to see which would look best on the different lines. The colors were chosen as they are similar to colors that the original artists would have had access to, and what has been found in archaeological investigations of the stones. I transliterated the text from English characters into Younger Futhark Runes and wrote it onto the stone in two lines, since there were many more characters than would fit in one line. I cleaned up the edges with a pointed q-tip and called my courier to come and get it, as I was not going to the event this time.

I hope one day I will have time to actually carve the stone, I did a trial of it for this project but I didn’t have enough time to really do it well, so I decided to just go with the paint, but I do now know that I have the tools to actually hand carve the entire thing.

Viking spoon project

For my East Kingdom exchange project I decided to make a viking wooden spoon based on extant pieces found through archeology.

To start I had to decide what kind of wood I’d like to use.

Readily available to me:

Pine, White Pine, Cedar, Maple, Fir, Cherry, Oak, Poplar, Basswood, Apple and Rosewood.

Pine – Pine has a big grain which makes it difficult to carve. Also it has a piney smell, which isn’t ideal for utensils. Also it’s a pretty soft wood, which makes it easy to carve but not very durable. The large grain also makes it pretty prone to breaking.

White Pine – smaller grain, but all the same problems of pine for the sake of utensils. Would be good for non eating projects though.

Cedar – A dream to carve. It’s soft but resilient. The grain is big, but big enough that it sort of doesn’t matter as much. But it’s still a soft wood, which for the sake of this project is problematic mostly in its aroma. It smells lovely. However that’s not what you want out of a spoon you can eat with. It would make a pretty good decorative spoon.

Maple – One of the more expensive but easily found hardwoods. It is of medium hardness for carving. The grain is wide (and wavy!) which isn’t so great for spoons, but makes it really pretty for things like cutting boards, plates and boxes. If you found just the right piece of maple, it would probably make a pretty good spoon, but I didn’t find one.

Fir – Another “soft wood”, though in my experience it was very hard to carve. The grain is very evident and hard to work with. Also it smells piney.

Cherry – One of the other easily available, somewhat expensive hardwood. It varies from medium hardness to extra hard. I apparently have extra hard cherry. It’s a real pain to carve. But I’m tempted to try some other cherry as a lot of people keep recommending it to me. The grain works pretty well for carving, provided its been dried properly. It also has some toxicity, but provided you aren’t chewing on it all day, it’s a pretty minor issue. You wouldn’t want to make a water barrel out of cherry.

Oak – The hardest and most durable hardwood that is readily available for me to try, I’m not a huge fan of how it looks though, and it has a pretty distinct grain pattern that doesn’t play nicely with spoons. It’s better for plates, boxes and other solid objects.

Poplar – One of the cheapest hardwoods readily available. It is relatively easy to carve. The grain isn’t terribly obvious and doesn’t get in the way of carving it. It does tend to turn green if it hasn’t been aged properly or happens to have some of the heart wood in it. This is one reason a lot of people don’t use poplar.

Basswood – Technically this is a hard wood, but it’s really soft. It’s the easiest wood to carve. The grain is very straight, it doesn’t care if you cut it in the wrong direction. It does what ever you want it to do. Bad side – it’s not very durable. My first spoon was basswood and it snapped early on. It’s also not a terribly pretty wood. It’s very light colored and has very little “depth” of color.

Apple – I’ve heard great things about apple. I haven’t had a chance to try it because mine hasn’t has the time dry properly. I’ll probably try it next time.

Rosewood – Very pretty. Also Toxic. Not for spoons. Everyone keeps giving it to me though. I need to get a mask to work with it.

Woods I want to try, that are locally available, but would need to be aged – Ash, Birch, Aspen, Willow and Beech (or I need to find a real lumber yard.)

On the other hand I’m a little scared to try hickory, elm and walnut. For further reading about different wood types:

Looking at the woods that have survived the trials of history, mostly we have evidence of hard hardwoods like Oak, Hickory, Elm, Ash and Walnut. But there’s no reason to think that the medium hardwoods would not have been used since they are easier to carve, they just don’t hold up through hundreds of years. Vikings also used a lot of horn for spoons, which I considered but given the safety requirements of carving horn, I decided to start with wood.

For my proof of concept piece I started with cedar. This was actually an accident, as it had been labeled as some other wood but once I cut into it I realized it was cedar. MMm the smell of cedar. So I decided I might as well use it to see how the general shaping would go since I had started it. And wow, cedar is quite nice to work with, though it’s a bit soft and I had some trouble with pieces falling off that I hadn’t intended to remove.

proof of concept

proof of concept

As you can see it has a lovely color and interesting grain patterns. The scent is not noticeable now that it’s been sitting around for a week or two, and it probably could be used for food if it were sealed.

The top curve of the bowl snapped off as I was working the bowl, it’s not a total loss, as it still has a curved side, but it isn’t nicely round shaped. I did not get around to shaping the outside of the spoon bowl.

Extant examples

Using the website to find examples of viking spoons (And learning a bit of Swedish in the process, Sked = spoon!) I found a variety of examples of spoons, mostly made out of horn. I limited myself to spoons that were approximately the shape for eating rather than cooking. Most of the surviving spoons are damaged in one way or another, so to get a full sense of the spoon shape, you need to look at a variety of spoons. I also focused on spoons from the Uppland collection, for the sake of sanity.

Horn spoon handle

Horn spoon, seemingly for decorative use

Wooden spoon, probably for stirring / Strangely curved wooden spoon from the same find

Frustratingly great diagram of various viking spoons without attribution (google image search just keeps bringing me back to pinterest)

Curly birch spoon from Uppland

Flat ended bone spoon with decoration

I decided to go with the general shape/size of the bone/horn spoons and the wood spoon’s overall shape, including trying to figure out the bend in the handle.

side view of spoons

The top one is my second attempt, the bottom is the first, Both have the bowl of the spoon towards the top of the screen. I think the first attempt is more historically accurate, but seems like it would break easily. So since I want the spoon to last a few meals, I went with the more modern concave curve, vs the convex historical spoon.

However, the horn made spoons more closely resemble the second attempt, so there is a decent chance that there were wooden spoons made in this shape.

To make the spoon I went to home depot and bought a half inch board of poplar, after a lot of agonizing over the wood choice. (I actually bought Oak, Maple and Poplar, but decided to use the poplar)

I then took a survey of the extant spoons I had found and figured out the average size of an eating spoon, the average length worked out to around 16 cm, with a wide bowl, narrow handle, ending with a perpendicular squared off end.

spoon research

So I took my board and traced out the design and then totally went off the historical road map and borrowed my friend’s band saw, ta da, instant spoon blank. I then drew the elevation on the side of the spoon and started carving away with my Flexcut knives and Lee Valley chisels and gouges. Soon I had something resembling the cedar version. (sorry, forgot to take a picture)

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I then sanded it up a bit :

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Much lighter and spoon like! Now to decorate the handle with incised interlacing like the bone handles.

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I then used Butcher block oil to make it durable and food safe.

(Here’s the spoon with the first coat)

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