If you ever stop to watch and listen to children playing you will be surprised to discover just how fertile their imaginations are. A large cardboard box becomes a Norman castle, the humble tricycle a chariot pulled by four magnificent horses, and a blanket over a clothes horse one of the most dangerous forests of South America.

This Viking longboat enters into this spirit of imagination providing the chance for adventure and seamanship from a bygone age, without the need for Lloyd’s to underwrite the project!

The construction only involves plywood, some large dowel rods, deck chair canvas and several reels of coloured tape for shield decoration. I have tried to be economical, and therefore most of the boat can be made from one 8′ X 4′ sheet of plywood. However, you’ll need to cut the dragon head and some of the shields from an extra sheet. Because of the length and nature of the shaping it is essential to have a jigsaw to cut out the boat sides. You can’t use a bow or coping saw.

The hull

1 Make a start by selecting your sheet of plywood. The best type to choose is Finnish birch-faced plywood as this is top-quality ‘genuine’ plywood However, just to see if my design worked with the far more common Far Eastern plywood. I made my boat from that and it was fine. The only problem that may arise is that when the middle is bowed to form the beam (i.e. the width of the boat), one of the plywood sides may crack, so you should bend the plywood very carefully at the initial stages.

2 Following the plans, mark out the two sides (see page 30). With a jigsaw (and possibly someone to help hold the end of the plywood sheet), cut the sides out. You’ll end up with a large waste piece which you can use for shields.

Some plywoods give very nasty splinters, and the next thing you’ll need to do is glasspaper smooth the sawn edges. If you get a long ‘spilch’ that has broken away from the side, but is still attached, glue it back into place and use a length of masking tape to hold it there while the glue dries. Genuine plywood does not produce as many spilch problems as the Far Eastern plywoods. Do bear in mind that children will be climbing over the side of the boat and unless you are careful to make the plywood edges safe at this stage, nasty scratches will occur.

3 Tape the two sides together and drill the holes at either end to take the lacing of cord that will hold them together. When you are drilling these holes, place a piece of waste wood underneath. Otherwise when the bit comes through you will have a ‘gribbly’ hole with spilches and splinters worthy of a porcupine!

4 Mark and cut out the piece of timber or the head post at the prow (front) of the ship. This has to have holes drilled through it corresponding to those in the plywood sides — be sure to drill them at 90° in both planes (see page 93) and the right distance apart. Shape the two curves smoothly with a spokeshave and cut out the slot for the head with a tenon and a coping saw.

5 The dragon’s head for the prow gives plenty of scope for creative flair. Make a template (see page 90), following the plans, and use it to mark out the shape on to plywood. Cut it out using a |igsaw and glasspaper the edges. Cut teeth and eyes from offcuts of timber and glue them in position.

I advise just pushing the head into position in the head post,-rather than glueing it there, so that you can dismantle the ship more easily for storing.

Mast assembly

If you study the drawing on page 30 you will see that the mast assembly is a very simple construction, consisting of two lengths of dowel rod fitted into two lengths of timber which brace the boat. This supports the mast — which is a broom handle!

1 First make the mast support frame by drilling holes in the two pieces of timber for the dowel rods that go across the hull. Make two mast blocks and drill a hole in each at 90° in both planes (see page 93) for the cross-dowels and another one for the mast. Screw in a hook to hold the rigging handle. Push the cross-dowels through the mast blocks and glue the ends into the side pieces of timber. Glue the mast blocks in place in the centre of the cross-dowels.

2 Now make a block of wood to hold the rigging in place at the top of the mast. This must be drilled with a hole for the mast and have two eyes screwed in position.

3 The sail is made from deck chair canvas which is available in pre-cut lengths (an expensive way to buy) or off the roll. Whether you choose nylon or cotton canvas, it is unlikely that it will be wide enough for the sail. I would strongly advise using double-sided carpet tape to join widths together, as I had a somewhat unfortunate encounter with a sewing machine on my first sail!

Once you have made the sail (sighs of relief!) tack the top edge to a batten of wood for the ‘top yard’. Then fix the bottom edge (double-sided carpet tape again to the rescue!) to a length of plastic pipe such as overflow pipe, for the ‘lower yard’.

4 Now-how to rig the sail. Thread a length of cord through the pipe and tie it to each side of the top dowel in the mast support frame.

Drill a hole at each end of the top yard. Thread another length of cord through these holes and knot it in position. To hold the sail to the mast and allow it to be raised and lowered, tie a third length of cord to the middle of the cord on the top yard. Thread it through the two eyes at the top of the mast and take it down to the cup hook on the upper mast block. Drill a hole through a short piece of dowel rod to form a handle and knot the end of the cord into this. When you take hold of the handle and pull the cord out of the cup hook, the top yard drops down so lowering the sail. To raise the sail again, just pull the handle and loop the cord under the cup hook.

Final assembly

1 Using lengths of cord, assemble the ‘hull’ by lacing the two sides together at the back (stern), and the sides and head post together at the prow. Don’t be tempted to lace it too tight, otherwise the plywood will not bow sufficiently to get the mast assembly in place. Don’t cut the cord to length until you’re sure you’ve got it right. You can always trim bits off, but you can’t stick them back on!

2 The shields hanging along the side of Viking boats were a very distinctive feature. To make these just draw circles out on plywood and cut them out using a jigsaw. Glasspaper the edges carefully. Cut out handles from timber using a compass with the specified radius to achieve the necessary curves. Glue the handles to the shields and add a screw from the other side for extra strength. I used striped plastic tape for decoration, but you can paint them in any way you wish, of course.

3 I painted lines along the length of the hull to simulate planks and a blue wavy line for the sea! Whatever you decide to do. follow the advice on page 95 on applying preservatives to give the ship protection against the sea and to prevent the growth of marine life!

Cutting list

Hull 2 off 2438 X 610 X 5mm (96 X 24 X 3/16 in) Plywood

Head post 1 off 1435 x 93 X 35mm (56½ X 37/8 X 13/8 in) Timber

Head 1 off 584 X 356 X 9mm (23 X 14 X 3/8in) Plywood

Teeth Make from 610×51 x 22mm (24 x 2 x 7/8 in) Timber

Shield 8 off» 356mm (14 in) diam x 5mm(3/i6 in) Plywood

8 off 152 X 95 x 9mm (6 x 3 ¾ x 3/8 in) Plywood

Mast support frame 2 off 406 X 76 x 22mm (16 X 3 X 7/8 in) Timber

2 off 514mm (20 ¼in) X 20mm (¾ in) diam dowelling

Mast block 2 off 152 x 95 x 35mm (6 x 3 ¾ x 13/8 in) Timber

Mast 1 off 1676mm (66in) X 20mm (3/4 in) diam dowelling

1 off 114 x 95 x 35mm (4 ½ x 3 ¾ x 13/8 in) Timber

Top yard 1 off 1054 x 28 x 22mm (41 ½ x 11/8 x 7/8in) Timber

Sail noisting handle 1 off 146mm (53/4in) X 20mm (¾ in) diam dowelling

Eyes 2 off 89 x 38 x 22mm (З½ x 1½ X 7/8) Timber


1 off 915mm (36in) wide x 1525mm (60in) long nylon deckchair canvas

1 off 5.50 metres (18ft) strong nylon cord

1 off 991 mm (39m) x 22mm (7/8 in) o/diam plastic water waste pipe

2 off 25mm (1 in) screwed eyes

1 off 25mm (1 in) screwed hook

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