Friday, 21 March 2014


Well, the vote was in. Once I finished counting it, I realised I was now commited to a project way beyond my abilities or resources.

But what the hell, it's not like I've got a lot else to do these evenings.

Having originally suggested it as a joke, I was actually pretty glad that this particular shrine was the winning entry. Most of the other ideas I had were just as impractical and fiddly, in all honesty, with the sole exception of the idea I was originally going to go with, the Maggot Wagon. But I just can't sit on an incomplete model for another six months. It rankles.

So, off to the planning board for me.

Giant axes for oars. That's probably authentic for the Viking Age, right?

These went beyond mere doodles, in fact. Because my idea included a bit of scratch building, I wanted it to look as good as possible. And that meant taking measurements and actually thinking about what I could or couldn't achieve with the kit I've got to hand.

The basic idea was a flying viking longboat. But when I actually committed some more scibbles to paper, it started feeling like a pretty major challenge. The hull was the big sticking point. What could I make it with?

I wondered about a big hank of greenstuff, carved appropriately. But I didn't have much, probably enough for the trimmings I had in mind for the shrine, but not for something as big as a hull. And my games budget, currently 0 SEK, wasn't going to stretch for a new packet.

So I decided to actually build the hull properly, with planks.

Because something like this should be a doddle.

Okay, planks made of some kind of modelling material. Plastercard was the original plan, but none of the local modelling shops had any. Which was, in a sense, lucky, as I'd only have had to steal it if they did. So cardboard from a cornflakes packet was on the list, as was plastic from some other household goods carton or other. Or maybe the indestructible stuff milk cartons are made from.

The main problem seemed to me to be the curve of the hull and getting the planks to conform to what you want them to do. Plus the fact that they have to fit on to the warshrine deck in the right way, and it's an angular bugger with few concessions to the would-be shipwright. GW fail us all yet again.

Viking longboats traditionally have a shallow draft, the better to raid with. This was a lot harder to approximate than a taller, deeper hull. I reckoned I could probably build something more like a pirate ship, with a deep hull and a square-cut front.

So I started trying to mock something up, using paper strakes.

 Optimist that I am, I expected that I'd be able to do a reasonable job despite having no experience, no idea of how to go about it and none of the right materials to hand. As such, I now have a new depth of respect for boat builders.

It's bloody hard.

Mk.1 - Paper and Staples.
Fails to retain outer curvature, plus staples very hard to insert over one another. And it leaks.
Mk. 2 - Flora carton.
Mock of using plastic building material. Can't take poly or super glue, staples fail armour pen checks.
Mk. 3 - Paper and gaffer tape.
Aim to get hull depth and curvature whilst retaining rectangular upper outline. Result = overweight fish shape.

If trying to make a curved hull out of paper was tricky in the first place, trying to taper that curve from a thin wedge at the bottom into a rectangle at the top was just ludicrous. To think real people have done this with oak. It beggars belief.

Never one to give up, though, I eventually struck on a sort of half-way house. I could make a fairly shallow hull by abandoning any pretence at authentic boatbuilding methods. Instead of strakes, I cut long ovals of paper and then glued them inside one another, forming a concave shell.

Mk. 4 - Paper and gaffer tape.
Abandoned idea of using strakes. Using concentric ovals, snipped at one end and then with the ends taped over each other to produce a reasonable hull shape.
Still leaks.

In the event, my building material of choice was supplied by Mrs Kraken, who borrowed a sheet of laminating plastic from work. Obviously, I can give it right back whenever they need it.

It's good stuff, flexible and tough with enough strength to take a bit of bending. And it's also light - pretty much perfect for the job.

It doesn't superglue especially well, though, and poly glue can't deal with the tension while it's drying. I wasn't going to spend much time clutching a semi-tacky strip of plastic and waiting for a result, though. Luckily, I still had plenty of the Ork Mek Essential of tiny ship building - gaffer tape.

Mk.5 - Gaffer tape, glue (various) and laminating plastic.
As good as I'm going to get, frankly.

Bung more in there, it'll get dakkier.

With the hull built, all I had to do next was jam a big spiky boat on top of it, and forthwith, Bob would become my uncle.

How hard could that be?


  1. I read this entire post as if it were narrated by the Surfin' Chief.

  2. If you're still looking for budget materials for the ship's hull, have you considered coffee stirrers? (the thin wooden strip kind) They are quite pliable, thin enough to cut and shape, have a wood grain and (provided no-one from Starbucks catches you), freely available.

    After reading your shipwright struggles, I almost feel bad for suggesting it. Democracy is such an awesome responsibility.

  3. I had, actually! There's quite a lot of curvature needed for a small boat's hull, and although a well-soaked coffee stirrer might hack it for a bit, I didn't fancy shrinkage or abrupt snapping as potential problems to add to an already crowded pot.

    I had thought about a thin veneer of wood lining over whatever I used, such as is used in marquetry. Then I realised I was being ridiculous, because marquetry is clearly for crazed nerds.