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Viking Ships

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Two headed horse

"A fourth I know: if men make fast
in chains the joints of my limbs,
when I sing that song which shall set me free,
spring the fetters from hands and feet."

Håvamål   148
The Song of Spells

Ship petroglyph

Table of Offsets for the Oseberg Ship

Oseberg Ship

"Breaking bow, or flaring flame,
ravening wolf, or croaking raven,
routing swine, or rootless tree,
waxing wave, or seething cauldron,
flying arrows, or falling billow,
ice of a nighttime, coiling adder,
woman's bed-talk, or broken blade,
play of bears or a prince's child,
sickly calf or self-willed thrall,
witch's flattery, new-slain foe,
brother's slayer, though seen on the highway,
half burned house, or horse too swift --
be never so trustful as these to trust."


Hi, are you looking for plans to build a Viking Ship? Well, here is a start. I have put together this page from material available from the University Of Oslo. They have more material available, of course, in what is known as "Universitetets Oldsaksamling".

What you see here is a table of offsets which is 90% of what you need to create your own plans of a Viking Ship with lines like the Oseberg Ship.

If you are new to boat building, you may be excused for thinking that this sure doesn't look like any plans you have ever seen before for other building projects. And right you are. The thing about boats is that they have almost no right angles whatsoever. Everything is a curve fitting into another curve or two or three or... Well, you know what I mean.

For as long as man has gone to sea, he has built boats without formal plans. Mostly, without even a table of offsets. Skilled shipwright built their boats from memory and integrated their own improvements and maybe the wishes of the owner. The builders could be stubborn old coots and it could take some convincing to introduce a new feature.

Be that as it may, today we usually need a little more firm starting point. This starting point is preferably a table of offsets. What is a table of offsets? It is simply a table giving vital measurements according to a standard way of measuring the dimensions of a hull.

The standard method goes more or less as follows:

  1. Divide the hull from stem to stern into a fixed number of evenly spaced sections or stations. The number of stations varies with the length of the ship, but even a large hull like The Oseberg can get away with as little as 10 stations. If you need stations at other distances than those in the table of offsets, you simply lay them out yourself after you have lofted the original offsets. Often, a table of offsets will give you measures at half sections in the stem and stern to give you a more accurate template to lay out the particular lines in these areas. The stem and stern are seldom, if ever, symmetrical (i.e., they are different shapes).
  2. Establish a baseline through the middle of the ship at some fixed distance from the keel at one particular station. In the Oseberg table, this station is L2. The baseline is set at 240mm above underside of keel.
  3. Set a distance between waterlines, e.g., 200 mm for the Oseberg. Think of a waterline as the contour of a thin, horizontal slice of the hull. The waterlines are measured vertically up each set distance, e.g., each 200mm and a measure is taken from the center line horizontally to the inside of the hull.
  4. From the inside of the hull at the waterline mark, measure the vertical distance to underside of keel, the barkholt and to the rail. The underside of the keel will typically be below, so the measure comes out negative, e.g., -35 at L1 for the Oseberg Ship. Note: At station L1/2, the underside of the Oseberg keel is 395mm above the baseline because the stem has a very large seep up and out of the water.

That's all there is to it. From these measurements, you can lay out the waterlines and the side view of the ship. This process is called lofting and is what gives you a full size set of lines from which you can make templates for the station moulds, the keel and the individual planks.

Here is the complete table of offsets. "Barkholt" refers to the thickest plank where the bottom planking meets the top side planking. This is also where the hanging knee ends and the rib ends overlap.

Table of Offsets for the Oseberg Ship
Length overall 21.58m.
Distance between stations (10 sections) 2158mm.
Baseline above underside of keel at station L2 240mm
Spacing of waterlines 200mm.
All measurements refer to moulded lines.
Stat. Half Breadth Heights
Rail U.
1/2       21 315 315 395 480 526
1   85 177 325 726 803 -35 442 720
11/2 90 216 419 679 1067 1204 -173 1178 1548
2 186 427 740 1060 1363 1528 -200 1056 1474
3 504 967 1422 1760 1873 2038 -227 920 1382
4 782 1441 1894 2160 2190 2367 -238 841 1346
5 851 1576 2060 2302 2302 2480 -240 800 1340
6 726 1416 1914 2186 2200 2397 -240 822 1354
7 405 931 1400 1768 1879 2084 -227 886 1416
8 159 386 690 1008 1381 1573 -160 1040 1550
81/2 80 192 370 607 1042 1206 -100 1198 1665
9   76 157 255 645 757 39 1512 1873
91/2       48 270   422 2540  
Source: Universitetets Oldsaksamling, University of Oslo, Norway.
October 1954 K.E.L