Why is the Sutton Hoo Ship fixed with rivets?

Some of the earliest boats known were made from hollowed out logs. As technologies developed these hollowed out logs were extended by adding planks, or strakes, sewn to the upper edges of the log to give more freeboard (the height of the side of the boat which sticks up above the water).

Eventually boats and then ships were made entirely of strakes of planking. To join these planks together a variety of methods were employed. Our Saxon shipwrights decided to overlap the plank edges and nail them together. This entailed the use of an iron nail and a diamond-shaped iron “rove” – simply a piece of iron with a hole punched through it. The nail was passed through both pieces of planking and the rove, most of the excess length was then cut off. The protruding section of nail was then hammered over the rove to secure the joint. To ensure the joint was watertight, a spun strand of fibre, in our case wool, was laid between the two layers of planking in a compound of pine tar. The distinctive “clink, clink, clink” of the nail being hammered over the rove gives us the name for this type of construction – Clinker!