After the great progress made last month, November has seen a return to the steady work of checking the bevel angles on the keel and underloutes and hollowing out the insides of these to give an inside surface parallel to the outside. This is so the roves attached the garboard planking sit square to the nail. This was the case in the original ship, as evidenced in the archaeology by patterns in the rusted accretions on the nails that were recovered in 1939. From these it could be seen that there was a line between the two planks showing both the plank thickness and the land* thickness as being 1”. It also showed the rove to be aligned parallel to the head of the nail, thus necessitating this hollowing of the underloute. This is supported by evidence from both the excavated and reconstructed Nydam ships – a vessel found in Denmark in the 1860s and reconstructed in the 2000s. This ship was slightly smaller than Sutton Hoo (23m) and dated to around AD320 – some 300 years earlier than Sutton Hoo – thus showing a long tradition of high-quality building of large clinker vessels.

(* The ‘Land’ or ‘Landing’ is the area of overlap between two planks or between the plank and the keel. Where this is closely fitted to the edge of a plank it is known as a ‘rabbet’ (rebate). At the ends of the ship where the piece that fits into the rabbet is short (eg just the width of a plank, perhaps cut at an angle) this is known as the ‘hood-end’)


The final element of the plank land has begun to be cut into the outside of the keel and between them, these two operations have revealed the backbone to be a work of art in its complex sweeping curvature. We are now increasingly able to replicate this using what we believe to be the original axe-working techniques – both due to increased skill levels in axe-working and, just as importantly, confidence in our abilities.

Volunteer, David Turner, inspecting his handy work at the join of the keel and stem underloute

In the middle of all this, we stopped work for a ceremony to celebrate the first fastening together of pieces of the ship – fastening the keel to the stern underloute. This was a big day that marked the start of us having a ship rather than just a number of components. The first nail was driven home by Angela Care Evans who worked on the 1960’e re-excavation of the ship (and wrote the important section on the Ship in the British Museum publication). Angela has long desired to see the ship reconstructed and so it was very fitting that she drove home the first nail.

Alec Newland and Tim Kirk help Angela Care Evans insert the first oak trenail into the scarf joint between keel and stern underloute – for the First Fix Ceremony

The sternpost has continued to be worked on and once its scarf has been cut it will be ready to be erected on the outer end of the stern underloute. The planking bevels and hollowing of this cannot be completed until it is set up – then ribbands (battens run from the inboard molds) can be temporarily set into the rabbet (rebate) in the sternpost and the correct depths and angles cut in for each plank to land on.

Timber for the remainder of the stem and further section of planking has been brought into the Longshed to be converted to finished parts. The Stem timber was sourced – along with the sternpost at Somerscales timberyard (near Grimsby) earlier this year and the planking material was cleaved from the remainder of the keel log.

John Facer roughing out the first face of the stem post. The log is notched then the notches are cut off leaving an approximately flat surface.

Planking on the 1:5 scale model is now well under way. It was decided to plank each side in a different manner; one side to the 2018 drawings and the other experimentally to investigate the layout shown in the 1975 publication. It is hoped that, by doing this, we might answer one of the questions posed regarding the relative narrowness of the garboard strakes as shown in the literature and whether this is important to the twist necessary to be imposed in these lowest strakes in the ship.

Meetings also took place with our new Oar Crew who will be starting production in the New Year, visitors from different organisations were entertained and we continue to document everything we do in very great detail as part of the legacy.

As usual, a big thank you goes out to all our volunteers, without whom none of this would be possible

Tim Kirk, Master Shipwright