The Viking Tar Brush

The Vikings astonishing entry on to the world stage was in large part due to one of the first millennia’s greatest technological breakthrough – the Viking Long Boat. We still get many requests for a latter day reproduction ships from all around the globe from our friends at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. Here they still reproduce the ships using authentic tools and techniques.

What we love about these latter day ship builders is their unbounded dedication to recreating history using traditional methods. And this provides us with a useful and continual reminder, of how far civilisation has developed technologically over the last 1,500 years.

Let’s just take this little example. When the ship was built, it needed to be tarred. Simple, let’s go down and pick up some drums of tar and a brush! However back then, the tar available was derived from resinous pine and they needed about 600 litres if you were to paint a battleship.

Here’s the simple recipe for deriving tar from pines trees. Build a mound of up of 60 m3 split and carefully stacked pine roots. Let it burn for four days and you have 2,000 liters of tar. The roots were dug up by hand, and the total labour required was about 3,000 to 4,000 hours – 1 man fulltime for 3 months! Think about that next time you go down to the building store.

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The Viking Tar Brush