Wow, what an exciting two weekends we have had at Stanwick Lakes with the Big Bronze AGE Boat Build!
Weekend 1 saw the launch of the boat build, with the volunteers being guided by Dr James Dilley. Logs were stripped of bark and the shaping of the logs started with the array of bronze replica tools.
The eagle-eyed members of the Northants Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers leapt at the chance to acquire the stripped lime bark to soak in the lake for a week so that the lime bast (the inner bark of the lime tree) can be stripped and used in their prehistoric textile project. Talk about sustainability!
Once the majority of the bark was stripped, work began on splitting the topside of each trunk away to try to create the top edge of the boat. This was easier said than done, as anyone who has worked with wood before will know well that it often has a mind of its own and wants to do the opposite of what is needed! Wood and metal stakes were hammered into the wood at intervals, making attempts to split the wood in just the right place. This in itself was a huge physical feat and took the majority of the weekend to get to the stage when axes and adzes could be used to finesse the surface and remove bulbous areas, knots and limb junctions.
Over the two days, the boat build volunteers literally chipped away at the logs, removing bulbous areas and knots to try and get as smooth a surface as possible.
Many discussions were had about the shape and size of each log, and it was a wonderful opportunity for the group to share their experiences and knowledge with each other to get the most out of each trunk.
By the end of weekend 1, the boat build team had made brilliant progress and were ready to down tools until the following weekend.
Weekend 2 was a scorcher, with forecast temperatures of 28 degrees plus. During the week, volunteers had kept the logs covered with hessian and regularly watered to dry and stop the wood from drying out. Linseed oil was also used on the ends of the logs to deter cracking – this process will be ongoing throughout the build. It does beg the question how boat builders in the Bronze Age would have also protected the wood as they worked – would they have kept them partially submerged in water, removing them to continue working on them? This seems like a lot of work, but would have possibly been beneficial in the long run if it kept the wood more supple. Or would they have done what we have, kept them under shade and covered as much as possible?
It was extremely hard going in the heat, but with plenty of water and ice creams the boat builders continued to make amazing progress.
Some really interesting observations were made; the remaining bark was a lot more difficult to remove than that removed the previous weekend, as the wood had started to dry out. This suggests that our ancient ancestors would have removed the bark as soon after felling as possible, to make this part of the build much easier and less time consuming. Also, using the naturally forming cracks to their advantage made splitting a little easier.
On the main log, work continued to create the prow of the logboat using adzes and axes to chip away at the wood, trying to keep both sides balanced and as even as possible. On the second log, work started to burn out parts of the log which were then chipped out. This build technique was thought to have made the removal of the wood easier using controlled burns to soften the wood. We will update on this technique in further posts!
By the end of weekend 2, the logs are really starting to look more and more like boats, and they are really taking shape.
Over the coming weeks, boat build volunteers will continue to make headway with the log boats, finishing the prows and chipping out to make the inside of the boats. Keep an eye out for updates on social media and here on the website!