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The Wayland Kista.

Over the years I've taught myself a few crafts, sometimes on my own or with the help of friends.

Woodworking though has been a struggle for me. I can normally beat a piece of metal into submission fairly well but wood demands a more co-operative approach and I find that frustrating at times.

This project came about as an effort to rectify that situation.

Rejoining the Vike and returning to public events after a few years absence prompted me to start making stuff again which inevitably means more stuff to move and transport.  For the most part, I  carry my stuff around in wooden boxes based loosely on a Viking age tool chest found at a place called Mästermyr. 

Mastermyr

This six board method of making chests seems to have been commonplace in the early medieval period and suits my needs well. Discovering that my local DIY store had started selling natural oak boards, I decided to build a new box.

As the oak was quite thick and therefore heavy, and as I had no other practical way to reduce the thickness, a plan slowly hatched that there might be enough material to do some deep carving on the surface.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

The Vikings liked carving wood. I suspect it may have been their finest art form but sadly wood does not often survive well in the ground so much of it must have rotted away.

The Oseberg ship burial was placed in ground conditions which remarkably preserved some astounding quality carvings but apart from rare and often accidental finds the next best source we have are the wooden stave churches which survive in a few places in Scandinavia.

Most of these are slightly later than the Viking period but they do give us a flavour of the tradition of carving that must have existed.

One such example is a portal that survives from a church in Hylestad that is now housed in the Kulturhistorisk museum in Oslo.

Hystad Portal

The portal illustrates the story of Sigurd the giant slayer and dates to the 12th-13th Century so although the story is old enough, the style of art is slightly too late for me to copy directly but it did give me an idea.

As some of you know, I have been widely known as Wayland for many years. This is not just as a simple connection between the legendary smith and my penchant for bashing metal but also because of my surname of Waidson, formerly spelt as Wadeson in our family history. According to some historical sources, Wayland the Smith was the son of a giant called Wade which in effect would made him a Wadeson too. A legendary ancestor of sorts.

There are one or two pictorial sources relating to Wayland ( or Voland as he is known in Norse sources.) but nothing as complete as the Hylestad portal.  The most relevant one for my purposes is the Franks Casket.  This small carved whalebone box has several scenes on it but one covers a couple of episodes from the story of Wayland and it dates from the 7th or 8th Century.

Franks Casket and the Wayland Panel

The Casket shows Wayland capturing the feather fetches of three swan  maids ( Valkirie ) on the right and later, while a captive of King Niğuğ, seducing Blöğvildr, his daughter on the left, with one of her dead brothers shown under the forge.

Another useful image comes from Runestone VIII at Ardre dating from the 8th or 9th Century.

Ardre Picture Stone

This image shows a similar scene  with Blöğvildr leaving on the left, the dead brothers on the right and Wayland using a feather fetch to escape between Blöğvildr and the forge.

 I also used a stone cross shaft from Bewcastle dating from the 8th-9th Century to influence the art style of the border and give it a more British provenance.

The Bewcastle Cross Shaft

The only part of of the artwork I now needed for the story were a King and Queen  which I borrowed from another late source, the 12th Century Lewis Chess pieces.

The Lewis Chessmen

The resulting design was developed using greaseproof paper as a tracing film, working through different versions, refining the desgn on each re-drawing. A process which gave me a new respect for our ancestors that would have had to work directly on the wood, probably with charcoal.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

I then used black carbon paper to transfer  the design (almost final) onto the sides of the chest.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

I used a router to take some of the heavy work out of getting a deep relief. This just saved time but would have originally been done with chisels and gouges.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

This was side one after roughing out with an 8mm bit. I’ll tidy it up with a 6mm bit after side two is done and then move onto the proper carving tools.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

This is side two with a couple of sections cut back to create relief, the cross overs chiselled in and some of the main partings cut in.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

Rough rounding out of the foliage elements.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

Here is the first scene almost finished. Wayland taking the feather fetches of the Valkyries.

There’s still a bit of fettling to do before its done but you can see the final form now.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

Work went a bit slower today. Faces definitely take more time and this scene had five of them. What was I thinking?

Not quite finished, hands and a few details to do but my hands were getting tired so it was time to stop.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

I stopped before doing the fine detail again. This is much better done in the morning when my fingers are less tired.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

This is the first side almost completed then.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.
The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

Blöğvildr bringing the ring to Wayland and before being seduced with strong drink.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

So here we have Wayland killing the Princes.  I’ve also reworked Blöğvildr to improve her face a little.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

And the final scene where Wayland makes the skulls of the Princes into drinking cups for the King.

He then escapes using a set of wings, made from feathers found while he was made captive.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

A quick coat of oil to feed the wood and this is what both panels look like.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

I’ll leave the oil to soak in a while we are in Ireland and then treat it with a mixture of oil and birch tar.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

So this is the finished article.

The Wayland Kista - Image copyrighted © Gary Waidson. All rights reserved.

All in all, an interesting challenge that taught me a great deal. Not just about carving wood but also about one of our oldest stories.

It has certainly given me a new respect for those craftsmen of old, who certainly wouldn’t have had power tools to help them do the job.

 

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Lore-and-Saga Living history services and resources for schools, museums and heritage sites. Viking and Roman in school sessions and craft demonstrations. teachers notes and worksheets. Vikings, Saxons, Romans, national curriculum, invaders and settlers, key stage 2, history, teachers information, living history interpreter, in school sessions, storytelling, Roman resources, educational presentations, Viking lore, runes, Roman lore, Viking saga, living history interpretation, Viking resources, Odin, Viking crafts demonstrations, Roman cookery display, Viking silverwork, Roman games, chronology, Viking games, Roman school visits, Viking runes, national curriculum history key stage two, Viking school visits
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