Issue Five: Norse Sea Chest by Kate Fox


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The Norse Sea Chest
By Kate Fox

The six-board chest is a traditional form with roots in the ancient past. However, the integrity of this style of construction seems dubious because of the contradictory grain orientation of the side boards, leading Christopher Schwarz to dub the design "the platypus of the woodworking world." In M&T Issue Five, Author Kate Fox (@woodshrew) looks to unearth the origins of the six-board chest, and to understand how the form actually works. She writes,

"Examples of chests with this seemingly problematic construction have been found throughout multiple woodworking civilizations. Surprisingly, the soundest version seems to also be the oldest. The Old Norse interpretation of the six board chest goes by few different names, predominately viking chest, sea chest and 5 ̊ chest. The Norse sea chests discovered to date range from 900 AD to 1100 AD, putting them soundly within the Viking Age, before friendly contact with Europe would begin to noticeably influence their technology and craft. These sea chests exhibited a few unique features not observed in the six board chests being crafted in Europe at the same time. The most noticeable characteristic is the 4 inward sloping sides, the reason for the 5 ̊chest nickname... Despite the seemingly problematic construction of six board chests, many have survived hundreds of years, and the construction style itself has persisted in popularity and utility for at least a thousand years." 

With axe in hand, Kate shows how the stock for the Norse Hedeby chest was rived out of oak, and she explains how the design details and old knowledge of the properties of wood came together to create this ancient and beautiful form.

The next Issue Five article will be announced Monday...