(Traditional Oselvar færing exhibited in Bergen Maritime Museum. taken from www.vikingship.com)
I have always found Norwegian boat design to be quite beautiful in its form and construction. Faerings in particular from the Hardanger area have an economy and apparent simplicity of construction that I am drawn to. Inspired by Lagspiller’s thread on this forum last year. “Traditional west-norwegian rowboat project”, I’ve decided to try to build an Oselvar boat. I’ve been gathering as much information about these boats as I can for the better part of a year, but there is not a lot out there in terms of plans. Lagspiller has shared with me some of the drawings from the boat he built and that has been extremely helpful. I have also emailed him asking a number of questions.
The Oselvar is a three plank boat and the boat he built has four but the lines are very similar. I also bought “Inshore craft for Norway” by Bernhard and Oystein Faeroyvik. This book contains the lines for this boat as well as many others. So I scanned them and brought them into my 3D program and built the boat in 3D to give me a better understanding of the forms and lines and angles. It’s clear however that all this information is useful only as a guide and the boat will be built, to a large extent, by eye.
At this point I should clarify, I don’t have a lot of boat building experience but I do have a lot of experience working with wood. My background is in sculpture; most of my work was in wood but these days I make furniture. I do a lot of steam bending in my own designs but the biggest differences between furniture making and boat building is that the project gets wet all the time. This introduces a whole other set of considerations that a person like me has to become familiar with.
I am just finishing off my first boat – it should be in the water next summer. Because my workshop gets below freezing this time of year I will finish it in the spring. It is a glued lapstrake dory. It was a great first boat project but there was something quite dissatisfying about gluing those strakes together. I dislike plywood for most applications and I have never been a fan of epoxy. I guess I’m just a traditionalist. It has been partly that dissatisfaction compelling me to try to build a traditional Oselvar boat. I find the lines of Iain Oughtred’s boats to be beautiful but the way they are constructed puts me off buying a set of his plans. There is also something about the way a Norwegian boat is built that appeals to my sculptural approach to working with wood. When building a boat over forms that are taken off drawings, the whole process is very mechanical and dry; there is no involvement of the imagination or “eye”. Even in my furniture making, there are no plans from which I work and there are rarely any fixed dimensions. There is symmetry and balance but given that a lot of what I make is steam bent, there is lot of flexibility in dimensions.
I started gathering materials for this project last spring. I began with the stems. I looked at the two part spliced stems that are common to most Norwegian boats and decided, I guess rather arrogantly, that it looked weak. Instead I decided to steam bend the stems as one piece. At first, I had a number of failures due to inferior grade white oak.
Next, I attempted the bends with black walnut, which resulted in success. However, I was told on this forum that I would have to beef up the dimensions of my stems if I wanted to use black walnut instead of white oak. Finally I found some top quality quarter sawn white oak that was still green and very cheap. Perfection! They have been drying since April on this rack.I painted the ends and the edges with wax and so far there are no cracks.