Extremely Average #24: A Viking Tale

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Blog entry by Ecocandle posted 01-26-2010 03:14 AM 1988 reads 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 23: The English Plane Part 24 of Extremely Average series Part 25: Photographing my Blog pt. 1 »

It was in the spring of 975 A.D. when Erik the Red’s 1st cousin, thrice removed, Sven the Brunette with blond highlights, headed out in his longship for weekend of pillage and camaraderie with his buddies. Sven was a giant of a man, standing 6’ 8” tall, with a barrel chest, and a thick beard, also with blonde highlights. His friends were also rather large and one might say malodorous (of course one wouldn’t say that until 1840 or later, as the word didn’t exist in 975, but I digress). They headed out to sea, towards a little village, which they expected would put up scant resistance to their pillaging, and Sven had heard they had a nice day spa. He figured lads would be sore after a day of pillaging and he really needed a seaweed wrap.

Sven had not done a lot of pillaging in his life, he was more of a home body, but the continued success of his cousin, forced him to, according to his wife, ‘get out more’. Apparently the other wives were beginning to talk. So off they went. As he stood at the head of the longboat, looking out over the waves, he thought about the conquests of Eric, and he thought about his other cousin, Bahn the rather grumpy. History has forgotten Bahn, but Sven knew only too well of his tales. He cringed as he remembered the stories of Bahn, with his massive hammer over head, screaming as he ran into the villages, ‘Fear my hammer, fear the Wrath of Bahn!’. This cry would cause the men to tremble and the women to swoon. When the tales of Bahn were told back home, the men toasted him, and the women, well, they swooned too, except for Sven’s wife. She hit him on the shoulder and gave him a dirty look. That night was a cold and lonely one for Sven.
He spent the next week fashioning a massive hammer from his best wood. He reinforced the handle and polished it to a fine sheen. He then gathered his smelly friends and told them of his plan for fame and riches. The lads were not terribly bright, and they all liked the idea of getting away from the wife and kids for a weekend.

As the little village came into view, his excitement almost overwhelmed him. They had been crossing the sea all day and were eager for battle. Sven had been practicing his war cry in his head. The boat crept ashore, down the coast from the village. They made their way through the woods, over the glen, and soon they saw the village. There were several dozen huts, people milling about, an ox pulling a scratch plough, and children playing near the center of town. It was just as Sven imagined.

He led his band of Viking Warriors down the hill. As they got within ear shot, Sven yelled out his battle cry, wielding his hammer with bravado. The bravado was short lived. The town’s people all heard the cry, and a group of women, washing clothes in the stream at the edge of town, defeated Sven, not with weapons, but with their laughter. Not just laughter, but a full on eruption of boisterous chortling, with a fair amount of finger pointing. Several woman, laughed so hard that they slipped and fell into the stream.

Sven’s friends, his Viking hoard, stopped soon after hearing the battle cry, and the aforementioned laughter. They just shook their heads, turned around, and headed back to the boat. Sven was crushed. He was confused and didn’t understand what had happened. The lads got back in the boat, snickering, and waited for Sven. When he returned and demanded to know why they had stopped, Holgar spoke up, and said, “I’ve got wood!?...Massive hard wood!?...Really? THAT was your battle cry?...Did you think it through?” The rest of the hoard busted out laughing, and continued through the night as they returned home. It didn’t stop until most of them had gone to bed, but quickly started up again, when they told the tales of their great adventure. Sven said, he would never pillage again, and his wife said she loved him regardless, which was all he wanted in the first place.

So with Sven in mind, I declare, “I’ve got LUMBER, really massive lumber.” When I began my journey into woodworking, I imagined creating all sorts of beautiful tables and chairs, with exotic woods, and stunning grain patterns. I don’t think I ever spent even a moment, thinking about where one gets beautiful lumber, for I knew that, unlike most things, lumber did grow on trees.

The book ‘Selecting and Drying Wood’, which is a collection of articles from Fine woodworking magazine, has opened my eyes to the challenges involved in selecting and buying lumber. I have learned that one should be prepared when they head out to buy those bits of trees that will become treasured projects. Roland Johnson’s article in the book, suggests that one have a ‘kit’ for their trips to the lumberyard. He believed in taking a flashlight, gloves, tape measure, moisture meter, clip board with cut list, pencil, and even a hand plane. I wouldn’t have thought of any of these things, with the possible exception of a cut list. The book also taught me the value of trying to select pieces of lumber that are from the same tree and gave tips on how one can determine if two boards go together. I had no idea how much the color can vary between different trees of the same species. I didn’t know what heartwood was or how one could use defects in a board to match it to another board from the same tree.

I learned that rough cut lumber is cheaper than the kiln dried wood one finds at a lumber yard, and that rough cut wood needs to be air dried for 1 year per inch of thickness, if you don’t have a kiln. I don’t have a kiln. But most of all, I learned that one should always keep their eyes open for opportunities to get a good deal. It became apparent, after reading this book, that 50% of the skill of the master craftsman is their understanding of, and ability to find, truly special wood.

A few weeks back I made a purchase. I bought some rough cut walnut and cherry from a gentleman who advertised on craigslist. I bought approximately 340 board feet of rough cut lumber. I have been inventorying every piece, and I haven’t finished, but when finished, I will have a detailed record of what I have in the stacks. The lumber was cut in June of last year. 80% of it is 1 inch thick and should need another 6 months of drying, while the remaining 20% is 3 – 4 inches thick and obviously won’t be ready for several years. The breakdown is 20% Cherry and 80% Walnut.

I don’t know if I got a good deal. I paid $400.00 for the lot, or $1.17 per board foot. It feels like a good deal to me, and I will get lots of hours of enjoyment from my lumber. I am learning how to build stacks. I didn’t even know what a sticker was, before I needed one. And perhaps the best part, is the joy I feel when I walk downstairs to my basement (where I have the dehumidifier running 24/7), and see the stacks I am building. There is something great about having lots of wood.

-- Brian Meeks,

21 comments so far

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3439 days

#1 posted 01-26-2010 03:32 AM

Entertaining story as always Brian.

The lot you purchased would have given you bragging rights. If my math is correct, you would have about 68 board feet of cherry, which would have cost you close to the amount you paid. Walnut is a very good wood and you have a nice collection of it to keep you busy for some time. That said, I would take your savings and buy a jointer and a planer, or invest in a good jointer plane. The English plane you have would not be long enough to properly flatten the boards for projects down the road. You might also want to invest in a moisture meter. Not a very expensive device and one that can tell you for sure whether the boards are ready for your work.

Great find and I hope you enjoy playing with your wood…err…lumber.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View patron's profile


13646 posts in 3671 days

#2 posted 01-26-2010 03:33 AM

now that you ” have wood ”,
broomhilda may make a visit ,
and take your mind off of that french chick ?

i’ve been enjoying your joy in this adventure ,

i’m sure you will be a great woodworker .
your dreams are just around the corner !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3396 days

#3 posted 01-26-2010 03:41 AM


I plan on taking your advice. Before the wood is ready to use, I will likely have a Dewalt 734 or 735 and several more appropriate hand planes. I also plan on buying a nice moisture meter as well. I know that it will be at least 6 months before I can use the wood, so those items are a bit lower on my list. I love the advice though. And thanks for letting me know it was a good deal.


I am glad that you are enjoying the stories. I am enjoying writing them. It is nice to know that the woodworking community has so many people with my sense of humor.


-- Brian Meeks,

View patron's profile


13646 posts in 3671 days

#4 posted 01-26-2010 03:48 AM

in the meantime ,
get some cheap boards ,
and practice , practice , practice !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4152 days

#5 posted 01-26-2010 03:53 AM

Brian, this was an entertaining read and you did get a good deal on the lumber. Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 4043 days

#6 posted 01-26-2010 05:18 AM

Brian, Keep in mind that cherry will take a lot longer that cherry to dry an that the moisture meter will be a must. Meanwhile listen to David. The simplest of tools requires time to learn to use it well.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View Kacy's profile


101 posts in 3415 days

#7 posted 01-26-2010 06:07 AM

Great tale, and you got a good deal on the wood. Not as good as the one I got this weekend, but its not everyone’s lot in life to pick up 70 year old white pine and oak logs that have been cut down at a local residence. Of course, by the time your find is furniture, mine will barely have been sliced up into lumber that will take another year to dry (at least). In the meantime, I’ve painted the ends a brilliant red-orange for the amusement of my neighbors. One of them has already suggested that I paint some concentric white circles and use them for hatchet practice, a suggestion my wife found hilarious. My son and I thought it sounded fun, so I may give it a go!

By the way, I like the new banner for your blog. Not as attention grabbing as it would be if the chisel was stuck in your hand (which, believe it or not, I have actually done), but pleasing nonetheless.

-- Kacy, Louisiana

View Kacy's profile


101 posts in 3415 days

#8 posted 01-26-2010 06:18 AM

Oh, and I also meant to put in a plug for the Veritas low-angle jointer plane … no need to sully the workshop with the power jointer if you don’t have to. The Veritas works like a dream, especially in conjunction with the optional fence.

Okay Veritas, you can deposit the five bucks in my paypal account! lol

-- Kacy, Louisiana

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 4118 days

#9 posted 01-26-2010 06:30 AM

Brian, another great post. Don’t forget about the dark art of green woodworking. Maybe skip the jointer and planer and invest in a froe and maul and maybe a broad axe. The 17th century is full of joiners who never used a saw and took advantage of the expansion and contraction of hydroscopic wood to make joints so strong they are still firm today. Granted most of this work was with the more open pored woods, but you might be surprised with what you can do with green wood.

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3396 days

#10 posted 01-26-2010 06:45 AM

I didn’t know that there was a green woodworking art. Everyday I learn a bit about 1 thing, and find out there are 2 more I didn’t know about. In a year I figure I will have learned so much that I won’t have even heard of woodworking.

-- Brian Meeks,

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3439 days

#11 posted 01-26-2010 07:26 AM

Like everything else Brian, the journey is to find out just how ignorant we really are. I, too, look forward to the day when I realize that I don’t know anything. :)

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View stefang's profile


16665 posts in 3664 days

#12 posted 01-26-2010 12:05 PM

Good story Brian. I think one of my neighbors is a descendant of Sven.

I second what Shannon said. Green woodworking is a world of it’s own. I have a book on it and have split logs with the techniques I learned there. It was a lot easier than I imagined. Having those skills allows you to get logs from friends and neighbors or wherever and make planks and other pieces for use in projects. I always think about Abe Lincoln splitting logs as a youth. The title of the book is “Green Woodwork” by Mike Abbott. It was printed by the “Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd. The latest edition was 1996 as far as I know, but there could be a more recent printing. This book will really open your eyes!

I agree with David that you are going to be a very good woodworker with the approach you are taking.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SPalm's profile


5332 posts in 4212 days

#13 posted 01-26-2010 07:00 PM

Brian, you must be having the time of your life. Or maybe you have always lived this way. I think the latter is probably closer to the truth.

Congrats on the wood. Having your own stock saves you from having to pillage others.

Love the read,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Kacy's profile


101 posts in 3415 days

#14 posted 01-27-2010 12:18 AM


Thanks for the tip on the Abbott book. My local library had it and it looks like a good read.

-- Kacy, Louisiana

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3445 days

#15 posted 01-27-2010 12:47 AM

:—)) thank´s for another great story I enjoy them but don´t make too much fun of us from the
dark age in Skandinavia or maybee we will sharpen the axe and swords, take aut the dragonboats and come abroad for one or two raids in your village

the 6,6 foot tall redhaired crazy Dane

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