Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Viking Era Carving


Viking Era Carving



The 1904 excavation in Southern Norway of the Oseberg Viking ship revealed a vast array of woodcarvings, from the late 700 a.d. to early 800 a.d., unlike anything seen previously. Dragon like headposts, elaborately carved sleighs, an exquisite wagon, and of course, the carvings on the ship itself revealed to us the extent of the imagination and skill of the woodcarvers.

Farther north, the Urness Stave Church, dating from 1130 a.d., with its magnificent portal, epitomized the the transition from paganism to Christianity. The fantastic deeply carved snakes, monsters and beast are totally unique.

Understanding of these woodcarvings, the techniques and types of tools used, and familiarity with the forms can greatly add to ones woodcarving knowledge and creativity.

The instructor, Jay Haavik, has extensive experience in Viking age woodcarvings. In early 2000 he studied woodcarving at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo (home of the Oseberg Viking Ship). Since then he has traveled extensive to Norway to undertake various woodcarving projects. In 2006 he carved a stave church panel at the Borgund Stave Church in Laerdal, Norway. In 2010 he was hired by the New Oseberg Ship Foundation,Tonsberg, Norway, to be the lead carver in the making of a replica of the Oseberg Ship using only Viking age tools and techniques. Since then, he has returned many times to undertake various carving jobs. (see http://jayhaavik.com)

This five day workshop will be an opportunity for beginning as well as experienced carvers to experience the pleasure of undertaking carvings inspired by the Viking age.

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Class Description

Beginning students will spend the first two days learning basic carving skills, which will include:

-practicing using knives, gouges and chisels -learning about grain direction when carving -learning to sharpen the tools and keep them sharp -how to achieve a smooth knife and gouge finish -basic safety steps when carving

The last three days for the beginning students will be the making of a simple, yet demanding project in Viking style (see image #3)

The practice times and project for the beginning students will be designed so that only about 5 tools will be needed.

Experienced students will have the opportunity for 5 days to chose to work on one of two different projects. (see images #1 and #2, which will be inspired by the Urness portal) The projects will be approximately 24” x 18”, with deep relief carving. Experienced carvers are expected to understand grain direction, familiarity with using gouges and knives, and sharpening.

Several image presentation will be given on Viking age woodcarving, the construction of the Oseberg Ship replica, and Norwegian stave churches.



For all students, you will need:

  • Pencils and sharpener

  • white eraser

  • a plastic “see-through” 12” ruler

  • leather strop

  • personal sharpening equipment (optional)

  • several clamps for securing carving to bench (optional)

  • mallet

For beginning students, you will need:

  • 1S/20mm (05V95) #1 sweep skew-cut chisel

  • #2 sweep 12mm (#05B08) #2 sweep gouge

  • #3 sweep 12mm (#05C07) #3 sweep gouge

  • #8 sweep 7mm (#05F03) #8 sweep gouge

  • 3mm wide, left, skewed spoon gouge (#05L16)

  • Optional: #05L19, right, skewed spoon gouge

Any other carving tools would be helpful (see below).  The instructor will have some tools available for students to use as well.

You can obtain these Pfeil Swiss-made tools from Woodcraft (the series numbers are from the Woodcraft catalog print and online.   (http://www.woodcraft.com)

For the advanced students the following tools will be helpful:

  • A straight knife: The Japanese convex carving knife from Lee Valley (#60D04.03) is excellent. (http://www.leevalley.com)

  • A variety of gouges and chisels, however the following specific tools would be helpful.

You can obtain the following Pfeil Swiss-made tools from Woodcraft (the series numbers are from the Woodcraft catalog print and online.   (http://www.woodcraft.com)

  • #2 sweep 8mm(#05B07)

  • #2 sweep 12mm (#05B08)

  • #2 sweep 18mm (#05E37)

  • #3 sweep 12mm (#05C07)

  • #5 sweep 12mm (#05D05)

  • #7 sweep 12mm (#05E42)

  • #8 sweep 7mm (#05F03)

  • #1 straight edge chisel (single bevel) 25 or 30mm (#05V04 or #05V06)

  • #1 skew 20mm double bevel (05V95)

  • #2 skewed spoon gouges (get one that is 3mm and one that is 5mm)
    Note: if these specific ones are not available then get the closest size.

The instructor will have some tools available for students to use as well.

If you have questions about the class, tools, etc. contact the instructor at: haavik@comcast.net


This class is designed to accommodate both beginning and experienced students.

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day in Building 304.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the school.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $ 775
Materials Charge for beginners: $25

Materials Charge for advanced: $ 60
Register by: April 2, 2018

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list. 

all levels