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"Viking beds"

Poster: rmhowe <magnusm@ncsu.edu>

> For the life of me I can't find a single picture on the WWW of a 
> slat bed... Magnus? Anyone?
>  Thanks in advance,
>  Hrothgar

(Since I often get asked this I am going to cross post.)

I have pictures of two Viking slat beds, both are from
the Viking ship excavations. One is the large one with the very wide
side, post, and head boards carved with the beasts, the other is a 
smaller (and more practical) bed with shaped posts at the corners 
and looks more like a single bed. There are some on a very expensive 
"World of the Vikings" CD ROM ($110) from England too. Some of the
Viking books show them quite often. But there are only a couple of 
survivals. One good book to look in is From Viking to Crusader.

One of the existing beds, the small one, has this approximate structure. 
It took me a while looking at it to figure out the reason the slats
were the way they are. Kind of ingenious actually. Primitive springs.
The pegged tenon center slat keeps the stretchers from pushing too far 
apart yet allow it to depress with the others. Make the slat tenon 
holes a little loose to allow for movement and tilt. You could 
substitute a tapered dowel for the tusk tenon in the center slat ends
and drill the holes (It might even work better that way.).

Vikings had rather peculiar wood joints and did not know dovetails. 
Where the stretchers intersected each other at the corner posts of beds,
chests, and chairs each tenon was a half tenon (in height) passing 
over or under the tenon perpendicular to it. Then there was a dowel 
that passed through the post and the tenon and reached into the 
end of the other stretcher above or below its own tenon.

                        _____/Upper tenon end seen on end.
_______________________|  _ /|
                    _ _|_|_|_|
                    |__|_|_|_|- dowels through cross 
side stretcher         |_|_|_|  tenons top and bottom lock joints.
   ________            |     | 
   |_|__|_| slat       |  O  |- dowel through leg and lower tenon
_______________________|_____|  and into the other stretcher
                       |     |
                       |     | leg or corner post

Tenons passed all the way through the legs or corner posts.
For a nicer looking joint let them extend a little and 
bevel the ends at a 45 degree angle. Makes for easier insertion
too. The dowels passing through them locked them in place and
reinforced the other stretcher by extending into its end.

Center slats are tusk tenoned or pegged at the outside of the 
stretchers and the shoulders go full width. The rest of the slats
are cut a little short on the length of the shoulders where
they lie between the bed's stretchers. This gives them spring
when weight is applied to the center stretcher and they are
depressed. It allows them to move in the holes they pass 
through. Looking at them from the top you get:

                                  exagerated space at shoulders.
  |       | no space ctr. slat |_     _|/          _|__|_
__| _    _|/____   ______________|   |____________|      | 
____| _ |________   _____________|   |____________|      | leg
    ||_||    side stretcher      |   |            |______|
    |___|                        |___| Tenon end.
Pegged tusk tenon        Free floating slats
only in center slat      every few inches allow "spring".
holds stretchers 
together in the middle. It pulls in and depresses with weight and 
allows the others to spring because of their shorter shoulders. The 
space between the shoulders and the stretchers allows movement and 
the tenons slide through the larger mortise holes freely. Trim the
sharp corners for your shin's sake. Maybe carving small animal
heads on them would be creative.

The bed legs are squarish at the top and bottom and in the
middle but taper toward the middle from the top and bottom.
           \       / I'd trim the upper corners a bit.
            \_____/  (Less painful that way.)
___________|   _   |
           |  | |  | Upper stretcher passing through leg
  ___      |  |_|  | 
 |___|     |       |
___________|   O   | Dowell through lower tenon into stretcher
            /     \
          |         |
          |_________|  Bottom length to suit. Bevel base edges.

This is actually a fairly good explanation of a Viking Bed.
Most Probably made of hardwood. Personally I would put screws
up through the solid wood between the holes (mortises) 
for the tenons to keep them from spitting the side stretchers.
Ash has excellent spring qualities to it and strength.

If I wanted to take it apart for travel I would make the bed's
side stretcher tenons longer and tusk tenon them or make their
locking dowells longer and looser for removal. Maybe turn some
headed pegs to make them easier to pull. 

A tusk tenon actually goes rather like this:
               |  |
               |  |____
_______________|__|___/__  Tenon angle not quite as sharp.
_______________|__|__/___| This is a "tusked" tenon seen
               |  |_/      from the side. Removable for
               |__|        easy disassembly. Angles of the 
                           mortise must match that of angled 
                           peg. The mortise is the hole.
               |  |
_______________|  |
               |  |___   |  View from above stretcher
               |  |___|  |  (or side of leg) showing a tenon's
               |__|______|  mortise hole, locked by inserting
_______________|  |         angled peg or tapered dowel if a 
               |  |         drilled hole is used instead.
               |  |

M. Magnus Malleus, Atlantia and the GDHorde
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