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The Vikings were excellent seafarers and were among the most skillful shipbuilders the world has ever seen. One of the most famous Viking vessels was the longship. It could be up to 75ft in length. This long sailing ship was used for ocean voyages and warfare, and it was shallow enough to row up a river. The longship had an open deck without cabins or benches. The rowers sat on hide-covered sea chests that contained their possessions, weapons and food rations.


Ask an adult to cut out the card and balsa wood templates following the measurements shown.



Thick card, balsa wood strips and pole, pale and dark brown paper, plain paper, pencil, ruler, scissors, craft knife, acrylic paints, paintbrush, water pot, white glue and glue brush, masking tape, string.

step 1


Paint the deck shape black on one side and brown on the other. Use a pencil to mark planks ¼in apart on the brown deck. Pierce a hole for the mast. Glue on three of the 5½in balsa strips.

step 2
Glue three 5½in balsa wood strips to other side of the deck as in step 1, matching them with the planks on the other side. Then glue on the three card supports as crossbeams.

step 3
Carefully paint one side of the keel and figurehead template using bright red acrylic paint. Leave it to dry, turn it over and paint the other side of the card using the same color.

step 4
When the paint is completely dry, glue the two balsa wood supports either side of the curved parts of the keel as shown. These will strengthen the keel and figurehead section.

step 5
When the glue is dry, make three marks along the length of the keel, each one at a point that matches up to the crossbeams of the deck section. Use scissors to cut slots as shown.

step 6

Slide the deck crossbeams into position on the keel slots and glue them in place. Use masking tape to make sure the joins are firm while the glue is drying.

step 7

Use varying lengths of pale and dark brown paper strips for the planks, or “strakes,” along each strip into position along each side.

step 8
Continue gluing the strips into place. Alternate pale and dark brown strips to finish. Trim the excess off each strip as they get lower so that they form a curve.

step 9
Make a mast using the 12in long balsa wood and the 14in long stick. Glue the two pieces firmly together and bind them with string as shown above.

step 10
Paint the sail with red and white strips. Glue the sail to the 12in crossbeam. Attach string as rigging at the bottom of the sail. Add card eyes to the dragon on the figurehead.

A longship put to sea with a crew of around 30 fighting men. Each one knew how to fight as well as how to man the oars. The round shields of the warriors were slotted along the side of the ship. An awning of sailcloth could be erected to keep off the sun or rain.

viking longship

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