A Viking Camp Bed

This bed was inspired by our need for sleeping on something other than the cold hard ground (because when your foam mattress pad wears out, that's what you're faced with) and a little bit of furniture that they dug out of a boat over in Gokstad.

This obviously isn't a very faithful copy. One of these days, I'll have some better pictures of it in use up here as well. My changes to the base design and their reasoning are as follows:

Overall dimensions To fit a Queen size futon, both because we're used to the size, and because we didn't want to make our own mattress to fit the odd size. Being faithful to the size of the historical piece wasn't very important to us.
Height and construction of headboard and footboard My wife really wanted to be able to sit up and read in bed, and its a pastime that I enjoy as well, so that was justification enough to change the height (and width) of the headboard. Once you're not tied to making it overlap the side rails, the double tenons just seemed to make sense. And if we're changing for the headboard, why not the footboard too?
Carved tops I enjoyed the look of the uncarved posts, so I left them plain. This was also easy for me to justify as I was feeling pressed for time in its construction.
Leg length While camping, we store things under our bed, so I left the legs long enough that we could get our unsightly storage boxes under it. As it happens, I overshot by a few inches, which makes getting in and out of the bed interesting, but it's still very livable. The height of the side rails above the slats matches the thickness of the futon fairly well.
Wood species Simplest reason is that the red oak was what I could find locally for a good price, and I preferred to use something other than pine, especially nominal dimension pine from a big box store. As it happened, the roughsawn oak cleaned up to just about an inch in the planer. I really like the look of the full dimension boards, it adds a subtle (and not coincidentally, palpable) heft to the piece. The Vikings likely used beech because oak was being used for boats. That, and it's easy to work.

If I had it to do over again, what would I change? Two things. I would have picked grain structure in my boards better, to reduce warping. The headboard has a very pronounced cup in it, but for now, it's livable. Also, I'd have taken more time in its construction to get cleaner mortises. A close inspection reveals that this is actually a relatively crude piece of furniture. The beauty of the Viking construction techniques are such that it is still a very rugged and rigid piece of furniture, that happens to break down easily into nicely portable chunks. Exactly what we were looking for in a camp bed. That it is both attractive and based on an historical example are delightful bonuses.


Last updated 10/3/03

© 2003 Glenn S. Lyford, all trademarks etcetera property of their respective owners.