Arthur strives to balance aesthetics, functionality, and quality with costs when planning DIY projects in the home and garden.
Just before Christmas my wife bought me and my son a Viking drinking horn each from the Exeter Christmas Market; as stocking fillers for Christmas.
Obviously, to display and use the drinking horns you need a stand. I could have bought a couple, but making your own from scrap wood is a lot cheaper, and rewarding.
Therefore shortly after Christmas I searched the web for designs and then spent an afternoon in my DIY workshop to quickly make a couple from a piece of scrap wood.
Viking Stall Where We Bought Our Viking Drinking Horns
Choosing the Right Design
There are a number of designs to choose from; some quite elaborate. However, the ones that appealed to me are the simplest, most basic designs; just a flat piece of wood with a hole in it. Such a basic design would be the easiest and quickest to make. Well within the scope of most DIY enthusiast; and something that can be made quickly and easily for next to nothing.
Choosing the Right Wood
I would have preferred to have used hardwood, but I also wanted to recycle scrap wood from my wood store, rather than go out and buy the wood specifically for the project.
I also wanted the wood to be thinner, rather than thicker; ideally, around 8mm (5/16 inch), and finding a piece thin enough, that was also wide enough (except for plywood) would be difficult; especially hardwood.
I have plenty of 10mm (25/64 inch) plywood, which is close to the thickness I was looking for; but I was keen to use real wood rather than plywood for this project.
Having searched through my stock of scrap wood all I could find that was close to what I was looking for was a piece of 12mm (½ inch) pine wood (softwood); a bit chunkier than I wanted, but doable.
Below is a step-by-step guide on how I made a pair of wooden drinking horn stands from scrap wood.
Sanding the Wood Smooth
The wood plank I found for the project was a bit rough and ready and would need a lot of sanding to get it really smooth.
Therefore I held it in a wooden vice and used the belt sander on it, on both sides:-
- First with course grit sandpaper to get back to the bare wood, and then
- Finished off with a fine grit to get the surfaces really smooth.
Anyone who’s used a belt sander knows that they eat through wood like butter, so by the time I’d got down to the bare wood and got it smooth on both sides I’d shaved off 2mm (5/64 inch) on both sides; which by coincidence brought the thickness of the wood down to the 8mm (5/16 inch) that I originally wanted.
Proof of Concept
Making a Prototype Stand
Before cutting the wood to size I needed to decide what length and width to cut it, and what size hole to cut.
Although there are plenty of images of the type of stand I was making on the web, none that I found gave any measurements; so it was largely guesswork and judgement.
If I guessed wrong, and made the stands too small or the hole too large I would have to start again.
Fortunately, the plank of wood I had was long enough to make three stands, so if I cut the first one too short, or made the first hole too large, I would have enough wood to try to get it right for the other two.
Therefore, the first piece I cut was experimental, for ‘proof of concept’, and which could also then be used as a template to make the other two.
Having given it some thought (over a cup of coffee) I opted to:-
- Cut the plank to 60mm (2 23/64 inches) wide using a bench saw, and
- Then use a holesaw to cut a 38mm (1 ½ inch) hole for the horn in the top of the plank.
In my initial calculations I opted to make the perimeter of the hole 12mm (½ inch) away from the top of the stand, and 10mm (25/64 inch) from the sides.
When cutting the hole, to get a neat cut on both sides, it’s important to remember not to cut the hole in one go; but to turn the wood over when the hole is part way through, and then finish cutting the hole from the other side.
With the hole cut, and tested fitted with the horn, I could then better judge a suitable length for the prototype stand; which I concluded should be 60mm (2 23/64 inch) wide by 160mm (6 19/64 inch) long.
I then used a mitre saw to cut the experimental stand to length and test fit the horn properly.
Modifications to the Prototype Stand
In testing the prototype, I concluded I needed to increase the size of the hole slightly, and possibly modify the length a little. I decided to increase the size of the hole to 44mm (1 ¾ inch).
Therefore I cut the remaining plank in half (so that the two pieces could be shortened to the desired length later) and then placed one of the halves underneath the prototype, in a wooden vice, to give the drill bit for the hole cutter something to grip. I was able to not only enlarge the hole in the prototype, but at the same time cut the hole in one of the two final pieces.
On retesting I concluded that the length of around 160mm (just over 6 inches) is a good size. Making it a little shorter wouldn’t hurt, but you wouldn’t want to make it any longer. Therefore I aligned both final pieces together (one on top of the other) in the mitre saw, and cut them to 160mm.
Shaping the Stands
To give the stands a bit of shape, and therefore style, using the image of a drinking horn stand I found on the web that I based my design on, there was three parts of the stand that needed to be separately shaped:-
- The Sides
- The Top
- The Bottom
Creating the Side Curves
I used a pencil to freehand draw the side curve on one side of the prototype, and then used it as a guide to cut the shape with a band saw.
After a few minor tweaks (until I was satisfied) I then used the first curve as a template to mark out and cut the same curve on the final two pieces of woods, and then flipped one of them over (mirror image) as a template to mark out and cut the same curve on the other side of the two final pieces of wood.
Creating the Top Curve
The top curve is a gentle, therefore a large circular object, like a 5L (gallon) tin of paint, makes an ideal template for marking out the curve, which can then be cut in the band saw.
Creating the Bottom Curve
The bottom curve is essentially a large segment of a small circle. Therefore I clamped the two final stand pieces together on top of a piece of sacrificial wood (plywood), so that the drill bit of the hole cutter had something to grip. Then I used the 38mm (1 ½ inch) holesaw to cut a part circle in the base.
Using fine grit, the three different types of sanding I employed were:-
- Orbital sander
- Dremel sanding disks
- Hand sandpaper
I used the orbital sander to round off all the outside edges that the sander would reach e.g. everything except for the bottom curve.
Sanding with a Dremel
The sanding disk in the dremel was near ideal for rounding off both sides, and the inner rim, of the hole. The demel might be a small tool, but it is powerful, so you need a light touch to prevent the sanding disks from eating deep groves in the wood.
I then finished off with the hand sandpaper, concentrating on the bottom curve, but also just to finish off what the dremel did in the hole.
Personalising the Stands
Traditionally, the drinking horns are associated with the Vikings; and typically many of the stands on the web are engraved with symbols that are symbolic to the Vikings or sometime Celtic or Pagan symbols.
They all look cool, but I am no artist, so I wouldn’t even begin to try doing anything as elaborate. Therefore, after a bit of trial and error on the prototype (and other scrap wood) I opted to personalise the stands with our initials.
I could have used the dremel, which does have a selection of engraving tools but, after some trial and error, I found that a pencil was most effective for my skill levels.
I first just lightly drew the initials to give an outline, and then over the initials again several times, pressing harder each time to create a depression in the grain of wood that would hold more of the wood stain and darken up when I wood stained the stands.
Cleaning and Prepping for Wood Staining
On completion of any DIY project, before wood staining, varnishing, polishing or painting, the wood should always first be wiped over with white spirit to get rid of any sawdust.
So this is what I did, and then I left it for half an hour to dry.
Then before wood staining it I wiped it over with teak oil and left it for another half hour to dry. The natural wood oils tend to evaporate overtime, as the wood dries out, so the teak oil is good for nourishing natural wood; especially exterior furniture.
The reason I used teak oil is because it replaces the natural oils in wood it would make the wood less absorbent to the wood dye that I was intending to use as a finishing touch. I specifically wanted the drinking horn stands to be less absorbent to achieve more of an antique wood effect, rather than the wood being uniformly dark stained.
Wood Staining and Polishing
I had a choice between using wood stain or wood dye. I opted for the wood dye primarily because of using it in conjunction with the teak oil it would give the finished effect that I was after. Also, apart from it being more expensive, wood dye is easier and quicker to apply than wood stain, and it dries quicker (usually touch dry within minutes).
The wood dye is just wiped on with a cloth and left to dry. Although its touch dry within minutes, the tin says you should leave it for 24 hours before applying any polish.
However, in looking for an antique effect, I just left if for half an hour (while I had a coffee) before applying the polish.
I finished the stands off with a good waxing of beeswax polish. In any project I always use beeswax because it’s long lasting and effective. I never use any silicon based polish, which often comes in a spray, because it’s a false economy. The silicon is an oil that looks shiny when it’s wet but becomes sticky when it dries, attracting more dust. So with silicone oil you get into a vicious circle of forever polishing.
To apply the beeswax it’s just a case of rubbing it in generously with a yellow duster, waiting 15 minutes for it so soak in, and then buffing it up to shine.
Display and Function
In the first instance I shall keep them hidden until my son’s birthday, which at the time of writing this is just a couple of months.
Then we’ll use the stands to keep the Viking drinking horns on display, in pride of place in our living room; and then occasionally use them as intended e.g. on special occasions, such as Christmas, birthdays, and when partying with guests, when we can then have the pleasure of using them for wine, mead and spirits.
Display or Functional
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Arthur Russ
Liz Westwood from UK on January 30, 2020:
This looks like a good project, well-executed. The detailed explanation will be useful for anyone else planning a similar project.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on January 30, 2020:
Thanks. The table in the first picture is one of a set of four nest side tables we bought ‘as new’ about 15 years ago. Each one intricately hand engraved and inlayed with shiny metal. They are made in India and at the time were being sold through Fair Trade.
I just had a look on the web and can't find anything contemporary to that standard and quality now, but I did notice that a lot of these items are now being sold on eBay as ‘vintage’ for an awful lot more money than we paid for them.
The tables are too good for practical use ‘as is’ without some protection. So to protect the tops (while still enjoying their beauty) I had plate glass cut to fit each one, and stuck rubber feet on the corners of each plate glass sheet.
Diana L Pierce from Potter County, Pa. on January 29, 2020:
Very nice! And the table in your first picture is especially a treasure in itself.