Viking Charcloth made in clay capsule

Corfe Castle Viking charcloth

I learned a new way of making charcloth this weekend. From a Viking.

Charcloth is one of the most potent recipients of a spark from a flint and steel. It reliably catches and a gentle blow will always encourage it into a red-hot glow. It’s made much like artist charcoal (see previous blog post): a natural fibre (like hemp or denim) is heated in a near-sealed tin to carbonise it, without completely burning it.

Now note I said ‘in a tin’ there. Back in Viking times, tins were hard to come by, but fire was much needed. So instead of sealing fabric in a tin, they would enclose it in river clay, leaving a little hole for the smokey woodgas to escape. These photos show the clay parcel being heated, and broken open after cooling to reveal the charred cloth.

Thanks to the friendly Viking at there National Trust’s Corfe Castle. I’ll know what to talk about next time I meet one down a dark alleyway.

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