Traditional Norwegian Amber

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This is an old project I did several years ago. It remains one of my favorite projects. This one is the 2nd of two that I turned. I preferred the first one, but I tried to rose paint it and it looked pretty bad so I have sanded most of the paint off, but it’s still not quite done. I will post it when it’s finished.

It was a Norwegian tradition in some parts of the country to carry porridge in a container (called an ‘Amber’ in Norwegian) like this to a mother as her first meal after giving birth. That is the reason for it being decorative. I composed the decorative elements myself, but they are more or less true to tradition. I’ve never seen two of these alike. Decoration in the past varied between carving, rose-painting and wood burning and often a combination of the foregoing. The decorations usually included crosses and other symbols to ward off evil. These containers in a plainer form were used on a daily basis and the basic design is at least 1000 years old and perhaps a lot more. Actual examples of stave buckets that old have been found in our local area. The staves were even numbered inside, but just with straight marks l, ll, lll, etc.

The originals were made from coopered stave’s and banded with a thin band riven from a solid piece of wood to hold the stave’s together. The bands would have been pre-soaked in water and then installed tight as possible. While drying, the bands would shrink thereby keeping the stave’s nice and tight and by using it to transport liquids, the wood stayed moist and the staves stayed swelled and water tight.

My version looks pretty authentic, but instead of stave’s it is turned from solid green Birch (wet wood). The bands also look very authentic, but they too are just turned. The last photo shows the locking mechanism, just a handle with a dowel to insert through the ear and into the crosspiece on the lid.

The bottom was a dry birch disk placed in a groove near the bottom of the container. The container walls were then left to shrink in around the disk making the container water tight. The top is held in place by a nub on the handle piece which inserts into a shallow hole in one end, while the other end is held place by a pin with a handle through the ear and into the other end of the handle piece.

After cutting out at the base and the top ‘ears’ I carved the decorative details. The center is chip carved with a simple repeating pattern, mainly to give some texture to the piece without being flamboyant.

The piece won’t be handled a lot, so I just used a light finishing oil and topped it off with some beeswax to give it a modest luster.

Thanks for looking in. I hope you like it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway

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