When I was making the Viking-Age style bag handles, I also added something else to the laser cutter layout – a horse-head embellished comb in the style of some of the horse-head bling found in Viking Age Scandinavia and Finland.
The design is based off a comb found in Björkö (Birka), Sweden. Identity #106483 (English Translation, Swedish website). Unlike many versions of combs I’ve seen (both artefacts as well as recreations) this is a one-piece object, rather than a handle holding teeth. I wonder if this means in period this was a functional item, or a decorative one? (Since the handle + teeth version would allow for replacing teeth… this one-peice version would not.)
Many (not all) of the multi-part combs also have wider teeth on the side – no doubt these serve to protect the small teeth from abuse being banged up on the sides. The remaining original has teeth all the same width. Again I think it’s worth asking why this difference?
The original was made of bone or horn, and has been dated to the Viking Age. While the complete comb is not entact, I extrapolated by mirroring the existing image. However, I did add a little more decoration than what remains on the artefact. While the translation to English might be misinterpreted, I believe that this was a grave find. Likewise from the available images, I believe that the artefact is about 7 cm across. However, in the photo with a measurement guide, it looks as though it is wider than it is tall – however in this photo shown here, it is clearly taller than it is wide.
The material I’ll use to cut this with the laser cutter is all one thickness, but a profile view of the artefact suggests that it tapers from top to bottom, with the heads of the horses (?) being thicker material (bone or antler) than the teeth.
Like the bag handles, I designed the comb in illustrator, and then used the laser cutter at the Maker Space to cut out and engrave it with the interior design. We weren’t sure if the little teeth would cut out without breaking – but they did!
I ended up having space for three combs, so took advantage – partly in case one didn’t work out. The combs are ONLY decorative – the teeth are still very fragile, but they’re still super cute.
I decided to make my combs the same width as I believe the originals to be – 7 cm wide. I used the same proportions as the image posted above which made my finished version 9 cm tall.
My version is only ‘decorated’ with the laser burner on the front side of the comb. Apart from an eye in the remaining horse head, the reverse of the artefact is also plain on the back side. This I also find interesting – perhaps this is another suggestion that this was more of a decorative object than a functional one?
After cutting them out, and trimming where needed with an exacto knife, I used my Dremel to sand the edges, and then sandpaper to finish it off. I then used Royal Walnut stain on one, and Mahogany on the other two. It was way too cold to stain the combs and handles outside, so I ended up rigging up a box to do it in my basement instead. Stinky!
I let the wood stain dry for a few days (my boyfriend came to visit for the weekend so we were busy doing couple-things instead of crafty things) and then took the combs down, and varnished them with one coat of high gloss varnish. I didn’t want them to actually be super plastic-shiny, so I only used one coat. I hung them to dry again, and then…. done!
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