Viking raid on the Toulouse Fablab Festival ! The crew of Compagnie du Bátar presented its very own longship, 100% homemade in extreme DIY.
Toulouse, special report
There’s a little bit of everything at the Toulouse Fablab Festival, including a DIY longship equipped with a full crew. The project began as a “crazy” idea by five childhood friends from the Toulouse region to build a longship from A to Z out of massive oak.
Except that woodworking machines cost a fortune. So they made their own tools and in 2011 created an association to carry out their project. The group became La Compagnie du Bátar (“boats” in Islandic), whose shipyard La Soute (“The Bunker”) is located… inside a garage in the village of Aigrefeuille, 15 km outside Toulouse.
Presentation video of La Soute studio/shipyard:
“Our goal is to master the entire chain of fabrication, from chopping down the trees to setting sail on the water,” says Benjamin “Baïf” Dubois, a student at Ense3 in Grenoble. “The local farmer” plays along and lets the Bátars-turned-loggers chop down trees on his property.
Spread out in engineering schools across France, the members pooled their technical skills, even remotely, to design and build custom machines. From the machine that cuts planks from the trunks, to the belt saw, to the planer-jointer, everything is 100 % homemade.
Compagnie du Bátar’s mini DIY sawmill in action:
As such, building takes time, even for a ship that measures a modest 5 meters long. Nothing that will scare off the locals or rival the Vikings series, but a daring challenge for a team that admits to having no knowledge of shipbuilding. “Two years ago we visited the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, near Copenhagen,” says Dubois. “Once we explained our project to them, the technicians from the longship restoration studio welcomed us with open arms.”
The Bátars expand their offer on OpenDesk
To finance the association, the group joined the OpenDesk network in 2014, to make and sell stools, hives, desks, even eyeglasses frames. “We needed a CNC to do all that, but we didn’t have enough money to buy it, so that too, we designed and made ourselves.”
Word-of-mouth did wonders, and soon enough the team had collected enough commissions to think about launching a start-up. Why did they come to the Toulouse Fablab Festival ? “We didn’t know much about the world of fablabs,” says Dubois, who recently discovered Artilect, which organized the event. “But we totally identify with this mindset, we are extreme makers.”
Scheduled to set sail on the Saint-Ferréol Lake in summer 2016, the longship launch ceremony promises to be epic. In order to reconstitute a Viking baptism in all dignity, the Bátars have already prepared helmets, weapons and armor fabricated “with a coppersmith friend”. Mighty Ragnar, eat your heart out.