Norwegian Tines, Swedish Svepask, or Scandinavian Bentwood Boxes

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  Bent wood boxes have a long and colorful history. Many different cultures have made their own unique versions of them. In Norway, examples of these boxes have been unearthed in the remains of Viking ships dating from 840 A.D. They were used to store valuable possessions, grains, meat, or anything else that might need to be secure.

  The traditional Norwegian tine, pronounced "teen-ah", or the Swedish svepask is constructed of a thin piece of steam-bent wood that is laced together with some type of tree root, usually birch. The sides have two vertical posts cut with notches that are used to hold the lid on. Because of the snapping noise that they make when being closed, they are also called snap boxes. To open the tine, the side posts are gently pulled apart using the flex of the wood until the lid is freed and can then be lifted off.  

  Decorations on tines have varied widely over the years. Some are left unadorned, but many are decorated at the whim of the craftsperson with carvings, hot poker work, or possibly painted. Antique versions are frequently decorated with traditional forms of Rosemaling, or Rose Painting. Rosemaling is a very colorful graphic form of painting that specializes in floral or organic motifs. The style of Rosemaling will vary significantly from region to region within Norway. Some styles are described as Os, Hallingdal, Viksdal, or Telemark. Each is characterized by specific color themes and unique approaches to design. Early boxes decorated with rosemaling are highly prized and often identifiable by artist. Among others Thomas Luraas is one of the better known early rosemalers. Many sophisticated collectors will specialize in work done by a single artist.  The tine shown at right is an example of a Viksdal tine also known as the Sogn style which comes from a region in in Norway known as Sogn og Fjordane.  These boxes are usually found painted with a salmon colored background and swirls of highly stylized floral designs or "S" curves done in blues, black, white and yellow.  Many Viksdal boxes are constructed in a somewhat non-traditional form in that they lack the end corner posts, tend to be round and much like boxes referred to as "pantry boxes" in the US.

Another decorative style that is often encountered is known as the Os style.  It is associated with a wide variety of very vibrant colors used to created very stylized flowing floral designs.  These designs are set against backgrounds that can vary from white, to black, blue and sometimes pinkish-red.   Frequently the corner posts are painted yellow with subtle patterns running down the outside of the vertical posts which are usually placed on the outside of the box.  These boxes also tend to come in a wide range of sizes from 4 inches long up to 18-20 inches long.  The tine at the left is of the Os style.
Collectors frequently encounter a type of tine that is left unpainted.  Instead it is decorated with designs that have been impressed using hot pokers or dies of various sizes and shapes.  These boxes retain the original color of the wood and have a layer of protective varnish on them that has darkened over the years.  As a result they develop a beautiful rich brown color.  Many of these boxes have a square decorative element that is located on the middle region of one of the sides.   Within that square there will frequently be a date or location identified.  Most of these boxes seem to have originated from the Bergen region of Norway.  Some evidence suggests that these boxes were widely available to emigrants who purchased them before getting on the boats to the New World where they served as reminders of the old country.  The tine on the right is typical of the Bergen poker-decorated style.  Notice that it clearly bears the date "1889."

 At Sweetpea Cottage we put our own spin on the design of tines, using a combination of traditional and contemporary styles. We work primarily with solid cherry, ash, quartersawn white oak, maple, or birch. Our boxes are all characterized by the flexible ends that allow the lid to snap tightly into place. The heart motif that is frequently used on our boxes is a characteristic of the traditional "bridal boxes" that originated in many versions in many cultures.  Many are made with birch roots, gathered from our own birch trees during the early Spring. Others are constructed with clinched copper tacks, in a style similar to the traditional Shaker boxes. Often we will use carefully woven split reeds which offer an interesting design.

Many of our tines carry some style of hand-carved adornment, often on the front of the box or on the vertical side posts. The vertical wings, handles and lids of the boxes offer an interesting canvas on which to produce one-of-a-kind designs. The wood that is used for constructing our boxes is chosen for its color and grain patterns. Many times the wood alone is sufficient to provide the desired eye-appeal.

 The smaller versions of our tines are commonly used to store delicate objects such as needles and thread, jewelry, or mementos. They can be used as stand-alone traditional display items, unique jewelry boxes, desk caddies, or any other sort of storage container that you might desire. They make excellent one-of-a-kind gifts, with nobody else offering such an interesting range of styles, sizes, and shapes, anywhere on the Web. Over the years our boxes have been purchased for all sorts of special purposes, including gifts for royalty and final resting places for the remains of a beloved pet. A tine from Sweetpea Cottage makes an excellent gift for somebody special.

However they are used, they are bound to be eye-catching and a conversation starter!

If you are interested in obtaining additional information about Norwegian artifacts, you might find it helpful to visit the website for the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum.  The museum also maintains a staff of individuals who can be reached via email to help you with researching your own objects.  I want to thank the museum for the assistance that they have provided to me.

Samples of Antique Tines

More Scandinavian Folk Art

Interested in owning a beautiful box such as these, either antique or new? We have many antique boxes and our contemporary versions all created in our Wood Shop at Sweetpea Cottage.  Be sure to visit  Sweetpea Cottage on Ruby Lane . 

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