The old sagas claim, that the runes where found by Odin after his sacrifice (Nine days and nights he hang on the world tree Yggdrasil, with neither food nor water, wounded by his own spear). This sounds pretty much like gnosis via pain to me. And it hardens the theory that the Runes where some early Alphabet of Desire, as well the work of one solitary shaman/vitki or whatever the people in Scandinavia had at the time of the runes creation.
It could well be that an early chaos mage wounded himself to induce gnosis and his own subconsciousness revealed him those runes.
The use of the runes sounds similar to our own sigil magick too. For example Austin Osman Spare created a couple of standard sigils which he combined to a greater sigil - as were the runes. They were coupled together to bind runes (in various forms: either by their meaning or by writing the statement of intent and creating a bind rune of this statement).
The vitkar would have made nice chaos mages, allowed was what worked, nobody gave shit about karma, and their seidh magick is comparable to the use of drugs in getting into gnosis today.
The northern mages were very independent. They preferred to work alone, in very small groups or loosely affiliated within some guild. The mages sought to influence the course of events directly and didn't seem to seek help from the outside.
The two major gods of magick of the Norse would be Odin/Wotan and Freyja. Odin is mainly for galdor/rune magick, while Freyjas domain was seith or seidr work (work with drugs, mushrooms, drums etc).
Seith is or was considered to be woman's magick while galdor was for males. Nonetheless there are some reports about female rune mages. And the sagas state that Odin himself learned the secrets of seith from Freyja.
The Norse are reported to believe in their gods not as some sort of almighty beings, but in manifestations of prime forces. It's my guess that they invoked those gods similar to us, to get the power of the invoked deity. A good example here for would be the berserks.
From what I can discern, they used the runes for pretty everything. From curses to protection and even for pranks (e.g . fart runes and puke runes).
The practices themselves remain in the dark. From the old sagas we only know, that the runes where generally carved and painted, usually with blood (preferably with the casters own blood - seems to be a greater sacrifice than the blood of someone else, doesn't it?) but no original rites remained.
You can either make a full blown rite and invoke the power of the runes with your own formulas, or you just wave them in the air and chant their name. Both works just fine.
The Egil saga reports that he found out with a rune spell that his drink was poisoned. He carved some runes into his drinking horn and painted them with his own blood. The vessel sprang.
Apart from divination, the runes were used for talismantic magick (taufr). The mages believed, that the talisman was a living entity, shaped by a rune galdor. The Norse also believed that all living things have a destiny, so does that being in the talisman. Only instead of the norns, the caster is shaping that destiny.
It's not reported that a specific sort of wood was used, but in nowadays practice as chaos mage, it would be somewhat unimportant anyway. Btw the Norse believed that only the rune itself had that power and not in the substances so the material is indeed unimportant.
The simplest kind of rune spell where the single rune spells. A single rune was carved in a piece of wood and loaded with a statement of intent and it's name. This might be a good idea for quick spells, but more powerful are the bind-runes. Those bind-runes are made up of combinations of a couple of runestaves. Either they were picked by their meaning (e.g. eihwaz and elhaz for protection, or elhaz and raidho for save travelling etc), or a statement of intent was written in runes and were then combined.
In later times, those bind-runes where highly stylised. The runes were made more picturesque to make them a) more beautiful and b) harder to make out the sense of the sign for others.
When paper became more accessible, the people started creating more genuine sigils. Examples herefor would be the various helms of awe (they should strike fear in opponents) and numerous other signs. This practice is similar to our picture sigil method.
As they seem to be an Alphabet of Desire by an early mage, I'd say to use them for general purposes like enhancing your own sigils and servitors. I guess that you might come up with better results when you create your own system (see my Personal Rune set working).
For some correspondences of the traditional Elder Futhark see my Rune page .