Starting the Mast – Part 1

The unexpected cracking of my mast on Memorial Day weekend meant that Tammie Norrie would have to wait a little while.  Making a new mast took top priority.  With the long summer evenings, on occasion I’d try to do some sailing after work.  That wouldn’t happen until the new mast was complete.

I had a gripe with the Purveyor of Very Expensive Lumber, not only was it located in the Big City, but they were also starting to have a minimum selection of douglas fir and no fir in 2x nomimal dimensions.  A little bit of surfing on the interweb found another Purveyor, and a quick phone call verified that yes, they did have douglas fir in 2×4 dimensions.  So, another trip to the Big City.  The mast is 13 feet long, so I needed two 2x4s that were each 14 feet long.  I had to do quite a bit of sorting to find two reasonably nice pieces, but the kind people at the Purveyor had no problem with letting me sort through the stack as long as I re-stacked the lumber when I was finished.  And since I was there, I also picked up a couple of pieces of 5/4 cherry – I’ll need that in the near future.

A lot boat builders are making hollow spars, but the previous mast on Wee Lass was solid, and at only 13 feet, the weight wasn’t an issue.  So the new mast would also be solid.

2017 06 03 Gluing up the blank

I was able to get the blank glued up before the weather turned foul on me.  The two 2x4s gave me a blank larger than the maximum diameter of 2-1/2 inches that the plans called for, so the Bionic Beaver (aka power planer) was called into action to plane the blank down to 2-1/2 inch square.

2017 06 08 While the stock is still square, it’s a good idea to cut the mortise for the live sheave, and a tenon on the opposite end which will fit into the mast step.

The mast head has a live sheave (pulley) for the halyard; the heel of the mast has a square tenon which steps into the keel of the boat.  While the stock is still square, this is a good time to cut those.

2017 06 11 Cutting the tapers on either end.

Both the head and the heel of the mast are tapered, so these are cut next.  The photo above shows the heel; the tenon is out of view.

2017 06 11 A very simple spar-makers gage. That knot is going to be problematic.

Next the mast is eight-sided.  If the mast had a constant diameter from top to bottom, some simple geometry would tell me where to mark the lines to eight-side the mast.  Since the mast has tapers on either end, I used a spar-makers gage to lay out the lines.  Making a spar-makers gage is shown in Greg Rossel’s book Building Small Boats.  Once the sides are marked, the Bionic Beaver is called into action again.

2017 06 11 The mast is now eight-sided.

With the mast eight-sided, I either installed or at least marked the location of the hardware.  I don’t want to round the surface where the hardware will be attached.  In the photo below, I’ve got the sheave mounted, with a plywood keeper plate on one side of the mast and a dumb sheave on the other.  The dumb sheave is used when I fly my burgee.  Further down the mast, the locations of three cleats are marked.  One is for the halyard for the sail, another for a halyard on the burgee, and a little lower down is a cleat for the tack downhaul.

2017 06 11 Mounting the hardware.

The photo showing the spar-makers gage also shows a knot in the mast stock.  After eight-siding the mast, the knot became loose and fell out.  Probably just as well to deal with it now and be done with it.  I cut a rectangular notch to remove all traces of the knot, and epoxied in a small piece of fir to take it’s place.  Yes, the grain of the filler piece is perpendicular to the mast.  The repair will show; there’s not point trying to hide it.

2017 06 18 Adding a “Dutchman” to repair the area of the knot.

I’m done with the easy part.  Next comes a lot of hand work.

One thought on “Starting the Mast – Part 1”

  1. Looks to me like it’s all hard work, especially in the heat. Guess what you’re referring to as hard work is all the hand sanding. Too bad there’s no app for that!


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