Making the mast – finishing details

I like summer, especially the long evenings that gives you a chance to get some boat building done when you come from work.  Last weekend I was able to get two coats of varnish on the mast.  Courtesy of the long evenings, I was able to put on the remaining coats during the week and also put the first coat of white paint on the mast head.  Today I finished the mast.

Friday evening I cut the mast leather to size and stained it.  My leather is getting in short supply, so I made a pattern first to make sure I didn’t mess up and cut the leather too small.  I cut the leather to length that the pattern told me, but cut the circumference about an 1/8″ short.  I then stained the leather with some alcohol-based wood stain, and pre-punched the holes for the stitching.

This morning I sewed the leather before the sun got too hot and I still had some shade.  I moistened the inside face of the leather; this made it easier to stretch.  For sewing the leather I used some “tarred marlin”; in reality some black nylon seine twine.  The stitch I use is the same as described on Paul Gartside’s web site for sewing on oar leathers:

2017 07 02 Sewing on the mast leather.

Because I cut the leather short on the circumference, it will fit tight on the mast after the moisture dries.  I completed the mast leather by working some Turks head knots at either end.  The Turks heads are part decorative, but also functional to some extent.  In the Seamanship class I teach with the United States Power Squadron, one the basic knots we teach is the clove hitch.  A variation of the clove hitch is the constrictor knot, which looks similar to the clove hitch but holds much tighter than a clove hitch.  Now think of a Turks head as little more than a constrictor on steroids.  Between the tight stitching and the two Turks heads, there is no way that leather will slide down the mast, and I didn’t have to use tacks or glue.  Finally, the Turks heads are given two coats of varnish.  This helps “glue” the strands of the Turks heads together.  By the way, it’s very helpful if the stitching is on the forward face of the mast, so the boom jaws don’t rub against the stitching.

2017 07 02 Mast leather complete.

Next I turned my attention to the mast head.  As mentioned in the previous post, the head was painted white.  A bronze sheave was installed for the halyard for the sail; the sheave was purchased from Duckworks ( and I was really impressed by their quick turnaround.  I placed the order Sunday night and had a package waiting for me when I returned home Wednesday evening.  The sheave comes rough cast, but a few minutes with a round file and the sheave was ready to use.

2017 07 02 Mast head complete.

The pin for the sheave is held in place by a simple wooden plate on one end; on the lower side in the picture above I have a “dumb sheave” so I can hoist my burgee.  I am a member of the Traditional Small Craft Association, and fly their burgee when I sail.

2017 07 02. Mast leather in use.

With the mast complete, it’s a real good idea to rig the boat in the driveway, just to make sure everything fits right.  If you don’t, you may learn of any mistakes at the boat ramp (like a cleat installed on the wrong side of the mast, for instance?  How did that happen!)  The photo above shows the leather protecting the mast from the boom jaws.  The sail was made by Bill Tosh, a sail maker in East Texas, who did a very fine job.

2017 07 02 Mast head with sail and burgee.

The photo above shows the upper end of the mast; the sail is raised along with the TSCA burgee.  Now it’s time to go sailing.

One thought on “Making the mast – finishing details”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: