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Masts, Yards, and Spars


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When I started building SIB's I used Boxwood for all my masts and yards.  The Boxwood was real nice to work with.  When chucked into a Dremel or drill, it could be made round and tapered with ease.  

 

Lately I have tried bamboo.  It is fairly easy to draw thru a draw plate. The draw plate helps keep everything consistent in diameter.  The one drawback I have with bamboo is that is tends to fuzz if I try and taper it for spars and yards. 

 

post-1-0-39290400-1427571307_thumb.jpg

 

What types of woods do you use for masts, and yards?  And how do you turn it to the size you are looking for?

 

Gwyl

 

 

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When I get ready to do mine on the Preussen I am going to try John Fox's technique. I am going to laminate some Cherry veneer probably 3-4 slivers. Once the glue is dried I'll turn it down with my home made mini lathe I am in the process of building. Other pieces like the main masts will be very thin aluminum scale tubing that I got from my local hobby shop.

Your technique looks like it will work just fine. Some 800 to 3000 grit paper should get rid of the fuzzies then seal with a stain, finish with a clear cote of varnish. Buy yourself a piece of 3M Auto Advanced Stage 4, 3000 grit Trizact Performance sand paper and no more fuzzies.

Jeff

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Bamboo is great for strength but has some working properties that aren't desirable. If you look at the end "grain" under magnification you'll find that it is made up of very hard round fibers held together by a much softer "wood". I find this arrangement makes drilling holes in spars somewhat difficult as the bit tends to walk off or away from the harder fibers. The hard and soft spots sometimes make sanding tapers more difficult as well. I've just used basswood for most spars on two of three of my most recent projects in spite of its drawbacks.

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Jeff,

 

I had read about the technique that John Fox III uses but have never tried it myself.  I would lend itself to the Hinckley hinge arraignment very nice though.

 

 

Dave,

 

Interesting facts about the bamboo.  Yes,  it is strong but does have it's problems.  I have some European Boxwood on order, so I can mill my own strips from it once it arrives.  

 

I have not tried basswood for spars etc.  I have plenty for carving on hand right now.  I will give that a try.

 

Gwyl

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Greetings Jeff,

 

Yes, my method of laminating thin pieces of wood to get stronger spars at small sizes works perfectly for Hinkly (hidden) hinges. I will make my laminates of 3 layers, thickness depending on final spar diameter. I will glue the layers together, then spin sand them down to slightly larger than final overall diameter. I use the glued joint as my guide when cutting away the parts of each spar piece, which makes it much easier to get them to fit properly. I peg them together, then final sand it all down to proper diameter, and taper if needed. If the woods/glue chosen don't give me an easily identifiable line where they are glued, I will try coloring the glue, or surfaces of the wood, so that the line is easily visible.

 

Anchor's A Weigh!

John Fox III

Ladysmith, WI

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Dave,

 

Interesting facts about the bamboo.  Yes,  it is strong but does have it's problems.  I have some European Boxwood on order, so I can mill my own strips from it once it arrives.  

 

I have not tried basswood for spars etc.  I have plenty for carving on hand right now.  I will give that a try.

 

Gwyl

 

The only reasons I used the basswood was because I had it on hand and didn't want to use bamboo because of the hassles with drilling holes through bamboo spars. Boxwood seems a much better choice and will be planned for when I start another project. I've duplicated "sprung" masts several times with basswood from the friction of sanding twisting the mast section until the fibers of the wood break down. Don't waste your time with basswood spars if you have boxwood.

 

I have used hidden hinges on my masts for many years but different from the Hinckley method. I saw a slot into the base stub and the bottom of the mast to receive a piece of nominal 1/64th hobby plywood, sand those slots (and/or the plywood) until the plywood piece fits, glue it in the base stub, then drill for the pivot pin. The plywood tenon is about 1/3rd the mast diameter. This seems to me less work and more precise than cutting and sanding the base stub to form a tenon for the hinge. The plywood tenon is very strong.

 

Dave

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I have used hidden hinges on my masts for many years but different from the Hinckley method. I saw a slot into the base stub and the bottom of the mast to receive a piece of nominal 1/64th hobby plywood, sand those slots (and/or the plywood) until the plywood piece fits, glue it in the base stub, then drill for the pivot pin. The plywood tenon is about 1/3rd the mast diameter. This seems to me less work and more precise than cutting and sanding the base stub to form a tenon for the hinge. The plywood tenon is very strong.

 

Dave

 

Dave,

 

This sounds interesting.  I think I have a visual in my mind from what you described, but I have a question about the joint angle.  Do you still cut a diagonal cut in the base and the bottom of the mast for the plywood? 

 

Gwyl

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Gwyl:

 

I think these two photos of my tenon and open mortise hinge will answer your question.

 

post-30-0-14305700-1428204303_thumb.jpg

 

post-30-0-93170800-1428204279_thumb.jpg

 

After building about 5 or 6 SiBs (35 years ago), I became dissatisfied with the wire hinge and tried my first version of the hinge and quickly found that I needed to cut the mast at an angle and that the top of the tenon (with the bottom of it glued into the base stub) also needed to be at an angle. The slot in the upper mast section needed an angled bottom so that all the gaps are filled and the two parts lock when straight. My first versions had a tenon with a rounded top and a mast with a rounded bottom (above the base stub) that left gaps but was an improvement over the wire hinge. It took 3 or 4 more SiBs before I got it right. When I came across the description and photos of the Hinckley hinge about 3 years ago, I realized that he and I had come up with the same solution independently with the only difference being that I used a piece of 1/64th hobby plywood for the tenon whereas he milled the tenon. He had a model makers miniature table saw and I didn't. Just two variations on the same idea.

 

Dave

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Dave,

 

Thanks for the photos.  It make perfect sense now.  Like they say,  A photo of picture is worth a thousand words!  

 

With that said, after looking at the photo above, I have more questions, do you cut your own deck planks?  They look very good.  Also, What type of cordage do you use for your rigging?  Do you make your own?

 

Your belaying pins look fantastic.

 

Gwyl

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Dave,

 

Thanks for the photos.  It make perfect sense now.  Like they say,  A photo of picture is worth a thousand words!  

 

With that said, after looking at the photo above, I have more questions, do you cut your own deck planks?  They look very good.  Also, What type of cordage do you use for your rigging?  Do you make your own?

 

Your belaying pins look fantastic.

 

Gwyl

 

The method I used for the decking is straight from McNarry or McCaffery, I don't recall which, perhaps both.

I first made a test pattern on my computer and printed it to check that the width of planks and pattern of butts looked right on the model, in this case 8 inch / 20 cm to scale, (1/16th inch / 1.5 mm actual).

Using 1/16th basswood - note that the thickness matches the planned plank width - I glued a piece of black tissue to one side of the piece of wood with lightly diluted pva. When dried I then sliced this wood, paper side up, into about 1/32nd inch / 0.8 mm thick planks. Paper side up helps prevent the knife from following the grain rather than the straight edge - a useful trick to remember. 

The strips were glued edge to edge with a papered edge against a plain edge to replicate a tarred seam. Bits of black tissue were glued to an end of one of the planks at the butt joints.

 

post-30-0-08345200-1428248820_thumb.jpg

From top:  my printed decking pattern with locations of deck openings and masts. The black object is the

remnant of the deck material, papered side up. Below that is the decking in the gluing fixture, ready for gluing

to the deck former. The fixture is just two straight edges set to make a square corner on a base. The base in

that area was covered with strips of home/office tape to prevent gluing my decking to the fixture. Notice that

several butts in the center planks weren't papered or staggered because they will be covered by a deck opening.

 

When this deck was assembled to a little larger than the deck area, I glued it to a deck former of 1/64th plywood and sanded the edges to the former and sanded down the surface of the deck to a uniform thickness. The deck assembly was then glued to the hull. The deck was left unfinished - I liked the color of the plain basswood so did nothing else to it.

 

Most of the tan cordage that you commented on is Gutterman sewing thread I bought at a sewing store. It looks more like rope than the much more common Coats & Clark thread found at department stores like Walmart and Target. Gutterman thread is also much less prone to fuzziness.

 

The belaying pins were cut from .010 or .012 inch (0.25 or 0.3 mm) diameter bug pins, I don't remember which. By the way, I used pegs cut from the same bug pins (these pegs were belaying pin rejects) to reinforce the joints and the attachment points to the deck of the pin rails at the masts. I also pegged the pin rails to the bulwarks. You may notice that the running rigging ties off to belaying pins, so I took these extra steps to ensure that I couldn't pull the pin rails apart with accumulated rigging stresses.

Edited by Dave Fellingham
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Hi Dave,

 

I think I remember reading about that technique in Lloyd McCaffery's book.  I have never seen an example of a finished product using this system.  It looks to work out very good.  I will have to try that on the build I planning.  Hope to get it started in the next day or two.  I will post photos etc in the log section.  I am going to practice cutting small very thin strips this evening to see how that goes.  Thanks for the info on the belaying pins.  Actual functionality (tying off the running rigging) is worth it's weight in gold.  Very nice.  Thanks for the pic's and tutorial.

 

Gwyl

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Gwyl:

 

I think these two photos of my tenon and open mortise hinge will answer your question.

 

 

 

 

 

After building about 5 or 6 SiBs (35 years ago), I became dissatisfied with the wire hinge and tried my first version of the hinge and quickly found that I needed to cut the mast at an angle and that the top of the tenon (with the bottom of it glued into the base stub) also needed to be at an angle. The slot in the upper mast section needed an angled bottom so that all the gaps are filled and the two parts lock when straight. My first versions had a tenon with a rounded top and a mast with a rounded bottom (above the base stub) that left gaps but was an improvement over the wire hinge. It took 3 or 4 more SiBs before I got it right. When I came across the description and photos of the Hinckley hinge about 3 years ago, I realized that he and I had come up with the same solution independently with the only difference being that I used a piece of 1/64th hobby plywood for the tenon whereas he milled the tenon. He had a model makers miniature table saw and I didn't. Just two variations on the same idea.

 

Dave

Very nice detail Dave.  How do you make those deadeyes?

 

Alex

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have largely gone over to using brass rod for masts and bowsprits. I got tired of ruining thin wood masts. When it came time to drill I was weakening the spar and too many times they would break where I had drilled them. Available in many sizes, the brass rod is already at the diameter I want and consistent. Tapering is no more trouble than it is with wood and the rod is stronger. Only trouble is the paint chips off rather easily and there is need of frequent touch ups. 

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I've stuck to bamboo and found ways to work around the problems.  The main benefit to me is it's cheap and easy to find.  Jeff's right the finer grain sand paper will get rid of fuzzies.  Drilling can be an issue so I've found ways not to drill.  I use a cow hitch knot in the center of the spar and then use then tie the spars to the mast.  The hitch allows the spars to turn sideways going in the bottle and still come back perpendicular.  Especially when lifts and braces are used to direct the spars as well.  

 

cow%20hitch.JPG    

 

For lines that would other wise go through the mast I use one of John's thread blocks tied to the mast.  This keeps the line in place while keeping the structural integrity of the mast.  Instead of the Hinkley hinge I use the divot method where the mast is placed in a small divot on deck.  While erecting the masts is not as easy using this method I find it has a lot of advantages.  It's easier then trying to create the two parts of a Hinkley hinge and since there's no holes in the masts I can make the mast as small as I need to.  Also with out the hinge holding the mast down the masts can sit beside deck furniture instead of above which allows for an easier fit in tight bottle necks.  

 

mercury_bottle_neck_close.jpg

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I have largely gone over to using brass rod for masts and bowsprits. I got tired of ruining thin wood masts. When it came time to drill I was weakening the spar and too many times they would break where I had drilled them. Available in many sizes, the brass rod is already at the diameter I want and consistent. Tapering is no more trouble than it is with wood and the rod is stronger. Only trouble is the paint chips off rather easily and there is need of frequent touch ups. 

 

Drilling holes and paint adhesion have kept me from using brass rod for spars and masts. Cleaning with acetone and washing with vinegar (acetic acid, to micro-etch the brass) helped somewhat on the few photo-etch parts I've used.

 

 

I've stuck to bamboo and found ways to work around the problems.  The main benefit to me is it's cheap and easy to find.  Jeff's right the finer grain sand paper will get rid of fuzzies.  Drilling can be an issue so I've found ways not to drill.  I use a cow hitch knot in the center of the spar and then use then tie the spars to the mast.  The hitch allows the spars to turn sideways going in the bottle and still come back perpendicular.  Especially when lifts and braces are used to direct the spars as well.  

 

For lines that would other wise go through the mast I use one of John's thread blocks tied to the mast. 

 

I hate bamboo for its objectionable properties but still use it when its excellent properties are needed. The cow hitch works well for hanging spars and duplicates the usual practice on the real thing on topgallant yards and above, and is close enough for course and topsail yards.

 

I've tried thread blocks once or twice but generally view them as a last resort. Instead I make little eye bolts from 40 gauge copper wire wrapped part way around a .010 inch / 0.25 mm diameter bug pin then twist the two tails until the eye is snug. I epoxy these into holes drilled in the spars. I figure the epoxy reinforces the spar enough to make up for the loss of strength from the drilled hole.

 

post-30-0-05969900-1431028474_thumb.jpg

Eyebolt ready to install. I must have used close to 40 on a recent build and find

them to be easier and faster to make and significantly smaller than a thread block.

 

post-30-0-22989700-1431028472_thumb.jpg

Eyebolts installed in a topsail yard and crossjack on a recent topsail schooner. 

 

Also for super mini ships in bottles I've found paint brush bristles work great.  They bend far with out breaking and pop back up on their own.  

 

Do you use hair bristles or synthetic bristles, Daniel?

 

 

mast and spars, i use tooth picks and the long swabs the doctors use. bought a full box from the drug store. $11.00 USD.

 

Although I keep craft sticks in two sizes and craft dowels, tooth picks and long and short swabs for a multitude of reasons, I won't use any of them for structural purposes on my models, occasionally for painted deck details. The wood is rarely as good as basswood, frequently punky and generally next to useless for fine model work - but I am very picky about what I use.

 

I located a source for milled boxwood, pear and some holly where strips can be had in packs of up to 10 pieces, 24 inches in length for US$10, quantity depending on strip dimensions.  Link:  Crown Timberyard  I'd much rather spend 10 bucks on the best wood available for my purposes than on something of much inferior quality. [btw, I have no connection to Crown, I'm just reporting on a source for milled lumber for ship modelling.]

 

I'm looking for a source of degama (aka lemonwood and lancewood) for use in masts and spars. It's described as "brittle and inflexible" and is recommended for spars by Lloyd McCaffery in his book. As suggested by one of its names it was used to make battle lances and was used through the early 20th century in the front portion of pool cues.

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I think it's hair bristles.  I'm not totally sure.  I bought the brush a long time ago.  I don't even remember why.  I had read about using paintbrush bristles before.  I think on this website http://www.shipsinbottles.50megs.com/ So when I stumbled across the brush I thought I'd try it.  

 

Here's a photo of the brush.  

 

20140722_214351.jpg

 

And an example of what I've done with it.  

 

20150424_001028.jpg

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Here on Tenerife it is quite difficult to find the type of materials needed for small models. The model shops here are full of the plastic kits. There is  plenty of hardwood and softwood but at large diameters so cutting/sanding it down is expensive as I don´t have the room for a small table saw. However, when I go back to the UK i usually pick up some cocktail sticks made from beech. I find these are perfect for masts and spars and sand down quite easily. I also buy different types of wooden dowels at a small diameter. This usually sees me through to the next visit. I have not tried basswood (which I also get in the UK) but I will give it a go. Maybe a laminate of basswood would be very strong. 

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