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Mast and Spar replacements


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I’m moving along with my build and would like to replace the Mast and Spar kit material.


I’m building the AL HMS Bounty and will get to the masts (and rigging) in a few months.  As such, I took the initiative to check how true (round) the dowel material supplied with the kit is (16 varying diameters of Walnut dowels).


FYI – I’ve already replaced the main deck and hull planking material with Crown Timberyard wood.  In addition, I plan to replace the rigging material with Syren products.  And I’ve already purchased Syren cannons, carriages and lantern replacements.  So I’m committed to using quality material on this build.


Out of the 16 kit dowel pieces, about half of them are unusable (many wobble badly and/or are so severely warped they won’t even roll).  


I’m not a big fan of Walnut anyway (as noted above, I already replaced all the walnut planking material).



Questions/help needed:


I would appreciate some direction on what type of material most builders are using for their masts and spars (at this point I’m still thinking dowels of a lighter color wood)?


 I’m also wondering if slightly out of round dowel material is common…so do I need to order excess quantity to sort out good pieces?  


Also, I notice Crown doesn’t appear to sell dowel material… so any recommendations on a reliable vendor would be appreciated?



Thanks for reading

Edited by thomaslambo
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I gave up on dowels, and I'm only on my 2nd build!


A few problems with dowels - they have large grain, making them look poor unless you are planning to paint them, even if they are straight.  As you've observed, it's very difficult to get dowels that are straight.  On masts/yards that need a square or octagon shape, it's difficult to make that evenly out of a round stick.


For my AVS I ordered a 'masting set' from Crown Timberyard out of boxwood, and couldn't be happier with the result.  Making the masts/yards out of boxwood eliminated all of the above problems, and there are multiple ways to get your square-stock round for the masts/yards, from my system (a lathe) to Frank's system (check his Paragon build log here - http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/10788-paragon-a-modified-mayflower-by-mahuna/).  He has a nice jig he used to help him turn square stock into his masting.  Look at post 70 on page 4 of his log.

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Hi Brian,


Can’t thank you enough for the information…I had a bad taste in my mount about dowels from the get go.


I have a lathe and other tools necessary to handle the shapes.


And yes, according to the “Anatomy” the Bounty has Octagon shapes on the yards…should add a very nice touch to my build  :)


Wow, I need to pay more attention to the scratch build logs (been following some but not enough).  I took a quick look at the build log (Page 70 among others)….thanks much, the build quality is superb :)   



So, off to Crown Timberyard I go to purchase a “masting set”…now I know why they don’t sell dowels :D


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Some of the scratch build logs will take away your productivity for days at a time, they are simply amazing.


A couple that totally captured all of my time for days (and I'm sure I've missed many):


Dan Vadas "Vulture" build (recently finished) - http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/230-hms-vulture-by-dan-vadas-1776-148-scale-16-gun-swan-class-sloop-from-tffm-plans-completed/


rekon54's Le Fleuron build in 1:24 scale! - http://modelshipworld.com/index.php/topic/178-le-fleuron-by-rekon54-1729-124/

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Crown has masting sets?  Wow....ya learn something new every day.


Sure, I sent Jason an email saying that I wanted the following stock (24" long):

2 - 1/2" square.

2 - 3/8" square.

3 - 1/4" square.

2 - 3/16" square.

He sent me a reply with the price, I paid him, and got a masting set!


I over-ordered so I would have plenty of extra if (when) I screwed something up on my first try!

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I have made spar stock by gluing 4 square sticks together.  If you watch carefully for any warp in your square stock, you can position them so the warps cancel each other out.  From there, just make the square into a circle.  Or octagon, whatever is required.

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Dowels are generally a problem as a source for stock for masts and spars.  It is usually an accident for the grain to be straight.  When cut free, they will seek an equilibrium point over time and that can be a curved state.


A way to avoid this is to start with plank stock of a straight grained / closed pore species of wood and split the spar stock out along the natural grain.  The hope is that this will be the equilibrium position as Time and Environment act on the piece of wood.


The tool designed to do this is a froe.  A full sized froe is used to produce things like Cedar shakes.  There is a smaller version that I have been looking at, but do not own yet:



In most locations  a species of Acer (Maple) should be available locally from hardwood dealers.

White Pine (Sugar / Pattern makers)

Yellow Poplar

Beech or Birch

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  • 2 weeks later...

Tapering square stock into a round yard with simple hand tools is not hard at all and in fact I find it fun, but I suppose if you manufacture kits you don't want to challenge your customers, people of untested wood working competence, with another task and so you err on the side of kit simplicity rather than providing square stock for the kit builder to shape themselves.

I imagine if you manufacture kits, you must order dowel stock in bulk. As mentioned above, it will be hit or miss if the dowels are straight with a true grain and free of defects. You won't be able to afford to pick through the pallet of dowels, rejecting as many as half of them or even more than half of them. You have to put all but the most heinous ones into your kits. Then try to sell the rejected dowels in small bundles of "Dowel assortment" packs. As a kit manufacturer, owning and using the tooling to turn out your own custom dowel stock would likely cost a lot, take up shop space and bring with it a lot of waste woodchips to constantly be disposed of.

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My current project, Philadelphia, from Model Shipways, has masts made in sections from sheet stock.  The taper is already there, you glue the pieces into square form, then do the rounding from there.  I haven't gotten to that point yet, but I think it is a technique accessible to all modelers and manufacturers that should produce more accurate spars with less fuss.

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