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tapering masts


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Hi guys and ladies

I'm still on the furniture stage on the deck of my amati adventure but this will be finished in a couple of weeks.

I was wondering of ways to taper the masts , I've considering buying a lathe but i am looking at other ways., as the one i want is about $ 400. Has anyone got a way of tapering masts mine are about 600mm long and 8mm wide .

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I use my drill press on lowest speed then clamp a wood block to the table with a selection of holes to prevent the free end from wandering.  Cut the dowel rod a little longer on both ends to clamp in the chuck.  I then used a good digital caliper to keep track of the tapering and various grits of sand paper,  slow but methodical.

Michael C. Warnick,



Current Build:  MS Fair American

Prior Builds:  AL Swift, AL San Francisco II, AL Mississippi

In the hanger:  MS Benjamin W. Latham

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I have to agree with Mike. The drill lathe is much cheaper. I use it quite a bit. I would also add that I wrap the end of the dowel with tape for 2 reasons:

1. better grip for the drill

2. less scratches

Current Builds - 18th Century Longboat, MS Syren

Completed Builds - MS Bluenose, Panart BatteStation Cross section, Endevour J Boat Half Hull, Windego Half Hull, R/C T37 Breezing Along, R/C Victoria 32, SolCat 18

On the shelf - Panart San Felipe, Euromodel Ajax, C.Mamoli America, 


Its a sailor's Life for me! :10_1_10:

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A drill press....wonderful idea, wish I had one big enough.


Snow, 600mm is a fairly long mast at 8mm diameter.  I've tapered them at 450mm by clamping the dowel in a regular drill, hold it between my knees and in one hand coarse sandpaper, the other a rasp.  Using both hands keeps the wobbling down to a controllable level too.  Drill at lowest rpm though!  For a mast, don't worry about the chuck marks on the wood, this area goes below deck anyway.  Upper masts though will need more care, yards too.  Same method though, just a bit different technique.  You'll see how after the mast ordeal.


At 600mm and 8mm, you're probably looking for less than 6mm at the tip.  This should be achievable in about 15 minutes.


Good luck and let us know how it came out, OK?

Current fleet, plastic;  Cutty Sark, Revell 1975,  Gorch Fock, Heller 1986,  Royal Louis, Heller 1988,  Amerigo Vespucci, Heller 1990

To do;  Preussen and Passat, Heller

Wooden ships;  Karl and Marie, 1:50 Krick, 1991, Le Hussard (extremely bashed),  AL, scratch design, 2009

On the bench and struggling,  Dos Amigos, Occre

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And for my way of tapering masts. However, you need to start with square stock.


:cheers:  Danny

Cheers, Danny

Current Build :    Forced Retirement from Modelling due to Health Issues

Build Logs :   Norfolk Sloop  HMS Vulture - (TFFM)  HMS Vulture Cross-section  18 foot Cutter    Concord Stagecoach   18th Century Longboat in a BOTTLE 

CARD Model Build Logs :   Mosel   Sydney Opera House (Schreiber-Bogen)   WWII Mk. IX Spitfire (Halinski)  Rolls Royce Merlin Engine  Cape Byron Lighthouse (HMV)       Stug 40 (Halinski)    Yamaha MT-01   Yamaha YA-1  HMS Hood (Halinski)  Bismarck (GPM)  IJN Amatsukaze 1940 Destroyer (Halinski)   HMVS Cerberus   Mi24D Hind (Halinski)  Bulgar Steam Locomotive - (ModelikTanker and Beer Wagons (Modelik)  Flat Bed Wagon (Modelik)  Peterbuilt Semi Trailer  Fender Guitar  

Restorations for Others :  King of the Mississippi  HMS Victory
Gallery : Norfolk Sloop,   HMAT Supply,   HMS Bounty,   HMS Victory,   Charles W. Morgan,   18' Cutter for HMS Vulture,   HMS Vulture,  HMS Vulture Cross-section,             18th Century Longboat in a Bottle 

Other Previous Builds : Le Mirage, Norske Love, King of the Mississippi

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Dan's method is the best way: and you don't need the expense of a lathe! That's how the old-time mast and spar makers did it as well.

Be sure to sign up for an epic Nelson/Trafalgar project if you would like to see it made into a TV series  http://trafalgar.tv

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9 hours ago, Dan Vad said:

And for my way of tapering masts. However, you need to start with square stock.


So right, grain is straight, dowels have a twisting grain and you think its straight then down the road you find the mast begins to have a slight lean n the direction of the twist of the grain learned that the hard way when buying cheap dowels.

John Allen


Current builds HMS Victory-Mamoli

On deck

USS Tecumseh, CSS Hunley scratch build, Double hull Polynesian canoe (Holakea) scratch build



Waka Taua Maori War Canoe, Armed Launch-Panart, Diligence English Revenue Cutter-Marine  Model Co. 


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I've learned to do it by hand (i.e. no power tools), either by taper square stock with a knife then sanding, or just sanding down a dowel. In fairness, the largest ship I've built is a topsail schooner, but doing it by hand makes sure I don't overdo it. I just put on an audio book or baseball game and work away.

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All the power-assisted methods work well, but they're rather expensive if you're only making a few models or smaller spars.  I've found that a curved scraper, one of those that looks sort of like a "schmoo" (I'm showing my age), works very well on stock that starts smaller than about an inch or so.  The curved edges cut very fast with little danger of mis-cuts and don't make sawdust either, only shavings.  I've also found for smaller sizes a hole-template is a big help.  It checks the size and the roundness at the same  time.



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