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Mast Battens

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Looking for some information concerning mast battens.

I assume these were notched where the iron bands were, or did they lie on top of the bands? None of the images I’ve seen are very clear.


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Good Evening Auger;


They would certainly have been notched out, as the iron bands were proud of the mast's surface. I know that I have seen this described somewhere, but I cannot remember where. Failure to do this would have allowed the battens to distort and crack under the localised pressure from the shrouds and other objects looped over the mast head.


The lower part of the mast had its core bound together with iron bands, and the fishes and paunches applied over the bands were notched out to sit flush on the core.


Incidentally, I see that you are using James Lees's book. Do not rely on his statement that iron bands are seldom seen on models before 1800 as a guide to full-size practice. After the American colonies became independent, the supply of New England masts dried up, and the Navy could not obtain trees of the same size elsewhere. The trees they formerly purchased from the colonies were large enough to supply most masts as a single tree. After the loss of this supply, they came to rely much more upon 'made' masts, comprising smaller pieces all carefully interlocked. These needed iron bands to hold the component parts together. 


From the late 1770s onward, there are a large number of drawings of masts made at various dockyards, all of 'made' masts, listing the sizes of the component timbers and their costs. These all show iron bands around the core, and each seems to be the relevant Master Shipwright's suggestion for overcoming the shortage of large trees (this is my assumption, and is not stated as such on any of the drawings) 


For any vessel built or re-masted from 1780 onwards, I would use metal hoops on the mast. 


All the best,


Mark P

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