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Reducing mast circumference without a lathe

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On 11/30/2020 at 2:30 PM, VTHokiEE said:

set the taper

I don’t know about the finger plane part, but I get the taper my taking measurements at various points from the plans then frequently check it against the wood with my digital caliper as I turn it with a drill or lathe using various grits of sandpaper. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I know this is a little late, but I am a model railroader who is building the Bluejacket Jefferson Davis. (Started before the MSW Crash.) In all of my years, I have never thought "I wish I had a lathe". But spar making made me look into it. I ended up with a Grizzly Industrial hobby lathe/disk sander. 0204LatheR.jpg.a7eadd454acd963da600d223d90817c7.jpgKind of like a home made lathe, but better quality. And It is relatively inexpensive. Mine cost about $55 US, but it is now up to $89 US. Since I am incapable of using a plane of any sort, this was a lifesaver. (Modelsaver?) I start with square stock, put it in the lathe, use a Stanley rasp to cut it down to Octagonal shape. (Actually, I cut it pretty far down with the rasp) then use #80 sandpaper to get it round and tapered. I hand sand it with finer sandpaper to get a nice smooth finish. It is a pretty inexpensive way to get nice round (or whatever) spars.



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On 12/3/2020 at 9:50 AM, Keithbrad80 said:

Hopefully this is still relevant to you but here is an article from the NRGs website that goes into great detail as to making masts from square stock without a lathe. The article is by Elia Gianopulos and does a really nice job describing the process of making masts and spars from square stock, with several nice pictures. Everyone else’s advise up above is great so if this method doesn’t work for you there should be plenty to work with here! Good luck!





Very helpful article, thanks Bradley😄

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For general dowel making (not tapered) I drill a series of holes in a steel plate, then relieve the back side with a coutnersink so that the material with the hole is thin - 1/32" or so.  Need not be sharp but I've seen that done too.  Basically like a much bigger draw plate, used differently (at least I think so - I've only used draw plates with wire)


Then you take a square bit of stock, chuck it in a drill, and run it through the biggest hole to knock the corners off.  Angle a bit and you get a bit more cut off too since you're now cutting to the minor axis of an ellipse rather than a circle.  Then proceed to the next smaller hole and repeat.  Surface will be pretty rough until you do the last hole (whatever the desired size is) and keep the dowel square to the plate and go slowly for a nicer finish.  The final nice finish is the reason to leave a bit of thickness to the hole when making the plate.


One could get a big set of drill bits and some O1 steel and number stamps to do this all very correctly and make a labeled and hardened tool that will last a lifetime - I always seem to be in a hurry though so I have two or three of these in various steel I had around and am continually drilling bigger and smaller holes for the needs of the day :D


I learned to do this in a cabinet shop I worked for between careers.  We sometimes used pretty wood for pins on mortise and tenon joints.  When the pin was covered with a square peg instead we just used regular dowels bought for the purpose.  I find this quite a bit quicker and easier than using a lathe, but really its just another way of skinning the cat.

Edited by jdowney
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