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Type of wood dowels for masts and spars, where to purchase

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I am finishing up the Royal yacht Mary by Mamoli, and working on the masts and spars.  They are from basswood and I hate them.  They are warped and break easily when you sand them thin.

I did some research in the books I have and a website from Gene Larson, on what type of wood to use for mast and spars.


They suggest the following: Sitka spruce, lemon wood, lance wood, maple, cherry and red cedar.

I need the following diameters and I have put them both in mm and inches. 


8mm or 5/16"
7mm or 17/64"
6mm or 15/64"
5mm or 3/16"
4mm or 5/32"
3mm or 1/8"
2mm or 5/64"


I have checked the following places for dowels and diameters and types wood They all have the common diameters but not 5/64 or 15/62.

http://www.modelexpo-online.com/default.asp  (they used to have so much more)


Any suggestion of other places I missed that are reliable in the USA.  The NET has lots of places that sell dowels and Amazon is connected to many sites I have never heard of.

Any suggestions on the type of wood and where to buy is much appreciated.

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In the Uk Birch dowel is very common and available in a wide range of sizes - this is the material used in the Caldercraft kits, walnut seems to be common as well. I suggest you pop along to your local timber stockist ahd have a look at what joinery timbers they stock. Again in the UK its not uncommon for building stockists to carry a range of round hardwood dowels.



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I will put in a word for basswood. The original poster said his samples were in a sad state but that doesn't mean all basswood is junk. Where I live its available in all sorts of dimensions at craft and art supply stores and I buy square stock and work it down to the spar I want and if you select a straight piece of wood you will get a straight spar. Kit manufacturers are notorious for providing poor wood.

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I'm sorta late to this party,  but Ill throw in my 2 cents anyway. I'm a fan of using square stock.. Taper it ,then carve to eight sides and last chuck it up in a drill press and use sanding blocks starting with eighty grit and down thru the numbers to 150 or 225. Spruce s very strong but you should get aircraft grade.Be selective don't just take the first stick out of the box. look for straight grain not diagonal or knotty. Not so strong but nice to work with is clear red cedar. However if you're the least little allergic to dust use a mask or use spruce. BILL

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In my next built I want to try the square stock, If there are problems I can always resort back to round dowels. Many of the members here use square stock.


Question: Do you use a long square pieces of stock or do you glue a couple of straight pieces together and than sand them round?



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When I lived in Alaska I had a whole clear spruce log cut into 5/8ths thick planks and brought what was left to Lewiston with me. If the spars are small enough I use a single thickness. I will glue two pieces together if more thickness is required. A small plane such as violin makers use makes it fairly easy to get a nice taper.Taper the spar squre starting in the middle to the ends. Once tapered I then shave the corners off to make an eight sided  spar ad then sand from there. I've been having good luck lately finish sanding the spar while its chucked in my drill press. I tighten the chuck just hand tight then support the work with my fingers while I sand the spar with a sanding block. I start with 80 grit then go thru the numbers to 150. Don't use too high a drill speed if you use this method. The drill press I use BTW is a floor model and I can get 2 foot long stock in it easily. A wood or metal lathe would work even better if it has the capacity..BILL

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