Shaping & Plugging Mast Ends

First order of business was to cut the mast to length.DSC00168You definitely want to measure twice and cut once.

The plans call for an overall length of 16’4″.DSC00166This could make a right nice pencil holder, and conversation piece. 

DSC00167This is the top of the mast.  After applying thickened epoxy to the top plug, I used electrician’s tape to keep the epoxy from running out.

DSC00175Here is what the top looked like after removing the tape.  You can see that the plug drifted a little inward and has what appears to be a hole at the 3:00 position.

DSC00177I started with the hand plane to create the shape.

DSC00179Once I started shaping, it was easy to see that I did have epoxy all the way around the top plug.

DSC00184The tool of the day goes to the Shinto Japanese file.  I’ve never used a file as effective as this before.

DSC00178There is a course side and a fine side.  I never needed the course side.

DSC00183 DSC00180

With the top looking satisfactory, it’s time to plug the bottom.

I am drilling a 5/8″ hole through the bottom plug to allow air movement inside the mast.  I will pour thickened epoxy into this hole and then after it has set up, I’ll drill out the center with a 3/8″ hole.  This will create a nice epoxy seal around the end grain, while still allowing air movement into the mast.  DSC00164The C-clamp worked well to stabilize the small piece on the drill press.  This piece consists of two 3/4″ pine plugs which have been epoxied together.

DSC00172Bottom plug after drilling out the 3/8″ center hole for air movement.

DSC00186I roughed up the inside for good adhesion.  

DSC00187Bottom plug epoxied into position.  Time to go for a bicycle ride!

DSC00200After the epoxy set up, I couldn’t resist flushing up the end with the chop saw.         I also took the rasp to the outside edges to finish things up.  I’ll now set it aside until I’m ready to sand, epoxy and clear coat the outside prior to rigging.

Shaping the Mast

 Pick up a quality hand plane and take a few passes…it is such a rewarding experience.

I absolutely love my Lie Neilson low angle block plane and wish I had about three more.  There is something special about hand planes.  In a world full of digitized complexity, the hand plane stands out as a beacon of simplicity.  They reconnects us to the manual world of yesterday.  They do such a tremendous job, all quietly and smoothly without noise, electricity or complexity.  They alway impress me.

After checking the mast, I decided it was time to start shaping it.  Two hours later this is what I had.


This was so satisfying to build.

I added a touch of thickened epoxy to one 6″ section that had a slight gap in it, otherwise all looked solid and well glued.

 I see the following advantages of the wood mast:

  1. Much warmer than aluminum when handling.
  2. Much quieter than aluminum with a halyard slapping against it during a breeze.
  3. Easily rigged and altered when needed (just fill holes with thickened epoxy).
  4. Provides floatation on a knock down.
  5. Fits the Old World look of the Scamp.
  6. Gives the builder the distinct satisfaction of having built their own mast.


I wondered if I was going to need an electrical hand planer for this stage, but it was entirely unnecessary.  The simple hand plane was completely up to the job and offered a quiet experience for rounding the mast.  Two hours max and you’ll be as round as your going to get it without sanding.  I actually don’t plan to go much smoother or rounder.  I really like the Old World hand-hewn look of the mast.  Next, I will cut to length, plug both ends, round the top and then set aside until I have a better understanding of the rigging and finish.

Nothing to Do But Wait


I like to try to do something each day if possible, even if that means just cleaning up or fiddling with some minor issue.  This morning I am waiting for the epoxy to dry on my mast, so I decided to sharpen my block plane blades.  I’m sure they are going to get a good workout over the next few days.

Glueing up the Mast

DSC00001This was a little tense, like pouring cement.

Everything is timed and the clock cannot be turned back.   Once you start, your committed.  Furthermore, part way through, I thought I was going to run out of epoxy.  That would have been disastrous.  But, my luck held out and so did the epoxy.  Other concerns were, did I get enough thickened epoxy in the bird’s mouth joint? Did I mix everything properly ? Is the clamping pressure sufficient?  Well, only time will tell, but I think I got a sufficient job.  I wanted two coats of epoxy on the inside of the mast,  so I started at 7:00 am by rolling and brushing three sides of the staves (I did not epoxy the outside of the staves), I then waited until about 4:30 pm before the epoxy was ready for the second coat. After applying the second, I thickened the epoxy and filled the bird’s mouth.  I used electrician’s tape for clamping pressure (not sure I would recommend it though, it got pretty slimy and I questioned whether it was going to hold, but it did).


This shot gives me hope when I see all the squeeze out pushing through.

 I spent an hour after the glue-up trying to remove excess epoxy from the outside of the joints.

What I learned:

  1. You probably need another helper.  My wife helped me and I’m sure glad she did.
  2. Make sure you have lot’s of epoxy (I went through a lot more than I thought I would).
  3. Have everything ready (I had to scramble for the electrician’s tape)
  4. Our gloved fingers worked better than the home made scraper tool I created to smooth the thickened epoxy into the bird’s mouth.
  5. Keep moving, you don’t have any too much time for this step.

Great to have the mast glued up!  Now, I wait for a few days.  Then it’s time to get out the hand plane and begin taking off the high edges.  Additionally, I will be epoxying the top and bottom plugs into position.

Checking Epoxy Pumps


Everyone has read it…the epoxy manuals always suggest you test pump dispensers for accuracy.

 You know, just to make sure they are dispensing the proper ratio of resin to hardener.  Well, In the past, when I built my stitch n glue kayak, I just assumed they were correct.  Yesterday, however, I decided to test my new dispenser pumps (purchased from Pygmy boats).  I was shocked at the results.  Here’s what happened:

  1. I noticed the restrictor tube looked a little short for the hardener pump, ie. it was not 1/2 the distance of the resin pump (I am using System Three epoxy, a 2:1 ratio system).  This got me concerned, so I decided to accurately measure the results.  I’m glad I did.
  2. I pulled out my ultralight backpacking digital scale and first measured the weight of a disposable plastic cup at 15 grams.  I then tested both dispensers and measured the results, after subtracting the weight of the cup.
  3. After completing the test twice, I got the exact same results.
  4. One depression of my hand dispensers gave me 29 grams of resin and 10 grams of hardener.  That is a 3:1 ratio not a 2:1 ratio.  Wow, I’m so glad I tested this before glueing up my mast staves.
  5. I shortened the restrictor tube for the hardener by 1/8″ and did the test again.
  6. After repeating the test twice, I now got 29 grams of resin and 15 grams of hardener.  That’s more like it.


Lesson learned, I will never trust hand despisers again without completing a thorough test for accuracy.

Hold the press…Pygmy boats just called and reminded me that the 2:1 ratio is by volume not weight.  Oops…my entire test was performed on weight not volume.  This has now demonstrated what often happens to me.  The harder I try, the more trouble I create for myself.  Oh well, we’ll see if it sets up.  I was off almost 20%.  So, let me modify the lesson learned.  Don’t out think yourself…otherwise you will create more problems than  you solve.  I’ve reinstalled the short tube I cut off and will move forward and sin no more.  

(Wait a minute…even when recalculating for volume, the pumps are still off a fair shot.  After weighing all this out in my head, I plan on using the suggestions offered by those commenting below.  I will use the pumps mainly as a dispensing tool so I don’t spill, but measure using the ideas below, especially for small amounts).  Now…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  

Shaping the Yard

I thought this was going to take a long time.

Truth is, 15 minutes per end and your done.  I used my block plane, wood rasp and finished off with some hand sanding.  These aren’t perfect, but good enough for a ‘ham ‘n egger’ (this is the phrase my dad always uses to describe his wood working skills).

DSC00001The block plane does the majority of the removal.


Yard end after using the rough side of the wooden rasp.


Yard end after using the fine side of the wooden rasp.

I’m now waiting to receive epoxy supplies so I can tackle the mast glue up.  This is going to be a little tricky, due to all the pieces and timing.  Not sure exactly how to do it, but I’m thinking on the subject.

Yard and Boom Rough Out

I decided to use 8/4 VG Douglas Fir for the Yard and Boom.  This allowed me to side step scarfing and additional laminations.  Once again, my Thule ski rack on my Subaru came in very handy to haul the 13′ stick home.  I’ve used my ski rack as much to haul lumber as I have skis.


This is what the two sticks looked like after planing to approximate thickness.


The plans call for a round Yard of 1,3/4″ diameter.  I planed my Yard to 1,5/8″ for the following reasons:

  1. I’m using Doug Fir which I believe is a little stronger than spruce.
  2. I’m not shaping to complete round, hence the 16 sided stick will have a little more material left in it than a round stick.
  3. I want to reduce weight aloft as much as possible.
  4. Finally, if it breaks, I’ll build another one (but I don’t think it will).


Here is the Yard after removing the corners on the table saw.  I then used a hand plane and took a small amount off each corner…just took the edge off.  I like the chiseled look, so I think I’ll leave it very close to this shape.


Finally, I took a few moments to cut out the Mast plugs.  In accordance to the wisdom of others, I will be drilling a hole in the bottom plugs of approximately 1/2″ for proper air circulation.  Then, I spent an hour cleaning my shop.  It’s amazing how good it can make you feel just to clean your shop.  After all that planing, it was very dusty.  All is well now.

Dry Fitting Mast

Ok, this was a blast.  You go from having 8 staves sprawled out on the floor to this beautifully symmetrical sphere of Godliness.  Once the staves go into position the heavenly choirs open up and you feel this rapture coming from all wooden boat builder of the past converging down on your wood shop.  Well, almost anyway.  This was definitely the most fun I’ve had in my shop for quite some time.  DSC00005

These simple holding jigs made all the difference.

 I got the idea from Craig Bryant’s build blog (you can link to his blog from my home page).


I didn’t even know what a Bird’s Mouth cut was last week, and now here they are in all their glory.


I’m using two additional supports to hold the ends.

Now that the dry run is complete, I’ll be preparing for the epoxy glue up.

Starting the Mast

Bird’s mouth what?  This sounded a little intimidating.  After reading several articles on how to build a hollow wooden mast, I decided to give it a go.  If I can build the mast, maybe I can build the boat.  This is a minimal way to begin without committing all the way.  And, I don’t have enough money right now for the kit anyway, so I decided to start with the mast.  After spending $100.00 on two sticks of wood, I began.  We don’t have Spruce locally available, but we do have vertical grain Douglas Fir.  I was fortunate enough to find 20′ long boards, so I purchased two 1 x 6 x 20′ boards.  This will save me the effort of scarfing.  The plans call for 8 staves 16 x 30 mm before tapering.  I first edged the boards on my jointer to create one flat side, then planed the thickness down from four quarter to 5/8″, I then ripped the boards into 1, 3/16″ staves.  I then cut the birds mouth into one side.

DSC00060Here’s what they looked like before cutting the taper.

I was concerned about attempting to create uniform tapers on the staves.  My dad suggested I build a jig to ensure uniformity.  My jig looked like this.

DSC00062The jig to hold the staves.

The bottom board is a 1 x 6 x 10′ pine board.  It accepts the stave and is sacrificial (the circular saw slightly cuts down into this board.  The middle board is also a 1 x 6 x 10′ pine board that acts a the fence for the stave to rest against.  These two boards are set at equal offsets from each end.  The far right board is a small off cut from the VG Douglas Fir I am using for the mast.  It is nailed through the middle board while taking the curve of the desired stave.  It is offset the distance of the circular saw blade and the outer edge of it’s base.  It holds the circular saw the proper distance to create the stave taper.


The jig with the cut tapered stave.

Hopefully this clarifies.  Here you see the cut stave (upper, narrow end of the stave).  The circular say ran along on the top of the upper 1 x 6 x 10′ pine board and was held securely by the far right side edge board, creating uniform tapers on each of the staves.  I nailed each stave to the jig with small finish nails that were removed after the cut was made.  I can re-use all this pine as cleating later on the boat.  I’m now ready to build a jig to hold the loose staves during glue up.