Bluenose Canadian Schooner

Lower Masts

May 22, 2017

Day 416.

Based on the plans I worked up for constructing the masts, I decided to work on the fore mast and main mast at the same time.  There are a number of things that are identical (or at least very similar), so doing them at the same time should improve consistency, quality, and speed things up.

I’m starting with the lower masts, but while I’m tapering those I’ll go ahead and shape the top masts as well.

The masts are made from dowel rods provided in the Model Shipways Bluenose kit.  The lower masts are made from 5/16″ dowels, and the top masts are made from 3/16″ dowels.


I started by cutting the dowels to the right length.  The lower masts are taller than the top masts, and the main mast parts are taller than those of the fore mast.

Next I moved on to tapering.  Like the bowsprit, the lower masts are straight along one side, while the other three sides are tapered.  The tapering is considerably simpler than the bowsprit – most of the lower mast isn’t tapered.


Since the lower masts are just tapered at one end, I kept it simple.  I marked the end of the dowel rods with the size/shape to taper to, then used my mill to shape it to that size at the end.


Then I used a sanding block to sand the dowel down.  The dowel was given a gentle taper from where the trestle trees will go to the end.

The top masts were a little simpler.  These appear to be tapered on all four sides, with a ‘shoulder’ near the top.  I carved out the shoulder, then sanded everything into a smooth taper.


Each part got a good sanding with 220, 400, and 800 grit sandpaper, then I stained them.  Some modelers prefer to leave the wood natural, but I’m staining these to match the deck, using Minwax Cherry stain.

I also built a quick stand to hold all four mast parts while I work on them.  This keeps them organized and will prevent damage while I’m working.


With the dowels finished, my attention turned to the various parts and fittings on the masts.  I’ll be working from the bottom up.  Both the fore and main masts have a good number of mast hoops that need to go on (rings that are loose on the mast, and hold the sails in place).  These have be slid on after the lowest parts in stalled, but before the trestle trees and upper bands are installed.  So, I’m going to use that as my ‘milestone’ for this part.  I’ll construct everything up to where the mast hoops go on in this first step.

The first parts to be built is the pin saddle and boom rest.  These are nearly identical.  The pin saddle goes on the fore mast, and holds a number of belaying pins.  The boom crutch goes in the same spot on the main mast, but has no pins.  The belaying pins around the main mast are handled by the fife rail – the boom rest is just there as a place for the main boom to sit.



As the drawings above show, the basic construction is similar.  The pin saddle has 6 holes, and has ‘chocks’ on the port and starboard (top and bottom).  The boom rest has no holes, and has four chocks around the bottom only.

The kit provides some laser cut pieces to form these shapes.  These are easy to put together.  However, the plans indicate that there was a metal band recessed into these.  From other build logs, I’ve seen that most modelers don’t add this, as the laser cut pieces don’t make it easy to implement this detail.

So, I’m going to go a completely different way.  Rather than use the kit’s parts, I’m going to build these from scratch.

I started with a dowel rod that was the same diameter as the pin saddle and boom rest.  This wasn’t provided by the kit, but I had one laying around.  The lower masts are 5/16″ at the bottom, so I loaded a 5/16″ drill bit into my drill press and put a hole right through the dowel rod.


This gives us the ‘hole’ for the mast to go through.

Next I drilled the holes for the pin saddle.  These are difficult to drill successfully once the recess is carved for the metal band, so it is best to do them now.


The piece was then loaded into a rotary vice on my mill, and I used the milling machine to create the recess all the way around the piece.  I used a milling tool that was the same width as my 1/64″ thick brass strips.


The piece was then cut off the dowel, with the cut made at the right spot to create the lower edge.

This was done for the pin saddle (with holes drilled for the pins), and for the boom rest (without holes).

The pieces were quickly test-fit on the masts.


To install these, I need to make the chocks.  These are very small pieces that have a slight curve cut out.  I need eight of them (four for each mast).  To make them consistent, I made them all at once.

I cut eight pieces of strip wood to a comfortable length and sanded them down.  Then I clamped them to a piece of wood, nice and straight, using a binder clip.


Then I marked the length of the actual chocks, and gave them their curve using a needle file.  I used a razor saw to cut them free.

I started installing everything on the fore mast.  I marked the locations of the lower chocks, and glued those in place.  I glued the pin saddle on top of those, then added the upper chocks.  All this will be pained white, so I didn’t bother staining them.


The main mast was done similarly, but with all four chocks on the bottom.


The masts were then given a healthy amount of masking tape to mask off everything that isn’t going to be white, then they were given a good airbrushing.  The masts are painted white from the top of these assemblies down to where they meet the deck.


The next step is to install the metal bands.  These bands were made from 1/64″ thick brass strips.  I simply bent a piece of the strip around the pin saddle and boom rest to get the right shape.

Then I bent the ends back and drilled holes for a small piece of brass rod.


The bands were slipped in place, and some CA glue was used to hold the ends together and keep the rod in place.

I also installed the metal sheet on the main mast.  This sheet keeps the main boom from rubbing against the mast and damaging the wood.  I really wanted to add this in brass (all the metal work on the ship is brass), but I didn’t have any suitable brass handy.  I did have some copper tape, so used that.  I’ll keep my eye open when I’m at the hobby store and see if I can find some brass that I can replace this with.


Once the bands were set, I clipped the extra material off the ends.

I also installed the belaying pins in the pin saddle.


And that completes the pin saddle and boom rest!  That means the main mast is done for now – the next thing that needs to go on the main mast is the mast hoops.  However, the fore mast has another part.

On the fore mast, the gooseneck is right above the pin saddle.  This is a metal assembly that connects the fore boom to the fore mast.


The gooseneck uses two metal bands that wrap around the mast.  These bands have pins that hold a connector in place.  A uniquely shaped shackle attaches to that connector.    (I’m calling it a shackle, but I know that isn’t the right term for it.)  The shackle has two holes (aside from the eye that goes around the connector).  One hole attaches to the fore boom and the other will hold a shackle for a tack line (rigging).

To get started, I bent a piece of 1/64″ brass strip in half.  I drilled a hole near the bend and ran some brass rod through it.  This will form the pins that hold the band halves together.


Then I ‘opened’ the brass strip back up and bent it around the mast.  This gives it the general shape.


I drilled holes in the longer ends for pins, and trimmed those ends down to length.  I made two of these pieces, identical in every way.

Next up is the oddly shaped shackle.  This is going to be very small, yet it needs to be fairly sturdy as it will hold the fore boom to the mast.  I decided to make this using some brass and my milling machine.

I started with a piece of brass strip.  This isn’t the 1/64″ strip that I commonly use.  This is thicker and wider.  It is actually quite difficult to bend, so I’ve rarely used it.

I started by drilling the two holes for the boom and tack.


These were done with a drill press.  Their position isn’t exact – I just need them to be offset.

Next I clamped the piece down on some scrap wood and started in with the mill.  I ‘eyeballed it’.  I took out some material around the holes to give it the general shape I needed.

I also removed a lot of material going back away from the holes.  This forms a thin ‘stem’.  I’ll bend this around to make the ring that connects to the gooseneck.


The piece was cut free, and the stem was bent around to form a ring.

It isn’t pretty, but I think the ugly parts won’t be too visible once it gets installed.


So, now I have all he parts for the gooseneck:


Now it just needs to be installed.

The bands were glued in place first.  Next I had to fit the connector between the bands, which required a lot of trial-and-error.  I had to install the top pin with the connector and shackle installed, mark the location of the bottom pin, remove everything, and make the second eye in the connector.  This took several tries to get it the right length.

Once it was finished, the shackle hangs from the gooseneck just like it should.  It is loose and can move around.


With that, I’ve finished all the work on the lower masts.  The next step will be to make and install a ton of mast hoops before moving on to the parts near the top of the lower masts.