Bluenose Canadian Schooner

Top Masts and Mast Coats

June 8, 2017

Day 433.

With the lower masts complete, I started in on the top masts.  These are pretty simple compared to the lower masts.

The top masts for the fore and main masts are identical, except for their height.

The masts contain some sheaves at the bottom, an iron fid to hold them in place, a shoulder band, and a gilt ball and truck.


The basic shaping of the top masts was done way back when I first started on the masts.  I did this back then because having the top masts shaped would be necessary to make the mast caps.  So now all I need to do is finish out the various details.

I started with the mast tackle sheaves.  These are indicated on the plans, and the plans seem to indicate that we won’t actually be running any rigging through them.  A trusted source on the NRG Model Ship World forum explained that these were likely used to help raise the top masts into place, which would explain why no standing or running rigging runs through here.

I made these by drilling two holes through the masts as the right spot, then using my milling machine to shape the ‘roller’ inside the sheave.  My masts are stained with a light ‘natural’ color, so I stained the ‘roller’ a darker shade to make it stand out.


Mast tackle sheaves are made from holes drilled into the masts.

Next up are the shoulder bands.  These are brass bands near the top of the top masts.  These are very similar to the bands found on the lower mast, and they went together quickly.   Ideally these should be made by soldering wire loops onto a brass band, but I decided to use eyebolts for the loops.

The bands were made like all my others – shaped around the mast, trimmed to size, soldered shut, then drilled with the appropriate holes.


Shoulder bands made from brass strips.

The bands were then slipped into place.  I drilled through the holes into the mast, and glued in eyebolts to form the loops.


Eyebolts are glued into the shoulder bands.

The eyebolts were then bent down to make them angled, instead of sticking straight out.

The gilt ball and truck were tough.  I tried making these by carving the tip of the top mast, and ended up destroying two top masts that way.  After that, I stopped trying to ‘build it in’ on the top masts, and simply trimmed my top masts to stop right about where the gilt ball and truck begin.  I decided to make these as separate pieces and glue them on.

That too proved difficult.

The ball at the top is pretty small, but still fairly easy to shape with a metal file and some sand paper.  I shaped it from a dowel rod, then cut it loose.


The gilt ball is carved from a dowel rod.

The truck is tougher.  The truck is basically a ‘disc’ with holes on either side. These holes are used to rig the flag halliards.  I’ve seen some builds omit this, but I’m not sure how I’d run the flag halliards if I skip them.


My first attempt at the truck was using some basswood sheet wood.  I shaped it to form a disc, then drilled the holes.  However, the basswood simply fell apart every time I tried.  This thing is small – about 3/16″ diameter.

I also tried making it from a dowel rod – drilling holes into the dowel then ‘slicing’ off a disc.  That too fell apart.

Next I tried making from a strip of brass.  The brass kept the holes nice and clean, but shaping it form a disk proved difficult.

Finally, I found a method that worked out pretty well.

I used a sheet of 1/32″ thick birch plywood.  I found this at my local hobby store.  Since it is plywood, it has multiple layers glued together, making it less likely to fall apart.  I traced out the disc shape, then drilled a hole in the center to fit the top of the mast.  Then I drilled the four holes to form the sheaves for the flag halliards.  I carefully cut out the disc shape.


The truck is made from 1/32″ thick birch plywood.

Once the truck was cut free, I sanded it to clean up the shape and fit it to the top of the masts.


The finished truck installed.

The gilt ball was then drilled at the bottom so it would fit over the little bit of top mast that was sticking through the truck.  These were glued in place and stained to match the top masts.


The top of the top mast completed.

At this point, I had to stop and prepare the mast hoops for the top masts.  This was done just like the ones for the lower masts, but using the smaller hoops provided with the kit.  These were then slid on from the bottom of the masts.

The final detail for the top masts is the iron fid.  This is a bar at the base of the top masts that holds the mast in place.  This was made by drilling a hole through the base of the top mast and inserting a piece of brass rod.


The iron fid is made by drilling a hole and inserting some brass rod.

The top masts can now be put in place.  Note that I didn’t glue the iron fids in place…I don’t want to permanently install the top masts just yet.  I’ll do that after I get some rigging done.

NOTE: After I posted this to the Model Ship World forum, it was pointed out that I put the iron fids in the wrong place.  Rather than going below the trestle trees (and keeping the top masts from sliding up), they should go above the trestle trees to prevent the top masts from sliding down.  Many thanks to the forum for their help…I intend to correct this soon.

Anyway…here’s a photo of iron fids installed wrong.


The top mast seated, with the iron fid in the wrong place.

That completes the top masts.  With these temporarily installed, the masts are getting pretty darn tall.


Top and lower masts.

The last mast detail is the mast coats.  These go at the base of the lower masts, where they enter the deck.  The mast coats were made from canvas or leather, and just kind of ‘wrapped’ the joint between the mast and deck.

The kit provides some laser cut pieces to make these, but I figured I could do something a little better.

Back when I made the pin saddle for the lower mast, I drilled some dowel rods to fit the shape of the lower masts.  That took several attempts, because drilling a hole straight through a dowel rod is tricky.  I ended up with several ‘rejects’, where the hole was slightly off center.  I kept a few of those.  I’m going to use one to make the mast coats.

Using my mill, I thinned out the dowel rod at the top.  This will form the top part of the mast coat.


Mast coats are made from dowels with a hole drilled for the mast.

Then I sanded down the dowel to create a curve.  This will form the lower part of the mast coat.


After thinning out the top, a rounded edge is sanded in.

The mast coat was then cut off the dowel rod.  (At this point I repeated the process on the rejected piece to create the mast coat for the other mast).


The mast coat, after being cut free from the dowel rod.

A quick test fit on the main mast confirms this will work…


Test fit of a mast coat on the main mast.

The mast coats were then sanded a bit, primered, and painted.  Now I can fit the completed masts to the deck and see how everything looks.  (The masts are not glued in yet…I’ll do that after I prep all the rigging).


Completed mast coat installed on the fore mast.

And that completes the masts!  Having the masts installed, even temporarily, really changes the look of the ship.  And for the first time I’m seeing how big this thing is going to be.


The ship as of June 8, 2017, day 433.

Next I’ll be diving into the booms and gaffs.  These are basically ‘horizontal masts’.  The booms are low – near the deck, while the gaffs are higher up.  I’ll be starting with the main boom, which is the largest of these.