Small tree as sailboat mast

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by clmanges, May 20, 2021.

  1. clmanges
    Joined: Jul 2008
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    clmanges Senior Member

    Is there anything wrong with this idea? Seems to me that, as long as it could be shaved smooth, it should work as well as a fabricated wooden mast, maybe better.

    I have a couple candidates growing in my back yard; one is, I believe, white ash; the other is some deciduous species I haven't identified yet. Both have nice straight trunks and rather thin limbs. They're both about 3- 4" dia. at the base and--maybe--tall enough. They'd be for a plywood boat about 12 feet long; I'm thinking sail area around 60 sq. ft. I have a junk rig in mind, and am leaning towards a double-outrigger.

    I can season them in a very dry place in my basement.
  2. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Carbon Based Life Form

    Why not? Small trees or saplings have been used for that purpose for thousands of years.
  3. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    I would think the species would be the key determinant, a lot of trees look nice and straight, but lack the properties to withstand the rigours of being used as a mast. I recall reading about how Captain James Cook was taken with the large stands of a tall, straight pine tree on isolated Norfolk Island, and thought the island should be acquired as a source of masts for the Royal Navy. As it turned out, the trees were found not sufficiently resilient for use as ship's masts.
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  4. clmanges
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    clmanges Senior Member

    I've got tons of pine trees here--my dad planted them--but they're all pitch-pine and structurally useless (and gum up cutting tools). That's why I'm looking at these hardwoods, though I'm not sure if they'd be too stiff.
  5. Will Gilmore
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    Will Gilmore Senior Member

    It should work perfectly fine. You need to dry the wood correctly or you will get radial checking in the log.

    I recommend a light coat of wax or poly on the exposed ends to slow down the drying. Don't let the outside dry to fast for the heart.

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  6. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Ash is really tough and flexible. It was one of the preferred species for bows. If the extra weight, compared to spruce, is not an issue it will make a good mast.
    hoytedow likes this.
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