Spar work

While much of the spar work is done, there are still a few projects in the works. We’ll start with the smallest one: the whaleboat gaffs.


We have many whaleboats that will be loaded on to the Morgan, made at a number of shops. All of them will get rigs and sails, as well as oars. Two of the boats need their rigs, so while we are waiting for paint to dry or ironwork to be finished, we can turn to these projects. These two gaffs are made of fir, and as you can see, they’re being taken down from 4-sided to 8-sided using a draw knife.

The great thing about the draw knife is that it can really remove material quickly and accurately.


When the grain is running right, you can pull a 1/4+” shaving with no trouble at all. This draw knife has a couple of nifty little depth stops attached to it.


They have angled sides, and clamp onto the blade at whatever distance you like. When set properly, you can quickly take a 4-sided spar to 8 sides in almost no time. As long as the spar is straight (no taper) you don’t even need to lay out the guide lines, just go until you reach the proper depth, and move on to the next corner.

This is about 2 hrs of work.


Moving up a few orders of magnitude, the main course yard came in the shop a while back for some work. The first order of business was to remove and inspect all of her metal work.


The old iron work was fastened over painted canvas pads. I think that the idea was to use the pads to protect the spar from being damaged by the straps. The downside to this method appears to be that the canvas, even though it was painted, held water and accelerated the rusting of the iron.


These straps will need a lot of building up to get them back to full strength.

The earrings on each end also showed significant wear and a fair amount of rust.


You can see how the top ring is worn about halfway though. We stamp each part to identify it later, since we’ll soon strip an sandblast it down to bare metal.


S for starboard.

Aside from the metal work, this spar needed new jackstays and a new paint job. Ann & Wayne did a beautiful job of stripping the old paint.


Alex, Jeff, Ann and others all helped to paint it and make it look beautiful.


Once the ironwork is complete, we can attach the jack stays that Alex made a while back.

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Trev has been working on the jibbom. This is the long spar that extends out from the bowsprit.


Here he’s cutting the heel tenon.


This will socket into a pad that attaches to the knightheads (tall posts on either side of the opening that the bowsprit protrudes through). Some chisel work cleans everything up.


Scott, Dean, Ryan and Bobby set up the Lucas chainsaw mill a while back to get out some new wood for two new upper masts. This will be the Main T’Gallent:


and this will become the Mizzen Topmast.


Feeding the T’Gallent through the big planer.

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Dean then lays out the center line and all of the diameter changes along the spar’s length.

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Those twin lines are his guides for cutting the 45 degree facets to 8-side the mast.

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This is the old mast on the right. You can see how skinny it gets at the top end (closest to the camera)


And here’s the same end on the spar that Dean’s working on.


It’s handy to make notes to yourself as you go along. There’s a lot of little details to keep in working memory so it’s best to leave reminders.


Wise words, master.

After 8-siding the spar, Dean uses a homemade jig that lays out the proper locations for 16-siding. The sides of the jig ride along the edges of the mast and two precisely placed nails in the top scratch the layout lines on the top of the spar.

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The nice thing about this kind of jig is that it automatically adjusts to taper as you go along. If the spar gets skinnier, the sides of the jig come closer together, and this angles the top piece with the nails in it. As the top piece angles, the nails scratch lines that are closer together (imagine the extreme case of the spar becoming as thin as paper, the jig sides would come together, bringing the top piece in line with the axis of the spar. The nails would be exactly in line with each other).

Nathan has taken on the job of shaping the next spar, the mizzen top mast.


He’s laid out center lines and circles describing the diameters of this mast as it tapers. Familiar country, yes?

Back to Dean. He’s moved through 16 sides now and is fast approaching round.


The t’gallent has a set of trees about two-thirds down its length to guide rigging. Dean has set them on the mast to check their fit and is planing up to them.


The base of the t’gallent is square, and there is a gentle transition between this and the round spar above.


Checking the fit of the cap that goes on the square top of the topmast below the t’gallent.


The hounds are the little ledges that supports various rigging structures or lines. In this case, these t’gallent hounds will support the cross trees that you saw earlier. Dean reinforces these rather small hounds with a metal band.

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Rounding is pretty much done on this spar now. The transition has been faired as well.


You may recall that when the heel of a spar fits into the boxed section of the trees below it, a block of wood called a fid is inserted cross-ways through the spar to keep it from sliding down through the box. Dean is cutting the slot for the fid using a portable drill press.


He squares and cleans up the slot with a sharp chisel.


Test fitting the fid.


Still a little tight. It’s best to leave ample room for swelling, coats of paint, that sort of thing.

Just a little more work, and this spar will be ready for painting.

Over on the mizzen top, Nathan uses a broad axe to rough out the general shape of the spar.


Prior to using the axe, he made witness cuts across the spar to mark the depth that he wanted to cut to.

After roughing cutting, he smooths down to his lines with hand and power planes. The stepped design of the mast is obvious at this point.


We use whatever tool seems best at the time. In this section, he’s pulled out the Big Saw, the 16” Makita. This thing is a beast.


Squaring things up, and defining the transitions clearly.


He’s marked for 8-siding and is using a draw knife to hog off the corners.


More on this spar soon.

There are other smaller spar projects that have been going on around the shop as well. The ends of the fore t’gallent yard were tapered down for the earrings.


Although the earring attachments aren’t finished, they are close enough to allow fitting to the yard.


Notice that the spar rests on rollers to make it easy to spin it around as it’s being shaped.

The jackstays were removed on the main royal yard and reattached with sturdier fasteners.


A good idea since the sail hangs off the jackstays. The last thing we want is a sail coming down on our heads.

More soon!