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Model Ship Mast Wood Preference

6 replies
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  • Member since
    October, 2018
Model Ship Mast Wood Preference
Posted by Paul S on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 1:38 AM

Hello All,  What wood dowels seem to be the best for carving and shaping wood masts for model ships?  The ones I can seem to get fairly easily are oak, birch, poplar and aspen.  Which of these would work well for carving, shaping and staining?

  • Member since
    May, 2009
  • From: Poland
Posted by Pawel on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 1:54 AM


I'm no expert here, I've only build one wooden ship, but I've read that you should take a wood for a mast that wouldn't change the dimensions with age and humidity changes, otherwise the rigging will go slack over time and that wouldn't be good, right? If I recall correctly the book said you should use sprue or pine for the mast because of that, but I might be wrong here. Anyhow I remember the book saying going with extra fancy wood for the mast might be a mistake. I hope other members here might add more details here - anyhow, good luck with your build and have a nice day


All comments and critique welcomed. Thanks for your honest opinions!

  • Member since
    March, 2005
Posted by philo426 on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 7:56 AM

I like to use Mahogany whenever I can.Strong and requires no staining.

  • Member since
    March, 2005
Posted by philo426 on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 7:59 AM

  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 8:06 AM

I would also bring this up in the Ships forum below.  Some real expert ship modelers hang out there.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 8:43 AM

I generally don't use round dowels. The range of wood species is very limited, usually birch. And they can be hard to find straight ones. And, except for the lowest masts of very large sailing ships, masts are perceptibly tapered. Birch dowels are hard and difficult to sand.

I make spars out of square pieces of wood that I cut on my table saw, which gives me the choice of any species of wood I can find. That includes the most workable wood I know of; basswood which is linden. Basswood strip can also be easily found from Midwest or other sources. It's sold as boards at Home Depot.

Holly, cherry or walnut also are good choices. I haven't tried mahogany, preferring to stain that color on lighter wood, but if Philo likes it, I'd say try it.

I don't use pine or oak. Oak is very hard, cutting it and sanding it is a task. Pine isn't very stable.

Try basswood strip longer than the finished part, plus whatever is needed to anchor the mast to the hull. To me, that means usually through the deck all the way down to the keel, or an inch or more in a solid hull. Take a square piece and mark on one side the taper you want. Sand the two sides flat to those marks. Flip the piece 90 degrees and mark it again on the other axis. Sand to those marks. Now you have a tapered piece, four sided. Sand the four corners so that it's an equal sided octagon in section, wider at the bottom than at the top. 

Now hold the end with exceess length and start to draw sand it through paper held in your other hand. You'll quickly learn the feel of how to slightly rotate it and maintain a round section. I can't think of a better way to taper a spar.



  • Member since
    October, 2018
Posted by Paul S on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 2:57 PM

Thanks All for the replies. I think I now have some good ideas to work with. 


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