Masts and Spars -


Masts and spars can be created at home using a 40' profile cutting horizontal milling machine with a cylindrical cutting attachment. Sound expensive?  Figure on 400 bucks.  These photos show what my dad (Bill Adkison) could with a little Yankee know how.

This requires a cutter to move radially around tree and down it's length while following a fixed taper schedule.  A router will cut wood, a tree can be put on rotating centers like a corn cob and the two can be held in proper relation by holding the router on a base that can follow boards set at the right height and angled to the required taper.  This is an example of working a problem from the end result backward from first principles to satisfy minimal requirements to the job.  We end up with a well suited custom tool that after completing it's task, can be taken back apart and almost all the parts made available for other duties.

Building Tool

  • Seasoned and debarked tree gets pinched between to stable points so that it can be turned by hand.

  • Planks are supported alongside tree to form a table around 5” below the trees center. Multiple planks are cut for each section of taper (more later).

  • Router is laid sideways and a base made to hold it stiffly horizontal while sitting on a board. A piece of wood attached to the back edge of the board furthest from the bit to act as a guide.  Now the router can be slid along the plank and shoved up to the guide block there by limiting the height of cut and the rough depth of cut while allowing the whole affair to slide along the length of the tree.

  • Boards with rollers can be rotated to act as guides and clamped or nailed into place to keep the mast or spar from bouncing.

Using Tool

  • Plan out taper profile and replicate it in planks. Mast diameters may start out 4” at the step (keel) and be 5” at the deck, then taper slowly until the last third then drop to 2-3/4 at the mast head (made up example).  You'll need to cut and support the plank at each change in taper or just saw the edge to the profile intended.

  • During roughing, The planks are set so the router and plank combination can, at full extension, reach into the tree no closer then 1/2” from the final intended mast size taking into account the intended tapers.

  • The router is now started and slid into the tree until the guide hits then the tree is rotated by hand until a slice goes around it. Do this every three inches or so, then use a hatchet to knock out the uncut areas in between (as a rule work toward diminishing taper).

  • Reset the planks to take the first shaping pass. Run the router closer to the final diameter and turn the mast. Move it a bit and keep going until the entire mast is uniformly tapered and round. BTW - This may take many days and a number of passes.

  • Finish with a fine cut to just about the final diameter.  Buy sandpaper in rolls. Wrap a 7’ piece of coarse sand paper around the mast once and holding one end in each hand start dragging it back and forth. Work from end to end rolling the mast as needed to finish it up.  You’ll get tighter shirts this way.

Enlisting labor and thought in leu of money produces results that defy the lazy mans replication. You could do it too   (copyright 2010, Ken Adkison.)