The Skerry plans indicate that spars can be made out of spruce, even that stuff found at the big box stores. So I am thinking I need to:

  1. Pick through the bins for some straight stock, preferably with few knots.
  2. Run it through the table saw to get the proper dimensions
  3. Cut scarf joints to eliminate any knotty sections
  4. Glue them up

Am I missing anything? Anyone play with other lumber types? I am sticking with a solid mast – I looked into the birds nest idea but think I will pass on that for now. Sounds like it can always be a retrofit later.


20 replies:

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RE: Spar'ing

Hi John,

I used Douglas Fir from Home Depot 4" x 4" x 8' posts.  My scarfing jig is shown in the photo on the right.  I think that these masts are on the diminutive side to bother with birds-mouth construction.

More about the spar building here:



RE: Spar'ing

Hi John

 I used Sitka Spruce for my mast and it worked great. Originally I put a spruce mast together from spruce 2x4's purchased at Home Depot and it worked alright - ugly as sin mind you and the grain in the wood made it much more difficult to work (carve), and then trying to avoid knots etc. The Sitka was beautiful to work with - straight grain, no knots, much lighter weight and looked great when finished doubt it was more expensive, but I was able to find a piece locally (Noah's Boatbuilding Supply) that was long enough that I didn't have to scarf it together to get the full length -simply one lamination right down the centre line. You can see images of my mast on the Jimmy skiff section of the website - it's the red one. I've had the Jimmy Skiff with this mast on it out on Lake Ontario in some pretty good blows gusting 20 knots with waves in the 3 to 4 foot range and it handled it with no problem (better than I did...)...perhaps my original mast would've done as well ...who knows.

 Just my 2 cents...have fun



Lake Ontario?

You must be a neighbor - I'm in Rochester.


RE: Spar'ing

Neighbour to the north (note spelling of "neighbour") - Just outside Toronto...


RE: Spar'ing

Hi Again John,

 I found the links for a couple of sites that may be helpful for you when it comes to spars and Polytarp:

Duckworks is an online magazine with lots of articles and links - enter polytarp into the search on the Duckworks site and I'm sure you'll come up with  quite a bit

The PDRacer website is located at - good info and photos there.

The PDRacer Yahoo forum is really great - lots of images and tons of posts on just about everything to do with simple spars and polytarp - they're located at

There is another PDRacer site in Australia - actually it's a forum for a designer by the name of Michael Storer who has designed a number of small boats including his version of the PDRacer - seems to be a very knowledgeable guy and there is info on building both masts and sails here

The OZ PDRacer also has a website where there are photos of the actual sailmaking process as well

See also Michael Storer's site on the subject

 Hope this helps


RE: Spar'ing

If you guys are looking for a high quality mast, there's also the carbon fiber option. I know that most people's first reaction is that it's way too expensive, but that's not necessarily the case.

Pre-made CF masts are expensive, unless you can get a good deal on a used one. However, doing it yourself can make it competitive with wood. Clear, well-seasoned straight-grained wood is next to impossible to find at the DIY stores. Sitka spruceis wonderful wood, but it costs upwards of $10.00 per foot, depending on exactly what and where you buy it. Then, unless you just happen to live within driving distance of a lumberyard which stocks it, you have to pay shipping, which in many cases includes an outsized item charge, unless you're willing to scarf lots of smaller bits together.

A carbon fiber mast kit for the Skerry would cost $200. It ships to your door in a package the size of a large shoebox, so no crazy shipping charges. The kit also includes the resin and hardener. Compared to $120 for just the Sitka spruce before shipping costs, CF masts are actually pretty price competitive, rather than exorbitant. And you end up with a 2 lb mast for a Skerry. Think of the convenience of stepping the mast with 1 hand.

Anyway, just a thought for you mast builders. Here's a link to my CF mast build page.




Stealth Skerry

Wow Lazlo, that is some option, thanks for sharing.

A 2lb mast is very attractiv. Did you then sand and paint?


RE: Spar'ing


It definitely wants to be sanded and painted. That's going to happen when the shop temperatures become warm enough for this Southern California exile to endure again. Once it's all sanded and painted and the very minimal fittings attached, I still expect it to end up less than 3 lbs.



RE: Spar'ing

Laszlo, we're all wondering, but nobody wants to ask for fear of seeming stupid.

Do we need to use the extra virgin olive oil on the mandrel?  I'm thinking the cheaper stuff would be ok, since the strong oily flavor would never be noticed in this particular application.

The reason I need to ask is this.  The little woman caught me sneaking a bottle of the Bertolucci EVOO out to the shop, and wanted to know what I thought I was doing.  I told her I was making her a birthday salad and wanted to surprise her.  She seemed to be satisfied with that until she realized that her birthday is 8 months away, which hadn't occurred to me in the heat of the moment.

Then it occurred to both of us at the same time that neither of us had ever heard of a birthday salad, only a birthday cake and from then on it was a series of increasingly hostile questions like "So, where were you going to put the candles?" and so on and I just dug myself deeper and deeper.

Anyway I am boring you with my personal problems but we will all want to know your opinion on this particular question.


RE: Spar'ing

Here's an uncommon word to go with the 'hubris' we enjoyed few weeks back - surely it's rather PROFLIGATE of Laszlo to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for this application: I'd have tried Canola - much cheaper, and probably equally slippery.

And referring to the pink-hued drips shown in one of his photos - is this blood, Laszlo, caused by excessive squeezing of the mast?   I've heard of getting blood out of a stone, but...

Cheers - great idea, this CF trick, by the way.


RE: Spar'ing


So, is the unsigned poster Camper, by any chance? And Wordsmith, congrats on using both hubris and profligate in one post. Though, if you guys go back and read carefully, you'll see that I never once specified extra virgin. All I ever mentioned was "olive oil". But it made a better story your way, so I may go back and change it.

Unfortunately, I have to disappoint you by revealing that the pink is caused by the dye in the elastic threads which hold the individual fibers together in the CF tube. Again, your way is better, but this one I can't plausibly change. But those pink drops are just the kind of detail you won't find on anyone else's web page.

Bringing you all the news that's fit to drip on the floor,




I know not why my name didn't appear on the post, unless it's because Harris has revoked my privileges for asking too many stupid Sharpie questions.

Webmaster: for a few hours at least, my post was actually signed "jshaley", which I assume your system filled in because that poor soul did the last post prior to mine.  Normally, no-one would mind this bug, but in this case, an innocent person had his name associated with a post of mine, a fate none of us deserves, including me.

L. I shared your blog with a novice CF mast builder here in the great unwashed Midwest. Thanks.

Just in case, I am signing this...

Very truly yours,

Robert Pruden

No, seriously: 



RE: Spar'ing

Now Camper, THAT was funny!... "Robert Pruden", only one give-away (other than the 'No, seriously' part), you would have signed it Robert N. Pruden to be more authentic.  Then of course, the great unwashed Midwest would have been a bit puzzling, but I guess Canada has a Midwest as well, but us relative southerners don't tend to think of it that way.

That whole olive oil discussion eluded me until I went back and re-read Laszlo's web pages.  I had seen this some time back, but didn't remember that particular detail.  Perhaps it is best that I didn't go ahead and build a CF mast and skip that step, I'd end up with a 15 pound mast and wonder where I went wrong.

Ron Paro - NH (close to Canada, and formerly from the American Midwest)

RE: Spar'ing

I think the bug with the forum software is that your session is auto-logged out after some random time-interval. (You would no longer see, ">> Hello <username>" or the read/unread color-coding of the mesage subject listing if you were to refresh or revisit some other page.) If you take too long to compose your message, and post the reply after your session has timed-out, your username doesn't get attached. The subject listing then shows the submitter as being the person who originated the thread.

I remember Lazlo asking whether the forum software used for the pocketshipr site might be used for this one as well. I don't think the question was ever answered. But that forum software would be a vast improvement over the package used for this forum. Ability to preview and edit posts alone would make things so much better. Now, I wonder if I typed this fast enough to get it posted before my session times out! Doh!!! No time for editing! Must "Post Message" now!!!


Ogata (eric)

RE: Spar'ing

The middle initial! It was the perfect crime, but I forgot the middle initial!! 

 Paro, by coincidence I actually forged your name at first, and then thought better of it, since Canadians cannot legally bring felony charges in the US.   Now that I know you can read my rough drafts before I send them, gosh, I will have to be more careful.

Anyway, it has taken me over 30 posts to get one laugh out of you but's it worth it.  Still got your CLC hat?

Where in the Midwest?  And then we will have to stop boring people to death, and get back to boats.  Or, kayaks, at least.


RE: Spar'ing

Hi Again John

Sorry - I sent you all those links previously some which may be useful for your mast -  others you may have been wondering "what the heck is that guy sending me all those polytarp links for?"

The cold up here must be freezing my brain - the polytarp links were actually in answer to another similar post by a gentleman asking for advice on masts and also polytarp sails for a Skerry - just to clear things up. Sorry for the confusion.

Crazy Kelly

RE: Spar'ing

Serious Thread Drift Alert (STD Alert?)

Camper, I'm pretty certain that I have not read 30 of your posts and not at least smiled, chuckled, giggled, or guffawed at each one, and yes as a matter of fact I do still sport my CLC cap from time-to-time.

CLC Cap Model

Now, to get back to boats and more specifically, spars.  This is my friend's 1959 Ostkust, a 24' sloop designed by Al Mason.


Ron J. Paro (formerly of Auburn IL)


Identity Crisis

So Kelly thinks I'm Nathan, and Robert thinks he is me...

Still - great info guys. I found out that Noahs marine is just down the road from me thanks to this thread. But since they do not offer "pick up" that is not as handy as it could be. Still, a great source for the stuff CLC does not offer (ex: spars). Again, thanks for the feedback.

RE: Spar'ing

I'd like to comment on Ogata's views (above) on the mechanism used in this Forum - he wants an edit and preview facility.   Why not create the document in WORD, then you can do all the creating and checking necessary to your heart's content, THEN cut-and-paste and post it.   This would be very useful with some of the more complex/ technical posts we see - and all enjoy!

But - my two bob's worth is - I'd like to see the latest posts come up first so that I don't have to scroll through all the earlier ones - seen before - to locate the most recent.   Any chances of this, Mr CLC please?   I believe I'm not alone in hoping for this small embellishment to an otherwise excellent and easy-to-use site.

Cheers to all...


RE: Spar'ing

Well, without turning this thread into a vile screed of grievances with the forum software, .... (oh hell, why not?)

I'm far from the first to point out that the forum software used here is, well, umm, idiosyncratic in the way it renders everything from basic text, to links and images.

Being idiosyncratic is a minor pain, but can be worked around once you understand the idiosyncrasies. It would be helpful to be able to "Preview" posts to see how the forum software will render them before they go splat for all eternity. It would be helpful to be able "Edit" posts as an additional opportunity to understand and repair problems with mis-shapen splattage. It seems like being a nuisance to submit a string of broken posts, (that image didn't work, let me try again, oops not that way either, ....) which you can't delete or repair once they have been commited. This is mostly the problem to which I am referring that can be mitigated by "Preview" and "Edit" functions that are commonly available in most forums. 

Yes, it would also allow me to go back to correct the spelling of "Laszlo" when necessary but that is the least of my worries! :)

Anyway, that pocketship forum sure looks nice by comparison, that's all I'm sayin'


Ogata (eric)

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