Bob Pottle's Mast Making Tutorial

Here's a description of how I make my soldered brass masts. (I've made a set for HMS Royal Oak and am starting a set for the Mersey today.) Regarding mast heights I use the table previously sent for both the fore and main masts and then cut 2mm of the bottom of the fore mast to make it slightly shorter. That gives a close match to drawings in Oscar Parke's 'British Battleships 1860-1950'. There are no steam frigates shown except for the HMS Ariadne. Based on that photo I make the mizzen mast and its yards 3/4 the size of the main for frigates.

I assemble the 1/600 masts from 1/16", 3/64" and 1/32" K&S brass rod. Dimensions are based on the standard Royal Navy masting schemes (#1-3) illustrated/listed in an appendix of 'British Battleships 1860-1950' by Oscar Parkes. Height above deck is increased by the length of rod necessary to pass through the hull to waterline level.

The degree of overlap between the three mast sections is based on photographic evidence where available. Standard yard lengths listed by Parkes are converted to millimeters with 3/64" brass rod used for main and topsail yards and 1/32" rod for the top gallant and royal yards.

The masts are soldered together, in two stages. The sections of rod are held by 4 alligator clips mounted on a steel rod with u-joints. This is a combination of two cheap surplus store items consisting of a base, horizontal steel rod with a magnifying glass and two clips on each.

With the two lower mast sections in contact and properly aligned flux is applied and they're soldered with a 25W iron I use for finer stained glass work.

Before the top mast section is added the first soldered joint is coated with gelcoat which is allowed to harden (4-5 hours) The next section can then be added without the first soldered joint falling apart. It is also gelcoated.

Next, the lower two yards are added but not cut to correct length until soldered. I lay the rod across two lengths of 1" x 1/4" balsa, lean the mast against it, holding the mast base against the shop table with a heavy pair of pliers on its end, and solder it.

With the main yard attached another length of rod is placed across the two pieces of balsa and the mast is laid across it, supported on the balsa by the main yard and the new section.

When the topsail yard position is correct for height and parallel to the main yard the mast is again secured by the pliers being laid on it and the topsail yard is soldered on. This ensures the two yards are aligned in the same plane and keeps the main yard from detaching as the topsail yard is added.

A similar process is used to attach the upper yards, then all mast/yard soldered joints are gelcoated. Finally, the spar which supports the schooner type sail on the aft side of each mast (forgive my lack of nautical knowledge re terminology) is added by holding a length of 3/64" rod against the mast just below the main yard and soldering it in position. It is cut to length, as are all yards/spars when they're added.

Excess solder is removed with a Swiss file. Gelcoat is applied to the underside of the yards and gradually built up in 2-3 applications to represent the furled sails.

Fighting tops are made from styrene with adjacent holes drilled/Swiss filed for the overlapping mast segments. They are then cut in half through the centers of the holes and rejoined on the masts by strips of 0.5 mm 1.0mm styrene on their undersides. The fighting tops are secured at the proper height by thick CA glue.

Masts are then cleaned, primed and painted. They are mounted in 1/16" holes drilled in the deck.

Not "a brief explanation" but it should have clarified my method. I make 3-4 sets of masts at once and with practice can complete the soldering in two evenings and the fighting tops and painting in two more.

Bob Pottle
Halifax, N.S.


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