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alanporter 05-25-2008 08:19 PM

Wooden mast question
 
:confused: Does anyone know why the top part of wooden masts are painted white, while the rest is just natural varnished wood ? The question has bugged me for years and no one has ever been able to give me an answer.
Thanks
Alan

Plumper 05-25-2008 11:42 PM

The top of the spreaders and the top portion of the masts are painted white because they are harder to re-varnish. A quick coat of paint is easier and more durable.

You don't notice the top of the spreaders unless you go aloft.

Moonfish 05-26-2008 11:28 PM

I had a beautifully varnished sitka spruce mast on my Gulf 40. It was varinshed (by the PO) all the way to the very top - no paint. One day while out sailing I went up to the mast to tighten the jib which was sagging slightly. As I looked at the jib and began to crank, the winch pulled partway out of the mast in my hand (yes, that was a sickening feeling...). Water had over the years wicked its way up from the bottom at the deck step plate, and about three feet up the mast the wood got soft from the inside out until the three-inch long screws holding the winch in place pulled out.

Anyway... Long story short, had the mast pulled and fixed at Schooner Creek Boatworks in Portland, OR. While it was down, more soft spots were found at the very top of the mast where a lot of the harware was attached. It was because the varnish started peeling and blistering at the wood/metal points, way before any other part of the mast began to show any signs of UV degradation. So water got in at the top. Just like Plumper said, paint up there is a lot easier to work with and won't fail as quickly.

The yard owner, Steve Rander (who is an awesome boat guy), told me the "rule of thumb" for painting wood spars was to paint the top 1/5 to 1/6 of the mast.

FishSticks 06-01-2008 08:08 AM

When I acquired this boat in 1962 the masts were painted. Eventually rot set into the top of the main adjacent to a fastening. The paint had done a nice job of masking it. After scarfing on a new top section I have kept it varnished, which makes it far easier to detect the onset of problems. Yes, paint lasts longer, and I don't enjoy varnishing, but it's safer and they look a lot better.

Years ago an old timer came by while I was docked in Gloucester, and chastized me for having painted masts. When I told him that I already had more maintenance than I could handle he said, "Just slush 'em down with used motor oil like we did on the fishing schooners."

When it comes to varnish, I have had the best luck with Pettit's Flagship. I stripped them and put on six coats four years ago. And as I speak, we are doing it again.

Anyone have a better idea?

AA3NK 07-02-2008 03:40 PM

Stripping the mast
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by FishSticks (Post 322690)
When I acquired this boat in 1962 the masts were painted. Eventually rot set into the top of the main adjacent to a fastening. The paint had done a nice job of masking it. After scarfing on a new top section I have kept it varnished, which makes it far easier to detect the onset of problems. Yes, paint lasts longer, and I don't enjoy varnishing, but it's safer and they look a lot better.

Years ago an old timer came by while I was docked in Gloucester, and chastized me for having painted masts. When I told him that I already had more maintenance than I could handle he said, "Just slush 'em down with used motor oil like we did on the fishing schooners."

When it comes to varnish, I have had the best luck with Pettit's Flagship. I stripped them and put on six coats four years ago. And as I speak, we are doing it again.

Anyone have a better idea?

What type or brand of stripper did you use to remove the old varnish? I take it that your mast is sitka spruce. Maybe not? I'll be doing mine in the next week or so. The varnish last applied was Epiphanes or however it is spelled. It was done by pros but has not lasted four years.

Oh, just for planning, about how much stripper and how much varnish might it take for about a 41' mast?

SilverHunter 05-12-2016 12:40 AM

Re: Wooden mast question
 
What sort of paint would you recommend for sitka spruce that will last the longest?

capta 05-12-2016 01:02 AM

Re: Wooden mast question
 
Most gaff rigged or square rigged vessels have the white painted tops, but I've rarely seen box section Sitka Spruce masts painted that way.
I've owned a Phil Rhodes ocean racer with a 65' box section Sitka Spruce mast that was completely varnished and a 1909 traditional gaff ketch with painted top masts, and they both required an equal amount of maintenance and inspection.
I'm with FishSticks though. You can not see what's under the paint. Get yourself an alloy spar if you don't want to maintain the wood. There are no short cuts; wooden spars are a whole lot of work, or a whole lot of expense.

paulk 05-13-2016 12:31 AM

Re: Wooden mast question
 
In the "old days" boats that had gear that traveled up and down the mast - gaffs, hoops, yards, whatever, slushed (greased) that part of the mast so that the gear would slide nicely up and down. (The cook was supposed to keep a bucket of grease handy for just this purpose.) Paint certainly wouldn't stick to a greased mast section. The top parts of the mast or spar ends didn't have anything moving over them, so could be painted (less maintenance!) Frugal ship owners used white on the ends of the spars because it was cheaper and holds up better than other colors.

Capt Len 05-13-2016 01:56 AM

Re: Wooden mast question
 
The white back in the day was probably white lead in linseed oil. Makes a pretty good rot resister. Black was carbon black in oil. Knew an old fart who mixed copper bottom paint in oil and slatherd it on everythink (called Oily George) I've still got cans of red and white lead in the shed but no need for it any more. Used to sluush the masts but pretty messy. Then figured a kid from the youth hostel and a pail of Cetol on a bosen's chair was better

capta 05-13-2016 02:29 AM

Re: Wooden mast question
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Capt Len (Post 3486162)
The white back in the day was probably white lead in linseed oil. Makes a pretty good rot resister. Black was carbon black in oil. Knew an old fart who mixed copper bottom paint in oil and slatherd it on everythink (called Oily George) I've still got cans of red and white lead in the shed but no need for it any more. Used to sluush the masts but pretty messy. Then figured a kid from the youth hostel and a pail of Cetol on a bosen's chair was better

If you could hang on to a can or two of red and white lead for me, we'll be up in the states in the summer of 17, and I'd be most appreciative if we could make a deal. Neither is available, even in the 3rd world, any more.
I can still get real Freon (not that we have any equipment that will run on the most efficient refrigeration gas ever invented) and a few other things down here, but some of the old goodies are long gone.


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