Wood vs. Aluminum Spars - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 03-26-2010
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Wood vs. Aluminum Spars

Can someone layout the pros and cons for each mast material?

Here's what I've got so far (correct me if I'm wrong):

Wooden Mast Cons:
- More maitainence w/ varnish, paint, etc.
- No internal halyards
- Wiring for masthead lights? VHF antenna? Etc?
- More weight aloft?
- Less strength?

Wooden Mast Pros:
- Salty looks
- Easier replacement in remote countries?
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Old 03-26-2010
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I can find no good reason to have a tree trunk holding up sails when there are much better modern materials available.
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Old 03-26-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zz4gta View Post
I can find no good reason to have a tree trunk holding up sails when there are much better modern materials available.
I have to agree with this. Unless the boat is an old wodden classic and you're trying to keep it original as a bit of history (and there is value in that) then you don't want a wooden mast, for all the reasons you stated, plus concerns about weight vs strength.
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Old 03-26-2010
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I've looked at a few older, salty boats lately that both have wooden masts, and it's a real minus for me so far. I guess I was just wondering if I've overlooked some benefit to having wooden masts.
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Old 03-26-2010
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Hollow section wood gives better strength/weight than aluminum- but IMO it's more than offset by the disadvantages.

Oh and wood masts float.
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Old 03-26-2010
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  • Wood could arguably be less likely to be hit by lightning but that is debatable.
  • Wood can always be repaired and made as good as new. Some new pieces a scarf or two and some glue and you are good. A bent aluminum spar is probably junk, a carbon fiber spar goes from hi-tech to garbage in seconds.
  • Bad fastener holes can be filled and re-drilled and look fine.
  • In an emergency broken spars can be more easily jerry-rigged for temporary use as spar or rudder or just about anything.
  • Wood spars while needing more maintenance require much less hi-tec finishing requirements, fewer steps and even if not done perfectly can still look pretty good.
  • Wood spars are often made hollow to reduce weight and allow for wiring.
  • A wood mast will be quieter, less clanking from halyards.

And that's just the beginning.
You youngsters making boats out of stuff yer sposed to line the chicken baking pan with. Just not right
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Old 03-26-2010
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I don't think lightning would stay away from a mast, whether wood, metal, or carbon fibre if it was held up by wire stays. Lightning likes trees and they don't even have the rigging.

Except on a very traditional old gaffer I think all wooden spars are likely to be hollow. Stay away from painted wooden masts as you can't tell the condition - varnish lets you see problems. A high quality wooden mast is not easy to build/repair nor inexpensive. Good clear sitka spruce is now rare in long lengths and prices like gold.
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Old 03-26-2010
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Quote:
Wooden Mast Cons:
- No internal halyards
I really don't see that as an disadvantage, I think external halyard are better because if they jam, you can easily see were is the probleme...

If you don't have a lot of $$ I don't see whats wrong with a wooden mast.

But if you don't maintain your wooden mast correctly it could rot.
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Old 03-26-2010
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On a new build I'd guess that there would not be much difference in cost between buying an aluminum mast or having someone build a good hollow mast. Of course if you built the wooden mast yourself it would be less - especially if you didn't have to buy the 100 clamps required.
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Old 03-26-2010
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Regarding lightning vs. wood/aluminum -
I once read a theory (which I don't pretend to understand) to the effect that an aluminum mast is less likely to be struck than a wood mast. Something to do with the idea that the metal mast is more likely to dissipate the charge as it builds up. I think the theory said an aluminum mast reduced your chances of being struck by about 1%, maybe even 2%.
Sounded counter-intuitive to me, but I ain't no scientist.
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