Wood vs. Aluminum Spars - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 13 Old 03-26-2010 Thread Starter
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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?

Catalina 34

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post #2 of 13 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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post #3 of 13 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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post #4 of 13 Old 03-26-2010 Thread Starter
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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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post #5 of 13 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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post #6 of 13 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.
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post #7 of 13 Old 03-26-2010
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David
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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post #8 of 13 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.

I hate storms, but calms undermine my spirits." - Bernard
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post #9 of 13 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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post #10 of 13 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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36' Solaris Sunstar catamaran
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