The Art of Spar Manufacturing: Crafting Elegance and Performance

In the world of sailing, the term “Spar” refers to the essential components of a vessel’s rigging.These vital elements include masts, booms, spreaders, spinnaker poles etc.

The art of spar manufacturing involves a blend of craftsmanship, engineering expertise, and innovation. Every spar is more than just a functional part of a sailboat; it’s a testament to the union of elegance and performance. In this blog post, we will delve into the intricate world of spar manufacturing and the remarkable process of crafting these essential sailing components.

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Modern masts & spars can be constructed from various materials, Aluminium and carbon fibre are two of the most common modern choices but many vessels remain with wooden spars. The process of crafting a spar remains a blend of art and science. A wooden Mast is usually constructed from a straight grain Pine, Spruce or Fir such as Oregon Pine, Sikta Spruce or Douglas Fir. These North American soft woods have excellent strength to weight ratios and is why Naval architects and riggers have always utilised them.

These species of wood often come in long lengths of up to 6m and when quarter sawn and hand selected can be very straight in grain with a low number of imperfections.Longer spars can be hollowed out to reduce weight and also tapered if free standing to reduce weight aloft.

There are 4 common construction methods;
1. Solid:

Now typically quartered or halved with a ”V” cut to allow a raceway for cabling.

2. Coopered:

A series of Trapezoids bonded together to form a tube that is then planed and shaped to a fair finish.

3. Birdsmouth:

A series of rectangle sections that are bonded together using a mitre produces an exceptionally strong section. The form is planed and shaped by hand to produce a fair finish.

4. Box section:

Typically used for booms, a 4 piece spar utilising rabbet joints.

Bonding sections together requires a structural joint called a scarf. In masts & spars, best practice should always dictate a scarf ratio of 12:1. This is the Length:Depth ratio of the glued surface. Scarfs should always be staggered. Glue joints can be in Resourcinol or Epoxy. Resourcinol is a much less common adhesive now but still a great choice for soft wood mast construction. More commonly, Epoxy is now known as the strongest adhesive for such joints. When inspecting your Wooden rigging care should be paid to the colour of wood in way of fittings – black is always of concern. Removing fittings can be a good way to check the condition of the wood within the spar. Fabrication of wooden spars is much more than carpentry. An experienced shipwright is required to ensure that all these technical considerations and more are observed in the manufacture and construction of what is a highly loaded component of any yacht.

At CYS we have manufactured many wooden spars over the years and in some cases managed to repair safely rather than replace. The proof of which is in the pudding! They are all still aloft and no reported failures! Reach out to us today regarding your Spar Manufacturing needs!