The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

Leathering the Mast
by Tidmarch Major

Inspired by John Welsford's recent article, I finally got around to leathering the lower part of my mast. After a season of sailing Skat, the mast step and partner had worn parallel rings around the mast (for building articles, look here, here, and here; for sailing, look here and here). After shaving the mast down with a spokeshave and sanding smooth, I refinished with multiple coats of Watco Teak Oil, a UV-resistant linseed oil finish. If you look closely in the first picture, you can see that the rings still show faintly, even after refinishing.

click to enlargeTo prevent a repeat, I decided to cover the lower part of the mast in leather for better abrasion resistance, much like leathering a pair of oars. After seeing John's article, I considered leathering the partner and step, but covering the outside of the mast seemed easier than covering the inside of the partner and especially the inside of the step inside the decked forward compartment.

click to enlargeI cut a piece of leather 24 incehes long and measured the diameter of the mast at the base and 24 inches up. Though the mast has a bury of only 21", I decided to go a little longer to cover all of the refinished area. I used a builder's square to make sure that the edges were straight and the corners were right angles.

click to enlargeI covered both the inside of the leather piece and the outside of the lower 24 inches of the mast with Marine Goop, a type of contact cement. (Curiously, the marine variety of Goop was significantly less expensive than ordinary Goop at about $1 per ounce vs. nearly $5 per ounce; I suppose we're far enough from the ocean that no one here knows that adding "marine" to a label should increase rather than decrease the price.) It took a good bit of glue to cover both the mast and leather. I used up an entire 3 oz tube and would have liked a little more just for good measure. As John recommends, use gloves to avoid getting glue on the skin.

click to enlargeI let the cement dry for a few minutes and then carefully rolled the leather around the mast. My mast is laminated from 4 pieces of Douglas fir, so there is a nice glue line running along the front and back of the mast for alignment. John suggests putting the seam at the front where the load will be least, though it seems to me that with the mast driving the boat forward, the partner will be loaded at the front side and the step  at the aft side. Since I leathered the mast, I suppose it won't make much difference, as partner and step will have the seam at the same side--one will be optimal and one won't, regardless of whether I went fore or aft.

After wrapping the leather, I put the mast down on the floor and rolled it back and forth a couple of times to make sure that I had good contact all the way around. I then wrapped the entire leathered area with a spiral wrap of masking tape to maintain a bit of pressure while the glue finished curing.

Once the glue fully cures, I'll give the leather several good coats of mink oil to waterproof the leather.