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Canoe Rig

Discussion in 'Canoe Sailing' started by Woodchuck, Dec 21, 2006.

  1. Woodchuck

    Woodchuck Woodworker

    Hey Todd...

    Got your book, "Canoe Rig", yesterday and had a chance to look it over during my breakfast run this morning. Very beautiful, informative and I now plan to add a mast step and seat with mast hole along with reinforcement in the rudder area for my 17' Nomad. This way I will have the ability to sail later...
    Thanks for a beautiful book and I look forward to reading every word maybe twice...

    CYA, Joe:)
  2. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Glad you're enjoying it. Writing a book is an interesting experience. Some of it is quite rewarding. Other parts of the process will drive you nuts, but at least after it's done you get to leave something behind for future generations of paddlers to ponder and hopefully gain inspiration from.
  3. BLK

    BLK Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Hello Todd,

    Just finished reading your book. It was an excellent source to get me started. Thanks for all your work to put it together.

    Now I 'm trying to put together some practical plans to set up a sail rig for my Old Town Penobscot (I know that its not all wood, but it is what I have to start with).

    I'm fairly comfortable with your design for the leeboards and thwart. I was able to order some gunwale clamp assemblies from Old Town.

    I'm wondering if you could help with a few more practical tips to help get set up. I'm not afraid of a little woodworking, but building and shaping a hollow mast and spars would be a bit too much. I looked at the local Home Deport and found some long solid oak stair rail handles, nearly round in cross-section (1 3/4 x 1 5/8) with a one inch flat side (designed for the under side of the handle). Would this be a suitable mast and spars for a 44 sq. ft. lateen sail?


  4. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Other than being a bit heavier than normal, I don't think an oak mast would give you any problems and it's probably short enough that the increase in weight aloft wouldn't be much. As for the yard and boom, oak and ash can be used in a pinch, but they may be surprisingly whippy as well as a bit on the heavy side. If I could find a couple hunks of spruce or fir (maybe even closet pole, if I could find a couple good ones) I'd be inclined to try it first. It's usually a bit stiffer and lighter. Excessive spar bend is always one of the biggest problems to try to get some control over with long-sparred canoe sails. It makes it difficult to cut a sail that works reasonably well in a variety of conditions, so the stiffer, the better.

    On a sail of that type and size, I don't think you really gain much by going hollow on the spars - at least not enough to justify a lot of extra work, so I'd probably build them solid. If you do want to experiment with hollow construction, I'd use a different method. Shortly after "Canoe Rig" came out, a new method of hollow spar building began to show up. It's called "Bird's Mouth" construction and it's pure genius. If you'll do a search on the WoodenBoat Forum you should find some threads on it with photographs of the process. I've had several customers build tapered hollow spars with it and they came out great. None of these people had any previous spar-making experience and I think they even had fun doing it.

    Essentially, you glue-up the mast from strips of wood (eight of them, I believe - usually cut from a couple of carefully selected 2x4's, fresh from the Home Depot). They're not too different from canoe-building strips. Then you cut a V-shaped notch along one edge of each strip. The opposite edge is left square. Tapers are made by trimmimg the squared side, Then you grab a bunch of rubber bands and glue the square edges into the V-notches of the next strip over. This probably sounds crazy, but when you see the photos it will quickly make sense. When the glue dries, you have a nice, tapered, 8-sided spar. You can then round it out where desired and plug the ends. There is no hunting for perfect wood and most of the shaping is done by the process. I have no clue who developed the technique, but it's a tremendous contribution to small boat building. Whether you decide to go hollow or not, hunt up a good photo spread on this method. Sooner or later, you'll likely want to try it for fun if nothing else.
  5. BLK

    BLK Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Bird's Mouth Spars

    Thank you Todd,

    I did find several articles about this method. There is a nice one on the Duckworks website. Only problem is that I don't have a table saw. However, with the money that I save by using inexpensive lumber, I could pay for a cheap one. Then, I have to decide if I would rather make room in my boathouse / garage for extra woodworking tools or more boat supplies. I think that I'll check out the local sailboat shop first to see if they have any old mast parts before I make that decision.

  6. Max Peterson

    Max Peterson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Bird's Mouth Technique


    For those who don't own a table saw, there are interesting Bird's Mouth Joinery Router Bits in the Lee Valley Tools catalog. You can probably view them online at I haven't tried this technique, but will have to build a mast sometime by this spring. Maybe I'll try a hollow one. Come on over and we can try it out together. When doing one, we might as well build two.

  7. BLK

    BLK Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Great Idea Max

    I did look at the Lee Valley web site and they do show a photo showing spar assemply with the the bird's mouth router bits. You would just need to pick out the right bit for the number of pieces to be joined:,46168

    They also have some nice cabinet hardware on their web site. My wife found some nice pulls for the kitchen.

    I like the idea about the possibility of buildng two masts. I'll give you a call to compare notes/plans next week. Thank you.

  8. Ric Altfather

    Ric Altfather WCHA #4035

    Three Rivers Meet?


    Why not make this a topic/event for the next Three Rivers Chapter event? I may even come in from Cleveland...I have the router bit (1/2" shank X 8 sided) but have not used it. Might be a way of beating the winter doldrums, let me know.

    Ric Altfather
  9. Max Peterson

    Max Peterson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Bird's Mouth/Three Rivers


    That's an excellent idea! I think that such a session might be expanded to cover several ways of building masts/spars. I'm speaking now with no knowledge or experience in making masts, but it seems to me that the bird's mouth process is unduly complicated for a mast that is only about 2" in diameter and 8-10' tall. I think four pieces glued together with center chamfered or ploughed out would be easier and faster if a hollow is even that desirable. I do have a shop with large old equipment and a fair supply of clamps. The bird's mouth might be easier to clamp up with less equipment. Would you want to do the presentation or collaborate in it?

  10. Ric Altfather

    Ric Altfather WCHA #4035

    Well, I'm in the same boat with you relative to actual experience in building spars, etc. I do have 2 projects coming up...that I will need to learn, an 18' X 4" mast, boom and sprit and another set a little smaller 12' X 2.5". I would be happy to help and maybe I could bring along another member of our local boat building club who have build several spars, booms, etc., for canoes, small dinghys and 24' sailboats. Think it over and let me know.

  11. Max Peterson

    Max Peterson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hi Todd,

    I too am gaining much from your book. I tried some short bird's mouth mast samples in spruce over the weekend. Do you, or your customers that have built them, have any thoughts on mast wall thickness? I saw your recommendation that it not drop below 1/2" but that seems thin to me.

  12. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    The last Bird's Mouth sample somebody sent me was from a Gunter (2-piece) mast for a canoe. The assembled mast length was about 14' long and I don't remember the individual pieces being any thicker than about 3/8" or so. Since tapering spars with this method is done by removing width from the slabs, but maintaining wall thickness (rather than thinning them out, as would happen if you decided to take a plane to a box-like spar to taper it) you should be able to get by with somewhat thinner walls.

    There are several good articles on the Duckworks website if you type "Bird's Mouth" into their search thingie:

    This illustration would seem to be pretty typical.

    Attached Files:

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