Guide To Masts, Yards & Booms On Model Ships

In this post we will be considering the various masts and yards used on a wooden period model ship and their fittings. We will also examine techniques to taper the masts and yards.


It is important to construct the masts and yards and attach all the associated fittings to them off your model. This will make the whole assembly process easier. 

The masts on smaller vessels were one piece or made up of two sections the lower mast and the top mast. Larger vessels the masts were made up of three sections— lower mast, top mast and topgallant mast.

On real ships the masts were made from multiple pieces of timber that were shaped to be interlocked together which provided great strength in the mast. 

In modelling, the different mast sections are made from a single length of dowel. The dowel commonly used for masts and yards is usually either ramin, birch, walnut or mahogany. 

Where the respective mast sections are joined caps and cross trees and trestles are used the attach the mast sections together. 

The lower mast rose to the trestle trees and cross trees on which was mounted the top. The top was a platform for various gear and on which the crew worked. The trestle trees supported the heel of the topmast which rose through the cap of the lower mast. 

The section where the lower mast and the topmast overlapped was called the doublings.

Above the topmast was rigged the topgallant mast. For larger vessels the next higher mast was the royal mast, then sky sail mast and finally for the largest of 19th century ships was the moon sail mast. 

In this chapter we will limit our discussion to the three masts presented in Figure 1. 


The front and side elevations of the mast sections are identified in Figure 1.

It is most important to assemble the masts and fit all eye pins and blocks before fixing the mast to the model. The location of all eye pins and blocks on the masts will be presented on the plans in the kit. 

Each of the parts is presented in more detail below.


Mast Structures

Trestle Trees & Cross Trees

 Trestle trees are two strong bars of timber fixed horizontally fore-and-aft on each side of the lower masthead, to support the topmast, lower cross trees, and mast top. Smaller trestle trees are fitted on the topmast-head to support the topgallant mast and topmast cross-trees


The Cap was a strong thick block of wood with two large holes through it, one square and the other round. The cap was used to confine two masts together when one is erected at the head of the other in order to lengthen it.


Mast cheeks were fitted fore-and-aft either side of the lower masthead. The trestle trees rested on the top of the mast cheeks.


Woodlings were iron hoops or heavy rope lashings to reinforce the mast.

Strengtheners (or fish) 

Strengtheners were lengths of timber lashed to three sides of the mast to give added strength and flexibility to the mast. 

Masts on Vessels

Sailing vessels had from one to several masts. Generally though the wooden model ship kits you will most commonly encounter will one, two or three masts. The bowsprit on a vessel is another form of mast projecting out from the bow of the vessel. Bowsprits will be dealt with separately later in this chapter. For a vessel with one mast the mast was simply called the Mast

For a vessel with two masts—starting from the bow they are called Fore Mast and Main Mast. The main mast is always the taller.

For a vessel with three masts—starting from the bow they are called Fore Mast, Main Mast and Mizzen Mast. The mizzen m