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Mast step

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Ron Bedard, Jul 30, 2019.

  1. Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I’ve begun the restoration of an 18’ Old Town #140888-18. Seems to have been built in 1944. It’s in remarkable condition but will need new canvas. My question is; If I’d like to consider a sail rig in the future, what should I do about a mast step while the canvas is off? The old photos I’ve seen show a thwart aft of the forward seat for the mast, and I imagine there’s a step below that thwart.
    Can anyone point me toward any related schematics? There must be fasteners up through the hull into the mast step.
  2. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    If I can get at my canoe, I will shoot a photo of the step for you. On my Old Town, two machine bolts go through the keel and into the mast step which are secured in the step with nuts. It is a very secure system. So you can wait until after canvassing and painting to install. My rig was installed by a dealer/livery, not at the factory, so there may be more than one way to install the step.
  3. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

  4. OP
    Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hello Fitz and Benson,

    Thanks for the quick replies. I wasn't aware that the fasteners would go through the keel. I'd assumed that the screws or bolts would be countersunk beneath the canvas and therefore would not pose a leak risk. I'll goop up the bolts and bed the step as well.
  5. JClearwater

    JClearwater Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Just so you are clear - the bolts are flat head machine bolts in holes up through the keel, through the ribs and step with nuts on top. I suppose flat head wood screws would work also down through the top and into the keel but you are drilling that hole blind so I've done it the other way the couple times I did it. There is no need to apply bedding compound under the entire step, only where the bolts are run through. Others may have a different opinion - just like belly buttons - everyone's got one.

  6. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    On a number of Old Town sailing canoes that I've worked on, all factory rigged for sailing, the mast step was installed with two large wood screws that did not span the keel. All of these canoes were well used, and several were very heavily sailed. None showed any sign that this was a problem. That is, the attachment seemed to have held properly even under heavy use.

    JSRIII Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I would think that if the flat headed bolts were installed through the keel that it would not hurt to apply some type of sealant to the threads and perhaps the underside of the bolt heads prior to installation. The amount of water that might seep in if this was not done is probably negligible however, any moisture held here could eventually lead to wood rot and I would rather err on the side of caution. Again, just my opinion as a carpenter, yours may differ.
  8. OP
    Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hello Michael Grace,
    When you say that two large wood screws "did not span the keel", do you mean that they were driven down through the mast step into the keel but not through it? Other replies indicate that the bolts come up through the keel with nuts on top. Do you suppose there's a photo of a factory-installed step anywhere?
  9. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Michael may have better pictures but the ones below may get you started. These show Old Town mast steps from 1927, 1936, and 1959 confirming that a variety of alternatives were used. The 1927 has bolts through the keel with the nuts on the inside. The 1936 has screws from the inside but I haven't taken one out to confirm how long they are. (This step is a replacement so the screw holes were moved.) The 1959 originally had two screws from the inside that didn't extend through the canvas to the keel. These pulled out on me once during a capsize so I replaced them with longer screws that extend into the keel and added a third one in the bottom of the step for extra support. Let me know if this doesn't answer your question. Thanks,


    IMG_3908.JPG IMG_3909.JPG IMG_3911.JPG
  10. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Benson's photos are excellent. The bottom one shows a typical unmolested mast step. The screws are driven in from the top, heads flush with or slightly below the surface of the step, and down into the keel but not penetrating through the keel. The step's shape is typical also. The middle photo shows the same type of step, but it appears to have been removed and replaced with finish washers. I don't believe the finish washers are factory original. You can see where the original screw holes have been filled, plus I've never seen finish washers here and every step I've seen has the screw holes countersunk as in the third photo. I can't remember right now but I think I may have a canoe with the mast step similar to the one in the first photo, but I think it was mounted as in the third image (i.e., no bolts spanning the keel).

    I'll see if I can get some images if there's anything I can add (maybe not) to Benson's images.
  11. OP
    Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Curious about Wooden Canoes

    It seems that these were installed several different ways. The important take-away is that all of the possible methods can be accomplished after the re-canvas. I'll proceed with that operation, and worry about building and installing the mast step afterwards. I'm leaning toward screws from inside that penetrate the ribs and planking and enter the keel. (as in Michael's third photo)
    Thanks all for the valuable information.

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